Concerns that captain Trent Cotchin’s body might give out in the AFL have prompted a beefing up of the Richmond midfield.
There has been plenty of talk in the off-season about whether Cotchin should remain Tigers skipper.
But coach Damien Hardwick strongly defended Cotchin on Monday, noting that the Richmond star often lacked enough backup in the midfield.
Hardwick noted that when Cotchin finished runner-up in the 2012 Brownlow Medal, he had big-bodied teammates such as Travis Tuck and Daniel Jackson providing support.
The coach told Fox Footy they had recruited Andrew Moore and Jacob Townsend to help Cotchin at the stoppages.
“We’ve probably been asking Trent to fill a role for his body size that he’s really incapable of doing,” Hardwick said of the 25-year-old.
“If we want to continue to go down that track, the guy’s finished at 27-28 because he’s just a battering ram.
“We probably haven’t done what’s required as a footy club to protect him in that area.
“But we feel like we’ve started to address some of those needs.”
Like North Melbourne, Richmond are determined to make a strong start to this season.
Since Hardwick took over in 2010, their best opening was three wins in 2013 – and that was following by three losses.
Last year, they were in early strife at 2-4.
They open their season with the Easter Thursday blockbuster against Carlton at the MCG.
“We’re firmly of the belief that if we get the process right in the early rounds, we’ll be able to build and get our club to another chance,” he said.
“But we just have to make sure we get the good start we’re after.
“We probably haven’t had the greatest of starts in the last three years.
“There’s no doubt if you start well, you’ll generally finish well – we’re looking to make sure we get off to a fast start.”
Hardwick also admitted they are still trying to find a regular key forward to partner Jack Riewoldt.
He said Ty Vickery, Ben Griffiths and Liam McBean have shown they are capable.
“But not one of those guys has probably grabbed that role by the throat and made it their own.
“So it’s probably going to be a key forward by committee approach – whoever is the `hot hand’ at the stage will play.”
Hardwick added Shane Edwards had made progress as a small forward.