Richmond’s VFL team will make its long-awaited return to competition football when they host Sandringham at the Swinburne Centre on Friday at midday.
The VFL Tigers, who won the premiership in 2019, will take a vastly different looking squad into what is an equally-changed competition.
The league will now comprise 22 teams from right across the East Coast, with Southport Sharks, Brisbane Lions, Aspley, Gold Coast Suns, GWS Giants, and Sydney Swans all joining the competition as interstate clubs.
Richmond VFL coach Xavier Clarke, who is yet to coach his first competitive match at the helm, said the group was simply excited to be back on the field again after last season's cancelled second-tier year.
“Last year, missing out on playing in a competition and (instead) playing scrimmage games, I think they are just really looking forward to playing footy,” he said.
“The practice matches have been a great chance for those guys to play footy but also for us to work on the things we need to before the season.
“The program is going to look vastly different. Really the focus has been to get blokes back playing footy and enjoying their footy, but also to reconnect as a VFL team and as a football club.”
Richmond will go into the season with 17 VFL-listed players to compliment non-selected AFL players. The coaching staff will include three returning coaches from the 2019 premiership program.
Richmond AFLW coach Ryan Ferguson will take on a match-day forwards role, while Marc Sophoulis will also serve as an assistant.
Steve Morris has stepped into a playing coach role, taking care of the backline. The former Richmond AFL player has also taken on extra responsibility by training VFL-listed players for their extra sessions.
“The VFL guys have been outstanding from what I have seen in the practice matches, which is a credit to Steve Morris, who has been helping those boys train,” Clarke said.
“Our VFL team looks vastly different. Our program looks different.
“We have gone after more younger players this year and also kept Morro’s services. It is fantastic to have that more mature head around.
“(The VFL listed players are) 19,20, and 21 year olds that we can certainly help develop as a VFL program, and they will also complement our AFL boys when they are playing together.”
Clarke added that on a personal level, he was looking forward to finally coaching the VFL side.
“I think last year, although we did not get to play games, I still got an opportunity in the scrimmage games,” he explained.
“It is not the same as Round 1 and playing for four points, so I am looking forward to that. I think a lot of coaches are in the same boat from last year and just looking forward to the season getting up and going.”
The unfurling of Richmond's 2019 VFL premiership flag will take place ahead of the first bounce of the Round 1 match against Sandringham. The low-key, on-field ceremony will acknowledge the contribution of volunteers to the Club's VFL program and begin at approximately 11.40am.
Richmond VFL's Confirmed Fixture
Round 1 v Sandringham at Swinburne Centre, Friday April 16 at 12pm
Round 2 v Casey at Swinburne Centre, Saturday April 24 at 2.10pm