Resilient Tigers ready for huge AFL final

For a Richmond side long derided as fragile, part of the journey towards overcoming their mental demons was accepting them.

Just how far they have come will be put to the test in Saturday’s AFL preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney at the MCG.

It has been 35 long years since Richmond last made the grand final, and 37 since they held the premiership cup aloft.

But for the Tigers faithful, there is a sense that it might finally be time to overcome years of crushing finals disappointments.

Led by Brownlow Medal favourite Dustin Martin and gun skipper Trent Cotchin, the Tigers are playing irresistible football.

Coach Damien Hardwick has implemented significant on-field changes, most notably introducing a mosquito fleet of high-pressure small forwards to complement spearhead Jack Riewoldt.

Importantly, the Tigers appear to have also improved their mental resilience.

Their reputation for flakiness reared its head when they lost three consecutive games by less than a goal earlier in the season.

But the Tigers bounced back, winning 11 of their next 14 games in a testament to the work of Hardwick and his football department.

“We’ve done that work throughout the year,” Hardwick said.

“Accepting the fact that you are going to feel, at certain stages, a fog upon you, whether it’s an opposition or you’re not playing well.

“That’s the art of the mental game, getting the players to understand that that is going to happen at various stages.

“The key element is that the players are equipped with the tools to get themselves out of that.”

The introduction of the pre-finals bye means Richmond will head into Saturday’s clash having played just one game in 27 days.

Geelong and GWS were knocked out at the penultimate stage last year after winning their qualifying finals, but Hardwick is confident the Tigers have found the right balance in their preparation.

“We’re very confident that we’ve done the work,” he said.

“We think we’re going to be fresh, we’re going to be vibrant, but until that ball bounces we’ll have to wait and see.”

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
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