AAP AFL

Hardwick rallies the Tiger Army for Eagles

By AAP Newswire

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has summoned the Tiger Army to help his AFL side get over the line against West Coast on Sunday.

The 2017 flag winners host last year's premiers at the MCG in a blockbuster showdown and possible grand final preview.

While Dustin Martin is back after a week off, the Tigers will be missing two key planks of their midfield; captain Trent Cotchin and first-choice ruckman Toby Nankervis.

Richmond medicos are taking a conservative approach with Cotchin's hamstring as September nears, while ruckman Nankervis withdrew late on Friday with the club citing soreness.

Nankervis had only returned to the senior team the previous week after sustaining an adductor injury back in round eight.

In the pair's absence, Hardwick has called on the league's strongest membership to help fill the MCG and help the Tigers secure a top-four place.

"I've been at a lot of footy clubs around my time and I've never quite seen the electric atmosphere that the Richmond fanbase can bring," he said.

"60,000 plus would be very, very nice to get a cauldron-like effect so we can give them a Richmond-like welcome."

A bumper crowd has certainly boosted the Tigers before.

The defining characteristic of Richmond's run to the 2017 premiership was enormous finals crowds at the MCG, unrivalled in the AFL era.

Then there's the small matter of umpires favouring home crowds.

Champion Data figures show no side has been awarded more free kicks in the last 20 years than the Eagles, benefiting from parochial crowds in Perth.

"They get a lot of free kicks? We don't get many," Hardwick cheekily said.

Hardwick wasn't as playful when discussing the threat the Eagles pose across all lines of the ground.

"Their forward line is incredibly difficult (to match up on) because they've got such quality talls and they've also got quality smalls along the line," he said.

"They've got an outstanding midfield mix as well. Then you go to the back line and they're very good as well.

"They're just a very well-rounded, well-drilled, well-coached side. I've got enormous respect for them," he said.

The mouth-watering fixture between the two most recent premiers is also a meeting of two of the form teams of the competition.

Richmond come into the match on a seven-game winning streak.

The Eagles have won seven of their last eight; their sole blip a one-point loss to Collingwood.

Hardwick's side sit four points below West Coast and must win the match to harbour realistic hopes of a top-two finish.

Given finals football is just three weeks away, what the coach wants most of all is a good September tune-up.

"When they play their best they're one of the best sides in the competition," Hardwick said.

"In saying that so are we.

"What we're hoping for is two really good sides going at it in the weekend and both bringing their best."