RICHMOND captain Trent Cotchin rebounded from a spell in hospital and a week off the track to lift the Tigers to their 17-point win against Gold Coast on Sunday, coach Damien Hardwick revealed.
Cotchin spent a day in hospital earlier this week with a virus and was unable to train, but he inspired his team with 12 fourth-quarter possessions as the Tigers' season went on the line against the Suns at the MCG.
Hardwick praised the skipper, who earlier this season played through a fractured cheekbone and returned a fortnight later in a helmet to rack up 39 possessions.
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"Trent Cotchin has been in hospital … he was pretty important," a relieved Hardwick said post-match.
"He was crook during the week and hadn't trained all week … he's just a star that bloke. Good player, good leader."
While Cotchin lifted in the crucial fourth quarter and finished with 28 possessions, midfielder Dustin Martin was the star across the match, finishing with 36 touches, including eight inside 50s and two goals.
Hardwick praised the 24-year-old, as well as fourth-quarter hero Shane Edwards (22 possessions and three goals), ruckman Shaun Hampson (42 hit-outs and a goal) and tall forward Ben Griffiths (eight marks and 2.1).
He said the club was excited by Reece Conca's return across half-back, as well as Jayden Short's move into defence, racking up 18 possessions and four rebound 50s.
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Overall, Hardwick said he was happy with three quarters of the Tigers' performance.
"We're trying a couple of things, a couple of players in different positions, so there's going to be a bit of heartache along the way," the coach said.
"But overall we probably thought we took a little bit of a step forward with some of things we were looking for today.
"The momentum ceased last week, (so) we started again and we were really disappointed with the performance.
"To the guys credit, they played a side that was hungry as well today and got the job done."
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Opposition forward Tom Lynch booted four goals and took 10 marks, and even Hardwick was able to appreciate the young star's form in a heavyweight battle with Alex Rance.
"I thought every time the ball went inside 50 it was a great contest to watch," he said.
"I think he (Lynch) has kicked 30-odd goals and they've only averaged 40-odd inside 50s. God forbid if they average 60, he's a monster."
The Tigers have a bye in round 13 before hosting the Brisbane Lions in round 14, presenting the chance to take their season tally to 6-7.