Tigers happy as AFL underdogs against Dees

For so long the AFL’s hunted, Richmond are relishing the role of hunter against competition benchmark Melbourne.

The Demons’ rapid rise to the premiership last season coincided with the Tigers’ first September holiday in five years.

Melbourne have extended their winning form into an unbeaten start to 2022 while Richmond, battling injuries and the self-imposed absence of superstar Dustin Martin, have limped to a 2-3 start.

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It means the two sides will enter the annual Anzac Day Eve clash at the MCG with their usual roles reversed.

The Demons made a huge statement in the corresponding fixture last year, storming to a 34-point win over Richmond, who had won three of the previous four flags.

“One thing every coach tries to do is play the underdog,” Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said.

“It’s the greatest emotion that you can invoke on your players and we get an opportunity to do that this week.”

Despite a wobbly start, made worse by defeat away to Adelaide last week, Hardwick is adamant Richmond can still challenge for this year’s premiership.

His side will get a litmus test against a Melbourne outfit that has hardly had to move out of second gear to post five straight wins.

“They’re five and zip, playing some really good footy, able to score heavily at stages … the way they play the game is fantastic to watch,” Hardwick said.

“We’re learning some things off them with the way they go about it but more importantly it’s a great challenge for our players to get a real measure of where we’re at.

“We’ve been good at various stages this year and inconsistent at stages but if we iron out that performance we give ourselves every chance.”

Hardwick swung the axe after the Adelaide loss, dropping Ben Miller, Matt Parker, and Jake Aarts, while Marlion Pickett and Hugo Ralphsmith are out injured.

Premiership wingman Kamdyn McIntosh, Josh Gibcus, Rhyan Mansell and Riley Collier-Dawkins all return.

Melbourne have lost star duo Jack Viney and Jake Lever to COVID-19 protocols and key forward Tom McDonald has made way for Ben Brown, who returns to partner Sam Weideman in attack.

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