Tails up for Tigers after win over Freo

When Damien Hardwick said how good he knew his team could be after a horror loss to Melbourne six weeks ago he had little else than faith to base it on.

On Friday night, the Richmond coach saw what was possible when his side dismantled previously unbeaten Fremantle by 27 points.

The Tigers have now won four in a row and Hardwick is at the helm of the hottest team in the AFL, a far cry from a dismal losing run to Melbourne, Geelong and North Melbourne.

But after wins over Collingwood, Port Adelaide, Essendon and the Dockers, Richmond enters the bye in fifth position at 6-4 and big tests to come against West Coast, Sydney and GWS.

With Alex Rance and Dylan Grimes holding the defence together, Jack Riewoldt, Brent Griffiths and Ty Vickery combining for seven goals in attack, and Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin outstanding in the middle, there was much for Hardwick to like in Perth.

“We felt over various stages we’ve been playing some OK footy but we’ve had some horrible lapses where we get scored heavily against,” Hardwick said.

“Freo dominated us for probably a 10 or 15-minute period in the third, but there was no scoreboard pressure from our point of view.

“I think it was two goals to one in that quarter whereas previously our offence probably hurt our defence a little bit in games that we did lose.”

Hardwick also pointed out that the elite players in his squad have sparked the club.

“Our better players are playing some really good, solid footy and we’ve got some players who are improving,” he said.

“Nick Vlastuin I thought was wonderful, Shaun Grigg had another really solid game and Shane Edwards continues to surprise.”

One loss in 10 games means that Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has no need to panic, but Michael Johnson hurting a hamstring early in his 200th game sees him join fellow defenders Alex Silvagni and Zac Dawson on the sidelines so his key defensive stocks are a concern.

“Well we’re vulnerable because they’re injured,” Lyon said.

“We’ve been holding our breath a little bit.

“We thought we were getting a little bit better with Zac Dawson back but he breaks his thumb and then Johnno gets pushed as he kicked so he’s got a little hamstring tweak. You know what? Good teams find a way.”

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