Of course, you can’t really be too smug if all you have done is finished eighth; it just means that seven teams have finished above you rather than eight teams. And as I have argued before, ‘sneaking’ into the finals doesn’t really have much benefit, at least in terms of future performance.
But part of following sport is the psychic benefits, and the psychic benefits for Tigers’ supporters of coming from essentially nowhere to grab a finals spot are huge. Finishing ninth six times in a row in the past twenty years was an improbable event, and Richmond was on the wrong side of it (even if their history of finishing ninth or just missing the finals is often overstated). Winning nine games in a row to make the finals was also an improbable event, and Richmond was on the right side of this one, like some sort of karmic balance, Essentially Richmond has now averaged out its averageness.
One thing that I found remarkable about Richmond’s winning streak though was the number of media commentators that rose up to quash any chance of the Tigers making the finals, as if Tigers’ supporters were all lining up en masse for Grand Final tickets. Everyone knew it was unlikely, but to say they were NO CHANCE?! As with many fields, in sports media you can just make predictions willy-nilly or take a cheap shot, and usually no-one will hold you to account for it. The articles below were wrong, so very wrong. Or as Dr Cox from ‘Scrubs’ would say:
From least egregious to most egregious, here are some links for Tigers’ supporters to feel a little bit smug over, at least until tomorrow.
Choice phrases: “So ease off the talk of being a game out of the eight. Having only beaten one team from that end of the ladder this year, Richmond are not going to bring home the required spoils from Adelaide and Sydney. As ever at Tigerland, it’s a case of maybe next year.”
Mitigating factor: Geoff Lemon is one of the better AFL (and Australian sports) writers out there and has a great Twitter account, so while I do think the certainty of this prediction is now amusing I’m not going to rag on this too much.
Choice phrases: “Their form in the past six weeks, rather than frank the form of last year, adds to the perception that they struggle with expectation.”
Mitigating factor: Garry Lyon did believe that the Tigers could win against Sydney last week. And he could argue that his main point still stands: Richmond should be aiming for a finals win to call this season a success.
Choice phrases: "When Richmond loses to Sydney, they won’t surprise anyone…"
Mitigating factor: The author has admitted he got this one wrong.
Choice phrases: "Sydney at ANZ Stadium. The Tigers have lost their last seven in Sydney dating back to 2004, and will meet a Swans’ team possibly looking to secure top spot, and a home final, and be in peak form heading into September. Good luck with that Richmond.
But, again, let’s just say, for the sake of it that they beat the Swans and finish with 12 wins and 10 losses. Will that be enough?
I don’t think it will. It will more than likely lead to another ninth-placed finish and will end a season that promised so much but in the end delivered what Richmond teams have delivered so often in the past, disappointment."
Mitigating factor: Some troll (comment made August 30 @ 11.01 pm) has already gone back and held the writer to account for this. Also the Tigers still had the Bombers, Crows, and Swans to beat at that point. But the ‘Good luck with that Richmond’ quote is now pretty satisfying.
Choice phrase: "... the Tigers are no hope against the Swans and the 2014 season was a complete waste."
Mitigating factor: None whatsoever. The Tigers were certainly not favourites against the Swans, but they had just won eight straight games! ‘No hope’ was a tad over the top to say the least.