MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Dustin Martin of the Tigers looks dejected after a loss during the 2021 AFL Round 08 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Geelong Cats at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 07, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

After a bitterly disappointing 2021 relative to the heights reached in the preceding five years, Richmond enter 2022 at a crossroads.

With the majority of their stars entering their 30s, the Tigers have been faced with the reality that now is the time to bring in new blood rather than face a slide down the ladder.

However, they're by no means out of the running for another flag and, should results go their way at the start of the year, expect punters to start shortening the odds for another Richmond premiership win.

We take a look at their best 22 and see just how well the Tigers will stack up with the remainder of the completion this year.

Ins: Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne) Sam Banks, Tom Brown, Judson Clarke, Josh Gibcus, Tyler Sonsie

Outs: David Astbury (retired), Mabior Chol (Gold Coast Suns), Callum Coleman-Jones (North Melbourne Kangaroos), Derek Eggmolesse-Smith (delisted), Ryan Garthwaite (delisted), Bachar Houli (retired), Patrick Naish (delisted)

Defenders

The Tigers defence was in tatters last year, with the lineup down in Damien Hardwick's back six changing weekly.

Throw in the retirement of key personnel in the form of David Astbury and Bachar Houli and suddenly Richmond were desperately in need of reinforcements.

Luckily, Roos veteran Robbie Tarrant was available and will fill one of the voids left by the departed defenders with his steady set of hands sure to add some very nice solidity to the Richmond rearguard.

Elsewhere the injured pairing of Nathan Broad and Noah Balta will come back in to regain their spots after missing large chunks of 2021.

The usual suspects in last year's Jack Dyer medallist Dylan Grimes and triple premiership player Nick Vlastuin round off the defence along with the ever-reliable Jayden Short.

2021's Pick 9 Josh Gibcus will likely get called upon this year to strut his stuff in the Richmond defence, with his huge frame and ability overhead sure to impress both Tigers faithful and neutrals alike.

Along with Gibcus, running defenders in the form of Tom Brown and Sam Banks will also provide cover for Short, should he go down with injury or need to be rested throughout the season.

Midfielders 

Another part of the Tigers' starting 22 that was decimated by injury last year was the midfield brigade.

The development of Jack Graham was a rare highlight in 2021 and he takes up a spot out wide in the Tigers midfield, whilst 'The Human Meatball' himself in Dion Prestia comes back in alongside the hard-running Kamdyn McIntosh.

Toby Nankervis takes the starting ruck spot over the returning Ivan Soldo, however, expect plenty of rotation during the year due to the two being relatively evenly matched in their abilities.

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Former captain Trent Cotchin prepares for his first season in just under a decade without the responsibility of skipper, whilst the handy Shane Edwards starts with him on-ball after having a stop-start 2021.

Should injuries plague the Tigers again, the likes of Hugo Ralphsmith, Riley Collier-Dawkins and Thomson Dow, amongst others, will be called upon to fill in for their more senior counterparts.

Forwards

Liam Baker's 2021 was filled with transition after coach Hardwick elected to shift the silky defender up the ground to his new home as an attacking-minded midfielder, with the youngster set to get even better with more game time in 2022.

Tom Lynch definitely had a year to forget, however still keeps his place in the lineup with his ability to crash packs key to the Tigers' small forwards operation. Kane Lambert lines up at half-forward, however will likely split his time between attack and midfield in 2022.

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Shai Bolton established himself as one of the competition's most exciting players last season by winning Mark of the Year and will hope to continue his bright form into this campaign.

Spearhead Jack Riewoldt will start the year in his natural full-forward position, with the 33-year-old hoping to win a final premiership before he hangs up the boots in the near future.

Arguably the biggest question heading into 2022 at Tigerland is whether or not Dustin Martin will be able to get back to his best following a horror kidney injury towards the back-end of 2021. The three-time Norm Smith medallist has returned to Punt Road looking very lean and it will be interesting to see whether his trademark physicality will still be a trait of his this year.

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Draft prospects Tyler Sonsie and Judson Clarke are two highly-rated youngsters who slid down the order in 2021's proceedings. Their speed and class should mean that if any senior small forwards should slip in their standards, these two will be there to pick up the pieces.

Best 22 

FB: Nathan Broad, Dylan Grimes, Noah Balta
HB: Jayden Short, Robbie Tarrant, Nick Vlastuin
C: Jack Graham, Dion Prestia, Kamdyn McIntosh
HF: Liam Baker, Tom Lynch, Kane Lambert
FF: Shai Bolton, Jack Riewoldt, Dustin Martin
FO: Toby Nankervis, Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards
I/C: Ivan Soldo, Josh Gibcus, Jake Aarts, Daniel Rioli

EMERG: Sydney Stack, Jason Castagna, Marlion Pickett, Hugo Ralphsmith