Tigers, Pies in old-school AFL blockbuster

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Richmond's AFL clash with Collingwood has all the ingredients of an old-school blockbuster.

Two fierce rivals: tick. A Saturday afternoon first bounce at the MCG: tick. Plenty at stake: tick. One of the game's biggest names making his AFL return: tick.

Damien Hardwick's Tigers sit 3-4 while his former assistant Craig McRae has Collingwood sitting 4-3 ahead of the game, which also marks Richmond dynamo Dustin Martin's return.

"They're all big, obviously. I think the games become more challenging and more even as the season goes on," Hardwick said.

"But it is a game where we're probably evenly placed, these sides.

"So I know people will call it like an eight-point game, as such.

"But to get back to level pegging's really, really important.

"We think if we get our process right and we execute roles, we're going to be OK, but we're coming up against a really well-coached, well-drilled side that is improving every week.

"So the challenges are going to be there. They have a great blend of experience and youth so they're going to be a challenge to beat."

Hardwick believed there was plenty to come from Richmond, who also welcome back Trent Cotchin but are without Nick Vlastuin and Dion Prestia through illness.

"Where we are now is probably where we are. We feel we can play a hell of a lot better.

"Some sides out there are going really, really well. We're probably below that at the moment. So we've got some work to do."

It's not the only clash of rivals on Saturday, either.

At night, a battling Essendon will take on a resurgent Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium.

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell - who courted controversy in a 2015 game when he mocked Essendon players by pretending to inject himself in a reference to the Bombers' infamous drugs saga - said the rivalry is unavoidable.

"I feel like it's just embedded," Mitchell said.

"There's even a couple of board members we've got that are like, 'If you win any game this year, it's got to be this one'.

"For us in a process-driven football department and as a coach you're not really thinking about things like that.

"But certainly you recognise that games against arch-rivals historically are key games for key stakeholders such as members.

"We'll have thousands and thousands of people who are desperate to win this game over others.

"Every game for us is four points but you can't take it for granted, (rivalries) are great parts of sport."

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