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Tigers raring for Gabba AFL finals return

Knocked out in the opening minutes of Richmond’s last AFL final at the Gabba – the 2020 grand final – Nick Vlastuin is raring for the Tigers’ next cut-throat game at the venue.

The Tigers return to Brisbane on Thursday for an elimination final at the Lions’ traditional stronghold, where Chris Fagan’s men have a 9-2 record this year.

But Vlastuin said the 2020 finals series in Queensland, plus the experience of away qualifying finals against the Lions at the Gabba that year and in 2019, had Richmond feeling confident.

“We’ve played a few big finals up there against Brisbane as well,” Vlastuin told reporters on Monday.

“(We’ve got) that confidence that we’ve done it before and we know what the crowd’s like, what the stadium’s like, we travel really well. So, a lot of confidence.”

The Tigers will also take heart from fighting back from 42 points down to beat Brisbane at the MCG in July.

Still, Vlastuin insisted the heat in any elimination final was always felt by both teams, but hoped Brisbane’s 1-5 finals record over the past three seasons would play on the Lions’ minds.

“Hopefully they’re thinking about it, but it is what it is like, each game can be completely different,” said Vlastuin, who was stretchered off early in the 2020 grand final win over Geelong after being floored by Patrick Dangerfield.

“We know what they did to us out on the G in that first half as well.

“So (they’ve got) the home crowd behind them, hopefully we can get that out of it early and then just kick away.”

The Tigers will be boosted by the fact Dustin Martin shapes as their attacking trump card in his likely return from the hamstring injury that has sidelined him since round 16.

The star Tiger has kicked 302 goals in 268 games, including a memorable six against Brisbane at the Gabba in the 2019 qualifying final.

Martin would add further spice to a potent forward line, led by Tom Lynch and Shai Bolton.

Vlastuin said Martin, 31, had trained “well” on Monday, including in a match simulation session, and expected him to face the Lions on Thursday if cleared by medical staff.

“He’s a pretty handy player so I’d assume if he’s right and he says yes he’d be in, but who knows?” Vlastuin said.

“We had a six-minute match sim and he was in it playing up forward and he was pretty good. He was on my team so he was pretty handy

“Our midfield have been playing pretty well so maybe he won’t have a spot in there so we might have to rest him up forward.

“But Dimma (coach Damien Hardwick) will make that decision.”

Tom Lynch is set to play after groin soreness in round 23 while Vlastuin also expected Noah Cumberland to be “fine” after an ankle injury scare.

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