Injuries still a concern but Tigers will ‘ride the bumps’: Hardwick

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick at today's press conference.

Richmond can’t seem to escape injuries to key players in 2021.

As Dustin Martin and Nick Vlastuin return this week, coach Damien Hardwick confirmed, captain Trent Cotchin will be stuck on the sidelines with a hamstring issue for at least three to four weeks.

All-Australian defender Dylan Grimes will additionally miss the Tigers’ clash against Geelong through the concussion protocol.

Speaking to media on Wednesday, Hardwick is enjoying the opportunity to give game time to other players in the absence of the injured stars.

“It’s one of those things where sometimes you’ve got to ride the bumps,” he said.

“Obviously it would be nice to have the full contingent available but [the] opportunity is there for someone else to step up and play the game.

“Losing Dylan and Trent, [they are] two really important players, but we’re fortunate that we can bring two very important players in Dustin and Nick Vlastuin.”

One of the players that has stepped up to the opportunity is young midfielder Riley Collier-Dawkins.

Collier-Dawkins made his debut in last weekend’s game against the Western Bulldogs, and impressed his coach doing so.

He would finish the game with 14 disposals, 11 of which were contested possesions, five clearances and five tackles.

Hardwick is backing Collier-Dawkins in to bring the same level of intensity against Geelong.

“He was really good, we were impressed with how he went about it,” he said.

“We always knew Riley was going to probably be a better player at AFL level, which is really exciting for us, and he’s just got to build on that.

“He’s got some work to do in his game but there’s strengths in his game that we really like at the moment too. We’ve just got to make sure he continues to bring those.”

Injured stars Dion Prestia (L) and Trent Cotchin (R) were in high spirits during their running duties only at Wednesday’s training session.

With the Tigers depth being tested, an unfortunate bye in the VFL has the possibility to interrupt the continuity of senior players not getting a run.

Hardwick is of the opposite opinion, believing the rest will be well-used by his players waiting in the wings.

“It’s good for those players who play three or four actual matches and then another four VFL practice matches,” he said.

“Most of that side is young and developing so the bye comes at a good time for them. It will freshen them up, but they’ll get a little bit of training in along the way as well… they’ll have a training session on the weekend.

“They’re still learning our system, so it’s a good opportunity to get some learning into them.”

Looking to the game ahead, Hardwick is anticipating a tight clash with a very different Geelong team to the one his side defeated in the 2020 Grand Final.

Jeremy Cameron is a player at the top of his agenda.

“Sides consistently evolve and Geelong have done that this year with the addition of Jeremy,” Hardwick said.

“It’ll provide a different set of circumstances to combat this time. We’re confident that our defensive mix will be able to curtail that if we play their very best.

“You feel like there’s sides you meet a lot, and Geelong’s one of those sides.

“We understand how they play and they’ve got a really good understanding of how we play. It’s whichever system is strongest for longest that will actually get the result.

“The way they control the ball through feet is not going to be foreign to us.

“We’ve got to make sure to put enough pressure on them to make sure they don’t get to play the way they want to play.”

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