Another 10 from Jack won’t be enough against Bombers: Hardwick

Richmond have locked in a top-two spot after a routine 74-point win against the Gold Coast Suns, assuring them of a home final at the MCG in September, but the story of the match was the individual performance of Jack Riewoldt.

Riewoldt kicked 10 goals, the only player to do so this season, and could easily have finished with several more from his remarkable total of 16 scoring shots and one direct assist.

Hard to handle: Jack Riewoldt was too much for the Suns.

Hard to handle: Jack Riewoldt was too much for the Suns.

It made coach Damien Hardwick smile, but at the same time he said his side could have been better, and that ‘‘unfortunately we’re probably not going to win too many games if we continue to have 10 goals from one player’’.

So hot was Riewoldt that his teammates occasionally had tunnel vision. ‘‘When you’re around six or seven goals, players start to look to you a bit too much and we probably butchered a couple of opportunities going forward,’’ Hardwick said.

‘‘He played a pretty good game obviously, and to finish with 10 goals obviously a good result for him, but he’s not going to get those opportunities [often]. It was a great individual day for Jack, it’s always good to see some goals being kicked.’’

But Hardwick – at the risk of sounding like a Grinch as he praised ‘‘the stuff that coaches really look for’’ – said that Riewoldt had gone ‘‘from good to great’’ by continuing to find new ways to improve his game 12 years into his career.

However, he said that his side would have to improve ahead of next week’s match against Essendon.

‘‘It was a really untidy game … I thought we were OK today without being great. We overused the ball a lot, more handballs than kicks, which is unlike us, so we’ve got a bit of work to do to play our best footy.

‘‘We accept that we’ve now locked up the top two, and that gets us a home final which is terrific, but as a coach and a playing group we look forward to our next challenge, which is Essendon.

‘‘They’re probably one of the form sides of the competition over the last 10 weeks. It’s a six-day break off travel, so once again it’s going to be a tough challenge, but our boys have done it before and I’m sure they’ll respond in kind and do it again.’’

Richmond were boosted by the return of several premiership players including Bachar Houli, Jack Graham and Dion Prestia, all of whom played well.

‘‘I thought Bachar started to get into the game, as the game progressed, and you can see why Jack Graham’s such an important player to us. His pressure points are high [and] he makes other players around him better,’’ Hardwick said.

Welcome return: Bachar Houli was back for the Tigers.

Welcome return: Bachar Houli was back for the Tigers.

The Suns were less fortunate, losing Pearce Hanley to another hamstring injury. Hanley has only played three games in a personally difficult season wrecked by injury and family bereavement.

Coach Stuart Dew said that the team was ‘‘shattered for Pearce, he has done really well to get back this year’’.

‘‘He is resilient, a pretty strong character and has had to deal with a lot in the last 24 months. The boys will wrap their arms around him and get him through the next couple of weeks.’’

Dew had no doubt his team had come up against the best side in the competition. ‘‘It was a good lesson for us. It’s no wonder they’re top and probably going into another flag.’’

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