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Rutten’s case for the defence

Line update: Backs Assistant Coach, Ben Rutten provides us with an update on how the back line is tracking this pre-season.

Richmond assistant coach Ben Rutten provides a snapshot of the Tigers’ backline preparations, planning, personnel, and prospects for the 2018 season.

Additions to the defensive group

“We’ve got Ben Miller, who’s a new draftee and also Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (rookie draft pick-up). Benny Miller’s a taller key defender from Kalgoorlie and Eggmolesse-Smith is a running half-back. He played with our VFL team late last season, so we know a little bit about him already. Both are really exciting prospects that bring slightly different things to the group.” 

Stability a key factor

“I think it’s really important that there’s not a huge turnover of personnel through the backline.  It’s been a bit of a key for us over the last couple of years. We’ve been pretty stable with our personnel in defence . . . The guys have played a lot of footy together now and know each other’s game. That stability we had last year was the real key for us performing well, and fingers crossed we get that again. It’s pretty unique playing in defence as you’re really reliant on each other and being able to know what other guys are going to do. So we’re just going to keep building that over the pre-season and keep looking to grow that part of our game. But we’re also going to make sure that we’ve got guys coming from below and a bit of depth in that defence area, in case we need to call on them throughout the year.”

Competition for spots

“The competition’s pretty fierce this time of year . . . Everyone’s big and strong and fit. You don’t have the actual game form to go on, so that competition’s really there and there’s a lot of defenders on defenders or forwards versus defenders during training. There’ll be opportunities for guys and we’ve got to make sure that they’re best prepared that they can be to take those opportunities when they arise.”

Young tall defenders

“Ryan Garthwaite, in his first year last year, finished off really strongly in the VFL. He played some of his best footy in the finals, which is a really positive sign for him and for us as well. He’s had a bit of a groin niggle throughout the pre-season, but he’s back into full training now and he’s learning off some great players. We’re expecting him to go and take his game to another level . . . I’m sure an opportunity this year will come up in the AFL. He’s really driven and I’m sure he’ll take it with both hands when that comes along. Benny Miller has come in and provided some real energy and enthusiasm. He’s a good learner . . . wants to learn everything straight away, but some of these things take a bit of time and experience. So he’s got a great attitude and a great temperament. He’s spending a bit of time with ‘Garthy’ (Ryan Garthwaite) learning the ropes . . .”

Experienced backs in teaching roles

“As one of the coaches here, we’re really reliant on our senior players, and we’re lucky to have ‘Rancey’ (Alex Rance), Dave Astbury and Dylan Grimes, who have played a lot of footy together and know how we want to play. So they’re invaluable with some of the work they do with our younger key defenders. They’re spending a lot of time with them, not only out on the track, but also just building their relationships around the Club.”

Main focus for backs

“Our focus really is just to keep improving and making sure we’re taking responsibility for our own game . . . challenging each other, demanding on standards with the way we execute. Keep driving each other, keep looking for different ways to get better, whether it be physically in the gym and our running sessions, or when it comes time to competing against the forwards. We’re always looking to grow and review and then tweak it next time, so that we’re well prepared come the start of the season.”