What's next for the Tigers?

THERE would have been some trepidation in the Richmond camp as it flew home yesterday.

Aware of the anger that would be waiting for them back in Melbourne, they may have been wishing they could have stayed in north Queensland for another week.

But, the ramifications of the Tigers' loss to Gold Coast on Saturday night in Cairns - for the second time there in 12 months - could be felt for months.

Talk about agony and ecstasy. There were extreme cases on show at Cazaly's Stadium, where Richmond had 'hosting' duties.

In a weekend that sorted the pretenders from the contenders, the Tigers look like missing September action again after allowing the Suns to snatch their most memorable victory.

Okay, it was only their fourth in 37 appearances, but will be long remembered - by fans of both clubs.

The result left Richmond a game behind St Kilda, North Melbourne and Fremantle, who all stood up as contenders for that highly sought eighth spot after battling wins, dropping off the pace with fellow pretender Carlton.

The Tigers looked a force in the making - and headed for their first finals series in 11 years - when thrashing Hawthorn six weeks ago.

I was convinced, and so were their supporters, club membership breaking the 50,000 barrier for the first time.

It probably dropped to half that number on Saturday, with many long-tormented fans snapping the old membership card in half after Karmichael Hunt threaded 'that' goal.

What a result for the Gold Coast - lifting it off the bottom of the ladder and ending a run of 21 losses - and what a result for the AFL.

Holidaying league boss Andrew Demetriou, who played a major role in enticing Hunt from the NRL, would've been doing cartwheels in his Speedos on some beach in Europe when he heard the news that the code-hopper had become a match-winner.

It was just the 33rd time in 117 seasons of VFL/AFL a match had been won with a goal after the siren and no doubt newly appointed Suns director of coaching Malcolm Blight, sitting in the coaches' box, would've been proud.

His booming 80m torpedo goal in a game for North in 1976 was the ninth, and featured in one of the Toyota Memorable Moments TV ads a few years back.

Hunt's will go down in AFL folklore, alongside Blight's and others like Hawk Gary Buckenara's in the 1987 preliminary final against Melbourne.

The Tigers didn't deserve to win. They were ill-disciplined before the match - with three key players suspended, one by the club (Dustin Martin) and two by the tribunal (Daniel Jackson and Matt White) - and were unbelievably sloppy once it began.

There's also the matter of selling home games. Richmond collects about $500,000 a year to play in Cairns, but may just cost it the chance to play finals. It has one to go in 2013 and that would be it, I would suspect.

You can't help but feel for the Tigers' well-respected skipper, Chris Newman, though. As loyal a bloke as you'll come across, he's now played 207 games with the club - and not one final, after debuting in 2002.

He's currently ranked fourth on the list of 'Most Games Without A Final', and may yet overtake St Kilda legend Trevor Barker (230) on top.



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