Brandon Ellis could return for Richmond’s AFL preliminary final after missing the win over Hawthorn.Brandon Ellis could return for Richmond’s AFL preliminary final, with coach Damien Hardwick saying it was a tough call to drop the defender.
Hardwick also was confident after Thursday night’s qualifying final win over Hawthorn that star backman Alex Rance would recover in time from his foot injury.
Rance played out the match, but was limping heavily post-match and had ice on his left foot.
Ellis was Richmond’s only omission for the opening match of the finals series, making way as Kane Lambert returned from ankle surgery.
The premiership defender has played 18 games this year and was also dropped earlier in the season.
“His form was pretty good, it’s just we probably didn’t need his skill set (against Hawthorn) and we went a different way,” Hardwick said after the 31-point win.
“He’s such a valuable player for us, so it was really tough leaving him out.
“Obviously, it was upsetting for him and it was upsetting for me.
“I love the kid and the way he plays … just because he wasn’t in the side this week, doesn’t mean he’ll miss out (for the preliminary final).
Rance sent a major scare through Richmond when he limped to the three-quarter time huddle.
“He finished the game, so my assumption is he’s fine,” Hardwick said.
“He’s a really important player to us, so obviously having the week off is beneficial for that and beneficial for a lot of our players.”
The Tigers now have the weekend off before returning to training on Monday and can sit back to see how the rest of the opening finals unfold.
Their preliminary final opponent in a fortnight’s time will come from the Collingwood-West Coast and Sydney-GWS clashes.
Whoever takes on the Tigers for a grand final berth will be trying to end their 22-game MCG winning streak.
Richmond had not been at their best in the month before the finals, but they were outstanding as they held off Hawthorn’s fierce challenge.
“It felt like a Richmond game … it certainly looked like a Richmond game,” Hardwick said.
“It’s funny, you win 18 games, but I was probably looking for what you guys were looking for – thinking, is it there?
“The thing we’ve probably found this year is we can respond when we need to.
“They all stand up and respond.”