RICHMOND could be without Noah Balta for the next few weeks after the key defender injured his hamstring in the 23-point win over Hawthorn on Saturday, creating an opportunity for debutant Bigoa Nyuon to retain his spot in the back six.
Balta, 22, was replaced by veteran Shane Edwards at the start of the fourth quarter after being substituted out of the game at three-quarter time.
With last year's No.9 pick Josh Gibcus entering health and safety protocols on Thursday, Damien Hardwick elected to go with Nyuon in favour of off-season signing Robbie Tarrant, who will play against the Box Hill Hawks on Sunday.
The 20-year-old, who was delisted at the end of last season before earning another opportunity via the Rookie Draft, fitted into Richmond's back six seamlessly, starting on Hawthorn star Jack Gunston, before he was substituted out of the game with an ankle injury.
HAWKS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
With three-time premiership players Dion Prestia and Nick Vlastuin returning from illness, a week after superstar midfielder Dustin Martin returned from personal leave, the Tigers have won three games in a row and almost have a clean bill of health.
"We are (generating some meaningful momentum). We've had some losses, but quarters won we've actually fared really well in that. We've had bad quarters that have cost us games, but overall we've been happy with how we've been playing," Hardwick said in his post-game press conference on Saturday night.
"The other thing that has helped is we're starting to get our list back together again. Obviously we lose Noah Balta with a possible hamstring today, which hurts, but from our point of view, we're a healthy club."
Hardwick said the Tigers will give Nyuon another opportunity to stake his claim for a spot in the 22 when Richmond hosts Essendon at the MCG next Saturday night.
"I'd say he'll play with Noah going out next week, so he'll continue to grow and learn. We love the strengths that he brings; he is infectious when he is playing well. We look forward to him continuing that," he said.
"He started to cramp at the end but he is only going to get better. We threw him in the deep end, but you can play 50 games at VFL level; you play one game of AFL and you're going to learn a hell of a lot more. He'll grow, he'll learn from it."
All-Australian candidates Tom Lynch and James Sicily continued their brilliant starts to 2022 and were two of the best players on the ground, despite spending 120 minutes going head to head at the MCG.
Hardwick found it difficult to score the battle in either favour, but was pleased his spearhead produced another impactful performance on the scoreboard, adding four goals to extend his lead in the Coleman Medal race by moving to 31 after nine games.
"If you had of said to me at the start of the day that Tom kicks four goals I would have taken that most days. But in fairness, Sicily is a really good player as well," he said.
"I think what we're seeing with Tom and Darcy [Moore] last week is there are some really good match ups that we're liking. Tom is in really, really good form. He has come up against some players who are in good form as well. He has had a great season for us thus far."
Hawthorn recorded a fourth straight loss and have now lost six of seven after a winning first fortnight under new coach Sam Mitchell, but responded after an awful fourth quarter fade out against Essendon last Saturday night.
"I was really proud of the boys late in the game. This game compared to last week, we were in a similar situation and we decided to repack the guns, go again and see what we could get out. They executed that really well and got right back into the game," Mitchell said.
"We weren’t good enough in the end, but I thought their mentally to fight it right out to the end and put genuine effort in was really pleasing. The game was against it already by then."
Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell is expected to return against Brisbane in Launceston next Sunday after having his workload managed this weekend.