Richmond legend Kevin Bartlett says the players, not coach Damien Hardwick, deserve to be put under the blowtorch after yet another poor start to an AFL season.
Sitting 14th on the ladder with one win and four losses, the Tigers are behind the eight ball, as they have been in their past three campaigns, as they attempt to play finals for a fourth year in succession.
Injuries to key duo Brett Deledio and Ivan Maric haven’t helped but Bartlett said it was past time for others to stand up and support star players Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Alex Rance.
“I don’t think it’s the coaching, I think it’s the players at the moment,” Bartlett said on SEN on Tuesday.
“I don’t think you can just put the blame on the coach. I think over the last three years (he) has done marvellous things for Richmond, ever since he’s taken over in fact.
“As they say in football these days it’s the whole club that is responsible for putting out a side out on the field.
“Are the Tigers now good enough? Did we get the maximum out of the group of players we’ve had over the last three years and now is it on the turn?”
Bartlett believes the answers to those questions and even the fate of Richmond’s finals quest will be found in Saturday night’s crucial clash against fellow strugglers Port Adelaide at the MCG – a match Rance will miss through suspension.
“Richmond’s season and chances of playing finals depends upon this week’s game … reputations are on the line,” he said.
“Otherwise all sections of the club will come under scrutiny.
“The Tigers have talked themselves up … there can be no more excuses. They have to deliver come Saturday night.
“If they don’t improve in the next couple of weeks a lot of reputations are going to be hurt because they put faith in these players.”