Richmond boss Brendon Gale has backed Ty Vickery, while admitting he is unsure whether the maligned key forward will stay at the AFL club.
One of the first jobs for new football boss Neil Balme will be to oversee their trade and draft decisions over the next few weeks at a crucial time for the Tigers.
After making three elimination finals, the Tigers plummeted out of the top eight.
Their playing list needs an overhaul and there is speculation Vickery, a free agent, could go to Hawthorn.
Asked on Monday if Vickery would stay, Gale told 3AW: “I’m not sure … that will be (left) to others better-placed than me.
“Ty has been a very, very important player for our footy club.
“We didn’t play in a way that made his job much easier this year.
“Unfortunately, he seems to be a bit of a whipping boy.”
Richmond’s disastrous season was a catalyst for the Focus On Football rebel ticket, which seeks a spill of the club board.
The current administration appeared to head the rebels off at the pass on Monday when they announced Balme would join Richmond from Collingwood as their football department boss.
Gale denied Focus On Football had anything to do with Balme returning to Richmond for the first time since 1979, saying he first approached the respected football administrator near the end of the season.
The Richmond chief executive agrees with coach Damien Hardwick that must aim to return to the finals next season.
“We’d won 54 per cent of our games over the (previous) three years – this year we lost ground,” Gale said.
“I have no reason not to believe that we can play finals next year.
“That’s the aspiration to start with and we have a crucial post-season list management process.
“Adding having someone like Neil involved, and his experience and judgment, can lend great support through that process.”