ANOTHER knee injury to luckless Richmond defender David Astbury was enough to move coach Damien Hardwick to the brink of tears after the Tigers' 17-point loss to Melbourne on Saturday.
It was an emotional day for the Tigers, following the passing of club great Tommy Hafey on Monday and the pre-game tribute that celebrated his life.
Hardwick struggled to find words to explain the unexpected loss and just what had changed for the Tigers in the past 12 months.
But it was talking about Astbury, who was having his best season since being drafted in 2009, and his suspected dislocated right kneecap that saw the tough ex-defender choke up.
"You only have to see what it means to the kid - to see tears in his eyes at three-quarter time," Hardwick said.
"He knows what he's done and unfortunately he's going to be a big loss for us.
"We're not exactly sure of the extent."
The injury happened in red time in the third quarter when Astbury went to change direction when he tried to tackle Jack Viney in the Demons' attacking arc.
His left leg twisted and collapsed beneath him as Viney went on to kick a goal.
He appears to have suffered the same injury he sustained to his right knee in round 12, 2011 – a patella dislocation with medial ligament damage.
He needed two operations after that injury and missed nearly 12 months, not playing seniors again until round 22, 2012.
The brave backman joined his teammates at three-quarter time on the field, aided by crutches and with a bag on ice on his knee.
Just two weeks after regaining key defender and Astbury's good friend Alex Rance, the Tigers will again have to reshuffle their back six to cover the loss.
A shattered Hardwick acknowledged how influential Astbury had been this season after finally being able to put together a full pre-season.
"It's a real shame, he's been a very good player for us," he said.
"He's been one of the shining lights this year. He's kept a lot of good players goalless.
"To lose him in a similar manner to what he's done previously is really disappointing."