The loss of a key player on each side and the return of champion Tigers defender Alex Rance have added intriguing elements to Saturday’s MCG clash between lofty Sydney and lowly Richmond.
The Swans announced on Friday that champion midfielder Josh Kennedy had a minor hamstring injury and would be replaced in the side by debutant Jack Hiscox.
The Tigers suffered their own eve-of-game blow with influential defender Bachar Houli ruled out with a right wrist injury. He will be replaced by Taylor Hunt.
Kennedy has missed just two of 154 games with Sydney while Houli has played 118 out of 120 for Richmond.
However, both sides will welcome back their premier fullback.
Ted Richards returns from a fractured eye socket for Sydney and will likely get the big job on Jack Riewoldt while Rance comes back from suspension and will go straight onto Sydney’s Lance Franklin, the leader in the Coleman Medal race.
“Probably the in-form forward of the game, the best forward and arguably the best defender going around as well at the moment, so it’s going to be a great contest,” Tigers’ midfielder Anthony Miles said on Friday.
Richmond also regain another important defender in Dylan Grimes, who has recovered from a hamstring injury.
Swans’ defence coach Henry Playfair said while Sydney wouldn’t be able to totally cover the loss of clearance king Kennedy, they had other strong inside players including Luke Parker and Dan Hannebery.
He suggested the injection of Hiscox would also give the Swans something different.
“He’s one of the best runners at the club, so we think that will really help us on a big ground like the MCG,” Playfair told AAP.
The ladder suggests Sydney (6-1) should have little trouble with Richmond (1-6), but Playfair refused to dismiss the Tigers, who have won three of the past five games between the two sides.
“On paper they have got really talented guys in their team and even though they haven’t been in the best of form they are certainly capable of doing damage,” Playfair said.
Miles was under no illusion about the task facing Richmond.
“But it certainly doesn’t feel like we’re one and six,” he said.
“The mood’s been pretty good. That’s probably a credit to our leaders and the people at our footy club that have got us up. I don’t think we’re too far away.”