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Nathan Schmook  March 10, 2016 11:32 PM

Tigers asked for game to be cut short Richmond coach Damien Hardwick addresses the media after his side's loss
My priority is to get a fit and fired-up Richmond side for round one, not to win a practice match

RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has defended his club's decision to field 15 players for periods of Thursday's NAB Challenge loss to Port Adelaide, saying his eyes were firmly on round one and protecting the health of his players.  

Click here for full match coverage and statistics

The Tigers' injury problems became so severe against the Power that Hardwick requested the game be cut short in the final 10 minutes.

Gun mid leads Richmond's walking wounded

The plea was denied by the AFL, with football operations manager Mark Evans then stepping in to make sure the Tigers fielded as many players as they could until the end of the match.  

Hardwick said he had pulled star players Alex Rance, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin off the ground to make sure they got their rotations after being stretched through the fourth quarter. 

WATCH: Highlights from Richmond v Port Adelaide

"It seems like a big deal, but our main priority is the health and safety of our players for round one, not to win a NAB three game," Hardwick said. 

"Some of our players hadn't had a rotation for a quarter, and we had another player who was cramping.

"So we just thought 'let's get them off and have their rotation and send them back on if they're OK'.

"My priority is to get a fit and fired-up Richmond side for round one, not to win a practice match."

The Tigers were left nursing injuries on Thursday night to Shane Edwards (collarbone), Reece Conca (hamstring), Shaun Grigg (hand) and Jacob Townsend (concussion).

They also put vice-captain Brett Deledio in cotton wool after playing 50 minutes in his first pre-season game, while ruckman Shaun Hampson cramped late in his return from an ankle injury.

Hardwick said more players on the bench could have been a solution on Thursday night, but admitted the situation was rare. 

"We have got a limited rotation of 90, so does it make a difference having 10 on the bench," he said.  

"I'm not quite sure why we're limited in numbers.

"It would have been nice for the sake of the game if we could have grabbed three blokes (to put on)."