Hardwick: Standards high as Tigers take 'pleasing steps'

Dustin Martin dominated against  St Kilda.

Dustin Martin dominated against St Kilda.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has highlighted the high standards expected among his team, declaring he thought the Tigers had played better in a loss to Greater Western Sydney than in their 54-point win over St Kilda on Friday night.

Where a thumping win over an opponent which had won three of its past four matches would typically draw praise, Hardwick said his men had shown greater touch in a two-point loss to the Giants a week earlier.

“It’s funny – I thought we played better last week, to be fair. I thought our first half was pretty scintillating. It was a great half of footy – then probably the game was probably put to bed at that stage," he said.

"But if you had have said to me at the start of the night we’d walk away with a 10-goal victory against a side that’s won three of its last four, I would’ve taken it."

The Tigers remain on top of the ladder after a 58-point win, one that was all but guaranteed after they led by 32 points at quarter time. The Tigers' 6.4 in the first term was their best start of the season. They led by 58 points at half-time but were outscored in the second half.

Midfielders Dustin Martin (30 disposals), Dion Prestia (26 and three goals) and Kane Lambert (23) were superb, key forward Jack Riewoldt booted four goals on a night the Tigers had 10 goal-kickers while their  set up behind the ball was typically clinical.

Damien Hardwick watches his team trounce the Saints.

Damien Hardwick watches his team trounce the Saints.

The Tigers did as they pleased for most of the night, many taking what Hardwick said were "pleasing steps", and remain the team to beat. They boast tremendous depth, with Hardwick suggesting premiership star Bachar Houli may have to return from a groin strain through the VFL next week rather in the MCG blockbuster against Collingwood.

"We’ve just got to make sure he’s right to go. He’s such an important player for us, gives us such enormous rebound off the back half, but he’s missed a lot of footy," he said.

"So we’ve got some decisions to make with whether we just give him a run in the twos to make sure he’s OK, or he comes straight back in and plays.

“We want Bachar Houli at his best and we know what that’s like when we see it. We’re at the stage of the year now where we want our best players playing on the park. If that means we’re a little bit more conservative from a playing viewpoint, we probably will be."

The Saints lack of vigour in the first term was telling, and they fell to their fifth loss of 47 points or more this season. Coach Alan Richardson said the Tigers' style had been a major talking point post match.

"The feedback was: 'Why are they so consistently strong?' Even in their defeats they play in a certain way so without going into all the minor details, I would hope the players have real clarity on what that looks like," he said.

"They were clean under pressure always and they play for each other always. They've had a group that's been together for a while now and that's where we want to be.

"Our footy has been heading in the right way and we got a bit of a lesson. We'll learn from that and challenge this group really strongly to respond.

"It says there's a gap, clearly. When a club like Richmond is at its best, we're not there yet. I was expecting more, we were expecting more of each other, and we were disappointed we weren't at a higher level when their pressure was as high as it was."

Daniel Rioli in action.

Daniel Rioli in action.

Hard-working midfielder Jack Steven provided a goal-of-the-year contender when be volleyed the ball out of the air in the third term about 10 metres from the boundary in the pocket. Richardson said Steven's intent was what had counted.

"He wanted to do something about the situation – he charged forward to outnumber and surprise, surprise, he gets opportunity," he said.

"It's a bit like (what Dion) Prestia did for all of the game, like a lot of their midfielders did for big parts of the game."

The Saints face another major challenge on Saturday when they head north to take on Greater Western Sydney. Defenders Jimmy Webster (groin) and Nathan Brown (hamstring) could return, while injury-prone midfielder Nathan Freeman may finally be handed a senior debut.

Source: Read Full Article