Don’t ask Damien Hardwick to compare this season’s Richmond AFL side with last year’s because as far as the Tigers coach is concerned there’s just no comparison.
Having failed to progress past the elimination final stage in their past two campaigns, Hardwick could be forgiven for having some level of anxiety as he prepares his team for another cut-throat final – this time against North Melbourne on Sunday.
But the coach is adamant there’s no psychological baggage remaining after the Tigers were eliminated by Carlton in 2013 then Port Adelaide last year.
“We can keep going back into the record books but it’s a completely different side that we’re playing now as compared to 12 and 24 months ago,” Hardwick said on Monday.
“We’ve matured, we’re a lot better side, we’re a lot better placed, we’ve got a lot better players. You can’t compare us to 12 months ago – it’s irrelevant.
“Those finals are in the history books, there’s nothing you can do about them now, all we can build on is the consistency that we’ve put into the regular season.
“It’s a different ball game – different side, different opposition. There’s no point looking back – we only look forward to what we can achieve.”
Skipper Trent Cotchin agreed it was difficult to compare the teams of recent years and while he admitted he didn’t have fond memories of the end to the past two campaigns, he believes this one is different.
“You talk about the last couple of years and all you remember is the disappointment of losing the final but the reality is that we know exactly what’s required from us,” Cotchin said.
“I think this year has been the most consistent we’ve been with the same behaviours and everyone knowing and playing their roles.
“I think that gives you confidence.”
Richmond will play the Kangaroos for the second time in just more than a week but Hardwick said there was little to be taken from his side’s 41-point win over a severely depleted North line-up.
Brad Scott controversially rested nine first-choice players for the clash but his side held a surprise lead at halftime.
“It was a different type of game, there’s no doubt, and as well as we would have liked to prepare we didn’t come out as good as we would have liked,” Hardwick said.
“It took us until halftime when we finally pulled our fingers out and played a good half of footy. Once we got up and going we were hard to stop.”