Richmond’s spirited display against Collingwood was just the tonic Damien Hardwick and his players needed after a tumultuous week but the coach won’t use the 15-point win to paper over the cracks in the Tigers’ disappointing season.
Serious questions were asked of Hardwick, his players and the board that reappointed him for another two years after thumpings by Hawthorn and Greater Western Sydney, and the sense of relief was plain to see in the rooms after the 14.8 (92) to 11.11 (77) win at the MCG on Friday night.
The coach was mobbed by jubilant players following the club song but he was careful not to get swept away in the moment.
“Within club land we don’t ride the emotional rollercoasters that external people do,” Hardwick said.
“We realise we’ve been under-performing this year, absolutely, but our process doesn’t change.
“We prepare the same way and this week was no different to last week, and it’ll be no different next week.
“Emotional rollercoasters we leave to external sources and we just worry about what we can control and that’s trying to win as many football games as we can.”
And while one win doesn’t wash away the pain of an underwhelming season, there was a lot to like about this one.
Dustin Martin was prolific again, Alex Rance had a huge influence in the back half, Jack Riewoldt kicked four goals from limited opportunities and several young Tigers played important cameos.
But the story didn’t look like it would have a happy ending for Richmond after they conceded the first four goals of the game.
“How many were from free kicks do you reckon?” Hardwick said.
“Maybe four, which was a bit disappointing.”
Despite Hardwick’s displeasure at the umpiring early on, Collingwood smashed his side 13-3 in the clearances in the first quarter to lead by 14 points at the first break and another week of yellow-and-black headlines loomed.
But they showed the sort of fight and spirit that has been lacking too often this season to eke out a six-point lead at halftime that became a 12-point advantage at the last break.
Pies skipper Scott Pendlebury looked set to drag his side over line when he kicked the first goal of the last quarter but he limped out of the game soon after with an ankle injury that proved costly.
A goal to James Aish put Collingwood back in front with under 10 minutes left, but Martin, who finished with a game-high 34 possessions, was important as the Tigers held their nerve to kick the last three goals to secure a much-needed win.
Pies coach Nathan Buckley didn’t hide his displeasure with the performance a week after a win over finals-bound West Coast.
“It was really disappointing,” Buckley said.
“The first 10 minutes looked great … then we proceeded to play the worst three quarters that we’ve played all year and we were still two points up with eight minutes to play.
“It was a disappointing night all around.”