It's still one week away for seventh-placed Essendon and every club above them, but for Richmond, finals start this Saturday against ladder-leading Sydney.
That was the message from Tigers coach Damien Hardwick after his team extended its winning streak to eight and climbed into eighth spot for the first time this season with a 26-point victory over St Kilda at the MCG.
The Tigers must defeat the Swans, or rely on a bunch of other results to go their way, to reclaim the finals position it earned last season, and Hardwick said his players are ready for the challenge that awaits them at ANZ Stadium.
"The reality is this is a finals game this week. Most people will say it starts the week after, but for us this is good as," the coach said. "Our guys are looking forward to it, they [Sydney] are in outstanding form, but there is no better way than to try and earn your spot than trying to beat the best. It's going to be a massive challenge," he said.
Richmond's season has essentially come full circle, given it was the week after the club lost to Sydney by 11 points back in round 14 that the Tigers began their late-season surge.
Hardwick agreed the loss to the Swans at the MCG that night, where the Tigers actually led going into the final term, was a turning point in the club's season. "We probably thought we were not too bad that night… it could have gone either way," he said.
Hardwick confirmed that star midfielder Dustin Martin, a late withdrawal from the game against St Kilda, would play against Sydney. "He's had some hamstring tightness, and he's had it for probably two weeks, hence why he has been playing forward a little bit more," he said.
"He could have played… [but] we probably thought we should give him a rest."
Veteran Chris Newman was subbed off during the third quarter against the Saints, and although Hardwick admitted he was sore, the coach confirmed Newman would be ready for the Swans game.
Key forward Ty Vickery will also be available for selection after serving his suspension for striking West Coast's Dean Cox, and Hardwick did not rule out the prospect of all three of Vickery, Jack Riewoldt and Ben Griffiths all the trip to Sydney.
"Prior to Ty's indiscretion, I thought he was in really good form, too. And he's been training the house down," Hardwick said.
Midfielder Daniel Jackson could also be in the selection frame, while Nathan Gordon could draw the attention of the match review panel for an incident from the game against St Kilda.
Hardwick said he could sense the players growing in belief, especially with their aggressive ball movement and counter-attack through the corridor.
"I just wish we had it earlier in the year. It wasn't for lack of trying, we just couldn't get the belief and confidence back up to last year's level," he said.
"But they are certainly taking the game on, which is when we play our best footy. You've got to dare to be bold. So we will continue to play that way. Sometime it will come off, sometimes it won't."