Sport AFL Hardwick hails his best Tigers

Hardwick hails his best Tigers

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It’s a long road to September for Richmond but if they get there, watch out.

Six rounds ago, the Tigers’ AFL season lay in tatters with just three wins from 13.

Fast forward the tape, and Damien Hardwick’s men are the form side of the league, unbeaten in six and flying up the ladder.

After Friday night’s 18-point win against Essendon, the Tigers are 11th but just one win out of the finals.

Richmond were gutsy and driven in their 14.11 (95) to 11.11 (77) win over the Bombers.

For a side that’s made finals just once – last year – in 13 seasons, Richmond fans are again allowing themselves to dream.

And worryingly for those above them on the ladder, Hardwick believes Richmond are playing the best football of his time at the club.

“I think (it’s better than 2013), it’s probably a more consistent brand of footy,” he said.

“You look at various stages when sides got jumps on us at various stages last year we probably didn’t handle it that well.

“Essendon came hard, they managed to kick the first two of the third quarter but we managed to rectify that.”

The MCG battle was an instant classic – with the lead in single figures for most of the night, blown out to three goals with a goal from Ivan Maric after the siren.

The Tigers were led by hard-nosed Anthony Miles, who led all-comers in contested possessions (12), clearances (7) and rebound 50s (5).

Hardwick called the delisted GWS Giant a “huge addition”.

“He’s been outstanding. His ability to win the ball and distribute to others is to an elite level,” he said.

“We’re probably very lucky to have him on our list to be honest.”

The Tigers became the first team in AFL history to rise from a 3-10 win-loss record to 9-10 after their stirring win.

For the first time in 19 years the Tigers have won six straight and Hardwick thinks they can keep improving – but can they make finals?

“We’ll just worry about what’s in front of us next week,” Hardwick said, “and that’s Adelaide who are playing some pretty good footy.”

One sour note to Hardwick was AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan choosing to berate suspended youngster Reece Conca on Thursday.

Conca was given a two-match ban for the ugly elbow to Devon Smith but Hardwick was keen to move on.

“It’s done an dusted, let’s leave it to the past… I’ll be sending him a please explain,” he grinned.