Well before the start of the AFL season, defender Dylan Grimes knew that Richmond had something good buzzing with their mosquito fleet.
Jason “George” Castagna’s Rising Star nomination this week reflects the success of the Tigers’ new-look attack, especially the small forwards.
Their other Rising Star nomination this year has been Dan Butler – also a small forward.
When Grimes and the other Richmond backmen played on their forward teammates in intra-club matches earlier this year, the defenders had their work cut out.
“One thing I found was that it was just really challenging to match up on all of them,” Grimes said.
“You face a lot of forward lines now, they might have two or three really good players and really good targets.
“But the benefit of our forward line is that on any given day, we could have potentially seven different goalkickers, not to mention the midfield goalkickers as well.
“We get real consistency from week to week.”
Grimes is also rapt with the pressure efforts of their forwards, saying it has been a big factor in Richmond’s must better defence.
“The pressure they put on has been the best thing to happen to a backline in years,” he said.
The Tigers have gone from having the fourth-worst defence last season, based on the total points scored against them, to the second-best.
It has obviously helped that Grimes and fellow defenders Alex Rance and David Astbury have played every game this season.
Rance is surely a lock for another All-Australian selection, while Grimes is in career-best form and Astbury is also firing
But Grimes said the defensive pressure up the other end of the ground and through the midfield is crucial as well.
“It makes our jobs a lot easier, because instead of the players up the field have the time to pick through our defence, they’re constantly under pressure.
“(They’re) feeding us high balls or dirty ground balls.”
Grimes said the interrupted supply to opposition forwards means Rance is No.1 in the AFL for intercept possessions and Astbury is No.3.
Richmond are fourth heading into Sunday’s big game against Hawthorn, a game the Tigers should win despite the Hawks’ resurgence.
But Richmond’s well-documented history means no-one at Punt Rd is thinking too big just yet.
“We’ve played finals and not had that success – obviously there’s history there,” Grimes said.
“If we focus on what we do well and focus on playing our way, then we’re going to be hard to beat.”
Richmond lost three-straight elimination finals before plummeting out of the top eight last season.