Richmond are taking nothing for granted as they push closer to another AFL finals campaign.
Coach Damien Hardwick and key forward Tom Lynch emphasised the one-week-at-a-time philosophy after the premiership powerhouse grabbed eighth spot on the ladder with a convincing 38-points win against Port Adelaide on Saturday night.
“Every game is an elimination final, we understand that, but I’m really pleased with the way the guys are playing. We can’t think too far ahead, all we have to do is just worry about one foot in front of another,” Hardwick said.
While the Tigers have winnable games against Hawthorn and Essendon, both at the MCG, to conclude the home-and-away season, Lynch said they were looking no further than the task against the Hawks even as other top eight occupants become increasingly nervous at the prospect of facing them in a knockout final in September.
“Obviously, there’s a couple of things that have to go our way and we have to win the next two weeks. But we’ll take this, Port Adelaide are so hard to beat over here,” Lynch said.
Even as other guaranteed finalists contemplate Richmond’s participation, now sitting two points clear of St Kilda and six ahead of the Western Bulldogs, the Tigers have significant internal issues in the lead up to next Sunday’s home game against the young Hawks.
Hardwick is resigned to being without key defender Nick Vlastuin, subbed off for virtually the entire second half with a rib injury.
And experienced midfielder Trent Cotchin and wingman Kamdyn McIntosh will face video scrutiny and possible match review charges for a heavy tackle and rough conduct offences respectively.
Doubt remains on whether gun onballer Dusty Martin and co-captain Dylan Grimes will recover from significant hamstring issues to be part of another Richmond flag chase.
“The great thing about us is we’re sort of regenerating at the same time. Effectively tonight we had four first-year players in ‘MJ’ (Maurice Rioli jnr), ‘Cumbo’ (Noah Cumberland), (Josh) Gibcus and (Tyler) Sonsie, and we’re really pleased in the performance of all those players,” Hardwick said.
“It’s exciting for us, the challenge is firmly set, we’ve got a great understanding of what that is.”