A WOUNDED Richmond has potentially dodged a massive bullet with gun defender Noah Balta's knee better than first thought.
The 2020 premiership backman's right knee twisted in a tackle in the third term of the Tigers' dreadful defeat to the Saints on Friday night, with coach Damien Hardwick confirming post-game that the club was fearing the 21-year-old had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.
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While Balta is yet to have scans on his knee, the club issued an update on Saturday suggesting he may have dodged a dreaded tear to his ACL.
He has however suffered a significant ankle injury that will require surgery.
The Tigers also suspect Nathan Broad has a syndesmosis ankle injury that he suffered early in the game.
As injuries mount, the Tigers could also end round 15 outside of the top-eight after their drubbing at the hands of the Saints, who kept Richmond to their lowest score since 1961, their lowest score at the MCG since 1927 and their sixth-lowest score in their history.
Hardwick said he thought the Tigers' training wasn't at their usual standard in the build-up to the game after last week's bye but said his side was "incredibly poor".
"We're off the pace at the moment, there's no doubt about that. We've got some work to do to try and catch up to those sides ahead of us. We've just got to make sure we play our brand and make sure we bring our brand week in, week out because at the moment we're too inconsistent," Hardwick said.
Richmond was held goalless in the first and final quarters against the Saints and managed just two majors in between in a startling performance.
"I'd like to think we're a proud football club and we don't let people down too often, we don't let our fans down, but I thought tonight we just didn't fire a shot. It was incredibly disappointing. Generally we surge at some stage but it never really happened," Hardwick said.
"A lot of credit goes to the Saints, they played some really good footy, but I was disappointed that at no stage tonight we probably challenged a side that we thought we could beat."
Saints counterpart Brett Ratten said the game highlighted how much his side relies on ruck pairing Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall, with the duo influential against the Tigers and helping them win the hitouts 40-20 and clearances 42-21.
But he admitted it was also a touch bittersweet given it showed how far off their best the Saints had been in the season to date.
"It is a little bit frustrating, especially after the Adelaide performance when we had a healthy lead and gave it up. Anyway, we can't change that but what we can change is what we do next week against the Pies but tonight was a good step forward for us," he said.
The Saints' sixth win of the season puts them within touching distance of the top eight but Ratten said his side wasn't thinking about a late charge to the finals.
"We're not looking at finals. We're just looking at getting our process right," he said.