Long AFL wait ends for Tigers, Eagles

Richmond players training ahead of their blockbuster against West Coast this Sunday.
Richmond players training ahead of their blockbuster against West Coast this Sunday.

It's one of the most anticipated matches of the AFL season, 455 days in the making.

It's been almost a year and a half since Richmond and West Coast met on a football field, and on Sunday at the MCG, there's plenty on the line.

For visitors West Coast, a win would mean only Hawthorn - their round 23 visitors in Perth - could stop them claiming a top two place.

That would put Adam Simpson's side within two home wins of another grand final.

For Richmond, it's about locking up a top four place, and maintaining the momentum from seven straight wins.

And surely the mantle of flag favouritism - currently held jointly by both sides - will transfer to the winner of the contest, even with a table-topping clash at the Gabba this weekend.

"It's a great challenge to play great sides," Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.

Their last meeting, at Optus Stadium in round nine last year, cemented West Coast's credentials in 2018.

Both sides took a 7-1 record into that match, but it was the Eagles who ran all over Richmond at Optus Stadium with a 47-point victory.

"The beat us quite easily," Hardwick remembered.

"There's some things in the game that we we took away from that. We made some changes to the way we wanted to play last year.

"They're a great aerial contested side. Their ability in the clearances is another strength of theirs and they control the ball by feet. There's three areas of the game that we'll try to negate as best we can."

Richmond, without captain Trent Cotchin and ruck Toby Nankervis, could at least be supported by the weather gods.

Up to 10 millimetres of rain is forecast in Melbourne on Sunday, and the Tigers have shown their pedigree by winning three games in the wet over the last month.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson said he wouldn't allow that as an excuse.

"I don't buy into the weather as much as perhaps others," he said.

"Early on we struggled in a couple of games. Was it because it was wet, or that we just got beaten?

"The wet weather doesn't really faze us."

Simpson showed the same level of respect as his counterpart when discussing Richmond's forward line, calling it "as dangerous as anyone in the competition".

"There's different ways we go about it, no doubt," he said.

"But a lot the same as well. They've got some good speed. We've got good speed.

"They've got some good key talls and talent across the board, and we think we're the same.

"The way they go about the ball movement might look a bit different than us, but essentially the contest and the way the game's fought out, that's where it's going to be won."

Australian Associated Press