DAMIEN Hardwick admits there has been an emotional toll on Richmond this week after losing star backman Alex Rance for the season, but the Tigers coach says the club has to "move on" from the setback.
Rance won't be the only premiership Tiger to miss this week's clash with Collingwood, with Bachar Houli ruled out with a hamstring strain.
Rance had surgery this week to repair the anterior cruciate ligament he ruptured in last week's win over Carlton and will miss the rest of the season, making for some significant shifts in Richmond's premiership plans.
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Hardwick said the club had to manage their emotions after Rance's blow.
"There was no doubt that was certainly evident early in the week. The selfless nature of Alex Rance – he came in and was absolutely incredible with our playing group," he said.
"I felt guilty feeling sorry for myself. He was incredible. So our players, we understand this happens in footy but we move on.
"As harsh as that seems and as difficult as it is to lose such a soldier as Alex, we've got to move on. Our players accept that. He'll be part of our journey, he's a part of our fabric."
Hardwick said the Tigers were yet to determine the best way to replace the five-time All Australian.
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However, possible inclusion Ryan Garthwaite will not face the Magpies and is likely to need one more week at VFL level before being declared fit after Achilles soreness, meaning the Tigers could use versatile tall Noah Balta, who made his debut last week, in defence.
Running half-back Oleg Markov could also come into the side and he trained with the main group on Wednesday at Punt Road, as did small forward Liam Baker.
Brandon Ellis, who picked up 40 disposals last week, appears a strong chance to replace Houli for the Thursday night MCG blockbuster.
Alex is irreplaceable really. He's such an incredible talent and once-in-a-generation full-back, so if we're looking to replace Alex with one player, that's not going to happen. From our point of view, we expect 22 players to improve in an area of the game.
"We've accepted it, we acknowledge it and we move on."
The Tigers will meet Collingwood for the first time since last year's preliminary final, when the Pies shocked Richmond, then the red-hot premiership favourites, with a commanding 39-point win.
Magpies forward Mason Cox pieced together a remarkable performance in the preliminary final, dominating Richmond in the air.
Without Rance, the task to stop the American marking target is made harder, although Hardwick said plenty of the responsibility would fall on those up the field.
"That was an incredible effort on a big stage, so hopefully that doesn't happen again this week. A lot of pressure on the ball will take away from that, but we can only control what we can control," Hardwick said.
"If we've got enough body and pressure on Mason we hope for a better result this time."