MISSING the “spark and spunk” of Alex Rance and Jack Riewoldt, Richmond need to collectively step up to replace the injured star AFL duo when the Tigers take on GWS in Sydney on Saturday, according to assistant coach Justin Leppitsch.
Key forward Riewoldt is out for a month with a wrist injury while defender Rance’s season ended in the opening round with a serious knee injury.
The loss of the All-Australian bookends puts the Tigers in an unfamiliar position as at least one has been in the line-up in each game since round nine, 2009.
Three-time premiership player Leppitsch said team meetings had been quieter without the veteran pair, compounded by the temporary loss this week of head coach Damien Hardwick following dental surgery.
Coming off a 44-point loss to Collingwood, Leppitsch said the whole team needed to lift.
“They (Rance and Riewoldt) bring the spunk and spark to our team, they bring the voice and direction and others have to stand up in their place and it’s not easy.
“You can’t take away All Australians and replace them; it just means we all have to lift the load a bit.”
Leppitsch said Josh Caddy was in line to replace Riewoldt in his first appearance of the season after overcoming an ankle injury, although they were still mulling whether he would return through the VFL.
However Caddy didn’t train with the main group on Thursday pointing towards the latter.
Rookies Ryan Garthwaite and Noah Bolta are both in the mix to replace Rance.
Richmond were bitterly disappointed with their defensive effort against the Magpies and have made it a focus for this week at Giants Stadium.
The Tigers gave up 158 uncontested marks and were also beaten in the clearances and tackle count.
But Leppitsch defended gun midfielder Dustin Martin, who is yet to lay a tackle in two games.
“His ball-winning ability and what he does around the contest can’t be underestimated – it’s such a big thing for us,” Leppitsch said.
“There’s other guys in our team who are there to tackle that haven’t been doing it so collectively as a group we need to lift, it’s not just one person.”
Leppitsch said the injury crisis, as well as Dylan Grimes’s suspension, was the biggest challenge he’d faced since returning to Richmond as an assistant coach in 2016.
“We haven’t had an injury for two years so this is what challenges coaches and our imagination and and tactical brains to put something together.
“But if we still come out and play to our strenghth – our defensive part of our game – we will be OK.”
© AAP 2019