Tigers coach’s huge call after thrashing

Three-time premiership coach Damien Hardwick gave the fast-finishing Cats the biggest compliment imaginable after his side’s loss.

Damien Hardwick knows a thing or two about building an elite football team and the Richmond coach seems to believe the current Geelong Cats outfit has what it takes to go deep into the finals series this year.

Hardwick was full of praise for Geelong after the sides’ clash on Friday, labelling them “probably the best team” the Tigers have faced so far this year.

It’s high praise considering Richmond has already played Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and Sydney in 2021.

“Geelong are a very, very good side. We can see the way they go about their game, they’ve added talent from last year, you add (Shaun) Higgins, you add Isaac Smith, you add Jeremy Cameron, they’re three really good players, so they’ve got better again – we’ve got to catch them,” Hardwick said post-game.

But having consistently made slow starts to the year during their current premiership run, Hardwick was confident his team would be able to turn things around like they had done before.

“We’re in the hunt, so I think this year is going to be pretty open to be fair, it’s similar (to previous years) but we’ve got to play better,” he said.

“We’ve got to hang tough, but that’s what we do … we’ve got work to do to catch the very best sides in the comp at the moment because that ain’t us.”

Richmond’s dirty night at the MCG was compounded by an injury to star midfielder Shane Edwards, who is in doubt to face Greater Western Sydney next week at Marvel Stadium.

The triple premiership player left the field during the final quarter of the Tigers’ 63-point loss to the Cats, with the assistance of medical staff, after injuring his ankle and struggling to put weight on the affected foot.

While the Tigers will hope to regain Dylan Grimes (concussion), Edwards could be added to an unavailability list that already includes captain Trent Cotchin (hamstring), Kane Lambert (calf) and Dion Prestia (calf).

Hardwick was surprised by how many errors his backline committed, especially in the third quarter, which directly led to Geelong goals, but refused to use the absence of Grimes as an excuse. Cameron (six), Gary Rohan (five) and Tom Hawkins (four) combined for 15 goals for Geelong.

“Sometimes it’s just a loss of confidence,” he said.

“When that happens you can look a bit rattled and that was the reality of the situation.”

The Richmond coach lamented his team’s inability to make tackles stick while also getting comprehensively beaten around the contest.

“I thought their (Geelong’s) ability to fight through tackles was outstanding,” Hardwick said.

“If you get belted around the contest, your pressure has to be good, our pressure wasn’t quite good enough.

“It was a tale of two halves – the first half I thought we looked really good … but they’re a really strong, experienced side, they’re a big side, if they get through that first line of defence, they step through.

“Their big key forwards are hard to play against when they’re getting such clean ball inside 50.”

Despite the result, Richmond’s Shai Bolton produced the highlight of the game as he climbed over Mark Blicavs’ shoulders in the first term to take a grab that will be hard to beat for mark of the year.

“It was pretty good, wasn’t it? Unfortunately you don’t get four points for mark of the year, disappointing as it is,” Hardwick said.

And as for Geelong springing a late change before the game by replacing Rhys Stanley with Esava Ratugolea: “I think Scotty (Geelong coach Chris Scott) is notorious, aren’t they at the Cats for a late change? Guaranteed certainty to us. If there’s one bet you’re putting on tonight it was going to be a late change.”

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