Collingwood's Brent Macaffer has eyes only for the ball. Photo: Pat Scala
The need to find greater consistency of effort was preached loudly and often at Punt Road this week, but the search will go on after Richmond's season hit a low against Collingwood on Friday night.
Damien Hardwick demanded a more even effort from his players after they failed to fire in the first half of last week's loss to the Western Bulldogs, and while the effort might have been there in the first half this week the wasteful execution and woeful decision making at times would have left him aghast.
In his press conference following that loss Hardwick spoke of the Tigers digging themselves out of the hole had put themselves in with one unconvincing win against Carlton and losses to Gold Coast and the Dogs.
AFL Round 4: Richmond v Collingwood
Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt lead Richmond on to the MCG. Photo: Pat Scala
But on the big stage of Friday night football against a side that was similarly struggling with one win after three rounds, Richmond only made that hole deeper.
With games against the Brisbane Lions, Hawthorn and Geelong before the bye, the Tigers are every chance to be 2-5 after seven rounds, but even the rebuilding Lions at the Gabba will be no pushovers for a team so clearly lacking in confidence.
After four rounds Richmond's drought-breaking return to the finals last year looks dangerously like yet another false dawn for weary Tigers supporters than the start of a new era of on-field prosperity it was heralded as at the time.
The Tigers are clearly missing the poise of Brett Deledio, who's every chance to miss another two games with an Achilles injury, but the absence of one player should not be enough to completely destabilise a side with top-four aspirations.
With so much responsibility falling on his talented shoulders, Trent Cotchin battled hard, but Brent Macaffer's superb blanketing role on the Tiger skipper exposed a midfield lacking flair.
Richmond, ranked second in clearances going into the match, won that battle handsomely against the Pies, but winning the ball without disposing of it effectively coming away from the stoppage is of little use.
Jack Riewoldt, so often emblematic of Richmond's fortunes, was again a prime example of the inconsistency that threatens to derail the Tigers' season. While he flashed glimpses of the brilliance he's capable of, he failed to have a meaningful impact against a side missing two quality key defenders in Ben Reid and Nathan Brown.
Sam Lloyd looks a handy pick up and may have a long career ahead of him, but that he was responsible for Richmond's only two goals in the first half in his AFL debut is a sad indictment on the Tigers' dysfunctional forward set-up.
Hardwick has spoken of the need to develop a more-rounded attack less reliant on Riewoldt, but to target Tyrone Vickery ahead of Riewoldt when he is so badly out of form is pure folly.
Vickery had two handballs to half-time and looked lost when the ball hit the ground. Bronx cheers greeted the scoreboard notification that he had been subbed out at the main break, with a heavily iced left quad perhaps his only saving grace.
But while the attack lacks cohesion, Richmond's forwards can have no confidence in how the ball is arriving in the forward half.
The run and carry that characterises the Tigers when they're on song has been in evidence all too rarely this year. Richmond's lack of spread and stop-start ball movement out of the back half is symptomatic of a nervous defensive unit that looked positively bereft of ideas at times.
A final flurry in the last quarter when the game was well out of reach only served to rub salt into the wounds of Tigers fans, who would be well within their rights to inquire as to where that free-spirited, attacking football was in the first three quarters.
History says it will be very difficult for Richmond to make the finals after a 1-3 start. Even ninth could be a stretch.