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Houli joins Rance on sidelines

March 27, 2019 1:00 pm in by

RICHMOND’s defence will start its AFL life without Alex Rance against Collingwood, and now Bachar Houli is sidelined as well.

Already reeling from Rance’s season-ending knee reconstruction, the Tigers have lost Houli with a hamstring injury for Thursday night’s MCG blockbuster.

Coach Damien Hardwick said the experienced half-back’s injury is only minor but they did not want to risk him so early in the season.

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“We’ll take the week; we’re really conservative with these calls,” Hardwick said.

“If push comes to shove he could play but it’s a marathon, not a sprint, so we’ll take the week on the chin.”

Hardwick also confirmed that young defender Ryan Garthwaite is not yet ready for an AFL recall.

Immediately after last Friday night’s win over Carlton, he nominated Garthwaite as a potential replacement for Rance.

“He played a half last week, he’s come back from Achilles soreness,” Hardwick said.

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“Ideally we’d like him to get one more game under his belt.”

While Rance’s extended absence is a massive blow for the Tigers, Hardwick said they must adapt quickly.

“We’ve accepted it, we acknowledge it and we move on,” he said.

“We’re looking to see what it looks like from here on forward.

“We’ll mix and match down there and see how we go; obviously we have some players who we think are capable.

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“Whether they’re ready or not, we’re not too sure.”

Noah Balta, who made his AFL debut last week, is one player who could help out in defence.

Balta played in attack against Carlton but Hardwick said he impressed last year in the VFL as a backman.

“It’s about whether we throw him in the deep end, or do we take a little bit of time and look at him at VFL level to explore that option?,” Hardwick said.

“Physically speaking, he’s as close to Alex as we’ve got, he’s incredibly athletic.

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“But we also have a number of other players who can play that role, we feel, in our VFL side.”

It is six months since Collingwood ruck-forward Mason Cox monstered Richmond in the Magpies’ upset preliminary final triumph.

Hardwick rates the Magpies as “incredibly formidable” but said that loss is history and Richmond will back themselves.

“We move on pretty quickly,” he said.

“The strength of our games is the same, we’ll continue to look at those and back those in.”

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He said if Richmond is better up the ground it will be much harder for Cox to dominate again inside 50.

“A lot of pressure on the ball will take away from that,” Hardwick said.

© AAP 2019

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