Hardwick ponders Deledio options

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has revealed he would have most likely needed to cover the absence of Brett Deledio this weekend even if the star midfielder hadn’t been suspended.

Deledio, 27, was banned for one match for his high hit on Carlton’s Simon White in last week’s AFL season-opening win, but Hardwick said he would have probably been sidelined by a calf injury for Saturday’s match against the Western Bulldogs anyway.

“It’s a little bit disappointing, but credit to the guy for putting his hand up to play,” Hardwick said on Thursday.

“The round one importance … it was great to get off to a good start, but he probably got through three quarters and then started to get a little bit sore.

“He’s obviously a very hard player to replace … (but) we’ve got some options there, it’s just a matter of finding the best piece of the puzzle.”

Deledio was carefully managed through pre-season and had to pass a late fitness test to take the field against the Blues, but Hardwick is confident he’ll be fit to take on Brisbane in round three.

The Tigers aren’t short of replacements in the short term with several players performing well in last week’s VFL practice match, including former Adelaide forward-midfielder Chris Knights, who has endured a wretched run with injury since crossing from the Crows as a free agent.

The Bulldogs are also coming off a win, having defeated West Coast at Etihad Stadium, and Hardwick has been impressed with what he’s seen of Luke Beveridge’s side.

Their pressure has been outstanding, their forward 50s tackling, I think they had 23 or 24 tackles inside the forward 50 and a lot of stoppages in that area, he said.

They’ve probably shown, even last year, their ability to win the contested ball, to tackle, to pressure the opposition, it has gone up a notch again.

“They’re a really impressive side and they’ve got some fantastic young talent.”

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