- from afl.com.au
RICHMOND will confront its poor record against Geelong head-on, confident it has built a brand of football that will hold up in September after securing a double chance for the first time since 2001.
The Tigers will face the Cats at the MCG after Sunday's 41-point win against St Kilda, with coach Damien Hardwick leading the team into finals for the fourth time in five years.
They will enter the qualifying final having lost their past 13 clashes against the Cats, and with a 1-20 record against Geelong since 2001, but Hardwick said his team should be confident it can beat anyone through September.
"The distraction's going to be there, the media noise and all this sort of stuff. And we accept it, we haven't got a good record against Geelong," Hardwick said after Sunday's impressive win.
"But we also know that if we play our best we're capable of beating anyone. So that'll be acknowledged and our players understand that.
"Our games have been relatively close over the last three to four years, without us getting the chocolates … but I've got faith in the players."
The past four clashes between Richmond and Geelong have been decided by an average of eight points, with the Cats winning the round 21 clash at Simonds Stadium by 14 points.
That was the Tigers' only loss in its last seven games of 2017 and Hardwick said his team hit September confident it was playing a brand of football that would stand up in cut-throat finals.
"I'm really proud of this group and this club overall. We had a really horrible year last year, but this is our fourth finals series in five years. We're a pretty good footy club," Hardwick said.
"I'm really excited about what they can deliver and they're very close to the ultimate. We've got a couple of very good teams to beat before we get there, but I'm excited about what they're going to represent."
Asked what the difference was between the Tigers of 2017 and the teams he led to finals from 2013-15, Hardwick said this year's group was "filled with grit".
"This side's been through a fair bit I reckon this year," the coach said.
"We've had to find different ways to win, we've lost close games, people have always said we're too small, we're not big enough.
"A lot of people have probably looked at us and think we're not capable.
"But credit where credit's due, under Trent (Cotchin) and his leadership group they keep coming back and they keep fighting and they keep winning.
"I'd love to say I've put in an incredible coaching performance, but the reality is they wind themselves up and off they go."
Superstar midfielder Dustin Martin was at his powerful best on Sunday, bullying the Saints and finishing with 36 possessions, seven inside 50s and two goals, including a 40m banana at a critical time in the fourth quarter.
He was given a rousing reception each time he ran to the bench in the fourth quarter and, like the yellow and black army, Hardwick could only hope the free agent stays at Punt Road in 2018.
"We're lucky to have him and we hope we continue to have him," the coach said.
"Dustin's decision is his own. He's been terrific for me and he's been terrific for our footy club.
"He plays for the skipper, he plays for his other players, he's a pleasure to coach and a pleasure to watch."
The other star on Sunday was forward Jacob Townsend, who kicked a bag of five goals to go with his six against Fremantle last week, securing his finals spot.
"I don't think he'll be missing," Hardwick said as the club prepares to get Josh Caddy back from a hamstring injury.