GALLERY: Tigers feed at the Reid

WEST Coast has Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui, but don’t discount the influence Ivan Maric and Shaun Hampson can have at Richmond.

That’s the opinion of ruck/forward coach Brendan Lade, who yesterday mentioned the Tigers’ pair in the same breath as the West Coast guns.

“If we can get those two playing well, we’ll start getting a partnership like Nick Naitanui and Dean Cox,” he said.

The verdict isn’t as out there as it sounds. The thought of Richmond having some of the best big-man stocks in the AFL seemed ludicrous less than a decade ago.

But the arrival and emergence of Maric at Tigerland, coupled with the recruiting of Hampson from Carlton, has given coach Damien Hardwick two ruckmen to build a side around.

They join gun forward Jack Riewoldt and sidekick Ty Vickery, defenders Alex Rance and Troy Chaplin and a host of emerging key-position prospects on the list.

“I think our tall man stocks are pretty good at the moment. In the last 10 years they are the best they’ve been at Richmond,” Lade said.

The Tigers were late yesterday en route back to Melbourne after spending two days in Warrnambool as part of their AFL community camp.

Their day-two itinerary included an open training session at Reid Oval yesterday morning, watched by about 150 appreciative fans.

The Tigers also visited retirement homes and hospitals, ran an autograph session and took part in an indigenous community engagement session.

The Tigers’ effort to reach the elimination final last year after 11 seasons in the September wilderness won recognition throughout the AFL.

But the defeat to Carlton in that match, after leading by 33 points, also represented a missed opportunity.

“Our goal at the start of the year was to make finals and we made them,” Lade said.

“It was obviously disappointing to lose the final, but we learnt a lot out of that game and all the games we won and lost during the year. 

“We realised we have to play footy for four quarters.

“When we have momentum with us, we need to make the most of it and kick goals.”

Lade said Richmond had the capacity to improve, but needed its mid-tier players to step up.

“We’re hoping our improvement will come from our third, fourth and fifth-year players. I’m not going to single anyone out but that’s where we can improve,” he said.

Lade was also confident Colac-raised rover Nathan Foley could be a regular fixture in the side this season.

Foley, injury-plagued for much of his career, played 16 matches last season before being dropped for the elimination final.

“It was obviously disappointing for the individual. Nathan was disappointed at the time, but he was at the game and was very encouraging for the boys,” Lade said.

“He was trying to get us up for the win, which is exactly what you want when someone isn’t playing. 

“It would’ve been very easy to sook about it and go away. But he’s come out this season and trained the house down.”

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