Richmond's newly-appointed VFL head coach Steve Morris can't wait to get stuck into the upcoming pre-season, which kicks off later this month.
After "establishing some good foundations" in 2021 despite the disrupted season, Morris is eagerly awaiting his first season at the helm.
The 32-year-old former AFL Tiger got his first taste of VFL coaching earlier in 2021 when he took the reins at a practice match, before taking on assistant playing coach duties for the season.
"It was exciting, I really enjoyed the challenge of something new and was able to dip my toe in the water of the coaching space," he said.
"I think that fuels a bit more of the excitement for next season."
As Richmond’s 2019 VFL Premiership captain and a long-time driver of the culture within the program, Morris knows the Tigers’ VFL program better than anyone.
"I'm really excited to be able to build the culture that we've sustained over a number of years now," he said.
"We've got some great young leaders and great young kids that are going to drive that.
"(We’ll) encourage them to be not only the best they can be on the field, but off the field."
After facing an interrupted two years since that 2019 premiership victory, the Tigers are looking forward to some continuity in 2022.
"It is really exciting, the eastern seaboard competition, if we can get our games up and going," Morris said.
"I know one of the highlights of last season was being able to take that group interstate up to Brisbane and play some really good footy up there, and that's probably a highlight of some of these players' careers.
"If we get those opportunities that's something I'm really looking forward to, and I know the boys are really excited about as well."
With a strong focus on growth, the 2022 VFL program will work to both complement the AFL program and provide an opportunity for VFL players to "come in and develop at a rapid rate".
"At the end of our day, it's our job to ensure that we set the AFL boys up that play VFL, to be able to then go and transition into AFL footy and play team-first footy.
"That's what we'll be looking to go out to do, and set a really strong culture and a really great example for the young players to know what Richmond footy is about."
Morris earmarked 2022 as a big year for the Tigers' AFL cubs who have faced limited VFL game time since their arrival at the Club.
"Players like Riley Collier-Dawkins, Will Martyn and Thomson Dow have played very little VFL footy over the last couple of years. It's really important for their development to be able to play against big strong bodies and play full games," he said.
"So, I think it's really important for them to get that match time and that's looking more promising for next year.
"Being able to give them opportunities to play in positions that they'll play on the MCG at AFL level, and really prime them for being able to go out there and succeed once they get their opportunity."
While most of Richmond’s VFL-listed Tigers will be staying on for the 2022 season, the group is also looking forward to welcoming a number of fresh faces.
"We're lucky enough that the majority of our list is going to stay on," Morris said.
"We're also very lucky to add quite substantially to that. We’re looking forward to being able to finalise that over the next few weeks.
"We've got a good complement of young players that are really driven and are wanting to get the best out of their own individual journey, and we're really confident about the space that we're creating at VFL level to be able to develop their game."
VFL pre-season officially kicks off at the end of November, with training set to ramp up in the new year.
"We'll meet once a week leading up to Christmas and give the players a chance to build their connection, and we'll be hitting the ground running around the 10th of January with two sessions a week, we're really excited," Morris said.
"It's going to be fresh, raw and we’re going to have a lot of talent, but we're going to have a lot of young guys who are really driven."