Tony Jewell senses Richmond are finally in a position for Damien Hardwick to relieve him of the longstanding title as the Tigers’ most recent VFL/AFL premiership coach.
Jewell guided Richmond to an 81-point demolition of Collingwood in the 1980 grand final – the club’s fifth triumph in the space of 14 years.
It also proved to be the end of their golden era, with the Tigers spending much of the following 35 years in the wilderness.
But on the back of some much-needed off-field stability, Richmond have now qualified for three successive finals series, although they crashed out at the first hurdle in 2013 and 2014.
They desperately need to take the next step this year and will start favourites in Sunday’s elimination match against North Melbourne.
“I am (optimistic), I just think it’s coming together really well for them,” Jewell told Fox Footy’s Open Mike program on Monday night.
“The missing link I reckon has been (ruck-forward Ty) Vickery.
“If he can start influencing games, I reckon the puzzle is really starting to fit together.”
Jewell said this was the first time since the early 1980s he had felt confident that Richmond were in a position to genuinely challenge for a flag.
“There’s no doubt that their leadership group has taken a step up,” he said.
“I was critical of the leadership group – I thought that under fire they tended to fold.
“They certainly don’t do that now, although I guess they will be tested in the weeks to come.”
The only top-four side Richmond have failed to beat in 2015 are West Coast, who got up by 20 points at the MCG in their only meeting back in round 12.
“I don’t think they’re scared of Hawthorn, I don’t think we’re scared of Fremantle – we’ve got a good record against Fremantle and the Swans,” said Jewell, one of only four Tigers to win flags as both a player and a coach.
“I don’t think there is anyone there we should be frightened of.”