Star defender Robbie Tarrant has made the switch to Punt Road ahead of the 2022 AFL season - Photo: North Melbourne FC

After weeks of trade talk, star defender Robbie Tarrant is now a Tiger. Can he fill a void left by David Astbury's retirement and help Richmond challenge for another flag?

True to the form of a Neil Balme trade period, Richmond has recruited to fill a glaring need by bringing in veteran defender Robbie Tarrant from North Melbourne.

In the deal, Callum Coleman-Jones was sent to North Melbourne along with picks 42, 47, and a future fourth-round pick in exchange for Tarrant, pick 40 a future second-round pick.

The former Kangaroo vice-captain will make the move aiming to achieve the premiership success that alluded him at Arden Street. As preparations begin for 2022, both parties will attack the upcoming pre-season with a firm belief that the Tigers still have what it takes to achieve the ultimate.

Can Tarrant get back to his best?

One of the key questions that surrounds the trade is whether Tarrant can continue the same form that saw him become an integral part of North Melbourne’s side in recent years.

With a number of injuries – most recently a kidney surgery – having plagued his career, durability will be a concern for Tarrant going forward. His standard of play, on the other hand, has not dropped off.

Despite playing only 10 games in 2021, the 32-year-old had his best season ever for marks (6.7 per game) and maintained a solid average for one-on-one contests lost per game of less than one (0.9).

These numbers are complimented by Tarrant’s ability to meet his career average for spoils (4 per game) during the season as well.

Even with a smaller sample size accounted for, it is clear that his defensive output remains reasonably strong as his career reaches its final stages.

Although there is no guarantee that he can re-capture the same 2016 Syd Barker Medal-winning form, there is enough evidence from this past season to suggest that he can play an influential role in Richmond’s structure.

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What will Richmond’s back six look like with Tarrant?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Tarrant’s recruitment is centred around finding an interim solution to the void left by David Astbury’s retirement. In this sense, he will play the lockdown role in a zone defence built with intercept marking at its core.

During Richmond’s premiership seasons, the ability of Astbury to break even in one-on-one contests with the best key forwards in the competition has stood out.

From his 155 games, he bows out with a career average of 25.1 for one-on-one contests lost. Conversely, Tarrant makes his way to Punt Road with a career average of 28.1 from 174 games.

Though statistics do not always paint a full picture, at a bare minimum they show that the Tigers have found a player that suits their system perfectly.

Robbie Tarrant’s one on one defending will be an integral part of Richmond’s structure in 2022 – Photo: AFL.com.au

Tarrant’s inclusion will allow Nick Vlastuin and Noah Balta to continue to play as elite-level intercept markers while reigning Jack Dyer Medallist, Dylan Grimes will be free to play on small and medium-sized forwards.

This, of course, will rely heavily on a best case scenario at Tigerland and a clean bill of health for much of the list.

After a syndesmosis injury saw Balta miss the second half of the season, there has been no real update on his condition. Despite being an integral part of the club’s plans, a roadmap for the soon to be 22 year old’s return from the sidelines remains up in the air.

Should Balta be able to get his body in check, however, Richmond will be hoping he can form a partnership with Tarrant and replicate the same form that saw him become a breakout talent in the 2020 premiership side.

Does Tarrant help Richmond stay in contention?

A trademark of the General Manager of Football, Neil Balme has been a philosophy that focuses on recruiting to fill needs.

Since his return to the club in 2016, Balme has gone about addressing Richmond’s on-field deficiencies in an aggressive manner.

Ahead of the 2017 season, Ivan Maric’s decline as the number one ruck was offset by recruiting Toby Nankervis. In a similar vein, Tom Lynch was brought in following the 2018 preliminary final loss to Collingwood. Despite entering the game against the Magpies as favourites, hindsight shows that the Tigers had a clear shortage of forward-line options.

In both cases, the players brought in by the club became integral members of premiership sides.

After a disastrous 12th placed finish in 2021 though, even the most optimistic pundit might have some reservations about the notion of a guaranteed Richmond return to finals action.

It is true that the Tigers’ best 22, free of the injuries that plagued the list this season is good enough to contend with the elite sides in the competition.

Only time will tell whether a list full of premiership veterans can wind back the clock, defy the aging process and use their experience to make a tilt at another flag.

What is definitive, however, is that bringing Tarrant in is consistent with a tried, tested, and proven formula, and shows that Richmond is of the belief that the window remains open.

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