Catapulting into preparations for the new season following an off-season that presented the Tigers with a 'crossroads', Richmond made – and will continue to make – personnel decisions to mould the long-term future of the club.

Reeling from a painstaking first-round finals exit at the hands of Brisbane, it could easily be argued that the 2022 off-season represented the landmark moment in time for the Tigers' transitioning list. 

Fast-forward more than a year, though, and it's evident a true crossroads awaited the yellow-and-black stalwart at the end of 2023. 

The list decisions conducted throughout last October and November – in conjunction with Adem Yze's official appointment as Richmond's new senior coach – have very likely shaped the club's long-term future. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Adem Yze poses for a photo after being announced as Richmond coach during a Richmond Tigers AFL press conference at Punt Road Oval on September 22, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Why?

Richmond's 2023 campaign was, on the large, hollow and disappointing. Take it from the club's heralded chief executive, Brendon Gale, who labelled his club "unrecognisable" in stints last year. 

"We were on the cusp of the [top] eight for most of the year. We were probably teasing a little," Gale said upon Yze's Punt Road introduction. 

"I thought at times early in the year we were unrecognisable, and I think Damien [Hardwick] acknowledged that. 

"We can play a whole lot better, and we will play a whole lot better and we won't put a ceiling on what 'better' looks like."

Eliminated from finals contention with a fortnight remaining in the home-and-away calendar, Gale knew the Tigers had been humbly shunted back to the drawing board. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 02: Brendon Gale, CEO of the Tigers speaks with media during the Richmond Tigers training session at Punt Road Oval on December 02, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The change, this time around? They had significantly less draft capital with which to navigate their off-season dealings. Their options were drastically slimmed and their manoeuvrability had been stripped back. 

And, in case it slipped your mind: the club's three-time flag-winning coach departed without a moment's notice early in the season. 

Richmond's dynasty foundations were already corroding. The Tigers' premiership heroes of years past have been stymied and surpassed by their faster, sprightlier opponents. 

The dichotomous comparison of the impact those players – more on them soon – had during 2017-20 with the present is staggering, and representative of a sobering reality. 

2022's player exchange space was looked upon favourably as a revitalising period for the football club. The Tigers bolstered their midfield brigade via the trade window, but in doing so mortgaged their future on the hopes that ex-GWS duo Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper would play significant roles in the club's next premiership. 

Their next flag doesn't feel overly near. 

Further adding to Richmond's 2023 anguish was the fact that their 13th-placed ladder finish netted GWS the rights to the sixth overall draft slot last November. 

The Giants capitalised; trading back with the Adelaide Crows, gaining additional draft power in the process, and nabbing electric forward Phoenix Gothard

Richmond's Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto during the 2023 AFL pre-season (Image: Richmond FC Twitter)

So, the evolved Punt Road powerhouse – led by Yze and seasoned list-management pair Blair Hartley and Matthew Clarke – embarked on an imperative period for the club. How did they fare this off-season and what's next to come?

Departures

Iconic ball-winner and leader Trent Cotchin decided on his future early last August, signalling his intention to retire at the conclusion of the season after a glittering career steeped in success. 

Despite sometimes-evident signs that he could perhaps play on for another year, the three-time flag skipper made the call that was in the best interest of the football club he'd served admirably. 

Triple Coleman Medal winner and premiership teammate Jack Riewoldt wasn't far behind Cotchin in hanging up the boots at year's end. Like the hard-headed midfielder, Riewoldt showcased vintage glimpses but made the practical decision of putting a full stop to his decorated career. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: Jack Riewoldt of the Tigers (L) and Trent Cotchin of the Tigers lead the team out during the AFL Round match between Richmond v Collingwood at Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 28, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Key defender Robbie Tarrant also ceased his AFL tenure earlier in the season after injuries kept him sidelined. Three-time premiership forward Jason Castagna also gave the game up in the pre-season. 

Hartley's committee stamped its only true delisting of the off-season when 2023 SSP addition Kaelan Bradtke was exiled. In early 2023, Richmond opted for Bradtke in favour of now-Port Adelaide utility Quinton Narkle. He's since been signed to a second contract. 

Come the trade period, second-choice ruckman Ivan Soldo was dealt to the Power as part of an arrangement that consisted of draft capital changing hands, while defender Bigoa Nyuon was sent to Arden Street for a modest return after the Tigers elected not to offer the key-position utility a new contract. 

Fresh faces

The Punt Roaders, whilst not overly busy making additions in October, made sure to attain ex-Hawthorn key forward Jacob Koschitzke after he'd earlier requested a trade to Tigerland.

Not often utilised at Waverley – having played just 48 senior games through five AFL seasons – Koschitzke figures to benefit from a partnership with returning spearhead Lynch. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Jacob Koschitzke of the Hawks (L) celebrates a goal during the round 18 AFL match between Melbourne Demons and Hawthorn Hawks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 17, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

After the trade and free agency period, Richmond signed ex-Swan Sam Naismith and former basketballer Oliver Hayes-Brown as rucking depth behind Nankervis and Ryan. 

As for November, as mentioned, the Tigers surrendered the bulk of their capital to GWS in exchange for Taranto and Hopper, leaving the yellow and black with lessened flexibility going into November's picking festivities. 

Recruiting gurus Clarke, Hartley and their personnel-deciding crew would have pondered avenues back into the first round. However, there were no blockbuster pre-draft dealings involving the Tigers. 

Instead, after the count's unfolding and trade-backs with Fremantle and the West Coast Eagles, Richmond's first selection came at No. 40; taking big-bodied North Adelaide midfielder Kane McAuliffe. The Tigers doubled down on South Australians not too long after, selecting key forward Liam Fawcett with Pick 43. 

Richmond Tigers draftee Kane McAuliffe at pre-season training, 2023 (Image via Richmond FC)

Richmond wouldn't add further through the National or Rookie Drafts, instead stockpiling picks for 2024's go-around. 

Tough conversations upcoming

A once-rock-solid Dylan Grimes, who relinquished his co-captaining duties to sole skipper Toby Nankervis this pre-season, had a few too many head-in-hands defensive moments last season. 

The 32-year-old's hiccups increased in prevalence last season – his 50 clangers last season were just one shy of the most he's had in a season (51 in 2021) – and the veteran is coming out of contract this year. 

We haven't reached pre-season playing action yet and Grimes is already battling a calf complaint. Retirement shapes as a strong possibility later in the year. 

Dylan Grimes during the 2022 AFL Round 19 match between Richmond and Fremantle (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

Meanwhile, it feels like a very long time since we watched in blissful awe as Dion Prestia exited from stoppage at the start of the third quarter of the 2019 preliminary final against Geelong, drilling a spear to talisman Tom Lynch, who slammed home a major to change the trajectory of Richmond's dynasty. 

We don't see that version of Prestia much these days. Instead, we're subjected to a shell of his former self; categorically beaten at stoppages by quicker, stronger opponents. (See: Jai Newcombe having his way with Richmond's midfield in Round 19.)

Kamdyn McIntosh, too, is leaving a fair bit to be desired. It feels morally wrong to include 'Kapps' in this discussion, as he might be the most joy-inducing figure at Tigerland. 

Once a pacy, gets-under-your-skin type of opponent, the 29-year-old is now typically left chasing; beaten to the ball by his opposite number. 

Mid-Season Draft success story Marlion Pickett has benefitted from a trigger clause in his contract that extends his deal to the end of this year. 

It's a fortunate reality for Pickett, who debuted stunningly in 2019's big dance. Otherwise, his playing future could have been – and still may be – in question, particularly with foreboding legal proceedings awaiting him in Western Australia. 

Under the microscope

Perhaps a forgotten fact; at the 2021 National Draft, Richmond snagged five youngsters within the draft's first 30 selections, starting with pick No. 9, Josh Gibcus

The GWV Rebels product commenced his AFL career in promising fashion, appearing in 18 senior contests in his rookie season and inspiring belief the Tigers had sourced a decade-long starter at a key defensive position. 

The 20-year-old's second season, though, couldn't have gone less according to plan. Gibcus was struck down by a pre-season hamstring injury that lingered irritatingly through the 2023 campaign, resulting in zero AFL appearances. 

While not yet a significant concern for Richmond's higher-ups, we know all about the treacherous nature of soft-tissue ailments. The Tigers will hope this season-long blip hasn't stunted Gibcus' long-term development. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 17: Joshua Gibcus of the Tigers looks on during the 2022 AFL Round 01 match between the Carlton Blues and the Richmond Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 17, 2022 In Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

Defender Tom Brown – Pick 17 of that crop – finally appeared at AFL level after flashing tantalising signs with the VFL Tigers as a rebounding prospect who can also compete aerially; envision the dependable mould of Nick Vlastuin

Prior to his eventual Round 24 debut, injuries had been a niggling hindrance for the 20-year-old thus far in his short career. 

Brown and fellow counter-attacking defender Sam Banks, taken 29th overall, showcased a flourishing one-two punch exiting defensive 50 in Steve Morris' reserves outfit. 

Since his injection into the senior squad by interim coach Andrew McQualter in Round 17 against the Swans, Banks' run-and-carry prowess has been as impactful as advertised. 

Managing averages of 13.8 disposals and 4.0 rebound-50s across five late-season outings, the Tasmanian's prospects are positive. 

Hartley and Co. should be expecting 2024 jumps from the pair. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 22: Sam Banks of the Tigers kicks the ball ahead of Tyler Brockman of the Hawks during the 2023 AFL Round 19 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Hawthorn Hawks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 22, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Second-year midfielder Tyler Sonsie – No. 28 in the same draft – hasn't had the kind of impact he'd have been hoping for this season, limited to just three senior games this season as he remained in the shadows of senior midfielders Jack Ross, Jack Graham, and the aforementioned Cotchin

Judson Clarke, meanwhile, like Banks, has been afforded runs in Richmond's senior side on multiple occasions, teasing his long-term promise in between inconsistent patches. 

With varying levels of doubt hanging over the futures of their key-defending core, as well as queries regarding engine-room depth, there still appear to be list chasms that require resolution at Richmond HQ beyond this year.