The AFL blockbuster against arch-enemies Carlton on Thursday night will be a searching test of Richmond’s composure and grit.
Given the recent history between these two teams, it is inevitable that the Blues will threaten Richmond with a run of goals during the MCG clash.
How the Tigers react this time will set the early tone in a season where they have lofty expectations.
Win and the Punt Rd army are back on the march after the round-one loss to Gold Coast.
Lose and they are the same brittle Richmond who blew last year’s elimination final against the Blues.
“Probably the big thing for us is to improve certain facets of our game that are going to make sure, when the chips aren’t going your way, that things are maintained,” said coach Damien Hardwick.
“Just making sure that defensively, behind the ball, we set up correctly.
“The hard thing about AFL football these days … momentum swings are enormous.
“It’s matter of standing tight, standing upright and making sure you get the ball going in your direction.”
Carlton have won 11 of their last 12 games against Richmond.
In all three of last year’s clashes, the Blues came back hard at the Tigers.
They fell short by five points in round one, then overcame a five-goal deficit in round 21 to beat Richmond by 10 points.
But the elimination final was the big scalp.
The Tigers seemed to have the match in control with a 26-point lead at halftime, before Chris Judd and Nick Duigan led the Blues to a resounding 20-point upset win.
Judd is injured and Duigan has retired, but everyone at Carlton will rate their chances.
At his weekly media conference on Tuesday, Hardwick repeatedly referred to Richmond’s defensive strategies when discussing this week’s game.
Particularly in the elimination final, when Carlton put the heat on them they fell away badly in some defensive statistics – areas where they had been rock-solid all season.
The Tigers also have concerns at the other end of the ground after the loss to the Suns.
“We’ll see a change in the way we bring the ball in,” Hardwick said of their inside 50m entries.
“The front six will pretty much stay the same with a mixture of Jack (Riewoldt), Ty (Vickery), Ben Griffiths will be down there as well as Chris Newman and these types.”
Hardwick insisted that there would be no forward focus on Riewoldt, the two-time Coleman Medallist who was held to one goal against Gold Coast.
He noted Hawthorn’s reigning Coleman Medallist Jarryd Roughead played at full-forward, on the wing and in the middle last weekend against Brisbane.
“The game in this day and age, there’s no genuine full-forward,” Hardwick said.
“Unfortunately, the way the game goes, it’s played like a giant under-nines field – everyone goes up, everyone comes back and where you fit is where you fit.
“He (Riewoldt) will be playing exactly the same role as he did last year.
“He will be in the forward half.”