SLOWLY, almost by stealth, Richmond's backline – the cornerstone of its three recent flags – is changing.

Gone are Alex Rance, David Astbury and Bachar Houli (retired) and Brandon Ellis (Gold Coast) from the 2017 premiership backline, while Liam Baker and Noah Balta are on a revolving door between both ends of the ground.

Add in a few injuries at the start of the season to stalwarts Nick Vlastuin and Dylan Grimes, and Nathan Broad – a mature-age recruit who didn't make his debut till 23 – was suddenly transformed into the most experienced Richmond defender, given Robbie Tarrant only joined the club late last year.

Nathan Broad celebrates with the premiership cup after winning the 2020 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

Alongside him have been the likes of Josh Gibcus (six games), Ben Miller (four), Hugo Ralphsmith (11) and Daniel Rioli (who made the switch to defence late last season).

After a season that finished prematurely due to a syndesmosis injury, Broad is now averaging a career-high 18.9 disposals and 8.0 marks in 2022.

"It just blew past us a little bit, we didn't realise we had such a young defence, and inexperienced too. It's always been one of my aims, to be a leader down there along with Grimes, and when he went out, I obviously had to step up," Broad told

"But it's been good, I love trying to lead the backline and the young boys have lifted too, with their leadership, and have helped me out a lot.

"It's a whole new dynamic at the moment, and we're still trying to figure it out, but I think we're getting through it pretty well at the moment and we're starting to play really well together."

Nathan Broad takes a mark during round seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Even Jayden Short has deserted the backline, following his starring turn in the midfield against West Coast, and the reaction from his fellow defenders has been swift.

"It caught us players by surprise. Obviously 'Cotchy' (Trent Cotchin) had a rest coming off a five-day break, and we didn't really know who would stand up into that role and 'Shorty' got thrown in there as an experiment," Broad said.

"He's playing it really well, and to be honest, I can't really see him coming down back again. He's too good of a player to be down in the backline now.

"The backs have got a WhatsApp, where we seem to be adding and kicking (Noah) Balta out on a weekly basis at the moment. He got booted from the WhatsApp chat the other day, so see you later, 'Shorty'. He's in with the mids, and he's out of the (backline) brotherhood."

Jayden Short in action during round seven, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Draftee Gibcus has been growing in stature week by week, and Broad said the first-round selection is "probably the most athletically gifted player" he's seen in his time at the Tigers.

"His endurance capability is amazing, his leap is ridiculous and he's a really smart kid, he learnt the structures so quickly," he said.

"His progression has been amazing, and he took another step forward on the weekend again, and for a key back, he manages to find the ball a lot, which is pretty impressive as well. It's pretty crazy to think he's only 18, so I think we're going to see and hear about Josh Gibcus for a very, very long time."

Damien Hardwick announces Josh Gibcus' impending debut ahead of round one, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

Richmond will be coming up against Collingwood on Saturday, with former Tigers assistant and VFL premiership coach Craig McRae at the helm.

"They've got a very young and quick side at the moment, they're playing very similar to us in a way, no doubt because they've got Craig McRae and Justin Leppitsch as well," Broad said.

PLAY AFL FANTASY Make your trades NOW

"I had Craig for quite a few years in the VFL before I managed to make my way into the AFL side, and he's just an amazing human.

"He's one of the best coaches I've had and there's no wonder why we're seeing Collingwood do really well at the moment, because he's an outstanding person and he's got a great footy brain as well."