RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick remains confident the Tigers will retain star defender Alex Rance.

The club has started negotiations with the management of Rance, who will become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

"He's obviously a very important player to us, All Australian last year, so we'll work our way through that. We're very confident we'll get what we're after," Hardwick said on Thursday.

Asked whether the Tigers would need to make extra room in their TPP (Total Player Payments) structure for Rance, Hardwick said he was comfortable leaving the fine details to football manager Dan Richardson. 

Following Dustin Martin's recent resigning, Richardson said he expected to be announcing similarly positive news at some stage regarding Rance. 

Richmond's first NAB Challenge match will be a twilight fixture against the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval.

The Tigers will be without skipper Trent Cotchin, who is suffering "minor hamstring soreness", and joint vice-captain Brett Deledio (achilles). New leadership group member Steve Morris will be acting captain.

Midfield stars Cotchin and Deledio are both expected to play later in the pre-season competition.

"'Dusty' (Martin) went through a similar thing about three weeks ago," Hardwick said of Cotchin's complaint.

"At this time of year everyone's pushing the envelope with their players, trying to get them incredibly fit. He'll make his way into the side later in the NAB (Challenge) and (we're) looking forward to him having another great season as captain."

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Hardwick said Deledio could have played on Saturday as he manages an ongoing achilles problem, but it was decided to rest him to prevent the issues that beset him last season.

"It's just a management issue," Hardwick said. "We sort of knew from obviously the data we established last year that it was always going to be a situation where he could probably only train twice a week. He'll manage that for the rest of his career.

"It's just really important that Brett gets on track and plays games. That's why we're managing (the) early part of his year. 

"He's well and truly up and going. He's in full training now for those two (weekly) sessions and we're excited about the season he's going to have. If you come down and watch our intra-clubs, he's destroying people at the moment."

Hardwick said the Tigers would go in with a young side against the Bulldogs and would filter their more establish players back into the line-up in their second and third NAB Challenge fixtures.

"It's going to be a great opportunity for our fans to get down and see the majority of our one-to-four-year players, which I'm really excited about," he said. "Every draft pick from last year will be lining up apart from Corey Ellis (foot), so it's a good opportunity for our fans to see the young talent coming through."

The coach enthused about the strong competition for key-forward spots to partner spearhead Jack Riewoldt.

"We've got (Ben) Griffiths, (Liam) McBean and Ty Vickery competing really hard and really well for (those spots)," he said. 

"We're probably blessed, whereas sides are probably crying out for key forwards. We've got a lot of depth in that area so we're excited to put them all out on the park at some stages to see how they all go together.

"They're all capable goalkickers and they're all very good players, (but) we unfortunately just can't put them all in the same side. So we're just going to have to work our way through that."

The AFL has encouraged fans to pre-purchase tickets to guarantee entry and also arrive early to avoid queues before Saturday's 4.40pm clash at Whitten Oval.