New Tigers ready to roar in AFL opener against Blues
Impatient Richmond coach Damien Hardwick expects boom recruits Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto to fire straight away in the AFL season-opening blockbuster against Carlton.
The former GWS midfielders will be the only new faces for the Tigers at the MCG on Thursday night, with Hardwick ruling out a Tylar Young debut despite the absence of regular defenders Robbie Tarrant (hip) and Josh Gibcus (hamstring).
Flag stars Dion Prestia (pectoral), Jayden Short (calf), Jack Graham (toe) and Marlion Pickett (adductor) have all overcome injuries to book their spots alongside Hopper and Taranto, who have developed chemistry within a new-look Richmond midfield brigade over summer.
The high-profile additions are crucial in Hardwick's attempt to transform his side's stoppage and contest game, with another flag firmly in the triple-premiership coach's sights.
"We don't do patient, we just expect to play our best footy straight away," Hardwick said.
"As coaches, we're no different.
"We go in with the very best intentions of winning this game and we understand if we play a certain style, we're going to give ourselves a better chance than not."
The presence of Hopper and Taranto will reduce the Tigers' reliance on veteran midfielder Trent Cotchin and allow match-winner Dustin Martin to spend more time in attack.
The 31-year-old superstar was limited to just nine games last year but has had a strong preparation, laying the platform for a big start to the new campaign.
"We're just pumped that he's back and we look forward to (him) having his best season," Hardwick said.
"He's the sort of guy you come to watch play, so that's really exciting for us and the AFL community."
Carlton coach Michael Voss was guarded when quizzed on Wednesday about his plans to curtail Martin's influence, deflecting to emphasise the Blues' need to get the game on their terms at the contest.
They will have to do that without gun midfielder Sam Walsh, who is still recovering from back surgery, but have been buoyed by versatile tall Mitch McGovern (back) and small forward Jack Martin (calf) overcoming injury concerns.
Tom De Koning was selected as the Blues' first-choice ruckman to take on Toby Nankervis, with Marc Pittonet named among the emergencies.
Teen draft picks Ollie Hollands and Lachie Cowan will debut for Carlton, while Jack Silvagni will create history in his 100th game.
He joins father Stephen and grandfather Sergio in reaching the milestone - making the Silvagnis the first family to do so across three generations.
Carlton missed out on a top-eight spot by the barest of margins last year but have been widely tipped to break their finals drought in Voss' second season at the helm.
"We understand the narrative around that but what we've been really focused on is just trying to get better," Voss said.
"That's been our expectation from day one, since we started pre-season, and sometimes your mind can drift to the end but it doesn't help you.
"We're really going to make sure we're enjoying the journey and enjoying what's in front of us."
Richmond have won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the traditional rivals, with the Blues enjoying a rare breakthrough in the corresponding round-one fixture last season.
A crowd of about 90,000 is anticipated at the MCG.
"We've got a massive game and we just want to get that right," Voss said.
"We get tested against some pretty good opposition on a fantastic stage, so that's something we should just go after.
"We want to bring a really contested style of game and we want to bring that consistently."