Hardwick backs Vickery’s AFL return

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick wants to play Tyrone Vickery and Ben Griffiths alongside fellow key forward Jack Riewoldt in their AFL attack.

Vickery had an up-and-down return to senior football in Saturday’s nine-point loss to Geelong at the MCG.

He struggled at times, but kicked a goal in his first AFL match for nine months.

Griffiths missed the game because of a calf muscle injury.

Hardwick backed Vickery, saying he competed well and took a step forward.

“He should have finished with four goals,” Hardwick said.

“He can get better again (and) he’s a really important player to us.

“I keep telling him and I know he realises how important he is … maybe it’s too much pressure on him.

“He’s best 22 … today was a good step forward.”

While Hardwick saw good signs in Vickery’s game, Richmond again conceded too many goals from centre clearances.

In particular, Geelong kicked three at the start of the last term that proved decisive.

“It’s funny, we were AFL No.1 from centre bounce goals last year and this year we’re AFL 18,” Hardwick said.

“It’s like a knife through your heart – they’re easy goals.

“To give up three in the last quarter took the game out of our reach.”

Hardwick was furious with his team after last week’s loss to Melbourne, calling their effort insipid.

On Saturday he was left lamenting their inability to make the most of scoring chances in the first half.

While Richmond kicked 0.5 in the first term, Geelong kicked four goals in six minutes during the second quarter and led by 28 points at the main break.

“The effort and attitude were good,” he said.

“Unfortunately … the second quarter, they probably had a 10-12 minute period where they dominated us on the scoreboard.

“Then there was a period in the last where they kicked three centre-bounce goals in quick succession, which iced the game for them.

“But it’s the consistency we’re looking for – one week doesn’t settle that.”

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