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Richmond coach Damien Hardwick believes the Tigers of old re-emerged in Friday night’s season-resurrecting victory over Geelong at the MCG.
Hardwick’s men are three years removed from the third of their flags under his regime, but he saw glimpses of their best and hopes his players will believe the same way he did, even through their rough patch to start the season.
Dustin Martin kicked four goals in Richmond’s win.Credit: AFL Photos
“I certainly have got a lot of belief and I think the playing group is starting to feel that little heartbeat coming back,” he said.
“It looked Richmond-like – the goals, dirty goals, the way we got the ball to ground, the way they charged in, there was a bit of play in that last quarter, the ball was on the goal line, and there were bodies flying everywhere.
“That’s a Richmond game. That’s the fabric of what our footy club has been built on for a number of years, and we’re starting to see that come back into the playing group.”
Hardwick expects to be without midfield recruit Jacob Hopper (calf) “for some time” after he was subbed out in the third quarter.
Mitch Duncan of the Cats takes on Tiger Daniel Rioli, who should be back for the Essendon clash.Credit: AFL Photos
The ex-Giant will undergo scans on Saturday to determine the seriousness of his setback, but the coach said Daniel Rioli (ankle) – a strong performer again – would be fit to play in next week’s annual Dreamtime clash with Essendon.
Ruckman Toby Nankervis (ankle) is only an outside chance to return, Hardwick said.
The 24-point upset victory over the Cats moves the Tigers, who were playing off a third-consecutive six-day break, within a game of the top eight despite them winning only one game in the first seven rounds.
“I was just proud of our footy club overall,” Hardwick said.
“We’ve been through some adversity, as have other clubs, and the side across the road [Geelong] have obviously hit a bit of a bump in the road as well, with their injuries.
“But we asked some guys to play some foreign roles, and they’ve stepped up, and executed, so that’s the really pleasing thing.
“Our leaders have been great, just the way they’ve continued to promote the positive messages that we’ve been trying to portray, and they’ve done a wonderful job of keeping the energy up, so it was pleasing.”
Hardwick also hailed the performances of defenders Noah Balta and Nathan Broad, who took the honours against star Cats Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron, respectively.
“Broady did a wonderful job on Cameron. In our four walls, he is really highly regarded, but he probably doesn’t get the respect outside that,” he said.
“The four games he’s missed [through suspension], as harsh as it was, were crucial. Those players he generally takes were hurting us, so we’re really pleased he’s back in the side and starting to understand how important it is.
“He’s out of contract, isn’t he? He’s playing hardball, I suppose. We won’t answer his manager [Colin Young]’s call this week, though – he’ll be wanting too much money.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott was relatively upbeat in defeat, knowing he was without seven premiership players, as well as recruit Jack Bowes, due to injury or suspension.
“The numbers would suggest that we had more than our fair share of opportunities to really put them under pressure, and I think the first quarter, if you isolated it to that, they took their chances, and we didn’t,” Scott said.
“It felt like we were on top. With the players missing; we [still] went into the game really keen to win, so if we came away having won, given Richmond played really well, [it would have been a great result].
“The young player we had in our team give us great reason for optimism, so I’m pretty philosophical about it.”
Brad Close (suspension) will be back to face Fremantle next week, and Scott said the Cats could also regain Jack Henry (foot) and All-Australian forward Tyson Stengle (arm), in what would be a major boost.
RICHMOND 6.0 8.3 11.5 16.6 (102)
GEELONG 2.7 5.11 7.11 11.12 (78)
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