Picture: Richmondfc.com.au

Premiership star Bachar Houli returned tonight as Richmond recaptured some form but it was not enough to knock off Port Adelaide.

It’s a developing rivalry built on respect and Port Adelaide and Richmond dished out another classic as the preliminary final rematch ended in a home victory.

Though Richmond fell, its performance was much improved after last week’s shock loss against Sydney and one of the bright spots was the return of three-time premiership player Bachar Houli.

Houli spent the first three weeks of 2021 on the side-lines recovering from a calf injury sustained in the 2020 Grand Final but entered the fray tonight and was one of Richmond’s best players, amassing 26 disposals and six intercept possessions.

There were a few fumbles early but coach Damian Hardwick was pleased to have him back.

“I thought he was good. It was his first game back since the Grand Final and he hasn’t trained a lot but he’ll get better as he progresses through the rounds,” he said.

“The way the game is played at the moment suits guys like Bachar.”

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Half-back flankers in the mould of Houli have flourished in 2021 with plenty of sides playing attacking, fast pace footy with an emphasis on building from half-back.

It’s a role that is pivotal to Richmond’s style of play and luckily for the Tigers, they aren’t short on depth, with Hardwick naming two youngsters as potential starters in the weeks to come.

“There’s a couple of other players, we’ve got a young kid by the name of Hugo Ralphsmith we think is promising who probably would’ve played this week but he got reported,” he said.

“Young Patrick Naish is another player the game suits also. We’ve got a number of players we think will be able to help us in that part of the game, we’ve just got to find ways to get them in the side.”

Richmond has suffered multiple defeats early in the year in both of their previous flag-winning campaigns so it is far from panic stations for Hardwick and his coaching staff.

They will look to bounce back next week when they take on the Saints who have had a difficult start to the season.

Though the results have not yet come, Richmond seem to have their mojo back and Hardwick came away from tonight pleased with his side’s effort.

“Our guys fought back valiantly and had some chances to win but couldn’t nail the ones when we needed to,” he said.

“Overall I couldn’t question our boys intent and effort. I thought it was terrific.

“It was a great game of footy and both sides played a pretty hard, tough brand after disappointing results last week.”

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