The oft-maligned Shaun Hampson is suddenly shaping as a key figure for injury-ravaged Richmond in the AFL season opener against Carlton on Thursday night.
With the Tigers’ No.1 ruckman Ivan Maric almost certain to miss with a back complaint, Hampson will get first crack against his former teammate Matthew Kreuzer.
Hampson has only played 15 senior games for Richmond since crossing from the Blues at the end of the 2013 season.
The Tigers will definitely be without several first-choice players including Brett Deledio and Chris Yarran, with Maric set to be ruled out and Shaun Grigg (broken thumb) an uncertain starter.
But Richmond coach Damien Hardwick insisted most of the injury concerns were short-term ones and he was excited by what the 25-year-old Hampson could offer.
“He has elite numbers from a hit-out perspective,” Hardwick said.
“He’s going to give us first use of the ball for the majority of the night so we’re going to ride Shaun and see how he goes.”
Hardwick said Deledio (quad) could have played this week if the Tigers had a Monday game.
He admitted the Tigers had learnt from last year when they pushed Deledio to play round one and he suffered a serious calf injury that sidelined him for six weeks.
“There’s certainly some players who we’d like to have available but the reality is they can’t help us this week so we move on pretty quickly,” he said.
“The great thing is we’ve got significant depth so it’s great to give some of those guys an opportunity.”
In better news, Hardwick said utility Shane Edwards was a certain starter after overcoming a shoulder issue.
Yarran, another former Blue, arrived at Punt Road oval on crutches following foot surgery on Monday.
Hardwick said the operation was a “blessing in disguise” even though Yarran will be out for at least six weeks.
He said the Tigers team had been rallying around Yarran, who has spent most of his time in the rehab group since joining in the off-season.
“He’s been not able to train at AFL intensity with the plantar fascia, so we’re probably pleased that he’s had the operation done,” Hardwick said.
“He’s a long-term prospect for us and he’ll be able to help us in the back end of the year.”
The coach forecast some new faces in the Tigers line-up, with 18-year-old first-round draft pick Daniel Rioli right in the selection mix.
Hardwick conceded his team had struggled for consistency in the early part of recent seasons.
“We’ve generally started round one reasonably well but through the first five to six rounds we’ve been two and four or three and three,” he said.
“We’ve addressed a number of things through the summer that will hopefully put us in good stead for that practice.”