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Richmond: A dynasty at the crossroads

In 2019, Richmond conquered plenty of adversity to reign supreme, and were far better for it. Faced with similar circumstances in 2020, the coming weeks is a real test of the Tigers’ hunger.

Trent Cotchin, Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia, David Astbury, Bachar Houli and Shane Edwards. Almost a third of Richmond’s best 22 that they’ll have to do battle without in an extended stay away from home.

Dion Prestia is one of many experienced Tigers that will be missing in action

Whilst they faced a huge mid-year injury crisis in 2019, building their depth and making the ensuing premiership even more special, 2020 promises to be even more trying for the Tigers.

With a finishing run of seven straight games at their MCG fortress – in front of their beloved Tiger army, everything fell in place for Richmond at the back end of 2019.

2020 won’t be so kind. The Tigers of recent time have become accustomed to packing their colosseum to the brim, spurred by the Tiger army roar.

The Coronavirus curveball has stripped them of those two crucial elements of their DNA – the MCG and the Tiger army. Sitting 11th on the ladder at 2-2-1, facing an extended stay interstate playing crowdless games. The Tigers are facing an uphill battle to say the least.

Disappointing showings against Hawthorn and St Kilda, were they lacked their trademark pressure, brought the Tigers’ hunger into question.

A redeeming performance against 17th placed Melbourne put a band-aid over their pressure woes. We will only know whether they’ve been cured if they can replicate the display against stronger opposition.

If they can pick up crucial wins and do enough to be in the finals hunt as their stars return, one of the AFL’s greatest dynasties could be beckoning.

Just like last year, spots galore have opened up for young talent to prove themselves and gain valuable match experience.

Noah Balta, Sydney Stack, Jack Ross, Callum Coleman-Jones, Patrick Naish and Derek Eggmolesse-Smith all got their first taste of senior footy. Not to mention Mabior Chol, Shai Bolton, Ryan Garthwaite, Liam Baker and Ivan Soldo who had all played under ten games prior to the season.

Players like Sydney Stack are get extra opportunity and build the club's depth in an injury crisis

11 players that may not have gained senior experience if not for the injury crisis, most of which proved their worth at the top level.

The culminative result, a fully fit team heading into the finals with depth galore.

If they can replicate the success of 2019 this year. The reward will go far beyond three premierships in four years and two on the trot. They won’t be confronted with the inexperienced younger talent pool that comes with an aging list. Instead, a game-ready young talent pool, and list with the confidence of knowing they can succeed well outside their comfort zone without their stars.

Irrespective of the potentially generation defining success, the coming weeks are fraught with danger.

When the ‘twin towers’ are at the their peak, Richmond’s forward line is potent. Tom Lynch is suffering from a broken hand, and won’t be at his best. Jack Riewoldt has been seriously below par, bar his 2007 rookie year, he is putting up career worst numbers in kicks, handballs, disposals, marks and goals.

A misfiring forward line one of many components hindering the Tigers premiership tilt.

A fairly inexperienced side heading into a hub could spell disaster. Look at what happened to a full strength West Coast. They crumbled, falling from premiership contenders to bottom of the ladder battlers in a matter of weeks.

If the foreign setting, being away from their families, as well as missing and underperforming talent takes its toll on the Tigers. Hypothetically they fall to, say 1-3. It would more than likely spell the end to the dynasty as we know it.

They would be 3-5-1 and bogged in the bottom third of the ladder. Needing to win at least five of their final eight games, six to make a finals a certainty.

Assuming the situation in Victoria doesn’t improve, the same adversity putting Richmond in a compromised position would linger. The only potential improvement to their predicament would be players returning from injury.

Good teams win premierships, dynasties go back-to-back, dynasties three-peat, dynasties dominate whole decades. A final-less season would bring the Richmond dynasty to its knees.

On the contrary, if their depth pulls through and they come away from the hub successful, there could be many more years of Tiger domination to come.



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