Saturday, 11 August 2012
The AFL's longest ongoing finals drought seems set to stretch at least another year, but Richmond can end a different barren run against the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.
The Tigers, who last played finals in 2001, have not beaten the Dogs in their past nine meetings, their most recent win coming more than seven years ago, in early 2005.
While that streak includes a draw, in 2008, it is the longest winless stretch Richmond have had against the Bulldogs in their history.
It is also the equal longest current winless streak the Tigers have against any club, having also lost their past nine clashes with Carlton, including one by just four points a fortnight ago.
Richmond have finished below the Bulldogs on the ladder every season throughout that stretch.
So with the Tigers currently sitting three games clear of the Dogs, who have lost their past seven games by an average of 10 goals, Sunday's MCG clash presents Richmond with an ideal opportunity.
"I didn't realise it was so long ago," Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said this week.
"The thing about the Dogs is their first halves are very very good.
"They probably fall away a little bit, as has been well documented, in the second half.
"But they're a side that hunt the contested ball well, so we've got to be well and truly on our guard."
The Bulldogs are missing a heap of first-choice players, with the absence of Adam Cooney, Shaun Higgins, Luke Dahlhaus, Daniel Cross and Tom Liberatore to hurt their run and ball-winning capacity.
But Hardwick preferred to focus on the Tigers' strengths than the Dogs' potential weaknesses.
"It's certainly an advantage when guys like Cross are out, they're outstanding players," Hardwick said.
"But we've just got to worry about how we play the game.
"If we get the game on our terms I've got no doubt we'll get the result we're after."
The Dogs have handed an AFL debut to big-leaping midfielder Lin Jong, who has been elevated from their rookie list.
The Tigers are unchanged from the side that beat Brisbane by eight goals at the Gabba last round.