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Backs overview

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

Richmond’s defensive unit will enter the 2018 season chock-full of confidence after playing such a crucial role in the Tigers’ 2017 premiership triumph.

Brilliantly led by outstanding key backman Alex Rance, who gained All-Australian selection for a fourth consecutive year, the Richmond defence was as mean as a junkyard dog right throughout the season.

The Tigers were ranked third in the competition for points conceded during the home-and-away rounds.

In their last 10 games of the season (including finals), Richmond conceded a miserly average of 63.4 points to the opposition.

While Rance has been held in such high esteem throughout the football world for the past few years, several other Tiger defenders produced AFL career-best form last season.

Tall backman David Astbury played all 25 games in the season, averaging 15.0 disposals, 6.4 marks and 2.9 rebound 50s. He was ranked eighth competition-wide for intercepts, ninth for marks and 20th for one-percenters.

Versatile defender Dylan Grimes also played every game, averaging 10.6 disposals, 3.0 tackles, and finishing a career-high fifth in the Jack Dyer Medal.

Rebounding backman Bachar Houli missed four games through suspension, averaging 23.6 disposals, 5.1 marks, 4.1 rebound-50s and 3.6 tackles. He was ranked 14th in the competition for rebound-50s.

On Grand Final day, Houli played the game of his life against Adelaide and was right in the running for the Norm Smith Medal.

Quality small defender Nick Vlastuin was sidelined early in the season with a severe shoulder Injury, but certainly made his presence when he returned to the Tigers’ senior line-up.

Vlastuin ended up playing 16 games, averaging 15.5 disposals, 5.6 marks 4.0 rebound-50s and 2.7 tackles.

Hard-running Brandon Ellis fitted into Richmond’s backline extremely well after previously holding down a senior berth as an outside midfielder.

Ellis played all 25 games, averaging 22.3 disposals, 5.0 marks and 3.2 rebound-50s. He was ranked 19th in the competition for rebound-50s and 20th for intercepts.

Late in the season the Tigers’ defence was further bolstered with the addition of mature-age recruit Nathan Broad.

The former West Australian became a valuable member of the Richmond line-up over the course of the last 10 games, averaging 14.0 disposals, 4.1 marks, 2.8 rebound-50s and 2.5 tackles.

That settled defence was pivotal to what the Tigers were able to achieve in 2017, and it will be the cornerstone of their quest to make it back-to-back flags in 2018.

Richmond backline coach Ben Rutten stressed the importance of stability in defence.

“The guys have played a lot of footy together now and know each other’s game,” Rutten said.

“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.”

“That stability we had last year was the real key for us performing well, and fingers crossed we get that again.”