AFLPlayers.com.au caught up with Richmond quartet Anthony Miles, Ricky Petterd, Sam Lloyd and Nathan Gordon to talk momentum, developing a winning culture and the upcoming season opener against Carlton.
Anthony Miles has had, dare we say it, a big pre-season.
“A good pre-season doesn’t guarantee anything – it just gives you a chance to compete” – Ricky Petterd
“Like a lot of guys, I’m running better than I was this time last year – the best I’ve ever run – and my strength is up, so hopefully that puts me in good stead,” the 23-year-old tells AFLPlayers.com.au.
If you’re a Richmond supporter, it might be hard to read that and not get excited. The tough nut recruited from Greater Western Sydney was one of the catalysts behind Richmond’s charge to the finals in the second half of 2014 and is hoping to improve again with another big pre-season under his belt.
But as teammate Ricky Petterd points out, “every team says they’re fitter and stronger [at this time of year].
“It [a good pre-season] doesn’t guarantee anything – it just gives you a chance to compete.”
The Tigers know their strong finish to 2014 doesn’t guarantee anything either.
If there was a secret formula behind the nine straight victories that carried Richmond into the 2014 finals series, things might be different. But, as is often the case, the catalyst behind the remarkable run was a string of subtle adjustments, rather than one big change.
“Ivan Maric has said it a number of times – it’s just the little things,” youngster Sam Lloyd explains.
“He was one of the guys that drove that and it’s pretty basic, really. We didn’t change anything huge, just the little things.”
“[Previously] we might’ve tried to do a little bit too much or change things that were already working when we didn’t have to,” Petterd adds.
“I think we just pulled everything back, simplified it all and we saw the results. We’re sticking to that. We’ve still got a pretty similar game-plan this year.”
Though the Tigers’ on-field plans won’t change dramatically, they’re hoping to improve in a less tangible area in 2015.
“We definitely felt a shift when we started winning, in terms of momentum and the general vibe around the place – it was a good place to be,” 25-year-old forward Nathan Gordon says.
“Creating a winning culture is massive and we started to do that last year, so hopefully we can keep that going from Round 1 and keep winning from there.”
“We definitely felt a shift when we started winning, in terms of momentum and the general vibe around the place” – Nathan Gordon
Their Round 1 match against Carlton on their (semi)traditional Thursday night time-slot is sure to be accompanied by plenty of buzz, but the Tigers will largely be doing their best to block it out.
“You get excited about it, and it’s good to get excited about it, but we’ve got good enough people around the club that can calm us down and get us to focus on the bigger picture,” Petterd says.
“In the end it’s just another game of footy. The media and fans will pump it up as one of the most important games of the year but at the back end of the year when you’re trying to push for finals, will anyone remember that game? I’m not sure.
“It’s exciting for the fans and footy in general, to have close to 90,000 people there in Round 1, and to start the year off on a Thursday. I’m definitely looking forward to it, but it’s a long year.”
Thankfully for Richmond fans, the Tigers are in good shape to start the season off on the right foot.
“We’ve got so many people putting their hands up for spots that it’s hard to pick a team right now,” Petterd says.
“It’s really healthy for our footy club.”
Lloyd and Gordon are two such players who’ll be putting their names up for selection each week, after promising seasons last year.
“My goal for 2015 is just to play every game,” Gordon says.
“I played 12 games last year and finished off the year pretty strongly, so I just want to keep that going and play most of the games.”
“My goal for the year is the same as Nathan’s”, Lloyd adds.
“I played eight games last year so I’m just going to try to play as many as I can this year and be a part of a few wins and hopefully some September action.”
For Miles – upgraded from the rookie list mid-season in 2014 before cementing his spot with a brilliant run of 13 matches, in which he averaged more than 24 disposals per game – the focus is on development and further improvement.
“I’ve only played 23 games of AFL footy so I’m a long way from where I want to be as a footballer,” he says.
Though he’s bolstered his running capacity in an attempt to develop a better outside game, the tough nut who won an average of 11 contested possessions and six clearances per game last year insists he’s looking to continually improve as a ball winner too.
“It’s still important to work on your strengths, as well as trying to iron out any deficiencies you may have. I’ll continue to pick the brains of the older guys at our club and try to continue to improve and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”
After Richmond’s stellar finish to last year’s home and away season, footy pundits and Tiger fans will be expecting the yellow and black to take another step forward in 2015, but Petterd says that’s something the playing group feels comfortable with.
“The expectation’s big from the outside but it’s also big from the inside. We’ve got KPI’s that we want to live to.
“The outside stuff… It’s good for people to make up these kinds of expectations of us but, inside our four walls, it’s what we believe in and how we’re going to go about things.
“That’s what’s most important for us.”