It was a tough season in 2021 for Richmond, who missed the finals after winning three of the previous four premierships. A swathe of injuries - including a severe kidney issue to Dustin Martin - meant the Tigers never really got going, while the pre-season revelation that coach Damien Hardwick was dating a club staff member was hanging over the club’s head.
The positive of missing finals however is that the playing group will get a full pre-season for the first time since 2017, instead of going deep into September and barely coming back before Christmas. That should see important players ready to go for 2022, rather than trying to play catch-up and starting behind the eight-ball.
The list is ageing and three-time premiership stars David Astubury and Bachar Houli have retired, but the Tigers will be confident of a return to finals action in 2022.
In: Robbie Tarrant, Josh Gibcus, Tom Brown, Tyler Sonsie, Sam Banks, Judson Clarke
Out: David Astbury, Bachar Houli, Patrick Naish, Mabior Chol, Callum Coleman-Jones, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith, Ryan Garthwaite
Intercepts - 4th
Marks Inside 50 - 6th
Clearances - 18th
Contested Possessions - 17th
Clangers - 18th
Star player: Dustin Martin
There’s nothing we can say about ‘Dusty’ that hasn’t been said already, but seeing how he returns from the kidney injury he sustained in 2021 will be fascinating. The star mid/forward reportedly lost up to 15kg as a result of the injury, but he’s reportedly had a strong pre-season and the club remain confident he can get back to his best.
That best is as good, if not better than, any other player’s in the competition, and would almost single-handedly see Richmond charge back up the ladder and reclaim a spot in the top four. Whether in the midfield or inside 50, a fully-fit Martin is a scary sight for opposition coaches, fans and players alike.
One to watch: Josh Gibcus
When Jack Riewoldt labels a new draftee as “very special” before they’ve even played a game, you know they’ve made a good first impression. Taken at pick #9 in last year’s draft, 197cm key defender Josh Gibcus has turned heads over the summer at Punt Road - with many suggesting he’s a walk-up start for Round 1.
With a mixture of speed, endurance and agility, Gibcus has spent his pre-season playing on Riewoldt - and Riewoldt believes the North Ballarat NAB League product is ready to take on some of the AFL’s best key forwards in his first season in the competition.
Under pressure: Sydney Stack
There’s no doubting the talent of the versatile youngster but, heading into his fourth season, it’s time he started producing it on a regular basis. After playing 17 games in his first year, in which he received a rising star nomination, Stack has been limited to nine and seven matches in the two seasons since.
A pair of off-field controversies have added to the frustrations of supporters, while some of the more old-fashioned members of the football media landscape have even suggested Stack spends too much time on social media and not enough time playing football.
There’s no doubt Stack can offer a lot to the Tigers if he gets it right. But whether he does that is up to him.
After just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong in 2021, a return to finals action will be the bare minimum for the Tigers in 2022. However, those inside the four walls at Punt Rd will be aiming even higher.
With a full pre-season under their belt for the first time since 2017 and a return of games at the ‘G in front of the Tiger army, Richmond could well push for the top four and be genuine contenders - provided their ageing list have another 25 games in their legs.
Five matches to watch
Round 1 vs. Carlton, MCG, Thursday March 17
Round 4 vs. Western Bulldogs, MCG, Saturday April 9
Round 6 vs. Melbourne, MCG, Sunday April 24
Round 10 vs. Essendon, MCG, TBC
Round 14 vs. Geelong, MCG, TBC
All time games
- Kevin Bartlett - 403
- Jack Dyer - 311
- Jack Riewoldt - 305
- Francis Bourke - 300
- Wayne Campbell - 297
All time goals
- Jack Titus - 970
- Matthew Richardson - 800
- Kevin Bartlett - 778
- Jack Riewoldt 715
- Michael Roach - 715
MOST DISPOSALS: Jayden Short - 542
MOST TACKLES: Jack Graham - 122
MOST CLEARANCES: Shai Bolton - 71
MOST MARKS: Jayden Short - 134
MOST GOALS: Jack Riewoldt - 51