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Youth wins in Richmond's battle of the Ivans

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MANDURAH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 19: Ivan Soldo of the Richmond Tigers has a mark slip through his fingers during the 2016 NAB Challenge match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Richmond Tigers at Rushton Park, Mandurah on February 19, 2016. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media)
Ivan Soldo has been promoted from Richmond's rookie list

RICHMOND is set to blood project ruckman Ivan Soldo against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night after promoting the rookie on Thursday afternoon.

The 21-year-old has won the race for selection against cousin and mentor Ivan Maric, with the pair jockeying to replace suspended big man Toby Nankervis.  

Soldo represented the ACT in basketball as a junior and joined the Tigers as a category B rookie in 2014. 

After playing eight VFL games in 2015 he made big strides last year, leading the Tigers' VFL ruck division in 15 games and averaging 19.9 hit-outs.

With Maric also available, coach Damien Hardwick said there had been no awkward family rivalry ahead of the match committee's decision on Thursday afternoon.

"They're incredibly close and whichever way it goes they'll be supportive of each other," Hardwick said. 

"Ivan (Maric) is doing an outstanding job working with all our rucks at the moment. That's the calibre of person he is – he'll certainly put the team before his own person performance. 

"We've got Ivan's (Maric) experience that we like and then we've got Soldo's youth and exuberance which we like also. We'll be looking at both of those options."

Maric has been a mentor for Soldo since the youngster arrived at Punt Road Oval, learning the game and losing nearly 20kg in his first year.    

Football manager Neil Balme on Wednesday said the popular club veteran would see the positives in his young teammate's selection.  

"He's got some conflicting motivations I reckon, because he's doing a lot of work with our ruckmen, but particularly Soldo who he is quite close to," Balme told   

"He's working hard with those blokes, but he's also working hard on his own game. 

"He's still contributing enormously as a person and that's the sort of man that he is, but he would love to play seniors again, there's no doubt about that. 

"He's managing to balance all of that and let someone else make the decisions."

Balme said the choice for a replacement ruckman had come down to Maric and Soldo, with Mabior Chol coming off a quiet VFL hit-out. 

Maric, who has overcome a back complaint, led the ruck against Port Melbourne and finished with 36 hit-outs and 15 possessions. 

Soldo, meanwhile, was used in the forward line after some reasonable VFL performances to allow the match committee to see what else he could offer in attack.   

The Tigers had room to upgrade the rookie on Thursday, with Nathan Broad, Jack Graham and Shaun Hampson all on their long-term injury list and only rookie Jason Castagna upgraded at this stage.

The Tigers will also consider recalling tall forward Todd Elton after selecting a small forward line against the Adelaide.