20/04/2024

Richmond's youngsters shine in preseason hit-out over Hawthorn. (Image: AFL.com.au)

Richmond youngsters Hugo Ralphsmith and Joshua Gibcus have staked their claim for Round 1 selection following encouraging performances against Hawthorn in their pre-season hit-out at Devonport Oval.

Richmond youngsters Hugo Ralphsmith and Joshua Gibcus have staked their claim for Round 1 selection following encouraging performances against Hawthorn in their pre-season hit-out at Devonport Oval.

The Tigers played a strong side with key players Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Dion Prestia, Tom Lynch, Shai Bolton and Jack Riewoldt all playing, while youngsters Ralphsmith and Gibcus were given plenty of playing time, with the two defenders repaying the faith.

Utilised as a rebounding defender, Ralphsmith was given ample opportunity to push his case for selection in the Tigers season opener against Carlton, having been given 85 per cent time on ground.

He was influential with his run and carry off half-back and finished the game with 20 touches and 454 meters gained, and led the Tigers for marks. Having played just six games at AFL level thus far, his performance against the Hawks could indicate a breakout season may be on the horizon.

Ralphsmith looks poised to cement a spot in the Tigers best 22. (Image: Richmond Football Club)

Taken with Richmond’s first pick in last year’s draft, Gibcus also did himself no harm locking a spot against the Blues in the next two weeks having a solid day down back.

Playing as a tall, his impressive athletic ability was on full display, throwing himself into contests. He finished the day with 13 disposals and led the defence for tackles. Similar to Ralphsmith, Gibcus was given plenty of playing time playing over 80 per cent of the game.

Gibcus has pushed his case for a Round One debut. (Image: Richmond Football Club)

Richmond’s assistant coach Adam Kingsley was complimentary of the duo after the game, saying he’s been impressed with the improvement of the defenders during the summer.

“From a backline perspective Hugo Ralphsmith is developing, certainly Gibcus has come in and looks to have taken that [key defender] position,” he said post-game.

“We’ll have a discussion and wait on the VFL results from earlier today, but he seems to have taken the position there and he’s going quite well.”

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Winning the game by 25 points, the Tigers opening term set the tone for the afternoon, kicking seven goals to two in the opening quarter. Liam Baker and Noah Balta adapting brilliantly to life up forward kicking two goals each in the opening term.

Balta along with Riewoldt, finished the game with three goals for the day the two the equal leading Richmond goal-kickers for the afternoon.

Having transitioned from defence to playing in the front half of the ground during the preason, Kingsley was pleased with Balta’s ability to be the third tall up forward for the Tigers.

“We were really happy with Noah, his ability as a forward to compete, bring the ball to ground, bring our crumbers into play was really strong” he said.

“Obviously he’s made an AFL name for himself as a backman and being really important for us, but we feel we can stretch oppositions with the three keys with Jack [Riewoldt], Tom [Lynch] and Noah.

“And he competes, his aerial stuff and his ground stuff is really good for a big guy, he showed a lot today and we were really pleased today.”

Heading into Round 1, Kingsley said that the playing squad is in good shape, despite minor injury concerns to both Dylan Grimes and Ivan Soldo.

“Dylan got a knock on his thumb…we’ll look at that throughout the week, other than that I think we’re okay,” he said.

“Soldo rolled an ankle but I can’t imagine that will be an issue, I think we’re going to be pretty healthy heading into Round 1.”

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