Senior Coach Damien Hardwick spoke at last night's 2019 Season Launch and Hall of Fame function. Below is a transcript of his speech.

Firstly, and foremost, I’d like to congratulate the Club’s new Hall of Fame inductees and ‘Immortals’, to pay tribute to the 1969 premiership team members here tonight, celebrating the 50th anniversary of their glorious triumph versus Carlton.

It is fantastic even as a coach today to see the camaraderie, the reunions, the hugs, the smiles of the previous teams, and it's occasions such as these that the great history of our Club is really on show.

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It’s fantastic to see the big names such as Roger Dean, Kevin Bartlett, Barry Richardson, John Northey, Francis Bourke, Kevin Sheedy.

I look forward to our current group further adding to this successful Tiger history over the coming years.

I’m delighted to announce that leading the way for us on-field again this season will be captain Trent Cotchin and co vice-captains Alex Rance and Jack Riewoldt.

Those boys have done a stellar job the last couple of years and we look forward to that continuing.

Trent is entering his seventh season as our captain, he's the third longest-serving skipper in Richmond’s history. He’s captained us in 140 games, which is only 20 games behind the great Jack Dyer and 28 behind Percy Bentley, so it’s a fantastic achievement.

I must also acknowledge the fact that our developing leaders offer terrific support to our coaching and leadership teams throughout the year and we are very well placed moving forward in this area, so well done boys.

There’s a great sense of excitement and anticipation, as we prepare for the opening bounce against Carlton at the ‘G next Thursday night.

Our players have worked incredibly diligently throughout the pre-season to be in the best possible shape to tackle the challenges they’ll encounter throughout the 2019 season.

This is shaping up as one of the most even seasons of AFL football we will ever see. There are so many teams looming as legitimate premiership chances, and others looking as if they’ll make significant gains this year, and improve and climb up the ladder.

When I think of this challenge I’m taken back to a recent visit to the stunningly beautiful Yosemite National Park in California.

Within the park, there’s a famous, vertical rock formation called El Capitan.

El Capitan is composed entirely of granite and stands over three thousand feet tall. The granite monolith is a popular, but near impossible, objective for those climbers to try and climb.

Climbing it is an incredibly tough experience.

None is tougher, however, than the sheer granite face called the Dawn Wall. It had never been successfully scaled until a climber did it in 2015.

I found myself at the bottom of this sheer wall staring in disbelief, that anyone could possible contemplate firstly climbing the beast, let along actually achieving the task.

It reminded me of the journey in front of us to an AFL premiership, and the season that now approaches.

To reach the summit of the Dawn Wall, climbers have to complete a series of difficult pitches, or climbs, along the way.

The difficulty level varies from pitch to pitch, one being very easy to five effectively being virtually impossible. Pitches on the Dawn Wall are all rated five plus, there’s 19 in total.

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On the #RFCSeasonLaunch red carpet

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There are distinct parallels between our journey in 2019 and what climbers face in their quest to conquer the Dawn Wall on El Capitan.

The summit never moves – it is always there – but it’s the process in order to get to the summit that requires immense thought and concentration.

For the climbers, it’s all about concentrating on what you are doing right here, right now – looking for the correct foothold and the correct ledge to place your fingers in. And more importantly, the backing of your strength as a climber.

For us as a team, it’s a similar approach to achieving our goal in 2019 – staying totally focused in the moment and not being distracted by anything else.

It is believing in your strengths as an individual, and our strengths as a team. It is also about enjoying what we do and more importantly, who we are. It is about playing the game, and that’s what we do best.

It also will require plenty of work, determination, dedication, and the calmness under the most intense pressure we’ve seen.

If we can do that, then every pitch will be attainable and the summit will be within our reach at season’s end.

Understand, as a unit, we will be hard to beat, fun to watch, and proud to be Richmond men like those in this room tonight. This is who we are and this is what we do.

The first pitch comes Thursday night. Bring a smile, enjoy the climb in 2019, go Tigers.

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