Hardwick sets expectations for opener - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hardwick sets expectations for opener

By Adam Cooper 12/02/2010 04:50:17 PM Comments (0)

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick is buoyed by the fitness of Trent Cotchin and Graham Polak, but has modest expectations for the Tigers' opener in the AFL pre-season Cup.

Hardwick was not sure if it was predominantly nerves or excitement he felt ahead of his coaching debut in Saturday night's game against Hawthorn, who are led by his coaching mentor Alastair Clarkson.

Hardwick said although the players wanted to win, he was more focused on how the Tigers played, as the game plan they used in Launceston would be the basis for the home and away season.

"The result's irrelevant, I just want us to play a nice game," he said.

"Our ball movement's really important, defensively we're looking for some things.

"It's broken down on a quarter-by-quarter basis, there's going to be times when we play it really well (and) due to inexperience, there's going to be times where we don't cope with it well.

"It's a really good learning experience for us."

Richmond made 14 changes to their playing list of 2009 - youth replaced the likes of departed stalwarts Matthew Richardson, Kane Johnson, Joel Bowden and Nathan Brown - and six of those new players will take on the Hawks.

"There were some guys who were in disbelief when we told them they were playing, they've only been at the club a short period of time," Hardwick said.

"But for us going forward that's what it's all about, we've got to find the players we think will deliver that 11th flag."

Cotchin and Polak are in the squad after impressing during the off-season.

Cotchin will spend time in the midfield, albeit limited given he was held back in his first two pre-seasons because of Achilles problems, and had his 2009 season ended early by a hip injury.

"He's been outstanding," Hardwick said of the 19-year-old's build-up this time.

"From our point of view it's been a tailored program we're not willing to rush.

"We don't want to put him in a hole that he can't get out of.

"We've just got to be slow with Trent and his body will catch up at some stage."

Polak, 25, suffered serious brain injuries when struck by a tram midway through 2008, but after being re-drafted as a rookie has performed well over the summer.

He could now be in line for a role as a key forward, although Hardwick would not speculate if he would play in round one of the premiership season.

"It's a long way out, he's going well at this stage," he said.

"We weren't sure where Graham was at, Graham was probably the same, so the mature-age rookie rule the AFL brought in has been a wonderful thing for him."

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