Damien Hardwick has not shied away from conceding Richmond’s inadequacies but insists the Tigers’ season is still alive. He is also adamant their five-match winning streak is not simply a function of a favourable fixture bloc.
“We’ve got to beat some good sides coming home,” he said ahead of Friday night’s clash with Essendon. “The season’s not finished for us. We’ve just got to make sure we win as many games as we can and more importantly play a brand of footy that our fans and supporters and members are proud of.
“The players are starting to make some real inroads, but we’ve got to make sure we continue to deliver on the big stage.”
But the Tigers face a massive challenge, with the in-form Bombers bringing developing forward Joe Daniher back into the side to give them added firepower. Three of Richmond’s five straight victories have come against bottom-four teams. The others were against Port Adelaide and, for the second year in row, away to West Coast. Hardwick said the Tigers’ statistical performances across that period had convinced him they were not being unduly flattered by those results.
“Wins are the by-product of a process. We look at the process and our process is fine. A lot of our KPIs that a lot of clubs go by are right up there,” he said.
The coach reiterated his belief the club’s improvement from three wins and 10 losses after round 14 was due more to a change in personnel and a more diligent approach to training than to any supposed changed in his game plan.
“It’s exactly the same. It’s amazing – when you get good players, you become a good coach,” Hardwick said. “There’s been a number of things that come into play. The guys have spoken about the 5 per cent we were looking for in the training standard, not so much from an on-field but more from an around-the-club type perspective.
“The addition of Ivan Maric makes a huge difference. We haven’t had Dan Jackson for the majority of the year. Brett Deledio comes back in, Alex Rance [too].”
In the past two years Essendon has won its Dreamtime match against Richmond but lost its late-season rematch. While the Tigers were pummelled by 50 points in this season’s Dreamtime match, the coach is confident they are in “a lot better form” to face the Bombers this time around.
“They’re a really good side. They’ve handled themselves pretty well against Sydney, which is a tough ask at the best of times,” he said of the seventh-placed Bombers. “It’s going to be a really tough game. They’re very good clearance-wise, getting that ball outside to their numbers.”
That Essendon will be missing Patrick Ambrose (jaw) from its forward line – and Jake Carlisle had scans on a possible leg injury earlier this week – is not cheering Hardwick given Daniher’s return and the club’s ability to use Michael Hurley as a forward.
Essendon coach Mark Thompson said the reason Richmond had won its past five was straightforward. “They’re playing a lot better than they were at the start of the season that’s for sure,” he said. “They’re moving the footy a lot quicker, playing better footy because they actually decided they were out of the finals, but now they decided to get back in.”
He also believed that despite the Bombers being in the box seat to play just their third finals series in a decade, the club could not be comfortable with how the year had panned out. “We shouldn’t get content at all really. The moment you do you slip pretty quickly in this game,” he said.
Thompson also paid tribute to speedster Jason Winderlich, who announced on Wednesday that he would be retiring at season’s end. “It’s sad, you don’t often see it when someone’s playing good football.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.