AFL: Richmond ruckman Shaun Hampson talks to Tom Chadwick ahead of the 2017 season.
JACK was chained to the goalsquare, Dusty had his own footy and the backwards chip kick of previous seasons were nowhere to be seen.
Talented forward Ben Lennon kicked four standout goals and Daniel Rioli exhibited some serious moves to go with his shock of long black hair.
No one is getting too carried away with Richmond’s pre-season form on Thursday but at least at Punt Rd the negative vibes of 2016 had been wiped away.
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The Tigers’ second intra-club contest in as many weeks has shown the Tigers are intent on significant changes to their game plan.
Ahead of next Friday’s JLT series clash against Adelaide coach Damien Hardwick would have been thrilled with plenty from the hitout.
The biggest positive is a shrinking injury list, with Alex Rance and Toby Nankervis managed but few other long-term injuries.
Steve Morris (ACL) is some time away and Bachar Houli has a hamstring niggle but the Tigers seem remarkably injury free.
— Matthew Richardson (@mattricho0) February 16, 2017
Dion Prestia, excellent again, seems at full fitness after his knee issues and Ben Griffiths is back after groin surgery.
Jack Riewoldt was at his imposing best playing close to goal and Martin was scintillating running free without his regular tagger.
But Hardwick knows it is his emerging core who must fire, and on the performances of the past fortnight that is at least realistic.
Lennon, unwanted during trade period despite his pedigree as the 2013 draft’s No.12 pick, led strongly to mark and goal in the first minute and eventually finished with a bag of four.
He has finally compiled a strong pre-season and will get chances in the pre-season competition to show he can fill that mid-sized forward role.
Second-year small Rioli showed glimpses in a highly encouraging debut year but showed he has developed the tank to also get up the ground.
One scything Dustin Martin run through half forward drew enough traffic for him to handball to Rioli, who goaled from 30m on the run.
Corey Ellis was nearly best-on-ground last week, Nick Vlaustin again mixed midfield and forward time and even Trent Cotchin was trialled forward.
Yet the biggest change is the ball movement off half-back, with the methodical build-up replaced by bold movement and aggressive counterpunching.
Players were constantly praised from the sidelines for smart decisions to pick options with foot in the corridor or back themselves with pace from half-back.
Nankervis might have been rested but looms as the nominal Round 1 ruckman, especially after assistant Andrew McQualter’s comments on the club website.
“He’s been good. He’s nearly put a couple of our players in hospital with some of his tackles, but he’s had a real presence so far,” McQualter said.
“He’s a quiet, unassuming sort of guy, but works really hard. He’s made a great impression so far.”
It’s early days for the Tigers after last year’s train wreck, but all of a sudden there is a sense of anticipation ahead of the season-opener against Carlton.