Richmond coach Damien Hardwick can’t hide his anticipation for Saturday’s marquee AFL match-up with Geelong.
With Cats skipper Joel Selwood ruled out of the contest, the Tigers coach admits he’ll “be sleeping a little easier” this week.
Richmond will head down the Princes Highway next weekend full of confidence after their 29-point dismissal of Hawthorn, their fourth-straight success.
The venue is not a happy hunting ground for the Tigers, with just one win in Geelong since 1990.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the fixture for Hardwick’s side.
Win and they’ll have all but locked up a double chance in September.
It could even allow the Tigers to stake a claim for a second-place finish, and the possibility of an all-MCG pathway to the grand final.
A loss and Richmond will sit fourth, looking at an away final to rampant minor premiers in-waiting Adelaide.
The stakes are high and Hardwick says he won’t be downplaying them in an attempt to deflect pressure.
“We embrace it. We’re enjoying the challenge at the moment and enjoying the struggle of the AFL season,” he said.
“It’s been an incredible season so far.
“It’s going to be big game down the highway but we don’t hide from any opponent.”
While admitting it would make his job of preparing for the game easier, Hardwick said he was disappointed that Selwood wouldn’t be out there.
The Geelong hard man suffered an ankle injury in Friday night’s loss to Sydney that won’t allow him to play again until the finals.
But Richmond could be without one of their key planks, with Jack Riewoldt no guarantee to return.
Riewoldt cut his cornea at training and visited three specialists in the hope of playing against Hawthorn without success.
“He was pretty close this week,” Hardwick said.
“If he doesn’t get the tick off I’m sure he’ll go searching for four or five other eye specialists.
“I think he’s ticked off half of them in Victoria.
“We’re pretty confident he’ll be right to play.”
Hardwick said the nature of his side’s win, without key forward Jack Riewoldt, showed the Cats would still be formidable.
“We lost a good player in Jack for two weeks. Sides can play when they haven’t got their best player playing,” he said.
Hardwick hailed the influence of recruits Josh Caddy (28 disposals, four goals) and Dion Prestia (31 disposals, one goal), who he said played their “best games for us in a big game”.