Richmond star Bachar Houli celebrates with fans after the 2017 Grand Final. Picture: Getty Images
Richmond star Bachar Houli celebrates with fans after the 2017 Grand Final. Picture: Getty Images

Robinson: One flag won’t be enough for Tigers

You don't want to be leaving one on the table. And we're looking at you, Richmond.

Arguably the best-performed team for the past three years, the Tigers have only one premiership to show for it.

They won to enormous acclaim and celebration in 2017, got belted in the preliminary final by Collingwood in 2018, and enter September 2019, not as the raging favourite, but certainly the team to beat.

 

 

Put it this way, the premiership winner will have to beat Richmond at the MCG.

Another failure for the Tigers and history will record them as chokers at worst and underperformers at best, if history wants to be kind.

Richmond wouldn't be the first team to have dominated an era and be left unfulfilled.

Essendon in 1999-2001 was the team to beat and it has only the 2000 flag to show for it. Unquestionably, 1999 was left on the table. North Melbourne in 1996-1998 was ruthlessly superior and has only the '96 flag on the wall.

The Kangaroos won in 1999 because Essendon fluffed it, but it's the 1998 premiership that they still believe got away.

At the recent reunion of the '99 triumph, then-captain Wayne Carey and then-coach Denis Pagan spoke of the frustration of underachieving.

"Failure stays with you longer than success does," Carey said.

"I think about '98 more than I do any other game. We fell at least one short. In '97, we had reasons, we had a lot of injuries and suspensions as well at the wrong time.

"I think '96, '97, '98, we were the best team in the comp and we won one premiership."

 

Richmond players celebrate their 2017 premiership win. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Richmond players celebrate their 2017 premiership win. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

Pagan looked further back, to 1994, when Carey kicked six and Gary Ablett kicked the winning goal after the siren.

"1994 was the year," Pagan said.

"I was confident we would've beaten West Coast in the final … (but) it wasn't to be.

"In '95, Carlton were far superior, in '96 we won it, but '98 is the one that sticks with you. We were the best side, but the best side doesn't win it, the best side on the day does and Adelaide was. We wasted a golden opportunity."

Carey added: "It's a premiership which got away."

When Carlton people talk of the disappointment of 1980, it's difficult to feel sorry for them. They won in 1979, '81 and '82, but kick themselves about 1980 - a famous four-in-a-row was beckoning, but it didn't materialise.

After finishing on top of the ladder at the end of the 1980 home and away season, the Blues exited September in straight sets.

"We went bang, bang," Carlton great Mark Maclure said.

"We ran out of juice. We could've won four in a row, but it's easy to say 'could've, should've', but we just had a bad run of injuries."

 

The dejected Tigers after losing to Collingwood in last year’s preliminary final. Picture: Getty Images
The dejected Tigers after losing to Collingwood in last year’s preliminary final. Picture: Getty Images

 

No doubt Carlton left that premiership on the table.

St Kilda would say the same about 2008-10 and Geelong in 2008.

Sydney played 19 finals series in 22 years for two premierships and four lost Grand Finals. The Swans should be congratulated for their longevity, but they would reckon another flag or two was left on the table.

The Tigers are a very good team, but not a great team, yet. They need a second flag before anyone starts beating their chests about greatness.

Greatness is the Brisbane Lions at the start of the century and Hawthorn during its three-peat.

Look at Brisbane's numbers. In 2001, it finished with a 20-5 win-loss record, the same in 2002 and 17-1-8 in 2003. That's a 57-18 win-loss record and a draw across three seasons and they won three consecutive premierships.

Hawthorn was 22-3 in 2013, 20-5 in 2014 and 19-7 in 2015.

That's a 61-15 record and the Hawks won three flags.

 

Dustin Martin with the 2017 premiership cup. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Dustin Martin with the 2017 premiership cup. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

 

Look at Richmond's record. It finished 18-7 in 2017, 19-5 in 2018 and 16-6 in 2019. That's a 53-18 win-loss record in three seasons for one flag.

Of course, the Tigers aren't the only team with a narrative next to their name. Pressure abounds on all finalists, not least Geelong and Chris Scott.

On top of the ladder all year, save for one week to the Lions, and the Cats enter September with an unflattering recent finals record. A straight-sets exit would be totally unacceptable.

Same for Collingwood, which, if it lost to the Cats, would play the winner of West Coast and Essendon.

Brisbane is the fairytale, Essendon is the underdog, GWS is anyone's guess and West Coast, as the reigning premier, needs to do it from fifth position. If that can be achieved, they leapfrog the Tigers as the best performed team since the Hawks.

What a performance that would be - home, MCG, MCG, MCG and back-to-back premierships.

And then there's the Dogs. They couldn't could they? Evidently, we can't rule them out from seventh.

Enjoy the finals.