Let’s be honest, the only people who think Richmond are a real chance at playing finals this year are the Richmond fans themselves.
But this, despite seeming so, is not just blatant false hope.
After finishing 13th in the 2016 season, many suspect it will be another tough year for the Tigers, especially considering they lose Ty Vickery (Hawthorn) and Brett Deledio (GWS).
Coach Damien Hardwick under the pump, an un-contracted Dustin Martin, a 113 point loss in the final round last year…there’s just too much of a downside for non-Tiger fans to even consider they’ll be a top 14 team, let alone eight.
But the things they aren’t considering?
The inclusion of Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy.
No, that’s not what’s going to give them a chance of making the finals again – signing just the two midfielders from other clubs. A change of structure and a new game plan, however, might.
If there is one person at the club who knows their football wasn’t good enough last season and knows they need to make a change to their playing system, it’s Hardwick.
It’s he who is probably the reason for the sudden downfall of the Tigers following 2015, but it’s also he who has to be the reason for them to leap-frog teams into the top-eight this season.
The Dogs proved last season that you don’t need an ultra-tall forward line, but rather many options to look to.
Many players currently on the Richmond list have finals experience, so there’s one plus. But the area on the field that really needs improving and will determine the fate of the 2017 Tigers squad is the forward line.
A player who is flying under the radar at the moment is 21-year-old Ben Lennon, who has struggled in the past three seasons, playing just 19 games due to injury and poor form.
Taken at pick No. 12 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, Lennon is that mobile goal-kicking forward that the Tigers need, as long as he is regularly included in the line-ups this season.
Lennon was one of the few eye-catching performers during Richmond’s intra-club match last week, booting four goals and looking lively at every entry inside-50.
It seems this is the year the young forward breaks out. It’s at least an ace up Hardwick’s sleeve.
“He’s just not been able to do anywhere near what he thinks he’s capable of, and what we think he’s capable of (in his first three years in AFL football),” Richmond’s General Manager of Football Neil Balme said.
“He’s worked very hard over the summer. He’s got a terrific, positive attitude, given all the bad luck and the stuff that’s happened to him. We’ll just give him a chance.”
Daniel Rioli is another small forward who impressed, getting himself involved in many scoring outcomes and kicking two goals himself. Shai Bolton (one goal) was also dangerous around the contest.
It’s the avenues to goal where the Tigers were lacklustre in 2016, and the promise shown during the practice match needs to be showcased during the JLT Community Series.
The addition of Prestia and Caddy will free up captain Trent Cotchin, who is also known for his potential goal kicking ability.
Ben Griffiths will also prove his worth as a key forward, with Shaun Hampson and Toby Nankervis sharing the ruck duties.
Most clubs who finished around Richmond last year are showing plenty of improvement and potential to rise up the ladder, so there’s no doubt they’ll be up against it but it’s not all doom and gloom for the Tigers.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but how far away it is? There’s your unknown.