Richmond boss Damien Hardwick says the competition is a lot more even this season and it has hurt his side’s year.
If momentum is the hardest thing to stop in footy and keeping players motivated over a long season the biggest coaching challenge, Damien Hardwick must be cursing the AFL fixtures.
After finally finding form in a lacklustre season, Richmond’s charge was interrupted by the split round.
And after witnessing St Kilda and Port Adelaide earn wins for departing club legends last weekend, the Tigers travel to Perth to play West Coast in the week of Dean Cox’s retirement.
The Richmond coach acknowledged both the Eagles’ poor home form and the ability of clubs to lift to honour departing players.
“Most sides come to play week-in week-out from our point of view,” he said.
“West Coast by their own admission wouldn’t have played as well as they would have liked at home but it makes it no less daunting going over there, especially against a side playing for one of their great players.”
Before the week off, the Tigers beat St Kilda, Brisbane and Port Adelaide – what coach Damien Hardwick called probably their best win of the season – in succession before a week off.
Hardwick said maintaining momentum over the course of the season was “really hard”.
“Clubs ride highs and lows,” he said.
“Momentum in footy is really hard to continue to get the best results while you’re up the top for a sustained period of time.
“You’re always going to hit that down patch – it’s a matter of sustaining that consistency for a longer period of time.”
He said the growing ability of the worst sides in the league to knock off higher-placed rivals had hurt the Tigers’ season.
“The league has got their wish with regard to the competitiveness of the league.”
“There’s not much difference between the side fifth on the ladder to the side 12th on the ladder.
“It’s great for the game. Is it great the for Richmond footy club this year? No it’s not.”
Helping Richmond’s cause is the availability of Reece Conca and Ben Lennon for Friday night’s game against West Coast, while Shaun Grigg will play for Richmond’s VFL side after a hamstring injury.
Daniel Jackson has suffered another setback, a glute injury, expected to sideline him for up to three weeks, while Ricky Pettard will also miss the Eagles game with a finger injury.