When Richmond launched its new VFL team last Friday (December 6), its AFL and VFL programs were finally brought together under one roof at the ME Bank Centre.

For the first time, the Tigers’ coaching structure, player development model and training systems were merged into the same structure, which will have an immediate flow-on effect for the Club’s young players.

VFL senior coach Tim Clarke put it succinctly in his speech to over 500 people at the team’s launch: “This year, it’s one great club, and two teams.”

Ending the second-tier alignment with Coburg was seen as a crucial step to creating a one-club status for Richmond, something the Fighting Tiger Fund helped make a reality.

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And, in a further shot in the arm for the Tigers, it was announced that official games would return to Punt Road Oval, at the ME Bank Centre, from 2014.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity I have to coach this side next season,” Clarke said.

“Having a standalone VFL side provides a great opportunity for our VFL staff and players to enter the AFL system, and to be a part of the Richmond Football Club.

“It provides an opportunity for our players to represent Richmond in the VFL."

Clarke will lead an exciting and knowledgeable group of coaches who will support the VFL team, but importantly will play a dual role with the AFL playing list.

Max Bailey and Andrew McQualter arrived as new development coaches in the off-season, and the experienced Greg Mellor has remained at the Club.

Bailey will work with the forwards, McQualter will mix midfield coaching duties with an on-field role, and Mellor will look after the defenders.

The playing list has been assembled, and there is genuine excitement among the group that they will be part of an AFL club, not an aligned VFL team.

“We have recruited 21 players to be part of our Club.  Not like in previous years, where our players on Richmond’s list who haven’t made the senior team go and play elsewhere, for Coburg,” Clarke said.

“The 21 players are VFL ready, and are of outstanding character, and that was the first thing we looked for.

“The players can help support and mentor, not only our AFL-listed players, but also the younger VFL players that we’ve got.”