Hardwick hails his grand final-bound Tigers as the best yet

Elated Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has declared his grand final-bound side is better than the formidable Tiger outfits which claimed AFL premiership glory in 2017 and 2019.

Forcibly removed from their MCG fortress due to the COVID-19 pandemic and on the road for 103 days and counting, Richmond have responded to every challenge thrown at them with aplomb, including everything valiant minor premier Port Adelaide could dish up in Friday’s bruising preliminary final classic.

Jubilation: The Tigers savour the moment after earning a grand final berth.Credit:Getty Images

"I think we get a real soldier-like performance from all our players."

Hardwick described his tight-knit, high-achieving group as special and having benefited from the large volume of time spent together, predominantly in the Queensland hub.

"I've been around footy a long time but I've never seen a group that gels like our boys," he said.

"They're a special group.

"We really struggled when we were under the protocols in Melbourne because we were disconnected, but then we came up here [to Queensland], got our players back together and started to understand who we are again and what we do.

"It's worked really well for us."

Hardwick also issued a warning to critics of two-time premiership-winning forward Jack Riewoldt.

After being held goalless and restricted to two kicks in the semi-final win over St Kilda, Riewoldt was marginally better against the Power, notching an early major among his six kicks.

Don’t write off Jack Riewoldt, says Tigers coach Damien Hardwick.Credit:Getty Images

In 2017 Riewoldt was relatively quiet in the preliminary final against GWS before having a day out in the decider against Adelaide.

Last year he was held goalless against Geelong, a week before slaughtering the Giants with five majors on grand final day.

If history and Hardwick are good judges, "Jumping Jack" could be on next Saturday.

"Jack was one-versus-two, one-versus-three a lot of times, as was Tom [Lynch]," Hardwick said of his two spearheads' travails against Port.

"We've seen this last year where Jack was playing a reasonable brand of footy, then dominated in the biggest game on the biggest stage.

"Write him off at your own peril."

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