EVERY year at Punt Road, the conversation is more or less the same.
It revolves around pressure, expectancy, leadership and hope.
Such is the history of the Richmond Football Club, starved of success for so long, the burden of being the side to eventually deliver not only finals footy, but a premiership back to Tigerland, grows with each passing year.
Aside from the coach, whose future is likely to be debated throughout the season ahead, the weight of such ambition falls heavier on no one else’s shoulders than the captain.
But for Trent Cotchin, set to enter his fifth year as Richmond skipper, there’s a different feel around the club going into season 2017.
With three new faces within the playing group and with an entirely new coaching staff behind Damien Hardwick, that weight of expectation has been replaced by excitement.
“Last year was obviously a challenging year for the footy club and the playing group and some individuals,” Cotchin told foxfooty.com.au.
“But the great thing about our game is that we’re in a new season and that’s what we’re excited about. You can change things over pre-season and hopefully they’re for the better.
“We’re talking about reinvigoration, excitement and positivity — that’s been our focus.”
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A big part of Richmond’s plans to rejuvenate the playing group this season surrounds bringing the best out of its players, rather than trying to strangle its opposition.
Last season, Champion Data noted the Tigers averaged the most short kicks and uncontested marks of any side in the league, while they were in the bottom three for playing on from a mark.
From the outside, it was a dour game plan that affected the side going forward — Champion Data ranked Richmond 15th for time in forward-half differential, 16th for forward-half stoppages and 16th for turnovers created in their forward half.
Subsequently, a bolder and more daring game plan has been hatched throughout pre-season and trialled across the JLT Community Series, borne from the idea of playing to the side’s best assets.
“I think we’ve just embraced everyone’s strengths,” Cotchin said.
“We spoke a lot about each player having something to offer and tried to create an environment where they had an opportunity to utilise that.”
Playing to those strengths becomes easier when the quality of the squad improves, as it did at Richmond over the off-season.
The Tigers flipped Pick 6 for Gold Coast midfielder Dion Prestia and a second-round draft choice, of which they then moved the latter to Geelong for Josh Caddy. The club also recruited a new cult hero of sorts in the form of ex-Sydney ruckman Toby Nankervis.
Those arrivals are almost certain to offset the loss of the experienced Brett Deledio, who was shipped to Greater Western Sydney for a future first-round draft pick.
“They’re obviously outstanding players and they have been at other clubs, so we’re looking forward to them doing even more for us,” Cotchin said.
“From a personal point of view, I’m just excited there are another few guys we can rely on — as well as my other teammates — week in, week out.
“The most exciting thing for me is that it’s only the start. We’ve only played two games — and Dion’s only played one — so as the season goes on I’m sure they’ll feel even more a part of the way we play.”
But the playing group was by no means the only area of the club to receive a summer makeover.
The Tigers made seven changes to their coaching staff, completely revamping the list of assistants aiding Hardwick as he enters his eighth season at the helm.
Headlining those arrivals was former Brisbane coach Justin Leppitsch, who returns to Punt Road having spent four years as assistant at the club between 2009 and 2013.
But, according to Cotchin, all have brought something different to the table.
“We spoke a lot about it towards the end of last year — the need to be reinvigorated and have new energy and that’s what it’s done,” he said.
“We’ve had new ideas, fresh ideas and new faces.
“We had the same coaching panel for a fair few years. No disrespect to the guys who were there before, but sometimes change is good. The boys are really enjoying it at the moment.”
Regardless of the change the club has gone through across the summer, the end goal hasn’t changed. Nor should it, according to Cotchin.
“I know that Dimma’s said he makes no apologies for our expectations being finals,” he said.
“The reality is that each and every team is playing to win. And if you’re winning, you’ll play finals. That’s our goal.”
Trent Cotchin was the first in Australia to try out revolutionary image capture technology, The Big Freeze. For more information please visit www.bigfreeze.com.au.