Damien Hardwick hits back over ugly claims surrounding Trent Cotchin

The Tigers coach has backed the former skipper to have a major impact in a new role for the club this AFL season.

Damien Hardwick and Trent Cotchin.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick is confident in Trent Cotchin's ability to play in the forward line. Pictures: Getty Images

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has vigorously defended former skipper Trent Cotchin over scepticism about his move to the Tigers' forward line this season. Observers have put a question mark over the 287-game AFL veteran's ability to impact the game beyond his prowess on the ball.

After barely sneaking into the top eight last season, the Tigers will boast a new look side in 2023. Key additions to their midfield group have necessitated Cotchin's move to the forward line, which Hardwick says the club experimented with late last season to some success.

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Cotchin, who handed over the captaincy to Dylan Grimes and Toby Nankervis last year, has been branded as potentially too slow to compete - an assessment that was trashed by Hardwick when asked abut it. He said the AFL's great players were far too easily written off completely in their veteran years.

Whether or not Cotchin can hit the scoreboard frequently enough looms as a key question for the Tigers, but Hardwick believes the former skipper has the nous to impact the contest up forward the same way he had through the middle of the ground for years. He dismissed the talk of Cotchin's demise as an 'easy story to write'.

"He's a great contested-ball player but he's got incredible craft up forward, funnily enough," Hardwick told Fox Footy. "He played this role for about the last six or seven weeks last year and he did that very well if you go back and have a look at the tape.

"He set up a lot of goals, he kicked a couple of goals as well, so we're really confident in what he can do. We also know that when push comes to shove we're going to need him at the coalface. He's a quality player and people always quickly jump on the champs."

Cotchin is free to play in Thursday night's season opener against Carlton after accepting a fine for a pre-season incident involving Melbourne's James Harmes. Set to line up across half-forward, the 32-year-old's move made way for off-season recruits from the GWS Giants, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, to assume some of his old responsibilities on the ball.

Carlton wary of Trent Cotchin's potential up foward

Carlton coach Michael Voss, himself familiar with the pressures placed on a multi-premiership winning club captain, said it would be foolish to underestimate Cotchin. "He might be a slightly different version (of himself) but he'll still be a pretty good version," Voss told Fox Footy.

The Blues are set to debut two of their selections from last year's AFL draft, Ollie Hollands and Lachie Cowan, against the Tigers on Thursday night. Voss has been buoyed by what he has seen from Hollands and Cowan in pre-season practice matches against Collingwood and Sydney.

"When you start playing against AFL opposition you start measuring them like for like and we've played against two quality opponents," Voss said. "They're playing against some top-quality opposition, so you get to measure them against that and they've done pretty well."

Trent Cotchin and teammate Dustin Martin battle for the ball during a Richmond training session.
Trent Cotchin will spend more time up forward after the Tigers made several key additions to their midfield in the off-season. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Hollands was the Blues' first selection at last year's draft, having starred on a wing for the Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country. He is the younger brother of Gold Coast midfielder Elijah Hollands.

Tasmania product Cowan, a tough half-back who runs well, will be asked to step up as a replacement for Zac Williams, who will miss the entire season with a knee injury sustained last month.

"(Cowan) is really calm, really collected, nothing seems to faze him too much," Voss said. "He'll handle it really well."

With AAP

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