As part of a club-by-club series, we look at Damien Hardwick’s journey into the depths of Hell known as Punt Road.
I may have been a bit harsh on the size of Brad Scott’s broom at North Melbourne a couple of posts ago, but Damien Hardwick has shown the way at Richmond. Fourteen Richmond players have retired, been traded or delisted in this offseason, leaving eight spots on the Tigers senior list to be filled in the two drafts, plus a raft of rookie slots available. Half of those 14 were top-22 material, which means holes everywhere in the depth charts. It would be quicker to name the sections that are not cut to ribbons: tall defender, where there are four decent choices; ruck, where Richmond was overblessed with numbers last year and has pruned down; and outside midfielder (of course!), where top draft picks Brett Deledio and Trent Cotchin reside.
At small defender the retirement of Joel Bowden and the trading of Andrew Raines eases the squeeze at a position where they had too many to choose from. Locking down the senior options to Chris Newman, Jordan McMahon, Jake King and Richard Tambling looks like a sound policy to me which, with the solidity in the tall back ranks, will provide more certainty for the back half.
Up forward, the structure post the retirement of Matthew Richardson and Nathan G. Brown looks better than it otherwise might have been. Jack Riewoldt and Mitch Morton took leaps and bounds in their development last year with Richo and Dr Pink either injured or given lesser roles, which puts them at least a year ahead of similar teams like Essendon who put too much faith in aging stars. Robin Nahas is an able replacement for Brown and Tyrone Vickery will be much better for an offseason building up his muscles (and perhaps cutting off those dreads). Behind those four, however, is a big fat donut as far as depth charts go, after Kayne Pettifer and Cleve Hughes were given their marching orders. An injury to any of those four wll mean that whoever gets drafted late as a long-term project player might be thrown into the deep end earlier than expected.
Finally, there is the vexed question of the Richmond inside midfield. Mark Coughlan couldn’t get his wheels turning all year and has succumbed to the clean-out. After a scintillating debut season, Nathan Foley has struggled to put up similar numbers and suffers under tags. Shane Tuck had an interesting year after his breakout season of 2008, and has similarly failed to show consistency in his game. Perhaps both Foley and Tuck will benefit from the Hardwick hard-nut polish. Or, perhaps they will continue in their underwhelming career trajectory, much like the Port Adelaide engine room players like Danyle Pearce and Travis Boak who haven’t quite hit the top echelons quite yet. That area remains an issue for Richmond, and may be solved by one the Tigers’ top 20 draft picks, particularly Dustin Martin likely to go at #3.