Richmond seemingly only have pride to play for this AFL season but coach Damien Hardwick won’t wrap players in cotton wool.
The Tigers sit 13th on the ladder with a 7-9 record that leaves them only a mathematical chance of contesting finals.
Regardless of whether Richmond manage a boilover on Sunday against Hawthorn, the reality is 2017 planning will be in full swing soon at Punt Rd Oval.
But that won’t include having injured players sit out the rest of 2016.
Tigers veteran Brett Deledio, after suffering a calf strain in round 17, is set to miss his side’s MCG clash with the ladder-leading reigning premiers.
Deledio has a history of calf problems but Hardwick insists his latest setback is minor, dismissing the prospect of the gifted playmaker being put on ice.
“We take every injury on its merits. He’s an important player for us and we still want to win as many games as we can,” Hardwick said on Thursday.
“Brett’s firmly part of that picture. The more times Brett plays, the more games we win.
“We’ll certainly be making sure his rehab is a speedy one and we get him back out to play.”
Hardwick was unsure how long Deledio would be on the sidelines, saying only it was “highly unlikely” the veteran would be fit enough to face the Hawks.
Bachar Houli, who is set to return from a wrist injury this weekend in the VFL, is another example of the Tigers’ approach.
Hardwick is keen to see the hard-running defender, who has not played since Richmond’s loss to Hawthorn in round seven, back in the AFL this year.
“It would have been great just to rush him back in but the game of AFL footy is incredibly hard,” Hardwick said.
The Tigers have some tough calls to make on their squad after this season.
But deciding whether to retain restricted free agent Ty Vickery isn’t one of them, according to Hardwick.
“Ty, for mine, is an integral part of our playing future,” Hardwick said.