Jack Riewoldt wears the look of defeat. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
THE weekly sense of deja vu - playing well and losing - has left Richmond with only one win from five attempts and prompted coach Damien Hardwick to declare the season starts now for his side.
The Tigers again were forced to swallow the bitter pill of the close, but gallant, loss after falling short to undefeated West Coast by 10 points yesterday, the same margin by which they lost to Geelong last week.
Having endured a taxing opening to the year playing four more-highly credentialed sides - Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong and West Coast - and having fallen short in all four, Hardwick said the time to start making ground on the opposition started now.
AFL Round 5 - Richmond v West Coast
Another nail biter in Round 5 with the West Coast Eagles beating Richmond by ten points with a final score of 107 to 97. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
''Once again we are close but we are not quite there,'' he said.
''It's been a step forward no doubt. They are a bloody good side West Coast; they are undefeated and a chance to win the whole thing.
''Geelong no different from last week also.
''So it is a step forward we just have to manufacture the result to get the four points.
''We are one-four, which is not where we want to be. We could possibly have been two-three, three-two, whichever way but the reality is we are one-four,'' Hardwick said.
''Our percentage is still intact so our season really starts now, we have to start gaining some ground on the opposition.
''It was always going to be a tough start - we knew that, we probably won the game that everyone pencilled in for us to win."
Richmond's road ahead is not much easier with games against Port Adelaide - which it should win - followed by Sydney, still undefeated, then Essendon and Hawthorn.
''I think this group has come a long way now, where we come into games expecting to win,'' Hardwick said.
''No longer is it 'jeez, we hope to get close'. We expect to win week-in week-out.''
''We are still a very, very young football club, we are a similar age to Melbourne.
''We are making inroads, we just have to get there quicker. We are going to get there but it is going to take a few more frustrating losses like that.''
Richmond was partly the agent of its own misfortune in the last quarter when Robin Nahas gave away a free kick for abusive language and, moments later, Jack Riewoldt attempted a short pass - and turned over the ball - when he could have taken a shot at goal. The ball went straight to the other end where Josh Hill won a free kick in the goal square and restored the Eagles' lead for the final time.
''The Robbie Nahas one was disappointing but to be perfectly honest it is a man's game isn't it. Fair dinkum. I will leave that there," Hardwick said of the period of play. Several players went down behind play, including Riewoldt, who came from the ground vomiting after a clash with Will Schofield in the middle of the ground.
Down-the-ground footage of the incident will be analysed with the suspicion that Schofield struck Riewoldt.
Hardwick, who complained last week that Cotchin was being bear-hugged, smiled when asked about the high number of head-high free kicks for players ducking into tackles in yesterday's game.
''I thought the umpires handled it better today,'' the coach said.
''The umpires are aware of it, there are some techniques there no doubt but the rules are there for us coaches to try and exploit … I still think the umpires are handling that better, we saw that on the Anzac Day clash that guys that lead with the head don't get the free kicks they probably did last week."
West Coast coach John Worsfold admitted his side's leadership around the ball from players such as Matthew Priddis and Daniel Kerr in the last quarter was crucial to the Eagles recovering their lead and holding on to win.