Beaten premiers ‘spluttering along’

Richmond is “spluttering along” according to coach Damien Hardwick who said he hoped his team would start to “gel” in the second half of the season and ramp up its push for a fourth premiership in five years.

The beaten Tigers flew back to Melbourne on Sunday night after a last-gasp loss to the West Coast that kept the reigning premiers in eighth place, just one win ahead of ninth-placed Fremantle and one win and percentage from fourth-placed Brisbane.

The Tigers will have a bye in round 14, then face three games they would be expected to win against St Kilda, the Gold Coast and Collingwood.

With a raft of players including spearhead Tom Lynch and best and fairest Dom Prestia to come back in the back half of the season, Hardwick said the launching pad was there to make another premiership assault.

“We’re in the hunt. We’re like a lot of sides, spluttering along at the moment,” Hardwick said.

“We get some players back, then we lose some players. There are sides, I wouldn’t say having a charmed run, but are coping well with their injuries.

“Then there are sides like us that are battling along the way and waiting until we get our side back together and start to gel.

The Tigers’ Dylan Grimes and Liam Baker contest for a mark against West Coast’s Jack Redden. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Richmond is just ‘battling’ at the moment, according to coach Damien Hardwick. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“We probably haven’t hit that run of form as yet. Hopefully, it comes after the bye.”

Among the players Hardwick is waiting on to return are key forward Tom Lynch and ruckman Toby Nankervis.

In Lynch’s absence, youngster Callum Coleman-Jones has stepped up, kicking 8.2 from three games.

Hardwick said after the loss to West Coast that there was definitely room in their forward line for Coleman-Jones, Lynch and Jack Riewoldt.

“I think so. They (Coleman-Jones and Lynch) are both wonderful players,” he said.

“Lynch has been around a long time and CJ is just learning his craft. I hope they can play in the same side.

“We just need to change something to make sure it works.”

Despite losing to West Coast in a thriller at Optus Stadium on Sunday night, Hardwick maintained the AFL did the right thing in bringing the clash forward a week.

The game was supposed to be played on Thursday night to kick off round 14.

But with Richmond set up in Sydney, unable to return to Melbourne because of a Covid-19 outbreak, the AFL worked with both clubs to bring the clash forward.

It forced the Tigers to head west for the second time in two weeks after success in the Dreamtime game the week before. But Hardwick had no issue with fixture moving.

“No question. We were always going to play here. For us, it was a positive; we didn’t have to quarantine,” he said.

“I think our guys will look at it as a general positive. We came together, travelled well. For us it was positive from that point of view.”

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