Sport AFL Tigers’ late run just a normal September feeling
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Tigers’ late run just a normal September feeling

Dustin Martin of Richmond
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Richmond’s late-season rally almost certainly won’t net a premiership this year – and even an AFL finals berth remains unlikely.

But the resultant sense of belief and lessons learned should stay with the players for the rest of their careers.

And, as Craig McRae explains, it can be powerful stuff.

Almost 20 years before the Tigers slumped to a 3-10 win-loss record and made their belated push for the finals, Brisbane achieved a very similar feat.

The Bears were second-last on the ladder after 15 rounds, having tallied four wins.

Free of “expectation” and having been told coach Robert Walls wouldn’t be at the club in 1996, Brisbane started to play on instinct.

“We went into games as the hunter. We were no longer being hunted,” McRae said.

The young side clicked spectacularly in their next match, a clash with Hawthorn at the Gabba.

The visitors, happy with a 45-point buffer they enjoyed at the final break, famously sheltered in the shade during three-quarter time.

Brisbane booted nine goals in the final term to win by seven points. They finished the season in eighth place.

The Bears’ only losses for the remainder of the season were against eventual premiers Carlton.

It could be a remarkably similar story at Tigerland – next week they face premiership favourites Sydney.

The Blues trumped the Bears by 14 points in round 19 and 13 points in week one of the finals – the expansion club’s first taste of September.

They were experiences that McRae, Michael Voss, Chris Scott, Darryl White, Marcus Ashcroft, Jason Akermanis, Shaun Hart, Nigel Lappin and Justin Leppitsch would draw on for the rest of their careers.

It laid the platform for the club’s preliminary final the following year, but also the golden triple-premiership era that followed five years after the merger with Fitzroy.

“It was quite unique, because it was my first season,” McRae told AAP.

“As a young side it was really good grounding for our growth, and no doubt Richmond are full of belief now.

“When you’re winning like that, it’s evidence that the things you’re doing are right and you’re on the right path.

“And, like a snowball going down a hill, it just builds more and more momentum.

“Unfortunately you don’t start the next year with all that momentum, but you certainly take a lot of the good things with you.”

That extends to not just next year, but the next 10 years.

“We wouldn’t have won those premierships without that experience, because the lessons learned were really strong ones,” McRae said.

“The premiership success was all part of what went before it. You don’t just rock up on grand final day and fluke it.”

McRae, now head of development at Collingwood, can’t take too much delight in the Tigers’ golden run.

But should he hop on the yellow-and-black bandwagon come September, nobody could question his bona fides.

The 40-year-old worked as Richmond’s development coach for three seasons.

“I’ve got good memories from my time there,” he said.

McRae worked closely with captain Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt, Brett Deledio, Shane Edwards and Daniel Jackson in their formative years.

“I really don’t have a connection to their success now. But I’d certainly like to see them do well,” he said.