After a questionable run of form following the revival of the season, Richmond are now shaping up for a mighty flag push.
But the big question is, can they replicate last year’s form in a season which has thrown so many curveballs their way?
The answer is, yes.
Why? Because they’re already doing it.
Let’s rewind to last year.
After 13 games in 2019, the Tigers were sitting in ninth position on seven wins and six losses.
They had just lost by five goals to the Crows at Adelaide Oval, and prior to that were stomped by the Cats to the tune of 67-points.
Well off the pace and without star defender Alex Rance for the season due to an ACL injury, Richmond weren’t where they wanted to be.
But this was the lowest that they would go.
Incredibly, the Tigers did not lose a single game after that, storming home to a third place finish and booking a date with the Lions in Brisbane for a qualifying final.
Their finals series was impeccable, and they stormed to their 12th premiership with wins over the Lions, Cats and the Giants.
It showed what the Tigers were truly made of, if we didn’t already know this after their historic 2017 flag.
In 2018 however, circumstances were different for them.
They only lost four games during the home-and-away season, and cruised to a comfortable minor premiership, two wins clear of the second-placed Eagles.
But their hopes of going back-to-back were crushed in a preliminary final performance to forget against arch-rivals Collingwood.
Many agreed that the Tigers looked complacent, as if they’d already won the flag, and it showed. The Pies were relentless and all over Richmond right from the first bounce.
In hindsight, a clear factor is prominent when comparing the last few seasons.
When the Tigers have won a premiership, they had their back against the ropes at some point that year.
In 2017, they had times where it looked like they wouldn’t be able to pull off a flag.
But they peaked at the correct time, with the team standing up when it mattered most.
This year, Richmond are looking eerily similar to that of their 2019 selves.
With two games left for them, they sit in fourth place, and are looking in great knick after coming off big wins against premiership contenders West Coast and the rising Fremantle.
Balta especially has been in lightning form in the past couple of games, with Damien Hardwick claiming that “he does remind [him] of a young Alex Rance.”
— AFL (@AFL) August 27, 2020
Adding to this, Richmond doesn’t have an overly difficult run home.
The Tigers have the bye this round followed by games against Geelong and Adelaide.
The blockbuster Geelong match is looking like it will have a profound outcome on the final composition of the top four.
But the Tigers could have Shane Edwards back for that match, with David Astbury and Dion Prestia still touch-and-go in terms of making a return this year.
Should the Tigers get a double chance and the make-up of the four doesn’t change drastically, then they’d probably be looking at a trip to either Adelaide or Brisbane to play Port or the Lions.
Ideally, they would like to go to Brisbane, with their record with both the Lions and the Gabba being very favourable.
A trip to Adelaide would be daunting, having lost there to Port only a few weeks ago, but Port Adelaide haven’t been as electric as they were a month back.
Adding to this, should Queensland get the nod for the Grand Final, and the Tigers make it of course, then they will be licking their lips even more.
And these Tigers love a challenge, which is why, whoever they face, will have to endure a tough, tough couple of hours to overcome them.