In round 17 they suffocated Geelong, so the key now for the Cats is getting the game played on their terms for longer.
What they do in their front half looms as the most crucial aspect if achieving that, because of Richmond’s ability to disrupt their opponents, intercept and launch from half-back.
Patrick Dangerfield has already flagged he’s likely to start forward in what will be his first grand final and that will be a major difference from their last meeting.
Richmond’s defence is on another level to what Geelong faced against Brisbane last week – even with Harris Andrews – but the principle is the same.
Dangerfield will make another defender accountable and allow Tom Hawkins more freedom. He changes the entire setup of the Richmond backline.
Last time it was Dylan Grimes dropping off his opponent to be the third man up against Hawkins.
Rohan’s baseline in terms of performance must be to provide pressure and be dangerous in attack. Be active and command the respect of his opponent.
Goals for him are a bonus and generally a sign Geelong are playing well is when he is kicking them.
Hawkins, meanwhile, was well held by Noah Balta in the absence of David Astbury, booting just the one goal on limited opportunities in round 17.
His importance to this team is obvious. But digging a little deeper I think the Cats need to be careful how they manage him when it comes to rucking at forward 50 stoppages.
Against Brisbane, he often put the ball on a platter for guys like Gary Ablett – who, incidentally, won’t be afforded the same space this week.
But as dominant as Hawkins was in the ruck, there are situations the Tigers will think they can exploit.
Hawkins should continue to take all ball-ups and boundary throw-ins inside 25-30 metres, but outside of that it needs to be left to Rhys Stanley or someone else.
Last week Hawkins rucked one stoppage near the 50 metre arc, and while he won the contest it was far enough away from goal that the kick forward was intercepted because he wasn’t there to make a contest.
It was also noticeable that he was a little fatigued after repeat stoppages. When the ball was back in his vicinity the next time, he didn’t have the same energy.
These might be little things. But against Richmond, and particularly in grand finals, little things can become big things very quickly.
In the middle it looks an even battle. I continue to be impressed by Shai Bolton, who gives the Tigers options with his speed and sharpness.
Toby Nankervis is a warrior, who Stanley must make work around the ground.
In defence, the Cats are so well drilled but how they use the footy will be another defining factor in this game. Can they produce under the Tiger pressure?
Out of defence, controlling the footy is a must, then when it’s their time to go, they have to go. The Cats too often, last time, got caught kicking down the line.
In terms of match-ups Harry Taylor might be closer to the end of his career than the start, but is still hard to beat and should play on Tom Lynch. And he has support.
Dustin Martin is never easy to stop, but the Cats have a number of options to play on him when he’s deep forward, ensuring if one match-up doesn’t work, all is not lost.
Delisted last year, Lachie Henderson is playing like a man possessed, and probably gets Riewoldt or Lynch. Then you’ve got likes like Tom Stewart, Jed Bews or Jake Kolodjashnij – who played well on Charlie Cameron – who could tackle Dusty.
It’s games like this where your ‘bottom’ five players come to the fore as much as the stars. The players who are basically between the 18th and 22nd picked in your side. In round 17, the Cats had some holes there. Now not so much.
And just on that, this season more than ever footy has become a ‘squad’ game. With the condensed fixture, clubs have used more players than ever before.
It won’t happen now, but regardless of who wins, I’d argue everyone who has featured even once in 2020 deserves a premiership medal. In this very different season, they’ve all contributed.
Two-time AFL premiership captain and columnist for The Age.