RICHMOND hard nut Josh Caddy has only scratched the surface of how good he can be and shapes as a weapon for the reigning premiers this season, according to coach Damien Hardwick.
Caddy was a star in the Tigers' 70-point win over North Melbourne in the JLT Community Series on Wednesday night, moving between the midfield and forward line in a dynamic performance.
And with premiership midfielder Dion Prestia no certainty to return from a hamstring injury for the season opener against Carlton on March 22, Caddy could be in line for more midfield duties.
"I'm really excited by Josh," coach Damien Hardwick said on Wednesday night after ending a faultless pre-season campaign.
"He's just added to us. He's added to our flexibility and we’re really excited about what he's brought to our footy club and how he's going to play in the future.
"We think he's only starting to scratch the surface of how good he can be and we're really excited by that."
Caddy racked up 20 possessions and an equal team-high seven clearances on Wednesday night, stepping into centre stoppages and giving the Tigers a big midfield body when Dustin Martin was stationed forward.
The former Geelong and Gold Coast midfielder also booted two goals and was used off the back of the square at times, showcasing the flexibility that will make him a key player in the Tigers' premiership defence.
Prestia suffered a minor hamstring injury in mid-February but is yet to play and could now miss the season opener as the Tigers take a cautious approach with the midfielder.
"He's touch and go at the moment," Hardwick said. "We're confident, but we just want to make sure. He's such an important player for us.
"This time of year everyone wants to be ready for round one, but we've just got to make sure those guys are ready for a long season. It's an endurance race."
Hardwick said he was excited about Shai Bolton's contribution to the team this pre-season, but the small forward was yet to secure his place for round one as Daniel Rioli's replacement.
"Has he done enough? That's the question we'll look at," the coach said.
"His pressure last week was very good. This week it probably wasn't quite to the level of last week.
"He'll train well the next couple of weeks and put his hand up for selection round one. Whether he's got that spot, time will tell."
While the Tigers cruised to a 70-point win, Hardwick said the premiers were not going as well as they'd like two weeks out from round one.
His review contrasted with that of North Melbourne coach Brad Scott, who said the Tigers looked "even sharper than last year" despite a later start to pre-season.
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The Kangaroos, meanwhile, have work to do on their skill-level after turning the ball over 80 times to Richmond's 68.
"We didn't help ourselves with some of our ball-use, but we know that's the journey we're on," Scott said.
"The first quarter-and-a-half is what we want, in terms of our intensity and pressure … and the contested part of the game was OK.
"But we got badly beaten on turnover and they are as good a team as is going around at punishing the opposition when you make mistakes."
Scott said the Kangaroos were unlikely to play both Todd Goldstein and Braydon Preuss in tandem in round one, with the ruckmen playing one half each on Wednesday night.
"We're being dictated by the way the game is being played at the moment," Scott said.
"We'd love to say that we can change the way AFL footy is being played … but it is very, very difficult to play multiple big guys.
"That's unfortunate for ruckmen but it's just the reality at the moment."