SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 17: Noah Balta of the Tigers celebrates kicking a super goal during the AFLX match between the Richmond Tigers and the Brisbane Lions at Allianz Stadium on February 17, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has named exciting young forward Noah Balta “the “closest thing to Alex Rance.”

The 19-year old could make his debut for Richmond on Thursday night against the Blues should star recruit Tom Lynch fail to overcome a fitness test.

And Hardwick has every faith that Balta will deliver if given the opportunity.

“He’s been incredibly impressive (in the pre-season). He’s as athletic as Alex, he’s got traits that are incredible to watch and even at training, we watch him and go, ‘Wow’,” Hardwick told AFL.com.au.

“What he is, is he’s very raw. Once we refine him into the player we think he can be, we think he’s going to be a very good long-term player.

“Is it going to be this year? Who knows? We hope so. But it might be 12 months down the track.

“Alex was a little bit of a slow burn to get where he is today and we think Noah has the potential to be that kind of player.”

Balta would come in as Richmond’s secondary ruckman after impressing in his team’s JLT clash against Melbourne, racking up 18 disposals and booting two goals.

The 194cm product was taken by the Tigers with pick No. 25 in the 2017 AFL draft.

“He’s just turned 19, but the sheer size and power is really impressive,” Hardwick said.

“He’s quite funny on the field. We sit there and constantly amuse ourselves, where he’s telling other players what to do when he’s actually not doing the right thing himself a lot of the time.

“But that’s him learning the game. What we love is that he’s got the confidence to do that, which is something we generally have to teach a young player.

“With a lot of hard work, we think he’ll be the player we think he can be.”

Richmond and Carlton clash at 7:20pm on Thursday night at the MCG (AEST).