Tigers to target Ballantyne
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick accepts there is nothing that can stop the AFL’s best ruckman Aaron Sandilands.
And there is little that can stop Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich in the midfield.
So Hardwick is going all out to stop polarising goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne in the Tigers’ important clash with the Dockers at the MCG on Saturday.
The Richmond coach admits he loves Ballantyne – whom opposition players and fans would rate as among the competition’s most unloveable opponents – and how he goes about his business.
He admires the niggle, the passion and most importantly the 23-year-old’s ability to be involved in Fremantle’s scoring plays as both goalkicker and supplier.
So much so that Hardwick would love Ballantyne at Richmond.
“He’s one we’d love to have here no doubt about that,” Hardwick said.
“He’s a quality player, he’s a niggler, he does everything I love.
“People underestimate how good he is. His score involvements are outstanding.
“We’ll put a player on him that hopefully will negate that and get the best result for us.”
One player Hardwick ruled out of that job is Richmond’s own niggle merchant Jake King, who will maintain the small forward role he is currently revelling in.
Hardwick believes the Tigers’ performance against flag contenders Fremantle will show just how far his side have come, and still need to go.
Fremantle have lost just once in five matches this season, but the Tigers have also put together two wins in a row.
Coming off the bye last week, the Dockers are nestled in the top four.
“It’s a big challenge and they’re a great side, Fremantle, but we play reasonably well against them too,” Hardwick said.
“It’s another chance for us to test ourselves against a top four side … and we were probably disappointing against (other top four sides) Collingwood and Hawthorn.
“It’s another opportunity for our guys to test themselves against good players.”
The Tigers have made just one change to the line-up which beat Brisbane last weekend.
Midfielder Shane Tuck is out with soreness, with Daniel Jackson returning after suspension.
Reliable defender Greg Broughton returns from a back injury for the Dockers along with fellow backman Clancee Pearce.
Tagger Ryan Crowley and Jesse Crichton have been axed.