How the Richmond Tigers Built a Dynasty Reminiscent of the Golden State Warriors
The year was 2010.
The CEO of the Richmond Football Club, Brendan Gale, gave a speech outlining the club’s vision for the next ten years.
“By 2020, we aspire to have won our 13th Premiership; consistently provide the most exciting and powerful match-day experience in the competition; once again have the strongest support base in the nation, and enjoy the strongest emotional connection with our members and fans.”
To fulfill this vision and secure their 13th premiership, Richmond would need to win another three premierships by 2020. This is the same team that would regularly disappoint their fans between 1990-2010, often missing out on the finals. Given Richmond would regularly finish ninth on the ladder (one spot from making the finals), the AFL community even nicknamed the team ‘Ninthmond’.
To put it simply, no one was buying the vision outlined by Gale. He was even forced to defend himself and his comments by the AFL media, much like the interview below.
THE IMPOSSIBLE BECOMES REALITY
Richmond made the finals three times between 2010-2015 but failed to win a finals game. After building momentum, the club came crashing back to reality in 2016. They finished 13th on the ladder and were given a football lesson by the Sydney Swans in the final game of the season. Things didn’t look good.
The challenges on the field started to spread off the field too. Prominent AFL journalist Caroline Wilson broke the news towards the end of 2016 that “a prominent group of disgruntled Richmond supporters were planning a bloodless coup, targeting at least five long-serving Tiger board members, in their bid to reshape the club's board and future football direction.” The takeover failed but it may have been the moment that strengthened the club moving forward.
Richmond went from being the laughing stock of the league in 2016 to the fairytale story in 2017. A team that was starved of ultimate success for 37 years finally broke their premiership drought. Leading into the 2017 season, Richmond were more likely to finish last on the ladder than win the premiership. Their odds ($67) to win the premiership before the season kicked off indicated this - although, this didn’t stop one optimistic fan putting a bet of $525 before the season kicked off. He ended up with a payout of over $35,000.
Fast forward to 2020 and Richmond has won another two premierships. They have officially entered the conversation for the best AFL team of the last 20 years. Other dynasty teams in that period include Brisbane, Geelong and Hawthorn. It is challenging to differentiate the teams and the arguments across Australian pubs will go on for many years. However, one important thing to note is where the teams came from before they started their dynasties. Hawthorn finished 3rd before they started theirs and Brisbane finished 6th before their premierships started coming in. Geelong finished 10th the year before they started their dynasty. Richmond had the biggest turnaround, finishing 13th in the year before winning in 2017.
Richmond CEO, Brendan Gale, delivered a vision that seemed crazy in 2010 but every goal was realised. As American author Napoleon Hill once said, “The starting point of all achievement is desire”.
JUST LIKE THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The 2015-2019 Warriors built the greatest dynasty in the modern NBA era. Joe Lacob, the team’s majority owner, came out in 2016 to signal to the competition how far the Warriors had come. “We’ve crushed [our competition] on the basketball court, and we’re going to for years because of the way we’ve built this team. We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things,” said Lacob.
It was a new era for the Golden State Warriors, a team that had waited 40 years between championships. When Richmond tasted success in 2017, it was 37 years after their last premiership. Both teams waited about four decades until they were the last team standing again.
STYLE OF PLAY
Led by the superstar backcourt of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors changed the NBA. They were able to win by playing small-ball, something that shocked the NBA world. Rather than have a traditional centre, they decided to play a lineup with Draymond Green as their centre (he is only 6-foot-7). Other NBA teams have since followed suit and the value of the traditional NBA centre has decreased significantly. The centre that can’t space the floor and shoot threes has become a liability in the league. The style of play of the Warriors has made a lasting impact on the NBA.
Richmond went through something similar. They have become known for playing a ‘chaos game’.
To put it simply, the Tigers do anything they can to get the ball going their way. Kicks off the ground, punches forward, forward handballs - you get the point. Every other team is aware of the Richmond game plan but after four years they have struggled to copy it or stop it.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Who usually wins - a team of champions or a champion team? The arguments usually tend to favour the championship team. However, even these champion teams need a superstar to rise on the big occasions.
The Golden State Warriors relied on Steph Curry. He has won two MVPs (one of them unanimous) and broke all sorts of shooting records. For instance, he holds the record of reaching 100 three-pointers in a season in just 20 games.
The superstar for Richmond is Dustin Martin. He has the ability to step up when the moment requires someone to do so. He has the awards to prove it - having won three Norm Smith medals (the equivalent to finals MVP) in three grand finals. No wonder other teams were throwing ridiculous contracts (including $11m mega deals) his way when he was out of contract in 2017.
ALWAYS GETTING BETTER
Both Richmond and the Warriors were always looking to get better, even when they were dominating their respective sports. Both teams didn’t just assume they would continue to win - they focused on getting better. The Warriors lost to a Lebron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. They went out and signed a superstar in Kevin Durant the following offseason. They ended up winning two straight titles.
Richmond in 2018 resembled the 2016 Warriors. They dominated throughout the year and finished the season with the best record. They were expected to win and fell to Collingwood in the Preliminary final. That offseason they added superstar forward Tom Lynch and won two premierships in the two years that followed.
The Golden State Warriors dynasty ended due to a combination of Kevin Durant leaving and injuries to their stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Tigers have just won their third premiership in four years. Will they continue to stay on top and win?
With a roster that includes a balance of young players improving and senior players still playing high quality football, there is no reason why this dynasty cannot stay on top for the. next few years.