RICHMOND has been dealt an early injury blow in Saturday night's Toyota AFL Grand Final, with important defender Nick Vlastuin sidelined with concussion.  

Geelong, meanwhile, has dodged a bullet with champion Gary Ablett returning from what appeared to be serious shoulder injury in the opening minutes.   

TIGERS v CATS Full match coverage and stats

Vlastuin suffered concussion in a collision with Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield and was taken from the ground in a medical cart with a neck brace applied. 

The two-time premiership Tiger lifted his arms as he was taken from the ground and was later seen on the Channel Seven broadcast walking in the rooms with his boots off. 

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Footy world in shock as Ablett and Tiger helped off

An extraordinary and devastating start to the Toyota AFL Grand Final with both Gary Ablett and Nick Vlastuin forced to leave the field early following two heavy collisions

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There was a long delay as Vlastuin left the ground, with the Tigers adjusting better at the restart to kick the opening two goals of the match.   

Vlastuin was ruled out of the match at quarter-time. 

Ablett's magnificent career appeared set to end in heartbreak when he was helped from the ground by trainers after injuring his left shoulder in a tackle by Richmond captain Trent Cotchin. 

Gary Ablett in pain after hurting his shoulder in the Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

The injured shoulder was the same one Ablett hurt in 2016 with Gold Coast, requiring season-ending surgery. 

After being assessed by medical staff in the Geelong rooms, the dual Brownlow medallist returned to the ground late in the first quarter.