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Star Tiger 'touch and go' for opening round

Daniel Rioli gets a piggyback from captain Trent Cotchin after the Grand Final - AFL,Richmond Tigers,Daniel Rioli,Injuries,Jack Higgins
Daniel Rioli gets a piggyback from captain Trent Cotchin after the Grand Final

RICHMOND star Daniel Rioli is in doubt for round one as he recovers from a broken ankle sustained in the Tigers' Grand Final victory over Adelaide.

The 20-year-old will only start running next week after undergoing surgery in October to repair his left ankle.

Richmond assistant coach Justin Leppitsch told RSN radio on Thursday Rioli is racing the clock to face arch rival Carlton in an opening round blockbuster at the MCG on March 22.

"He'll be touch and go for round one. There's no doubt it will be close but we're hoping he'll be OK," Leppitsch said.

"He's going OK and about to run next week."

Rioli is an integral part of Richmond's dangerous small forward line, with the Northern Territory product's 25 goals last season supplemented by fierce tackling pressure and an ability to make something out of nothing.

Draftee Jack Higgins looms as a possible replacement for Rioli if he doesn't come up for round one, with the small forward impressing during the pre-season.

The most physically developed of the latest batch of Tiger cubs, the 17th pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft and the 2017 Morrish Medallist has stated his desire to play senior footy sooner than later.

"Jack was touted as a really high pick and is a high-energy player and real busy bee," Leppitsch said.

"It's always tough getting into a premiership team – it's easier to get a game when you're in the bottom half of the ladder.

"But (all our draftees have) shown really good signs."

Second-round selections Callum Coleman-Jones and Noah Balta are further behind in their preparation, with the versatile talls' programs limited as they're eased into full training.

Father-son recruit Patrick Naish is likely to be given plenty of time to develop his slight frame before he is considered for senior selection.

Richmond's JLT Community Series campaign kicks off with a clash against Essendon in Wangaratta on February 24 before a hit-out against North Melbourne at Ikon Park on March 7.