Terry Mallinder: Tigers can roar some more now
WE ALL had a chuckle when Damien Hardwick announced in late-April he thought Richmond was a better team in 2014 than it was in its groundbreaking season of 2013.
The Tigers had lost to Gold Coast, the Bulldogs and Collingwood and struggled to beat a then-battling Brisbane to start the season at 2-3.
Richmond had 'improved' so much by mid-June fans were calling for the head of its coach, which now had a face splattered with egg after the Tigers had lost seven of their next eight games.
That left the side that ended a 12-year drought last season by making the final eight, languishing in 16th spot, with a 3-10 win-loss record, ahead of the Lions and St Kilda by percentage only.
Hardwick though has had the last laugh, after Richmond iced one of the more amazing comebacks in a season by beating minor premier Sydney and clinching the last finals berth.
No team in the history of the competition has come from so far back to advance.
While Sydney provided Richmond with a sporting chance by resting Lance Franklin, Josh Kennedy, Mike Pyke and Ben McGlynn, Richmond deserved to have its season extended into September ahead of West Coast and Adelaide.
The Tigers' winning run included beating both the Eagles and Crows, and now the Swans, all on their home decks, as well as Port and Essendon in Melbourne.
And they are now every chance of going one better than last season when they suffered stage fright and were blown away by Carlton in their elimination final.
With so much momentum, Richmond will be confident of stretching this incredible winning streak to 10 - for the first time since 1972.
Tiger fans might even now be dreaming of a 13th straight victory ... in the grand final.
But, first things first and certainly challenging Port Adelaide - ironically, the side that sat top 10 weeks ago - in a cut-throat final at home won't strike fear into Richmond hearts.
The Power looks recharged, but the Tigers have won their last three games over it in Adelaide, and five of their past six overall in the city.
Yes, Richmond has improved. Its newfound resilience says so and so do the stats. Six players averaged 20-plus disposals in 2013.
In 2014, they have nine with Brandon Ellis (26 up from 18) and GWS reject Anthony Miles (24) having an impact.
You can make a case for every lower-ranked opponent being capable of causing an upset next week.
Geelong may feel it is still capable of providing a choker hold on Hawthorn on Friday - via Tom Hawkins.
Anything can happen when two of the league's most schizophrenic sides, Essendon and North Melbourne, clash on Saturday night.
Having topped the 100-point-mark three weeks in a row for just the second time under Ross Lyon, Fremantle may have the scoring power to go with the Franklin-led Swans on Saturday.
And Richmond has seen to it that the Swans have now lost four of their past six at ANZ Stadium.