Here we go again – Damien Hardwick’s Tigers have started another AFL season chasing their tails.
Adelaide made Richmond pay dearly for their turnovers, dominating Saturday’s match at Etihad Stadium and cruising to a 36-point win.
The Crows’ 52-point lead early in the last quarter said far more about the match than the final 19.14 (128) to 13.14 (92) scoreline.
While Adelaide have started the season at full steam ahead, once again Richmond are on the back foot.
Hardwick argues that this time, the backward step is necessary if they are to go forward following three-straight elimination final losses.
“It’s stock-standard for us, isn’t it, starting like this,” he lamented.
“It’s disappointing, but this side isn’t the same as last year.
“We are trialling some blokes in some different positions.
“We might have to take a little half-step back to go two step forwards, but I’m very confident we will take the two steps forwards.”
Since Hardwick took over as coach in 2010, this is the fifth time they have opened with a 1-2 record, or worse.
The exceptions were 2013 – 3-0, then three losses – and last season – 2-1, then three losses.
The sub-standard performance followed a torrid week where Hardwick and the club railed against a harsh media focus on captain Trent Cotchin.
Richmond circled the wagons tighter post-match, taking the unusual step of banning any player interviews in the rooms with print or radio media.
They now play West Coast next Friday night in Perth – a challenge which Hardwick predicts will galvanise his misfiring team.
While not much separated the two teams statistically, one key figure told the story of Saturday’s game.
Richmond calls them 12-point turnarounds, where they look certain to kick a goal, but turn the ball over and the opposition score instead.
Hardwick said they conceded around eight.
“Who do you reckon is the AFL’s No.1 kicking side at the moment? Us,” he said.
“What it is, it’s those unforced errors that are killing us – the blatant ones where we’re just missing targets and they’re going straight to the opposition.”
After scraping through in round one against Carlton, the Tigers inexplicably coughed up a 17-point lead deep in the last quarter and lost to Collingwood by a point.
Two issues that Hardwick spoke about pre-season stood out against Adelaide – the search for a third key forward, and the need for more grunt around Cotchin in the midfield.
Saturday also showed that the spotlight on Cotchin this week was misplaced – it should be on the wider Richmond player leadership.
By contrast, the Crows have started the season with a narrow away loss to North Melbourne, a thumping Showdown win and now a class victory on the road.