Richmond coach Damien Hardwick doesn’t subscribe to the theory that the Tigers can’t win without their star playmaker Brett Deledio in the line-up.

He is, however, delighted that Deledio will return for Sunday’s clash with Gold Coast at the MCG, after missing last Friday night’s loss to Adelaide due to a severe bout of flu.

“He is an important player to us, there’s no doubt about that,” Hardwick said. 

Children under 15 years of age will gain free entry to Richmond’s match against Gold Coast at the MCG this Sunday

“He’s one of the elite players of the competition, and our record would suggest that we win more when he’s in the side, obviously, as compared to when he’s not. 

“But it’s a ‘stat’ that you can relate to anything, really.  There are certain other players I’m sure it would be the same with. 

“From our viewpoint, as soon as those 22 blokes step over the line, we expect to win every game we play.  We can’t isolate it to one player.” 

Hardwick believes Deledio hasn’t received rightful recognition from outside Tigerland throughout his league career.

“I probably think he’s been a little bit harshly dealt with,” he said.

“The thing that makes him grow in stature is the fact that Richmond Footy Club is winning games.

“He has always been an outstanding player, but I think the thing that probably held his reputation back a little bit is the fact that we weren’t winning. 

“Now we’re starting to win . . . and his reputation is only going to be enhanced when we continue to get better.”    

Hardwick revealed that another star Tiger – Shane Edwards – would not be rushed back into the side after suffering a hairline fracture in his right leg during the Round 15 victory over Carlton.

Tailgate with Tiger fans in Paddock 5 at Yarra Park ahead of Sunday's game

 “It’s probably just one of those ones that’s going to take a little bit of time,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll be available next week. 

“We’ve just got to make sure, because he’s such an important player for us, that he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.

“The problem is it’s not the actual site itself, but it’s everything that’s around that . . .

“The soft tissue, which a lot of players we’ve heard have experienced similarly, it just takes a little bit of time for the DOMS to wear down and the muscles to get back to what they do.”