You could be forgiven for thinking that the Richmond Tigers are in completely unfamiliar territory. Last week’s victory over Carlton was the first time that the Tigers have emerged victorious in their season opener since 2008. With expectations already having reached a fever pitch in the pre-season, they are now on the verge of exploding if Richmond can string together a few wins in the early stages of the year.
Despite this expectation, history suggests that Richmond face an uphill battle if they are to deliver upon the expectations of an army of success-starved supporters. With their Round 2 clash against St Kilda upon them, Richmond enters as warm favourites. There are, however, many historical factors that go against the chances of the Tigers picking up the win. Not since 1993 has Richmond won its first two games of the season. Add that to the fact that Richmond has not beaten St Kilda at the MCG since 2000, and a pattern begins to form. Additionally, St Kilda has not lost their first two games of the season since 2000.
In previous seasons, it would be safe to assume that Richmond would, once again, crumble under the weight of expectation. The last time the Tigers won their Round 1 game, they would then go on to lose by 41 points to North Melbourne, who themselves were coming off a 55-point demolition at the hands of Essendon. Given that St Kilda are fresh off an embarrassing loss to the Gold Coast Suns, the situation feels all too similar.
Fortunately for Richmond fans, there are many reasons for them to keep the faith. Aside from the last quarter fade-out in their round one encounter, the Tigers demonstrated a much more positive attack on the football and used the ball with precision. They would also win the contested possession count against Carlton for the first time in years, highlighting their desire to win the hard ball, and played at a very high intensity for the majority of the game.
Astute drafting and recruitment in recent years has left the Tigers in good stead. The proof is in the pudding, with their most recent prized draftee, Nick Vlastuin, still trying to break his way into the best 22. In previous years, the Tigers did not hesitate to blood their first year players in the early stages of the season.
There is a lot at stake in the game against the Saints. What we have seen so far, however, is the beginnings of a new breed of Tiger. If Richmond is to finally break into the coveted Top 8, then it must defy history and past seasons, and forge a new winning culture. If the Tigers emerge victorious from the Round 2 clash, then they have a shot at winning their first three games in a season. This is something that they have not achieved since 1995; back when Matthew Richardson was still growing facial hair and John Northey was the coach. For the first time in 18 years, they have never been better prepared to do it.