RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick admits his side "needs to get moving" as the back-to-back reigning premiers look to avoid three consecutive losses this week against St Kilda.
The Tigers started off their campaign for an historic flag three-peat with comfortable wins over Carlton and Hawthorn but have been downed by Sydney and Port Adelaide in the past two weeks. They face the Saints at Marvel Stadium on Thursday night, with dropped premiership forward Daniel Rioli in line to return and Kamdyn McIntosh also available after his concussion.
Hardwick said there was no panic at Punt Road and that the club knows how to stagger its run across the season, but that the Tigers needed to lift.
"The game looks different from what it is now to what it looks like at the end of the year. Once again we'd like to be playing better. We're not playing at our absolute best. We'd like to be banking some four points, there's no doubt about it," he said.
"But what we do know is when the whips start to crack that's when we play our best footy. We need to get moving, there's no doubt about that, but the fact of the matter is premierships aren't won in April."
Rioli was omitted ahead of round three against the Swans but won a reprieve as the Tigers' medical sub in that defeat. He went back to VFL level last week and performed strongly, with Hardwick defending the three-time premiership forward and saying he was in the mix to return to face the Saints.
"He's a little bit hard to judge. Daniel plays a really specific role that doesn't require him to get 15 kicks and three goals. It is very mentally draining for him to play that role week-in week-out. Sometimes he needs to go back just to freshen up and find the footy a little bit for his own peace of mind," he said.
"We judge this kid off [Fantasy] points. But what we judge Daniel off is win-loss and he's got three premiership medals to represent that.
"From our point of view, Daniel plays a really specific role and he plays it really, really well."
Sydney Stack will play "limited" VFL game time this week after returning to the club and serving his 10-game ban for last year's COVID-19 protocols breach. He also spent the Christmas break behind bars in Perth after breaking the state's strict COVID-19 laws, with the talented 20-year-old returning to the club in recent weeks.
"He's settled in well. It's been a pretty traumatic experience for a 20-year-old. We sit there and judge people pretty quickly on what they are but it's more important what he's going to do moving forward," Hardwick said.
"We're really excited about what he can become. He can play the game. What we're looking for from Sydney is to get the consistency in his life that allows him to play the game at the very highest level. Ability is no question, he's got it."