Richmond look set to have three of their most-important players back in action for Sunday’s AFL clash with Melbourne.
The 13th-placed Tigers have made yet another sluggish start to a season, winning only one of their first four games in the absence of talismanic duo Ivan Maric (back) and Brett Deledio (quad).
They were both included in an expanded 25-man squad on Thursday evening along with prolific midfielder Anthony Miles, but with Deledio likely to have to prove his fitness in a final Saturday training session.
Deledio trained well at Punt Rd on Thursday, with coach Damien Hardwick saying the 29-year-old had made a significant breakthrough last weekend, when his quad improved enough for him to kick a full-sized AFL ball.
“From our point of view, it’s been a long process and one that we think we’re over the hump,” Hardwick said on Thursday before the teams were named.
“It’s going to be a tough call because he’s an important player.
“We’d love to have him playing this week but we’ve also got a long season in front of us.”
Maric was also recalled for the MCG date against the Demons, having proved his fitness in the VFL.
“He’s got enough minutes into himself now so we’re looking forward to having him back,” Hardwick said.
“He’s obviously an important player and also a spiritual leader for our footy club.”
The third significant inclusion for Richmond was Miles, who regained form and fitness with 30 possessions and 12 tackles last weekend in the reserves.
Miles played all 23 games last season and finished fourth in Richmond’s best-and-fairest award.
But the Tigers will be without tough defender Nick Vlastuin, who will miss with a leg injury.
Hardwick insisted it wouldn’t take much for the Tigers to turn their form around, as they did in 2015.
“I think back to last year when we were two-and-four and, in the Collingwood game, we were under the pump at quarter-time and then, all of a sudden, it just clicked,” he said.
“I think we won 13 of our next 16 games.
“… we have been floundering a little bit – there’s no doubt about that.
“But we’re still incredibly confident in the squad we’ve got to play some really good footy.”
The Demons regained 2015 best-and-fairest winner Bernie Vince from suspension and clever small forward Jeff Garlett from injury.