It was early in Richmond’s pre-season campaign when Kane Lambert noticed the thing that would eventually take the club to its drought-breaking premiership.
Now in his third year with the Tigers, Lambert and the rest of the playing group were taking part in a simple competitive drill at the Punt Road Oval when their trademark was born purely out of the fun they were having while implementing the game style.
“It was based off the back of pressure and from that point we loved defending and winning the ball back off the opposition,” Lambert told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“It was around tackling, smothers, pressure and those little things. I think that was a turning point for us as a group and that grew as the year went on.
“The boys loved defending and we reflected and spoke about how much we enjoyed it and managed to replicated it week-in, week-out.”
Lambert went into the season not knowing where he stood within Richmond’s on-field plans. The 25-year-old was in and out of the side throughout his first two years on the list and was unable to consolidate his place.
He began the year as a negating midfielder who was keen to take on various run-with roles, but would finish the 2017 campaign flourishing and showing off his offensive attributes.
The arrival of Blake Caracella as an assistant coach at Tigerland was one of the main factors behind Lambert’s rise in form, which eventually led to the mature-aged recruit placing third in the club’s best and fairest award at year’s end.
“I knew I had more to offer and Blake Caracella made me believe in myself more than anyone else,” Lambert added.
“He sees things that no one else really does but when he explains it to you you’re confused as to why you’d never noticed it before.
“He’s very simplistic in how he goes about it but he’s so smart. He has helped me with my off-ball running and positioning and, again, the belief. He didn’t expect me to do anything that he didn’t think I was capable of. He helped me to believe in myself.”
Confidence is arguably the defining factor in any sport but the change in self-belief for the Tigers was as dramatic as it comes.
Lambert’s belief in his own game improved every week, similarly his teammates, and he said it came down to the care for each other.
“I think it’s the love and connection in the club and the fact we genuinely played for each other. The relationships we have with coaches and admin staff — just the whole Richmond Football Club — it’s like a family,” Lambert said.
“The connection and love for each other was the biggest thing and everyone was encouraged to be themselves.”
Lambert’s season was easily his best on a personal front as well. He averaged more than 21 disposals per game and finished second at the Tigers for tackles and goal assists and was duly rewarded on best and fairest night.
And his performances weren’t only limited to the home and away season. Lambert averaged 23 touches, seven inside 50s and a goal throughout the finals series, culminating in a premiership medallion.
It’s caps off a remarkable journey where Lambert grew from a draft reject, who took a year off after his TAC Cup year, to VFL star, AFL rookie and now a flag winner.
Lambert is fully appreciative of the opportunities he’s been presented in football but is more grateful of the process.
“It’s funny, we get to the destination of winning a premiership but I think the sweetest part and the thing that makes it worthwhile was the journey we went on together. I’m looking forward to getting back to training with the boys and trying to have a crack at it all over again. I’m excited about what’s ahead, rather than what we’ve done.
“I never imagined myself being a premiership player. I’m looking forward to sitting down and watching the game again. I’m very fortunate, I don’t know what I have done right along the way to be rewarded as a premiership player. There’s not many better things.”