Richmond is staring down the barrel of what is effectively an entire starting midfield sidelined and will be coming up against a GWS engine room that's growing in confidence after a slow start to 2021.
Shane Edwards (ankle, medium term) and Shai Bolton (wrist, short to medium term) have joined the Tigers' star-studded injury ward, alongside Trent Cotchin (hamstring, medium term), Kane Lambert (calf, medium term) and Dion Prestia (calf, short term), while premiership ruck Ivan Soldo remains sidelined after rupturing his ACL late last year.
A further two players will need to join a midfield that's already being held together by a decent-sized roll of strapping tape, with last Friday night's centre bounce attendees as follows:
- Dustin Martin, 69 per cent of centre bounces
- Shane Edwards, 66 per cent
- Shai Bolton, 59 per cent
- Marlion Pickett, 53 per cent (some in his role as a second ruck)
- Jack Graham, 41 per cent
- Riley Collier-Dawkins, 28 per cent
Expect Graham and third-gamer Collier-Dawkins to spend greater time in the middle, but there are still two significant holes which need to be filled.
After a surprise period of clearance dominance during the 2020 finals series, the Tigers have reverted to a side who have struggled in that area, a common theme across its flag run.
They sit 13th in average clearance differential and 16th for average clearances, above Hawthorn and North Melbourne.
On Saturday night, they'll be coming up against a midfield that boasts contested-ball specialists Jacob Hopper, Tim Taranto, Callan Ward, Josh Kelly and Tom Green.
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In a case of unfortunate timing, Richmond's VFL side had a bye over the weekend, but who are the possible replacements?
Has played the past two games as a substitute, and impressed with his pace and attack on the footy with his limited minutes. Much more commonly found on the outside than at centre bounces, and could fill Pickett's stints on the wing, allowing the latter to spend more time in the middle.
If the Tigers are looking for an inside midfielder, then Martyn's probably the answer. Recorded 17 touches against Werribee in his last VFL game, so is in decent form. His previous senior game was a high-pressure AFL debut against Port Adelaide earlier this year.
Impressed in his handful of AFL matches last year, but only returned to the VFL on May 1 after missing a month with appendicitis. May need more footy under his belt before the step back up to AFL level, but is tough as nails and good in the packs.
The versatile Ralphsmith is yet to debut but has been in strong form in the VFL. More often found on the flanks or on the wing than as a pure midfielder.
The most experienced of the players in the mix, Caddy last played on April 24 in the VFL. He missed the Tigers’ next state-league match with general soreness, but is now available for selection. Has rarely been seen at centre bounces in his time at Tigerland, generally lining up either in attack or on the wing. Caddy played in the AFL side from rounds one to four.
Still building match fitness after being stuck in Western Australia until March, but when fit, he'll add the attacking flair that will be lacking without Edwards and Bolton.