A night of high drama at Etihad Stadium has led an injury-devastated Richmond to field just 15 players in the final minutes of their 48-point AFL pre-season cup loss to Port Adelaide.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick ordered his team to play three men down on Thursday night after they suffered a disastrous injury toll with Shane Edwards, Reece Conca, Jacob Townsend and Shaun Grigg all forced out.
The Tigers played the last quarter of the 0.13.15 (93) to 1.4.12 (45) defeat with one fit man on the bench after Edwards (collarbone), Conca (hamstring), Grigg (hand) and Townsend (head knock) all left the game.
Despite the injury toll, Hardwick stayed true to his plan to rest star veteran Brett Deledio after halftime, leaving his undermanned side to be overrun.
The final score will matter little to Hardwick who is left to count the cost of his side’s last game of the NAB Challenge just a fortnight from their season-opener against Carlton at the MCG.
Edwards suffered a blow to his left shoulder late in the first quarter, with initial reports suggesting he might have suffered a fractured collarbone. He left the ground for hospital during the second term with his shoulder in a sling.
Grigg also departed the game late in the opening quarter after suffering a hand injury.
Conca limped to the bench in the third term and didn’t return, while Townsend was taken from the field on a stretcher after copping accidental high contact as he attempted to tackle Hamish Hartlett.
The form of Deledio in his first game of a modified pre-season program was at least some consolation for Richmond, the 28-year-old moving well as he gathered 11 possessions and kicked a nine-point goal before coming off.
The at-times spiteful encounter boiled over into an ugly melee during the third quarter that occurred dangerously close to a section of the 6584-strong crowd.
The incident will surely come under close scrutiny from the AFL, as will Hartlett’s head-to-head contact with Townsend as the pair wrestled on the ground earlier in the match.
The Tigers’ injury toll overshadowed the action on the field but Port will take positives from the hit-out, with Charlie Dixon kicking his first goal for the club after playing a half and Sam Gray and Ollie Wines impressive.