RICHMOND has locked in Nick Vlastuin to a mega five-year deal as the important defender turned his back on free agency.
The Tigers are wasting no time in signing up their premiership guns, with Vlastuin the latest to recommit to a five-year contract that will tie him to Tigerland until the end of 2026.
But Vlastuin won't return against Sydney on Saturday from a knee injury, with coach Damien Hardwick ruling him and Bachar Houli (calf) out of the Tigers' side.
"Nick (Vlastuin) won't come in, he won't play. Bachar Houli is probably a guy we could probably push but he hasn’t played any minutes at game level," Hardwick said on Thursday.
"He's another player we’ll push through the VFL, there might be a couple of changes."
Three-time premiership defender Vlastuin has been a rock for the Tigers since joining the club with pick No.9 at the 2012 NAB AFL Draft and last year finished third in the best and fairest as well as being named in the 40-man All-Australian squad.
The 26-year-old says he wants to be a one-club player.
"It shows huge belief on their part that they trust me to be able to perform for that long, it is a lot of faith, and I obviously want to return it," Vlastuin said.
"With the length of the deal, it locks me away now. I do not have to think about that or anything else.
"It means heaps to be a one-club player, and I just love being at the club. I would not want to be or could not imagine being anywhere else, and this kind of seals that."
The Tigers this week also confirmed a new two-year deal for Noah Balta, while AFL.com.au's Inside Trading column last week revealed defender Liam Baker had triggered a contract extension for 2022 and ruckman Ivan Soldo was also set to land a one-year extension for 2022 with the club.
Jack Riewoldt, David Astbury, Shai Bolton, Daniel Rioli, Shane Edwards and Kamdyn McIntosh are among the other gun Tigers who remain uncontracted beyond this year.
Midfielder Jack Ross won’t be listed as the medical substitute for the third week in a row for the MCG clash with the Swans, with Hardwick confirming the 20-year-old will get game time at VFL level.
"Jack Ross has been a sub for the past two weeks, so he'll go and play some development minutes. Someone will come in, there'll be at least one change," Hardwick said.
Hardwick was full of praise for Sydney’s new-look forward line which has piled on 37 goals in the first two weeks of the season.
"It’s amazing how they've had an influx of players, some of the talent is scintillating really … it's just dynamic the way they go about it," he said.
With the return of superstar forward Lance Franklin and his three-goal performance dominating headlines, Hardwick said there wouldn’t be a ‘Buddy-focus’ this week if Franklin backs up his first game since 2019.
"Buddy is just one part of a very dynamic forward line. They've got some great young talent down there, they’re capable goalkickers," Hardwick said.
"We can’t have a Buddy-focus but more a Sydney forward line focus."