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No injury worries over Riewoldt, insists Richardson

March 26, 2016 11:44 AM

AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - Melbourne v St Kilda

Nick Riewoldt will be fit to face Port Adelaide, his coach says

NICK Riewoldt has done "everything in his power" to shrug-off an injury cloud and will be fit to lead St Kilda for the 200th time against Port Adelaide, Saints coach Alan Richardson says.

Riewoldt, who has a history of calf issues, suffered tightness in his lower leg in the final quarter of his only NAB Challenge hit-out against Melbourne two weeks ago.

But the inspirational skipper, known for his fastidious injury prevention and rehabilitation regimes, flew out to Adelaide with the Saints and appears certain to become just the fifth man to lead a VFL/AFL club into battle in 200 games at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.

"Straight after the game (against Melbourne) – as with everyone – he was in rehab. He probably had a little bit more treatment just to make sure he was free of body, particularly with his lower leg or his calf," Richardson said at Melbourne Airport.

"But he's trained strongly, he would've done everything in his power to make sure he's right. Not just for this game, it's not just about this game, it's about this season and he's really confident, so he'll play."

Despite the absence of emerging forward Paddy McCartin, who is on the comeback from a hamstring strain, Richardson hinted Riewoldt would still split his time between his new role on a wing and in attack.

Sam Gilbert and young 190cm prospect Blake Acres have been earmarked to give a contest alongside spearhead Josh Bruce in attack as the Saints look ahead to a future without Riewoldt as their primary target.

And although the skipper has had a limited match preparation, Richardson held no fears about the toll a midfield workload could take on the 33-year-old's body.

"That's not an issue really," he said. "The only difference is starting position."

"He's a lot closer to the ball obviously, he's in position to impact and strike at the footy and win the ball or tackle, as opposed to just being in a position to mark when he's a forward.

"The loads are pretty similar really."

After two hammerings from the Power at Adelaide Oval in recent seasons by a combined 133 points, Richardson was under no illusions about the huge task ahead of his side against a Port outfit desperate to make up for a below-par 2015.

The Power will also unveil big-name recruit Charlie Dixon in round one in a potent forward line featuring Chad Wingard, Robbie Gray, Jay Schulz and Justin Westhoff.

"(Dixon's) been a good player up at Gold Coast. He comes into their team – it's a pretty strong forward group … our backs are going to have their hands full," Richardson said.

"We know that it's going to come from pressure in the midfield, if we don’t get pressure on and they get quality ball-use it's going to be a challenge for our backs.

"So that's our focus."

The Saints will also blood a new player, last year's first-round draft pick Jade Gresham, in what will be stalwart Leigh Montagna's 250th appearance for the club.