The sense of history surrounding Richmond’s AFL finals run is inescapable — just don’t expect coach Damien Hardwick to make a big deal about it.
Richmond fans are dreaming of a drought-breaking premiership ahead of Saturday’s preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney at the MCG.
And if sheer momentum is any guide, they will be hard to stop.
Thousands of yellow and black-clad supporters turned up to Punt Road on Friday to watch Richmond train and sing ‘We’re from Tigerland’ in full voice.
It was a small sample of what the Giants can expect on Saturday, when almost 100,000 fans — virtually all barracking for Richmond — are tipped to pack the MCG.
For the Tigers faithful, there is a sense that it might finally be time to overcome years of crushing finals disappointments.
Prior to their qualifying final rout of Geelong, Richmond had gone 16 years without victory in September.
Their last premiership came in 1980.
The 35-year spell since they last competed for the flag is the longest active drought for all grand finalists.
But Hardwick said such figures had little relevance to his playing group and would not serve as motivation.
“The game doesn’t know what’s happened in the past, it just continues to look at what you’re going to bring this week and that’s all we’ve had our focus on,” Hardwick said on Friday.
“It’s been a message we’ve used throughout the year.
“People always try and delve into the past … in the cut and thrust of a prelim, one wins and goes on, the other’s out.
“If we play with great intent and workrate, that’ll keep us in great stead.
“If we don’t … we’re beatable, like most sides.”
The introduction of the pre-finals bye means Richmond will head into Saturday’s clash having played just one game in 27 days.
Geelong and GWS were knocked out at the penultimate stage last year after winning their qualifying finals.
Hardwick noted that his side had a “pretty good record” when playing after a week off, although their 2-5 record in games played after the mid-year bye since 2011 would suggest otherwise.
“We’re very confident that we’ve done the work,” he said.
“We think we’re going to be fresh, we’re going to be vibrant, but until that ball bounces we’ll have to wait and see.”
Richmond have named an unchanged lineup to face the Giants, who have claimed victory in just one of their 11 matches at the MCG.
Named premiership favourites at the start of the season, Leon Cameron’s men have grappled with injuries, suspensions and inconsistency.
But they showed glimpses of their scintillating best with their 67-point thumping of West Coast in last week’s semi-final.
“They’re an incredible football side,” Hardwick said.
“I think Leon’s stated that they haven’t played their absolute best, but they’re in a preliminary final as well.
“Their very best football is very, very hard to beat.”