Shai Bolton celebrates a goal in Richmond's match simulation against Melbourne on February 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

RICHMOND has started its journey under new coach Adem Yze with a win, albeit in a pre-season match simulation, with the Tigers seeing off Melbourne by 23 points.

After four terms of the unofficial hit-out, the Tigers were in front 18.9 (117) to 14.10 (94) in unusually still conditions at Casey Fields.


BRAVE, BRUTAL AND BRILLIANT Oliver firms for season opener
FULL SCHEDULE Every club's pre-season games
Every club's pre-season talking points

There were then a further three periods of play largely involving VFL players, although Demons stars Clayton Oliver and Christian Salem also took part having missed the opening four terms.

Oliver was at his eye-catching best in his first serious hit-out after a turbulent off-season, kicking a brilliant goal early before requiring medical assistance after landing heavily following a brave attempt to catch a high handball. He returned to the field and played out the game.

Melbourne had the better of the VFL hit-out, winning 8.3 (51) to 3.8 (26), with the final score on the day finishing Richmond's way, 21.21 (147) to 22.13 (145).


Melbourne got off to a flyer in the four quarters to start the day, with Jack Viney seemingly not caring it was an unofficial game as he charged through the middle with gusto, while Christian Petracca appeared to do as he pleased, booting two first-quarter goals as the Dees kicked the first five of the day.

Richmond started to turn the game in its favour towards the end of the first and into the second, answering the Dees' five opening goals with 10 straight of its own.

Noah Balta (three goals) and Shai Bolton (four) formed a dangerous duo up forward with a string of individual highlights, as ruck recruit Sam Naismith – in the absence of Toby Nankervis – provided plenty in the middle against the might of Max Gawn. Recruit Jacob Koschitzke also kicked two goals in his first major hit-out for the club.

"It'll be a work in progress for a little period, with Kozi coming across from Hawthorn," Tigers assistant coach Ben Rutten said of the new-look forward line, which will be without spearhead Tom Lynch for the Opening Round clash against Gold Coast.


"We know what he can do, but we expect that he'll take a bit of time to settle in. Balta up there as well, he's played a bit of forward, but predominantly in defence last year.

"A bit of that cohesion will take a bit of time, but I thought they continued to work well and create some isolation down there as well at times, which was good to see."

When the Demons were on, they connected beautifully down the ground, pinpointing passes and generating plenty of rebound out of defence.


In the absence of many of Melbourne's first-choice forwards, Josh Schache played a key role alongside Jacob van Rooyen, with Bayley Fritsch also providing a smaller target.

Dees defenders Steven May and Jake Lever shook off some rust to have the best of the aerial battle, with the Tigers mainly coming through with the goods when the ball was on the deck.

Tigers SSP prospect Mykelti Lefau came on for the final quarter and kicked a goal as he pushes for a rookie spot on the senior list.


Both sides were missing a host of senior players. Richmond was without managed quartet Dustin Martin, Tim Taranto, Dylan Grimes and Nankervis, with Dion Prestia (hamstring), Tom Lynch (conditioning after injury), Liam Baker (personal), Jacob Bauer (hamstring) and Liam Fawcett (back) also sidelined.

Melbourne was equally skinny. Tom McDonald, Lachie Hunter, Shane McAdam (all calf injuries),  Angus Brayshaw (illness), Charlie Spargo (Achilles soreness), Harrison Petty (toe), Ben Brown (knee), Daniel Turner (femur), Taj Woewodin (concussion) and Andy Moniz-Wakefiled (thigh) all missing.

Young guns
Melbourne's Kynan Brown caught the eye from the opening bounce, playing on the wing and at half-forward and slotting a stunning goal in the opening minutes. Caleb Windsor found a bit of the footy, while Will Verrall took the ruck reins in the second half of the AFL. Thomson Dow was a very steady presence for Richmond in the middle, and Steely Green – bearing a strong resemblance to Liam Baker – was lively up forward. Kane McAuliffe came on for the final 15 minutes of the AFL game and immediately won a holding-the-ball against Petracca.


Switching positions
All eyes were on Noah Balta, who played the primary role up forward in partnership with recruit Jacob Koschitzke. Normally a key defender, Balta took a little while to work into the game with a couple of dropped marks and panicked moments, but looked superb when roosting them from 50. Melbourne played a fairly conventional 18, with no real surprises. Kozzy Pickett spent some time in the middle and was quick on the burst, but it's a role he's played before.


Injury watch
Richmond small forward Rhyan Mansell's day lasted approximately three minutes, with the 23-year-old hobbling off with a right ankle complaint and finishing the game in a moon boot. He will get scans on Monday and while the club is hopeful it is a simple rolled ankle, there's a potential for a high ankle sprain. If ruled out of the start of the season, Mansell's absence could open the door for a potential debut for Steely Green. Jacob Hopper got his leg caught in a tackle but was moving freely post-match. Max Gawn played one half on managed minutes, while Balta, Josh Gibcus (who got through his first game in a year unscathed) and Tylar Young played three terms.

Rhyan Mansell on the sidelines of Richmond's match simulation against Melbourne on February 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Fantasy tempter
Richmond was without several first-choice on-ballers today so it's difficult to get an accurate read, but Thomson Dow ($407,000) looks set for some solid midfield minutes this season. The 22-year-old played all four quarters on the ball and those at the Tigers have been raving about his form and fitness all summer. If you're looking for a bit of value, he could be an option.

Thomson Dow and Christian Petracca during Richmond's match simulation against Melbourne on February 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE  5.1   7.5   12.8   14.10  (94)
RICHMOND    3.1   10.6   13.6   18.9  (117)
(after four terms)

Melbourne: Petracca 2, Pickett 2, K. Brown 2, Fritsch 2, van Rooyen, Chandler, Gawn, Lever, Schache, Verrall
Richmond: Bolton 4, Balta 3, Koschitzke 2, Green 2, Sonsie 2, Short, Campbell, Lefau, Pickett, M. Rioli


1. Steven May, 2. Jacob van Rooyen, 3. Christian Salem, 4. Judd McVee, 5. Christian Petracca, 6. Caleb Windsor, 7. Jack Viney, 8. Jake Lever, 11. Max Gawn, 13. Clayton Oliver, 14. Jack Billings, 15. Ed Langdon, 16. Bailey Laurie, 17. Jake Bowey, 19. Josh Schache, 20. Adam Tomlinson, 21. Matt Jefferson, 22. Blake Howes, 24. Trent Rivers, 26. Jed Adams, 27. Marty Hore, 28. Will Verrall, 30. Alex Neal-Bullen, 31. Bayley Fritsch, 32. Tom Sparrow, 36. Kysaiah Pickett, 37. Kade Chandler, 38. Oliver Sestan, 39. Koltyn Tholstrup, 41. Kynan Brown, 43. Kyah Farris-White

Notable absentees: Charlie Spargo, Angus Brayshaw, Lachie Hunter, Jake Melksham, Shane McAdam, Tom McDonald, Tom Fullarton, Harrison Petty, Ben Brown


1. Nick Vlastuin, 5. Jack Ross, 10. Maurice Rioli, 15. Jayden Short, 17. Daniel Rioli, 18. Josh Gibcus, 19. Mykelti Lefau, 20. Jacob Koschitzke, 21. Noah Balta, 22. Jacob Hopper, 24. Sam Naismith, 27. Thomson Dow, 28. Kane McAuliffe, 29. Shai Bolton, 30. Tom Brown, 31. Rhyan Mansell, 32. Samson Ryan, 33. Kamdyn McIntosh, 34. Jack Graham, 35. Nathan Broad, 36. James Trezise, 40. Tyler Sonsie, 41. Sam Banks, 44. Seth Campbell, 45. Tylar Young, 46. Ben Miller, 48. Steely Green, 50. Marlion Pickett

Notable absentees: Dylan Grimes, Dion Prestia, Dustin Martin, Liam Baker, Tim Taranto, Tom Lynch, Toby Nankervis