EVERY year Richmond enters a Round 1 blockbuster overhyped and overburdened with expectation.
But at Punt Road in dismantling a second arch rival in Essendon the Tigers showed they have enough tools to justify even the most optimistic fans.
Both the Bombers and Tigers will sweat on reports and injuries at a time when even the slightest niggle is a worry.
But while Essendon seemed desperately short of a run in the 45-point defeat, it was the Tigers depth players and role-players who would have thrilled coach Damien Hardwick.
Jack Riewoldt did more than enough in his first hit-out, Brett Deledio dominated his home track and Dustin Martin ran off a pesky tag to dominate the second half.
Tiger Jack Riewoldt jostles with Bomber Tayte Pears. Picture: Wayne Ludbey Source: News Corp Australia
The real plus was Shaun Hampson's hit-outs to advantage, key back David Asbury standing up on Joe Daniher, and the emerging mids in Nick Vlastuin and Brandon Ellis taking charge.
With small defender/forward Matt McDonough so good his second AFL game is a formality next week and ex-Port tagger Matt Thomas rough and tough in close, there was plenty to like.
Rookie Thomas will likely be elevated to the senior list on Tuesday after his 25 touches and 10 tackles, and be handed a Round 1 encounter against Gary Ablett.
Richmond opened up Essendon so effortlessly with end-to-end goals and precise passing that the subbing of Tyrone Vickery and Trent Cotchin with minor injuries only slightly took the gloss off the full dress rehearsal.
Tiger Dustin Martin runs away from an opponent. Picture: Wayne Ludbey Source: News Corp Australia
In successive weeks they have dominated a pair of contenders in Collingwood and now Essendon, enough to consider the Demons loss a pre-season aberration.
Bombers coach Mark Thompson used words like "patchy"and "sloppy" to describe his side yesterday, and would have been even more honest more behind closed doors.
He said the players had been belted in training for 12 straight weeks, but is aware his forward line is still a work in progress as Joe Daniher and Jake Carlisle attempt to gel.
Thompson said he had his "gonads on the line" so would not alter the Hurley-back, Carlisle-forward experiment, but in truth the ball flow and lack of a star small forward is hurting too.
They haven't won in the pre-season and conceded an astounding 26 scores from 38 forward line entries yesterday.
Jobe Watson was prolific (32 touches) but wayward by foot and David Zaharakis racked up 22 clinical touches before suffering a corked calf.
None of it was able to compensate against a Richmond side which was tougher, more composed and more prepared to charge hard forward with ball in possession.
Slightly built Martin Gleeson impressed again and should play Round 1, but too few put their hand up to press for selection.
Tiger Steven Morris dishes off a handball. Picture: Wayne Ludbey Source: News Corp Australia
Certainly not Leroy Jetta (five touches), Brent Stanton was his typical busy self, with the Bombers were thrashed around the stoppages.
Daniher took a screamer and got a cheapie over the back among his two goals but was only moderate, with the Tigers constantly dominating the air and mopping up on the ground despite conceding 52 inside 50s.
None of it really matters yet for Essendon, but it is hard to see how they will just flick the switch in two weeks time against North Melbourne.
History shows pre-season form counts for nothing.
But while Damien Hardwick's only real issues are selection dilemmas ahead of Round 1, Mark Thompson knows he has plenty of work to do before the real stuff comes around.