Dustin Fletcher will be rightfully celebrated when he plays his 400th AFL game on Saturday night, but Damien Hardwick hopes Richmond can spoil the Bomber veteran’s party.
While paying tribute to his former teammate on Thursday, Hardwick highlighted the importance of maintaining the Tigers’ recent climb up the ladder.
“We were actually drafted in the same year and I’ve been coaching for 10 years – it just goes to show the status of the player,” Hardwick said.
“He’s an incredible player, an incredible athlete and an incredible man really. It’s a great testament to Dustin and his family to reach the 400-game milestone.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we put a sour note on it … it’s a really important game to us.”
Richmond were languishing in 13th on the ladder after six rounds but have moved into eighth spot with impressive wins against Collingwood and Port Adelaide in the past fortnight.
Hardwick is confident that his side is building momentum after a 2-4 start that included a three-game losing streak.
“We were probably disappointed early with the way we performed in certain patches of games,” Hardwick said.
“But the consistency level, while still not to the level that we’d love, is getting better over the course of the last two weeks.
“We still feel our best football is in front of us.”
The Tigers will be without key forward Tyrone Vickery for the clash after he suffered ankle and knee injuries in last week’s win over the Power.
Vickery will likely be sidelined for a week or two, with Hardwick mulling the return of forgotten ruck-forward Shaun Hampson, who is yet to feature in the AFL this season.
“Shaun’s been a monster for us (at VFL Level),” the coach said.
“He’s in the best form of his career, so we’ve got a selection dilemma there.
“He’s improved enormously and we’re really happy with his progression as a player.”