RICHMOND has "significant room for improvement" in its attacking game and could station captain Trent Cotchin deep in the forward line alongside superstar Dustin Martin at times this season, according to coach Damien Hardwick.
After flirting with the idea of rotating Cotchin and Martin as deep forwards in the lead up to last year, Hardwick opted to keep his skipper in the midfield, resulting in arguably the finest of his 10 seasons.
But the idea of increasing Cotchin's forward time has gained traction again and Hardwick believes there are more positives than negatives as the Tigers look for ways to improve their offensive game and defend their premiership.
"We have spoken about that. Trent, like Dustin, is an incredible talent one-on-one and he can win those contests he shouldn't win," Hardwick told AFL.com.au.
"We haven't been able to push him deep enough at various stages, but we've toyed this year with whether we can have Martin and Cotchin both deep at stages.
"Dustin probably took the majority of that time deep forward last year, but we'd really love to see Trent improving that part of his game.
"We've got to give him the opportunity to do that, but the hard thing for me is I love him around the middle, at the coalface, because he's so good."
Hardwick said Cotchin's physicality in the contest last season was "as good as any player I've ever seen", and moving him forward for periods would take away one of his great strengths.
But there were benefits for the longevity of the 27-year-old's career, and it would create opportunities in the midfield.
Hardwick was not concerned about taking the same small forward structure into the new season and stressed that defence and contested ball were what made the Tigers a premiership team.
Offence, where they ranked No.8 for 'points for' during the home and away season, was the biggest area for improvement, however, and making cleaner decisions with the ball was the key.
"We weren't the best team in season 2017. There were other sides that played a more consistent year, but our last six or seven weeks were pretty special," the coach said.
"[That's when] our offence started to click in a little bit more, but we only really saw that for six or seven weeks. I still think there's a significant area for improvement in that.
"In saying that, our defensive method and contested method are what make us who we are, and they are what our coaches will still be putting their time and effort into, while still coaching the offensive part of our game."
Hardwick said his players had moved on quickly from their drought-breaking premiership and their appetite to win in 2018 was strong.
The club's leaders used the first day of pre-season to re-establish a focus on the Tigers' brand, showing vision of the team's trademarks in action and underlining that they would only be 'the hunted' if they chose to be.
"Our attitude and the way we play lends itself to being the hunter," Hardwick said.
"Our defensive mindset and our ability to close down the opposition is that hunter's mindset and that's something we bring week in, week out. It's not reliant on the opposition at all.
"That's why I'm very confident that our players are in the right mindset to do what we do."
Richmond will also evolve from its off-field HHH program (hardship, highlight, hero) that played such a critical role in last year's success, developing new initiatives to "try and get the level of connection we had".
Hardwick said he believed the positive environment those sessions created, and the decision to relinquish control and trust his players more, had played a critical role in his players' happiness last season.
As is tradition for the premiership coach, Hardwick is due to front the AFL Commission, and mental health shapes as a talking point after the 45-year-old labelled it the biggest issue in the game.
"It does concern me. The young men coming into our game, they're in a high-pressure environment for a long period of time," Hardwick said.
"I look at the happiness of our players during the pre-season, they love it because there isn't the pressure of the game on the weekend.
"But then you've got 22 weeks plus finals, plus JLT, where we're measuring performance from coaching, media, fans all critiquing them. It becomes tough.
"People say they get paid really well, and they do, but it doesn't make it any easier. It is a tough game and we analyse people more than we ever have before."
Hardwick said he sat firmly in the camp of either maintaining or reducing contact hours for players after giving his group more time off last year than ever before.
He believed "over coaching" had become an issue at junior levels and AFLX could be a solution, giving young players more time with a football in their hands and increasing enjoyment.