Without doubt the most in-form side in the competition, has the 2019 AFL Premiership suddenly become Richmond’s to lose?

The cards have fallen their way, and the Tiger army know they’ll hardly get a better chance to claim a 12th premiership.

After a mid-season slump, Richmond’s premiership price has shortened almost weekly. After a third-straight defeat in round 13, Damien Hardwick’s side slumped to it’s longest odds for the season, at $18 with Palmerbet. But after that, something clicked. The Tigers would go on to record nine straight wins to finish the home-and-away season as $3 flag hopes. Punters that jumped aboard the Tiger Train back in round 13 were already licking their lips.

Then, after a dominant win over Brisbane in the qualifying final at the Gabba, the tigers shortened into $2.40 and are now $2.10 hopes to win the flag on the eve of the preliminary finals. A win against the Cats on Friday night would put them into their second AFL Grand Final in three years – a game they will almost certainly start as favourites in irrespective of the winner of Saturday’s Collingwood v GWS clash. So, is it now Richmond’s to lose?

Mind games begin

To get to the AFL Grand Final next Saturday, Geelong stands in the Tigers’ way. Hardwick’s side start Friday night’s clash as strong $1.37 favourites with Palmerbet. But Cats coach Chris Scott, never shy to air his thoughts in the media, has already begun the mind games. “Our players aren’t looking back and thinking we can’t beat them. We do have a method that troubles them,” Scott said. “I am not a big fan of looking too far back but I don’t think we were anywhere near as good a team as we are now last year and I think they were a better team last year than they are now.”

The comments leave him open to criticism, but is he right?

The Hawkins hole

Perhaps the biggest question heading into Friday night’s clash is who will lead the line for the Cats in the absence of star forward Tom Hawkins. Hawkins’ one-game suspension was upheld at Monday’s night’s AFL tribunal hearing. And now, the Cats need to weigh up who will fill the considerable hole. Esava Ratugolea was a forward-50 threat against the Eagles in the semi-final win, but will (naturally) need to split his time in the ruck. Does Dangerfield spend more time forward? Do they bring in a tall for Hawkins?

Dusty danger

While Scott might not be scared of the 2019 Tigers, there’s no doubt midfield star Dustin Martin might be causing him some headaches on the track this week. Martin is now the $7 favourites for the AFL Norm Smith Medal with Palmerbet. And with good reason. The 2017 winner has shown time and time again he can perform on the big stage.

When asked if the Cats would employ a tagger on him, skipper Joel Selwood said it wasn’t just the 2017 Brownlow Medalist they needed to watch. “Dusty is obviously their key kicker and distributor of the ball,” he said. “So we have to make sure we concentrate on him. But Lambert is the other one that a lot of other clubs have been going to with his run and link-up, and I’m sure we’ll keep an eye out on him.” Martin is currently $2.40 with Palmerbet to accumulate 30+ touches, while Lambert is $7.50.