27/05/2024

Richmond returned to finals, but couldn't make it past the first week in 2022. (Photo: AFL; Design: Will Cuckson)

Many speculated the Richmond dynasty had come to an end after the club missed finals in 2021. But this season, the Tigers bounced back and proved they have what it takes to continue contending into the years to come.

They came into 2022 having heavily invested into the draft, looking to bring the next generation into the fold as the retirements of long time servants loomed large.

While the likes of Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Dylan Grimes will continue on, Kane Lambert, Shane Edwards and Josh Caddy all called time on their careers.

The year had its ups and downs, particularly early on, but once everything aligned, the Tigers showed they can still be that flag-winning side we’ve come to know.

With young talents emerging and a brilliant trade period, 2022 was a year that may have preluded greater heights at Punt Road.

Finishing position: Seventh (13 wins, eight losses, one draw)

What worked?

Richmond’s forward line was the competition standard in 2022, averaging 98 points per game in the home and away season.

This included breaking 100 points on 11 occasions, including in the elimination final loss to Brisbane.

Spearheaded by star key forward Tom Lynch, who kicked 63 goals in 19 games, the Tigers typified the jet-setting offensive style that has led them to success previously.

They were ranked second in the league for inside 50s and marks inside 50, and third for contested marks, which was led by Lynch (3.2 contested marks per game), Jayden Short (4.9 inside 50s per game) and Shai Bolton (4.3 inside 50s).

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While Lynch led the club goal-scoring, he was well supported by Bolton (43 goals) and Riewoldt (40 goals).

Ranked second last for clearances and 12th for contested possessions, the Tigers generated much of their scores from intercept and rebound work.

Short’s move into the midfield gave them a man who could create score launches from anywhere, following the stoppage and giving the likes of Nathan Broad, Nick Vlaustin and Daniel Rioli an option to continue marking chains down the line.

This made the Tigers one of the hardest teams to stop once they found the opportunity to spread, dangerous moving the ball up along the wings and through the corridor.

What didn’t?

As mentioned, the Tigers struggled massively out of the contest, and were the worst team in finals in clearance numbers.

While they could make up for this with their rock-solid backline, ranked third for intercepts, this would rear its head in the games they lost in 2022.

Round 6 against Melbourne saw Richmond lose clearances by nine, which the opposition capitalised on to generate 22 more inside 50s in a low-scoring affair.

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The Tigers also struggled to close out games, particularly across the second half of the season, despite having many opportunities to do.

They lost to the Cats by three points, Suns by two points, Kangaroos by four points and drew with the Dockers, all across a five-week period.

Had they won even two of these games, the Tigers would have been well in consideration for the top four come the end of the season.

Breakout stars:

Playing every game for the season, Daniel Rioli fully reinvented himself as a half back flanker, after meandering as a small forward for the past couple of seasons.

The 25-year-old spent the last couple of months of 2021 in the role, but he was able to truly shine in defence this year.

Rioli averaged a career-high 20.4 disposals, 3.3 rebound 50s and 2.7 inside 50s, finishing second in the club best and fairest by just a single vote.

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After being the unused medical sub in Round 11, Noah Cumberland made his proper on-field debut in Round 17 against the Suns, and never looked back.

He kicked 2.3 in his first game taking to the field, kicking 19 goals total across eight matches. Cumberland has added another brilliant spark into Richmond’s already potent forward group.

The youngster received a Rising Star nomination in Round 20 for his outrageous five-goal effort against Brisbane, in one of the best forward showings of the year.

Key defender Josh Gibcus played 18 games in his debut season, and showed plenty in the backline. He regularly took on some of the biggest key forward match-ups and performed strongly.

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Highest point:

Richmond’s run into finals, after the heartbreak of the month prior, saw the club play some of its best football across 2022.

It would beat Brisbane by just seven points in a thriller, while putting Port Adelaide, Hawthorn and Essendon to the sword to secure a finals spot.

The club stood on shaky ground, but managed to turn things and build some momentum coming into the elimination final rematch with the Lions.

Many had written the Tigers off as being not quite ready to return to the top eight yet, but they silenced the doubters.

Brisbane led by as much as seven goals in the second quarter, but Richmond clawed its way back with a 10 goal to three second half, as Lynch iced the game with his fourth major.

Lowest point:

As mentioned previously, the string of losing three matches by under a goal and drawing with Fremantle was one of the most devastating points of Richmond’s season.

The Tigers had every chance to consolidate a top four spot, but couldn’t do so with results that seemed to be continually decided by a series of ‘what if’ moments.

The most obvious of these was Cumberland playing on as the siren blew in the draw. While there were plenty of moments prior to ice the game, it certainly stung on the night.

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A goal after the siren against the Suns, kicked truly by young gun Noah Anderson, had yellow and black hearts breaking across Australia.

It could be said that this run cost Richmond top four in 2022, or at the very least a home elimination final.

Where to next?

After an excellent trade period, Richmond has addressed a huge area of need – the midfield.

Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto‘s additions, while also retaining Jack Graham, has prepared the club for life after Cotchin and Martin with two brilliant talents coming into their primes.

How many games and where in the line-up the pair of veterans play will be key for coach Damien Hardwick to work out in the off-season.

Martin kicked 12 goals in his nine games this season, and could see himself as more of a permanent fixture in the forward line.

The biggest area the Tigers didn’t address was their key forward stocks. Whether Noah Balta and Gibcus can provide the depth in the area they require remains to be seen.

With the enhancements made, there is no doubt they can push for a top four spot in 2023, and become premiership contenders once again.

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