The great respect and admiration Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and veteran Tigers star rebounding defender Bachar Houli have for each other was clearly evident following last Friday night’s preliminary final against Geelong at the MCG.

Hardwick hailed Houli, who produced another top-class performance for the team in the 19-point victory over the Cats, finishing the match with a game-high 32 disposals, game-high 11 marks, game-high 14 intercepts, game-high nine rebound-50s, five inside-50s and 585 metres gained.

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The 31-year-old, who recently gained All-Australian selection for the first time in his AFL career, is averaging 27.9 disposals per match this season, along with 6.9 intercepts, 6.4 marks, 5.0 rebound-50s and 489.1 metres gained.

“In the three elimination finals that we lost those years (2013-15), he was by far our best-performed player,” Hardwick said.

“He’s become an incredible Richmond player.

“He’s a fantastic man, just gets better with age, which is great, and we keep giving him one-year contracts.

“We’re very proud to have him.”

Houli reciprocated by singing Hardwick’s praises as a coach.

“We’ve got the best coach ever because all he promotes is happiness, gratitude, enjoy the moment. That’s what it’s about,” Houli said in a post-match interview with Channel Seven.

“Football’s about enjoying the moment. Whatever happens, happens. Life goes on tomorrow.

“All he wants us to do is have a smile on our face, enjoy the moment.

“And he trusts us. We go out there, we give it everything we’ve got, and let it happen.”