RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick is reticent to give mid-season recruit Marlion Pickett a shock AFL debut in the Tigers' qualifying final against Brisbane.
Pickett took an outstanding mark in Saturday's VFL final win over Essendon and there has been speculation about whether the Tigers would promote him in September.
Hardwick said it is more likely that Pickett will play in the AFL next season.
The Tigers recruited the 27-year-old from WA in the NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
"You sort of, generally love the side you have now and there are a few pieces you can look at," Hardwick told Fox Footy.
"Marlion's one of those guys you love the look of and you think 'he'd be able to add something to us', but you're a little bit unsure.
"After another pre-season, he's going to be an incredible player for us. He certainly has a lot of upside."
Hardwick is pleased with the state of the Tigers heading into this finals series, saying last season they showed their best form much earlier.
After winning the 2017 premiership, the Tigers were belted by Collingwood in last year's preliminary final.
"We probably were 'up' a lot earlier," Hardwick said.
"We weren't playing our best footy at the back end of the year.
"I feel we're playing our best footy now - in saying that, I feel we can play better.
This year I see our side (and) they're hungry, which really excites me. - Damien Hardwick
Captain Trent Cotchin agreed with Hardwick, saying last year they "limped" into the finals.