RICHMOND star Alex Rance says teammate Jayden Short is ready to step into the backline on Thursday night and perform if he gets the nod as premiership defender Nathan Broad’s replacement.
The Tigers could make two changes to their Grand Final back six for the season opener against Carlton at the MCG, with Broad serving a club-imposed suspension and Bachar Houli (calf) facing a fitness test.
Houli completed the warm up with the main group at training on Tuesday at Punt Road Oval before the session was closed to media and looks a strong chance to take his place against the Blues.
That would leave the match committee to make one change to their premiership defence, with Short putting his hand up with an excellent JLT Community Series, winning 25 possessions and a team-high six rebound 50s against North Melbourne.
“Without putting too much pressure on ‘Shorty’, I’ve loved his pre-season,” Rance said on Tuesday.
“I think he’s shown, especially in the North Melbourne game, that he breaks lines (and) is really clean by foot on both feet.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what is going to happen in the back six just yet because we’ve still got a couple of guys going through fitness tests.
“I know he’s ready to play if he does get called upon, but there’s a couple of other guys in the mix for those spots too.”
Richmond could also opt for half-back Reece Conca when it names its team on Wednesday night, with coach Damien Hardwick pleased with the 25-year-old’s performances in both JLT Community Series games.
Premiership midfielder Dion Prestia is unlikely to be named on Wednesday night after missing both pre-season games with a hamstring injury.
Prestia, who warmed up with the main group and completed kicking drills on Tuesday, could be replaced by inside midfielder Anthony Miles, while Corey Ellis and Sam Lloyd have played in the midfield this pre-season.
Rance said the competition for spots from players who missed out on last year’s premiership was driving the standards and hunger at Punt Road Oval this pre-season.
He forecast more of the high-pressure, defence-first game style that drove the premiers last year.
“Football is a game of mistakes, so we haven’t changed anything from last year,” the All Australian captain said.
“It’s just a matter of doing more of what we want more often.
“It’s going to be a lot of the same from last year unfortunately … no big razzle moves, so I hope it doesn’t bore too many people.”