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'We call him The Zombie': Tigers to unleash new weapon

Brad shrugs off speculation, Bryce's challenge, Hodge's legacy Mitch Cleary with all the latest footy news

CALLUM Coleman-Jones may be affectionately known as "Zombie" around the club, but Richmond defender Dylan Grimes is backing his teammate to handle his debut well during Dreamtime at the 'G.

The fixture between Richmond and Essendon, now in its 15th year, has attracted an average crowd of 71,431, making Saturday night a fairly daunting prospect for the 19-year-old ruckman. 

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Coleman-Jones has been rushed into the side following an adductor injury to Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo's one-week suspension for striking. 

The Zombie: Callum Coleman-Jones in action for Richmond's VFL team against Port Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

He will be supported by fellow 19-year-old Noah Balta, coming up against Essendon veteran Tom Bellchambers and forward-ruck Shaun McKernan. 

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"'CJ', we call him 'The Zombie' because he seems so much older than he actually is. He's got a great head on his shoulders, he's worked incredibly hard this year," Grimes said. 

"Given the depth we had at the start of the year, he knew he had to work really hard in order to get a game and be patient for his opportunity and he's certainly done that.

"He took one of the better marks I've seen at VFL level a few weeks back, so he's an excitement machine and we're looking forward to seeing what he can bring.

"He's been playing against AFL ruckman at VFL level, so he's been playing and training at that intensity and competitiveness for a long time already." 

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Despite an injury-ravaged season, Richmond is doing well to hold its head above water, sitting in fifth position with a 6-3 win-loss record. 

One player who has started to hit his straps in recent weeks is superstar midfielder Dustin Martin, who polled a perfect 10 in the AFLCA votes against Hawthorn last weekend. 

"Outside these walls it would have been seen he was having a quieter start to the year, internally we felt like he has been at his most influential in other areas," Grimes said. 

"Not many people realise, but I think his pressure's gone up than in previous years, he's averaging more tackles (1.3 in 2018 to 3.8 in 2019), and they're the things 'Dimma' (coach Damien Hardwick) really prides our group on. 

"To see him work on that side of the game, then finally get the rewards on the offensive side of the game, has been positive because he's been working really hard. Dusty's a big-game player and I'm sure this week will be a good example of that."

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Essendon focal point Joe Daniher is out of the side, set to miss the season due to his ongoing groin issue. It's thrown a bit of a spanner in Richmond's planning process, but Grimes isn't overly complaining.

"To be honest, first of all you empathise with Essendon a little bit, because we've had players go down at the last minute as well, key players like Joey is, he's a superstar who can turn a game on its head," he said.

"Absolutely we were preparing to play him this week and put in some work into the meeting room into how we were going to manage his aerial ability, his ground work ability and also his knack for kicking goals outside 50."


Hard-running midfielder Kane Lambert will miss this week's clash with the Bombers due to Achilles soreness. 

"I hope to see him back in the next week, if not the next two weeks, because he's been such a consistent player for us," Grimes said.

"He won an award this week just for the character he is off-field. He's a terrific competitor, we'll miss him out there for sure, but similar to 'Nank' (Nankervis) and all the other guys we've lost this year, we're bringing in some exciting talent."