RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has launched a passionate defence of Trent Cotchin in the face of growing criticism of the three-time premiership captain.

A form slump in recent weeks has sparked questions outside the club - rightly or wrongly - over Cotchin's future in the game.

It has also coincided with a four-match losing streak that has left the Tigers' hopes of a fourth flag in five seasons in tatters.

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Cotchin, who has 263 games and a Brownlow Medal under his belt, is contracted until the end of 2022.

Trent Cotchin is presented with his 2012 Brownlow Medal by football legend Ian Stewart in 2016. Picture: Getty Images

But the 31-year-old had just 13 disposals in last week's loss to Collingwood and is averaging 18.8 disposals per game this season - his lowest return in full-length matches since 2009.

"People don't realise this guy's been a battering ram for 15 years of his career," Hardwick said.

"There wouldn't be a harder player in the competition.

He doesn't complain, he just gets on with it and leads from the front

- Hardwick on Cotchin

"People are quick to jump on players - that's the Australian way at various stages. This guy is an incredible player and we're not a stats-orientated football club.

"We could have Trent having 35 touches going backwards and sideways, but that's not how we play. He plays leading from the front with the way he goes about his actions.

"People will judge him on his performance on the weekend, that's fine, champions have bad days sometimes.

"But the reality is he's a very, very good player in a very good side that isn't quite performing to the level it (can) at the moment."

Hardwick said Richmond had considered moving Cotchin out of the midfield but need him to fill that role with several fellow premiership stars out injured.

"He's had to play that role because our midfield's been undermanned, really, and he was in there on the weekend with Riley Collier-Dawkins and Thomson Dow, who have played 10 games between them," Hardwick said.

Riley Collier-Dawkins feels heat from Taylor Adams during the round 17 clash between Richmond and Collingwood at the MCG on July 11, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

"He's expected to lead but also teach and communicate at the same time, so it's a challenging aspect of his career without guys like Dion Prestia, Shane Edwards, Kane Lambert and these types around him.

"But he doesn't complain, he just gets on with it and leads from the front."

Hardwick is hopeful Edwards (ankle), Lambert (hip/calf) and ruckman Toby Nankervis (knee) could be fit to return in Friday night's clash with Brisbane at the MCG.

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The 12th-placed Tigers are in danger of losing touch with the top eight if they suffer defeat to the Lions.