Older, wiser Tigers ready for AFL finals

Richmond are well placed to put the pain of successive elimination final defeats behind them, according to coach Damien Hardwick.

The Tigers didn’t look much like a side ready to take the finals by storm during a scrappy first half against a severely depleted North Melbourne but got their ducks in a row after halftime to walk away 41-point winners.

Asked to compare his 2015 Tigers to the group that was bundled out of the finals by Port Adelaide last year, the coach was unequivocal.

“We’re a lot better – absolutely,” Hardwick said.

“This group’s come a long way. We’ve introduced some new players into our side, their maturity level has improved and we’re a better side.

“I have complete faith in our players that they’ll perform to the best of their ability. The leaders have stood up time and time again.

“We’ve won a lot of footy games.”

Winning a final is considered by many to be the pass mark for Hardwick’s men this season in his sixth year in the top job at Punt Road.

And where he might have hoped for his players to produce their best when it counts the most in the past, it seems he’s banking on it now.

“We weren’t at our best tonight (but) we’ll be a lot better next week,” he said.

“We’re playing a good, consistent brand of footy. “One season ends, one begins. We’ve got to maintain the consistently we’ve shown over the last 14 or 15 weeks.

“Our best is good enough, but we have to continue to make sure we work on the things we need to and get ourselves right.”

Richmond are a strong chance to meet North again next week but will face a far different team to the one they overcame on Friday night, with Brad Scott likely to regain the nine first-choice players he rested this week.

Hardwick reported that the Tigers had escaped unscathed from their fourth win in succession and will be ready for the challenge presented by the reinforced Roos.

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