RICHMOND'S round one preparations have been thrown into a tailspin after four key players suffered injuries in Thursday night's 48-point NAB Challenge loss to Port Adelaide.
On a night that the Power unveiled goalkicking recruit Charlie Dixon and built momentum with a 0.13.15 (93) to 1.4.12 (45) win, the Tigers were left licking their wounds at Etihad Stadium as Shane Edwards, Shaun Grigg, Reece Conca and Jacob Townsend were all cut down.
The Tigers took the extraordinary step of fielding just 15 players for periods of the final quarter, with stars Alex Rance, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin taking breaks but not being replaced on the ground.
Coach Damien Hardwick revealed post-match he had asked for the game to be cut short in the last 10 minutes. That was denied by the AFL, which then requested the Tigers field a full team for the remainder of the game.
One of the Tigers' most important players, Edwards suffered an apparent collarbone injury at the end of the first quarter and was sent for scans with his left arm in a sling.
The night got worse from there for Hardwick's men, with Grigg suffering a hand injury and midfield recruit Jacob Townsend leaving the ground on a stretcher after leading with his head to tackle Hamish Hartlett.
Perhaps most disappointing for the Tigers, Conca suffered his fourth hamstring injury in the past 12 months, with his body letting him down at the end of a strong pre-season.
"It was a perfect storm … we had injuries early and they just seemed to continue through the night," Hardwick said post-match.
"Every time we looked up another player was half limping or coming off. It was a tough day for us."
Despite being down to two rotations on the bench, the Tigers refused to risk vice-captain Brett Deledio in the final term, ensuring he got through his first pre-season game unscathed.
After a sloppy start, Port put its foot down once the Tigers' injuries mounted, notching its first win of the NAB Challenge.
"The win was obviously good for us, but we came here trying to play a style of football that we’ve practiced all summer and we had more opportunities tonight to see that for longer parts of the game," coach Ken Hinkley said.
Souring a good night for Hinkley's men, Hartlett will face scrutiny from the Match Review Panel after appearing to headbutt Townsend.
Dixon was not unveiled until the third quarter but he made an impact immediately, throwing his weight around in the forward line and impressing with his repeat efforts and ground level work, kicking one goal.
Star forward Chad Wingard was also tuning up for round one with his first pre-season match, and the All Australian showed glimpses of his best with classy movement in attack and two goals.
Gun midfielder Ollie Wines was a standout with 26 possessions and seven clearances, while Sam Gray continued his impressive pre-season with 28 and eight.
For Richmond, half-back Bachar Houli was solid under pressure and kicked well with his 27 possessions, while David Astbury underlined his re-emergence with 17 and eight marks.
Young midfielder Connor Menadue was already shaping as a likely starter in round one, but the Tigers' injuries and his own form should ensure it.
The lightly-built 19-year-old impressed with his 13 touches and commitment, topping off a pre-season that has impressed his coaches at Punt Road Oval.
With Ivan Maric missing, the Tigers brought Shaun Hampson in for his first NAB Challenge game, while Sudanese rookie Mabior Chol made a low-key start to his career with five disposals.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Richmond: Richmond will miss Shane Edwards if he is to miss a lengthy period with his collarbone injury. Edwards adds an important dose of speed and class to Richmond's mix, and he has become an underrated and valuable contributor in recent seasons. In five of his last six years, Edwards has played 20 or more games. A leg injury last year restricted Edwards to 16 games, and he would have been hoping for a more productive season in 2016. Tigers coach Damien Hardwick will have his fingers crossed the damage to Edwards' collarbone isn't too significant.
Port Adelaide: Ollie Wines might become Port Adelaide's best midfielder this season. It's a big call, because captain Travis Boak is a long-time proven performer, Brad Ebert just keeps running, and when Robbie Gray and Hamish Hartlett play as full-time midfielders they have a huge impact. But Wines looks in great physical shape and has a presence around every stoppage. He led the way on Thursday night with 26 disposals and seven clearances, and looks set to bounce back after some frustrating injuries last season.
Richmond: Jacob Townsend's ability to niggle, nag and annoy opponents surfaced again against the Power, and the former GWS midfielder should add a combative streak to Richmond's on-ball unit this year. Unfortunately for Townsend, his night ended prematurely after being concussed in an attempted tackle in the third quarter. Against his former team, Andrew Moore was solid for the Tigers, gathering 17 disposals, while first-year speedster Daniel Rioli showed some spark, speed and class early in the third term to set up a goal for Ty Vickery.
Port Adelaide: Port fans had to wait until the third quarter to see boom recruit Charlie Dixon introduced into the game, as the club continues to closely manage his pre-season load ahead of round one. The ex-Gold Coast forward took a strong mark within two minutes of coming on the field, which set up a goal for teammate Jay Schulz. Former Melbourne midfielder Jimmy Toumpas moved through the wing and was polished at stages but didn't have much of it, finishing with 11 touches at 90 per cent efficiency.
Both clubs now have a two-week break before round one of the home and away season. The Tigers will kick things off with their annual opening-night clash against Carlton at the MCG on Thursday, March 24. Port Adelaide has a little longer to prepare for its first clash, when it takes on St Kilda at Adelaide Oval on Sunday, March 27.
Port Adelaide: Nil
Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Vickery 2
Port Adelaide: R.Gray 2, Schulz 2, Wingard 2, Ah Chee, Broadbent, Dixon, S.Gray, Neade, Westhoff, White
Richmond: Houli, Riewoldt, Moore, Menadue, Astbury
Port Adelaide: Wines, S.Gray, Hartlett, Ah Chee, R.Gray, Boak
Richmond: Edwards (shoulder), Grigg (thumb), Conca (hamstring), Townsend (concussion)
Port Adelaide: Nil
Umpires: Deboy, Nicholls, Kamolins
Official crowd: 6584 at Etihad Stadium