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Hardwick backs Hampson to shoulder the load

Yaz hits back, Suns ready, Reid a chance Nat Edwards presents your Tuesday Footy Feed
AFL 2016 Training - Richmond 150116
Shaun Hampson will handle ruck duties for Richmond in the season opener on Thursday night
He'll definitely play. He had a pretty good game versus Port Adelaide
Damien Hardwick on Shaun Hampson

RICHMOND has backed former Blue Shaun Hampson to shoulder its ruck division in Thursday night's clash against Carlton with No.1 big man Ivan Maric all but ruled out of the contest. 

Hampson, who crossed to Richmond in 2013 after 63 games with Carlton, is set to lead the club's midfield with Maric likely to miss the game with a back complaint.

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said the 28-year-old was ready for the responsibility in the ruck after showing solid form in the club's last NAB Challenge game against Port Adelaide. 

"We're really excited to see what he has to offer. He has elite numbers from a hit-out perspective," Hardwick said of Hampson on Tuesday.

"We sort of haven't had that. We're looking forward to what he can give us. He's going to give us first use of the ball we feel for the majority of the night. We're going to ride Shaun and see how he goes. 

"He'll definitely play. He had a pretty good game versus Port Adelaide, it was his first hit-out, so we're looking forward to him getting out there." 

After playing 22 games last season, Maric looks likely to start 2016 on the sidelines as he nurses a back injury. 

"He's probably doubtful at this stage. We'll see how he goes today. I'm not even quite sure if he'll train today, he might do a little bit tomorrow. At this stage he's probably doubtful," Hardwick said ahead of training on Tuesday morning.

The Tigers have a number of injury concerns in the lead-up to the season-opening game, with Brett Deledio (quad), Reece Conca (hamstring) and recruit Chris Yarran (foot) already ruled out of the contest. 

Yarran was at the club's Punt Road headquarters on Tuesday before hobbling to a waiting car on crutches following foot surgery on Monday. 

Hardwick said the setback, which will see the former Blue unavailable for senior selection for about two months, might be a "blessing in disguise".

"He's been not able to train at AFL intensity with the plantar fascia [injury], so we're probably pleased that he has had the operation done. Now he can move on," Hardwick said. 

"He's a long-term prospect for us. We're pleased he can get the operation done and he'll be able to help us in the back end of the year. We're excited by what he's going to bring."

Hardwick said first-round draft pick Daniel Rioli was a chance to debut against the Blues after encouraging form in the pre-season series, with the 18-year-old one of several players who could benefit from the Tigers' injury issues. 

"Obviously we've got a couple of injuries but the great thing about our footy club at the moment is we've got significant depth. We're pleased to give some of those guys an opportunity," the coach said.

"There's certainly some players who we'd like to have available but the reality is they can't help us this week so we move on pretty quickly."