Richmond lick wounds after AFL boilover

Ben McKay
Richmond head coach Damien Hardwick has backed his crestfallen players to bounce back in 2019

And so the streak was snapped at 22.

Richmond's record run of dominance at the MCG carried the Tigers to the 2017 flag, and this year's minor premiership.

But on Friday night at the home of football, they were humbled by 39 points by an inspired Collingwood side who'll now face Melbourne or West Coast in next Saturday's grand final.

It fell to the club's leaders to pick up the pieces following the crushing defeat.

Captain Trent Cotchin led the Tigers, still gobsmacked at the scale of the loss, off the field.

Once in the rooms, chief executive Brendon Gale invited all of the club's staff to join the players in a tight huddle.

There, coach Damien Hardwick addressed the pack for several minutes.

"We're a strong footy club. We're a united footy club," he said.

"And we learn from the losses.

"Unfortunately we don't get another opportunity until next year.

"It's a disappointing end. But I commend you on the job you've done.

"Hold your heads up."

After Gale and Cotchin took their turn, Hardwick returned to the middle of the circle.

"We're all family. Get around each other. Give each other a hug. It's tough, this game," he said through tears.

Players and staff obliged, embracing in near silence as their loss sunk in.

Hardwick's off-the-cuff address showed why the club have become as admired for their off-field culture as their winning ways.

Gathering himself, the 46-year-old extended his praise to the Magpies.

"They were fantastic," he said.

"Probably similar to us last year, they're playing a great momentum of footy right here, right now.

"So they're every chance of winning it next week."

Hardwick then crossed to the Collingwood rooms to congratulate victorious coach Nathan Buckley, who gets the chance to coach in his first grand final - as Hardwick did last year.

The Richmond coach will now turn his attentions to improving his team in time for the 2019 season.

Gold Coast captain Tom Lynch is expected to announce the Tigers as his team of choice as soon as this weekend.

Hardwick also expects plenty of motivation to come from the preliminary final.

"Our guys are a pretty proud bunch, they realise the opportunity that has gone," he said.

"But it doesn't necessarily mean our (premiership) window has closed.

"They will bounce back pretty heavily."