Tiger Chris Knights set for AFL return

Brett Deledio won’t be heading north to play Brisbane but a forgotten Tiger will resume his AFL career on Saturday night for Richmond.

After 18 months out of the game, Chris Knights will finally return to elite football.

Knights’ career was almost destroyed by a knee injury in early 2013, just five games into his move to Punt Road as a free agent.

Complications on his rehabilitation meant a much longer spell out of the game than Knights or Damien Hardwick would have liked, but two strong weeks in the VFL led to the Richmond coach selecting the 28-year-old half-forward.

“It’s been good,” Hardwick said of Knights’ VFL form.

“He was close to selection last week … he’ll be one of the guys putting his hand up.

“We haven’t had him for a year and a half; he’s capable of kicking 40 goals a season; it’d be nice if he gets a bag for us on Saturday night.”

After missing last week’s loss to the Western Bulldogs with a calf injury, Hardwick has opted to wrap Deledio in cotton wool.

The previously ever-present Tiger struggled from the field in Richmond’s season-opener with Carlton despite scans that gave him the all-clear.

Hardwick denied making a mistake picking him for the round-one win but suggested he would now be playing it safe.

“You can either take the week and play it conservatively or take the risk and he could miss three or four,” he said on Thursday.

“We’ve got no doubt he’ll be right for round four.”

Deledio has only missed five AFL matches since 2007 and the Tigers have lost four of them.

In Brisbane, Hardwick has the challenge of picking a side able to combat the Lions’ small attack.

Justin Leppitsch’s side has one of the league’s smallest forward lines and Hardwick isn’t taking it lightly.

“Leppa would be the first to say they haven’t played to the level that we know they can,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean they’re not going to play to that level this week.

“It’s really important, like North Melbourne showed last week, that we’re physical, we don’t allow them to get behind us and, defensively, we shut them down.”

It could also mean fit-again tall defender David Astbury misses out on account of his height.

“Whether they’ve got the talls to counter for us, we’ll wait and see how selection goes,” he said.

Hardwick said Ty Vickery’s knee complaints had him “a little bit behind the eight ball” but the side desperately needed another tall forward.

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