Richmond coach challenges core group - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Richmond coach challenges core group

By Guy Hand 24/03/2010 09:02:14 PM Comments (0)

New Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says the start of his reign should be judged on whether he can improve the Tigers players who were part of the failed Terry Wallace era.

Hardwick begins the difficult task of reassembling last year's 15th-placed club shorn of several senior players - including superstar forward Matthew Richardson - against Carlton in the AFL season-opener at the MCG on Thursday night.

Four players will make their Tigers debut including three first-gamers, while Ben Cousins has overcome a mystery stomach complaint which hospitalised him to prove his fitness.

But it is the second, third and fourth year players Hardwick has earmarked as those who need to improve for the Tigers to ensure no more wasted time at a club which has unsuccessfully frittered away three decades.

The ex-Port Adelaide and Hawthorn assistant believes the improvement of players like Jack Riewoldt and fringe dwellers Tom Hislop and Adam Thomson from their time under Wallace is how he and his new team of assistants should be initially judged.

"Those are the guys we're expecting to become better players, and that's the measure of our coaching as well," Hardwick said.

"If we can do that, we become a better side a hell of a lot quicker.

"We've put a lot of work into those guys over the summer.

"It's the emergence of players we need to come forward - Hislop, Thomson, (Daniel) Jackson, those type of players.

"The first round players - you're always excited to see them out there - but I'm not expecting a great deal from them.

"It's the emergence of (Jack) Riewoldt and those sorts of players that we're really looking forward to see how they go."

Impressive No.3 draft pick Dustin Martin will debut for Richmond, along with forwards Relton Roberts and Ben Nason.

Ex-Port utility Mitch Farmer will also make his Tigers debut in defence, while Hardwick confirmed Cousins as a starter.

"He's right to go. He's had four training sessions since his illness, and he's looked really good," Hardwick said.

"We're very happy with the way he's headed."

Carlton have handed club debuts to new recruits Brock McLean and Lachie Henderson, while ruckman Robert Warnock is slated for his first Blues appearance after missing all last year through injury.

Tigers fans will also farewell favourite son Richardson with a lap of honour prior to the match.

Richardson retired in the off-season after a 282-game, 800-goal career over 17 seasons.

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