AFL – Are Richmond the 2022 dark horses?

Hitting form at the right time, are Richmond the value option outside the three main favourites for the 2022 AFL Premiership?

As we enter the final round of the home-and-away season, there’s still a range of different fixtures that could eventuate in the first week of finals, such is the tight nature of this year’s competition. There’s 288 options, in fact, that could be spat out after Round 23. So as fans of finals-bound clubs plot who their side might face in early September, it’s natural to look ahead and see who they would and wouldn’t like to face. And, outside of the top three favourites in Geelong, Melbourne and Sydney, ask any fan who they’d least like to face in September and across the board the answer would be Richmond.

The Tigers have not only been there before, winning three of the last five AFL Premierships, but are hitting form. After three impressive wins on the bounce, Damien Hardwick’s side have shortened from $21 into $10 in the flag market. So, what makes them so dangerous?

Jokers in the pack

Richmond are stacked with Premiership players who have been to, and prevailed on, the biggest stage. But it’s another factor that would scare opposition coaches most. In Shai Bolton and Tom Lynch, Richmond possess two of the AFL’s most unstoppable forwards on their day. The duo will give any club nightmares heading into a high-stakes final. As opponents looks for the ‘controllables’ in a big final, it’s almost impossible to control Bolton when he’s on, such is his fleet-of-footy ability inside 50.

For Lynch, coming off a bag of eight against Hawthorn, similar worries would emerge. “This guy could well be the joker in the pack for Richmond going into the finals,” Nathan Buckley said this week. “Taking clunks and pack marks is pivotal in finals football and in big games. You take three or four clunks in the forward 50 in a big game, in a tight game, final on the MCG, that’s going to make a difference. I think he’s cherry ripe to have a big September.”

Added to this is the chance three-time AFL Norm Smith Medalist Dustin Martin is due to return. Should he do so, the Tigers are stacked with genuine match-winners.

Home comforts

While finals matchups are still very much in the air, there’s a considerable chance Richmond find themselves playing back at the MCG, a venue that welcomes back finals footy for the first time since 2019 after two COVID-affected season. And that spells trouble for opposition clubs. Richmond will be tough enough to play at any venue this September. But at the MCG the task is heightened such is their sustained success at the home of footy. The Tigers have won six of their seven AFL finals at the MCG since 2017. Further, their vocal support at the venue and ability to come from behind — highlighted by their comeback from 42 points down against Brisbane in recent weeks — puts fear into any opponent.

Since winning three on the trot, Richmond have shortened from $11 into $5 to qualify for ‘that one day in September’ at the storied venue.