Tiger Army could await Cats in AFL finals

Richmond have won their past eight AFL games in the lead-up to the finals.
Richmond have won their past eight AFL games in the lead-up to the finals.

Richmond's ominous resurgence has all the hallmarks of 2017 and that could extend to a repeat of Geelong's nightmare AFL finals scenario.

Sunday's gripping victory over West Coast has reinforced the Tigers' status as premiership favourites before the final round of the home-and-away season.

The Tigers' eighth-straight victory lifted them to fourth ahead of another big MCG clash with ladder-leaders Brisbane.

Sunday's game at the MCG will shape the top four and it could have particularly significant implications for Geelong.

If the Cats beat Carlton at home on Saturday and Richmond beat Brisbane, Chris Scott's men will finish first and the Tigers, most probably, fourth.

Geelong - who are no chance of being allowed by the AFL to host a final at GMHBA Stadium - would then face Richmond in a qualifying final at the MCG, just as they did two years ago when they were also nominally the home team.

More than 95,000 fans packed the MCG for that game. Unfortunately for Geelong, most were wearing yellow and black.

The Tigers scored an emphatic 40-point victory, then went on to defeat GWS and Adelaide in their remaining finals to claim their first flag in 37 years.

Recent history suggests September success is predicated not on ladder position but on form heading into the finals.

Last season, the Tigers finished as minor premiers but limped over the line with unconvincing wins over Essendon and the Western Bulldogs.

Coach Damien Hardwick warned at the time that his team weren't playing at a level that would stand up in September.

And after beating Hawthorn in week one, the Tigers were smashed by Collingwood in the preliminary final.

This year feels different.

After battling injuries in the first half of the season, Hardwick's men have played irresistible football with West Coast - last year's premiers and again flag threats - the only serious challengers to the Tigers since their mid-season bye.

It helps that Dustin Martin has elevated in recent weeks to a level similar to 2017, when he polled record votes to claim the Brownlow Medal.

Martin, who is ineligible for this year's award after serving a suspension, had 35 disposals, 13 inside-50s and a goal against the Eagles.

"I thought he started to turn the game for us, started to get some really important possession," Hardwick said.

"It was a pretty good game of footy, hard and tough.

"It was really pleasing to see us fight that hard to get the win."

Australian Associated Press