Tigers lose Houli for AFL season opener

Jason Phelan and Shayne Hope
Bachar Houli will miss Richmond's season-opening AFL clash with Carlton due to a calf injury

Richmond's near-flawless run into the AFL season has hit a snag, with defender Bachar Houli ruled out of Thursday night's clash with Carlton.

The dual-premiership star suffered a calf injury at a training session on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old will have scans to determine how long he will be sidelined.

Houli played 22 games last season, the rebounding half-back earning All-Australian honours for the first time as the Tigers snared their second premiership flag in three years.

The injury is a rare setback for Richmond, who have enjoyed a relatively casualty-free preparation.

Jack Graham (shoulder), Toby Nankervis (adductor) and Kamdyn McIntosh (ankle) were all due to push their claims for a round one berth in a VFL practice match against Coburg last Friday.

But that game was cancelled as the clubs grappled with the evolving implications of the coronavirus crisis.

Kane Lambert was concussed in the second pre-season match against GWS but will have had nearly a fortnight to recover by the time round one kicks off.

Jack Higgins was ruled out from round 18 last season after a shock brain bleed diagnosis but he made his competitive return against Collingwood in the club's first pre-season hit out.

Key forward Tom Lynch said the Tigers were raring to go for the opening match of their premiership defence despite uncertainty surrounding the season amid the coronavirus crisis.

"We've got a really fit list and we've had a great pre-season, so we're really looking forward to it," Lynch said.

"We've trained all summer and we want to play footy ... we feel like we're in a really good spot."

Lynch played every game and kicked 63 goals in his first season at Punt Road, playing a key role in Richmond's premiership team despite battling a knee injury over the preceding summer.

The former Gold Coast co-captain said an uninterrupted pre-season this time around had him primed to take his game up a level.

"I haven't missed many sessions and I've been able to build that chemistry with Jack (Riewoldt) and the other guys in the forward line," Lynch said.

"It's been nice to really embed myself in the game plan and think about the team rather than last year where I had to worry about myself a little bit more.

"(A strong preparation) doesn't guarantee anything but it gives you a better chance to perform."