Could this be the year the Tiger train is finally derailed and Dustin Martin loses the ‘S’ on his chest?
Richmond’s premiership credentials were heavily questioned last year after enduring a series of off-field dramas during hub life.
Skipper Trent Cotchin briefly contemplated leaving the Tigers’ hub after his wife’s infamous spa trip that broke the AFL’s COVID protocols.
Richmond were fined $100,000 when Callum Coleman-Jones and Sydney Stack flagrantly exited the bubble for a boozy night out that included a strip club visit and ended with an early-morning fight outside a kebab shop.
Richmond’s on-field dynasty looked set to crumble, especially away from their MCG fortress.
But by the end of grand final day – October 24 – normal order had been resumed at the Gabba, with the Tigers snaring their third premiership from the past four years.
Martin created history in the 31-point grand final win over Geelong by becoming the first player to win three North Smith medals.
It further cemented his reputation as the best big-game player of all time.
The 2017 Brownlow medallist is approaching his 30th birthday, but his four-goal effort in the grand final was proof that his star is still burning strong.
And his teammates don’t show any obvious signs of slowing down either, with Richmond the early favourites to take home the flag again this year.
But the Tigers will face a stiff challenge from the young and the old.
Geelong, who some fans are already labelling Dad’s Army, should have at least one more year in their premiership window after adding former GWS spearhead Jeremy Cameron to their ranks.
West Coast, whose list is also ageing at a worrying rate, will fancy their chances if ruckman Nic Naitanui stays fit and Elliot Yeo can overcome a worrying case of osteitis pubis.
Brisbane and Port Adelaide represent the changing of the guard.
The Lions have threatened for the past two years, and the addition of former Bombers forward Joe Daniher could prove to be the final piece of the puzzle that drives them towards premiership success.
The youthful Power spent all of last season on top of the ladder, and will still be stewing over their heartbreaking six-point loss to Richmond in the preliminary final.
The Tigers were able to overcome their off-field woes last year to take home the grand prize, but will the accumulation of dramas derail them in 2021?
Troubled 20-year-old Stack spent time in a Perth prison over summer after breaking WA’s COVID laws. He will face court on March 25 for his sentencing.
And coach Damien Hardwick’s split with wife Danielle – and subsequent new relationship with a member of the club’s commercial sales team – has intensified the spotlight glare at Richmond.
As for the coaches in 2021 – as usual the odds are high at least one won’t see out the season.
With Eddie McGuire no longer Collingwood president, the heat will be on Nathan Buckley to produce the goods in the final year of his current contract.
That will be no easy feat following Collingwood’s disastrous fire sale that saw Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips exit on bargain terms.
Carlton coach David Teague has only been at the helm for one-and-a-half seasons, but the pressure is already on him to end the club’s seven-year finals drought.
And Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin, who led the Demons to the preliminary final in 2018, may face the axe if the club misses the finals for a third straight year.
As for the wooden spoon – North Melbourne and Adelaide appear to be the early ‘favourites’ following their diabolical 2020 campaigns.
Fans, players, and the league will be hoping for a season without hubs, but that could prove to be wishful thinking given the recent spate of minor COVID-19 outbreaks that have been difficult to avoid for any great length of time.