'Worst group of players to win a Premiership'

A former AFL coach is gobsmacked at how Damien Hardwick has taken the Tigers from 13th in 2016 to premiers in 2017.

'Worst group of players to win a Premiership'

'Worst group of players to win a Premiership'

Richmond completed their incredible turnaround when they thrashed Adelaide by 48 points to win their first flag in 37 years.

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It was a remarkable achievement considering the Tigers were poor in 2016 and missed the finals by a mile.

Their rise from 13th to premiers is the biggest year-on-year turnaround in VFL/AFL history, and it has left former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas in awe.

Thomas in 2006. Image: Getty

On Sunday Thomas took to social media to praise the list management of coach Hardwick.

"Woke up & still gobsmacked. How’d u do it Tigers? Cotchin, Rance, Riewoldt, Martin.... who’s their next best player? Incredible coaching," he wrote.

"Don’t get me wrong or misinterpret but possibly worst group of players to win Premiership which only enhances their effort & performance."




The premiership is supreme vindication of Richmond's grand plan, unveiled in 2010 and updated a few years later.

Chief executive and former Richmond ruckman Brendon Gale, who sobbed in the MCG grandstand during the last quarter of Saturday's grand final, is one of the architects of the 'Winning Together' strategy.

Winners are grinners. Image: Getty

Critics seized on the loftiest goal - that they would win their 13th premiership by 2020 - and sniggered at the very thought.

That meant three premierships in a decade from a club that had made only one grand final and two preliminary finals since their last flag in 1980.

As late as 12 months ago, Richmond were stuck fast on 10 premierships, they had just plummeted out of the top eight after three-straight losing elimination finals and Gale was helping repel a ham-fisted challenge to the board.

The pressure was immense on Hardwick, who had started his senior coaching career in 2010 with nine-straight Richmond losses.

But Richmond were also doing a lot right and Saturday's thumping eight-goal upset win over minor premiers Adelaide is the cream on top of some sustained success.

They have achieved the other three main objectives of the original strategy: make the finals three times, have zero debt, and reach 75,000 members.

The Tigers boast a stand-alone VFL team, are entrenched at their Punt Road spiritual home, have built a strong list with the oldest player in their grand final team only 28.

Hardwick celebrated long and hard. Image: Getty

The bad old days of disastrous recruiting are long gone with newcomers Jack Graham, Dion Prestia, Toby Nankervis and Josh Caddy all playing key roles in Saturday's win.

After last year's disaster, Hardwick underwent some rigorous self-analysis. Renowned football manager Neil Balme joined the club among several changes to their football department as Richmond reinvented their game plan.

Despite Jack Riewoldt being their only key forward, they dominated Adelaide with unrelenting, manic pressure.

And Dustin Martin's unprecedented Brownlow-Norm Smith-AFL Premiers medal collection in the one week comes after Richmond re-signed him on a monster seven-year deal.

But more than anything else, Richmond have banished nearly four decades of torment.

No wonder Gale and club president Peggy O'Neal cried as they sat together, relishing the last few minutes of the match.

"My heart was just bursting with pride ... it just got a bit too much and I sobbed like a baby," Gale said.

About 25,000 members of the Tiger Army packed Punt Road on Sunday and heard O'Neal lavish praise on Hardwick and Gale.

"You're a man of great character; you're selfless and you only ever wanted one thing for this club - to deliver us a premiership cup. Mission accomplished," she said of Hardwick.

"Brendon spent so many years playing for the club and he gave it his all.

"He's done nothing less as CEO. I know how much last night meant to him.

"I'd like to reflect on something that is clear to all of us now. A united Richmond is a powerful force - being strong and bold has delivered us this premiership cup."

with AAP

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