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Bolter Bolton? Speedster 'a level above' in VFL

Richmond's VFL coach says Shai Bolton could slot well into the AFL preliminary final side - AFL,Shai Bolton,Richmond Tigers
Richmond's VFL coach says Shai Bolton could slot well into the AFL preliminary final side
His defensive stuff is really stacking up
Craig McRae on Shai Bolton

EXCITING Richmond forward Shai Bolton has played "above the level" for the past month and could easily slot into the senior side if called upon for Saturday's preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney, VFL coach Craig McRae says.

Bolton was taken with the No.29 selection in last year's NAB AFL Draft and has lined up in six matches since making his debut in round nine.

He played five consecutive games before being dropped, and most recently played in the round 19 win against Gold Coast.

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Fellow small forward Jason Castagna has played in every match this season in Damien Hardwick's team, but had just six disposals in the qualifying final against Geelong, and often fumbled when he had a chance to win the footy.

However, his defensive pressure has won him plaudits.

McRae told reporters on Wednesday that Bolton had been in exceptional form in the lead-up to Sunday's VFL Grand Final.

"He's had an outstanding month. His defensive stuff is really stacking up and I think he's really matured in the 12 months he's been with us. He's still only 18 years old, and he's a young player on the rise," McRae said.

Despite Bolton's inexperience, McRae expected the West Australian could make the adjustment.

"You'd hope to think so. We talk about playing above the level at VFL for our AFL players, and he's had a month where he's played above the level," McRae said.

The VFL team could be compromised against Port Melbourne on Sunday at Etihad Stadium if Richmond advances to Saturday week's AFL decider.

A six-day break between those two games meant it was likely some players would be on a minutes restriction. 

There could be scenes reminiscent of 2014, when Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli returned from a three-month layoff after a hamstring injury, before sitting out the last quarter as Box Hill was overrun in the last term by Footscray. 

McRae predicted "three or four" Tigers could be in that situation but he backed many more as being ready to step up if called upon, with 20 listed players expected to line up on Sunday. 

"I'm certainly not naive enough to think that Saturday afternoon's (not) going to dictate a few things we do on Sunday. Who knows what's going to happen in that situation? We'll have players ready if that's the case," McRae said.

"I would've thought there's 10-12 players that would consider themselves ready to play AFL footy if the opportunity presents." 

Having both teams performing so well late in the season is a boon for Richmond, which will be in its first Grand Final since being introduced into the VFL in 2014 

"We're bouncing into work at the moment. There's good momentum at the footy club and I think everyone's really excited internally and externally about the Richmond footy club," McRae said.