Stevo's Sting: The moment Richmond became the real deal

Mark Stevens

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the Rising Sun Hotel, corner of Burnley and Swan Sts in Tigerland.

The back bar was full of nervous Richmond supporters, scarred by the past.

A pay TV game, in Round 22, tucked away in the twilight timeslot should have loomed as a walk in the park for a premiership contender. Fremantle surely was a soft kill.

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But coming off a loss against Geelong and in need of one more win to nail down a prime ladder spot, two rusted on Richmond fans headed for the TAB.

They each had $100 on Freo at juicy odds. It was the duo's regular ploy in such games, to soften the fall and deaden the pain.

In the first 20 minutes, the pessimism seemed justified, Freo attacking fiercely, dominating inside 50s and revving up a home crowd starved of success all season.

The boys were on fire in Round 22. Image: Getty

The Dockers should have been three to four goals up by midway into the term, yet the Tigers of new held firm.

Fremantle couldn't penetrate, then wilted as the Tigers defended, pressured and counter attacked.

The Tigers won by 104. It was an avalanche.

My new mates blew $200 combined at the TAB and maybe more as the beers started flowing.

This was a realisation of the power of the Tigers. The game will barely be remembered by casual AFL fans, but this was the moment it suddenly became scarily good.

Others will point to more obvious moments, but this was it.

Richmond had no reason to win by that much, and could have eased up, but it was just such a complete, mature, organised and authentic performance.

The goals came so easily. A tsunami, unbroken chains of possession resulting in close range goals.

The following week, St Kilda couldn't crack the Tigers either, in Nick Riewoldt's farewell game. Again, it was an amazingly consistent performance.

Richmond are the read deal, as confirmed in the twilight zone over in Perth. A game that should be remembered for far more than Jacob Townsend's shock bag of six.