Tigers ponder ruck formula

It’s a match-up that has many AFL coaches baffled and Richmond boss Damien Hardwick admits he’s losing sleep over it.

Against league leaders Fremantle on Saturday night, it’s not runaway Brownlow Medal favourite Nat Fyfe that has the Tigers worried.

It’s man-mountain Aaron Sandilands, who was a major point of resistance for the Dockers when they last met.

The Tigers inflicted a first loss of the season on Fremantle in round 10 but were dominated at stoppages by Sandilands.

With Maric in a primary ruck duel with Sandilands, Richmond was beaten 72-30 in hit-outs and thumped in clearances.

“I think we lost the clearances by an extraordinary amount, it might have been minus 20,” Hardwick said.

“You don’t win many games when you lose the clearance by that so we need to rectify that.”

It means Hardwick is engaged in a struggle to balance his talls and smalls to compete in the ruck without losing something at ground level.

He has confirmed Shaun Hampson in his line-up, has all but ticked off Maric and could also field Ben Griffiths.

“Do we go in with two rucks which we haven’t really done over a period of time, or if Griffiths is available, do we just play two or do we play all three?” he asked.

“Are we going to have enough smalls to compete at ground level or are we too tall and too slow?

“It’s why coaches don’t sleep much at night … you wake up at 3 o’clock going ‘what I am doing this for’?”

Whoever takes the field will be after a fifth-straight win to improve to 11-5 in the win-loss.

Hardwick breaks down the season into four-week blocks, with the Dockers rounding out the latest group of four.

The Tigers boss said his last quarter fade-out against the Saints showed they had more to do despite their winning streak.

“We’ve ticked three of those boxes, not playing our best, granted, but we’ve ticked three of those boxes,” he said.

“Within our four walls, we know where we’re at, we know what we need to improve and we know our strengths.

“We’re probably a little bit like Freo, we’re not playing our best footy, neither are they, but we both know we’re capable of winning games.”

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