Richmond Shouldn't Yet 'Count Their Chickens'
Following the conclusion of the home and away season, many have all but locked Richmond away as this year’s premiers, and it is impossible to argue against their favouritism.
The Tigers have become impervious to almost all put in front of them. 21 straight victories at MCG, two games clear at the top of the ladder, and a certainty to play all their finals at the Melbourne ground.
It's hard to see from where their biggest challenger will emerge.
West-Coast will have to play at least one final interstate and are suffering from injuries and suspensions at the wrong time. Collingwood is inexperienced and has failed to impress against fellow top-eight sides. Hawthorn stands as their greatest opponent but posed only a feeble threat the last time they faced the Tigers. Additionally, despite the 2016 Bulldogs demonstrating that it is possible to claim September glory from outside the top-four, teams finishing from fifth to eighth face an almost impossible uphill battle.
However, recent history has shown that Richmond and its supporters should hesitate before counting their proverbial chickens.
In 2011, the Collingwood Football club approached finals in a situation which vastly exceeds that of their current day Richmond counter-parts. The reigning premiers, Collingwood finished the home & away season with a remarkable 20-2 record and an equally astonishing percentage of 167.66%. However, the seemingly impenetrable Pies ran out of gas after two years at the top, losing to Geelong on the first weekend in October.
Similarly, in 2009, St Kilda produced a correspondingly remarkable season. Again, finishing with an immaculate 20-2 record, including a stretch of 19 straight victories and a percentage north of 155%. However, the end to their season draws unfortunate parallels to the 2011 Magpies, with the Cats prevailing on our games grandest stage.
There is probably no better exemplar of what can happen in finals football than Geelong in 2008. The unstoppable Cats finished the year with a 21-1 record and another percentage north of 160%. Winning 23 from a possible 24 games leading into the grand final, Geelong assumed unparalleled favouritism. However, the variance of September deprived them of a premiership they had every right to win.
Despite the undeniable evidence that the Tigers are the competition's most elite side and hold the greatest chance of achieving ultimate success in 2018, history would indicate that conclusions that place Richmond as premiership certainties are wildly misguided.