Exciting Tigers’ youngster Jack Higgins will miss his first game after 28 straight matches in the yellow and black, as coach Damian Hardwick hopes the Richmond livewire can “learn how to enjoy his footy” again.
Higgins, who will miss his first game since round 9 last year, has been dropped for this weekends clash against St Kilda on Sunday, following a poor run of form within an injury-rattled Richmond outfit.
“He’s probably the first to say he hasn’t been at his best form. He’s probably a little bit reflective of our side, he hasn’t had the benefit of the connection of play we normally have,” Hardwick told the media on Friday.
“He was probably a little bit fumbly last week, but Jack knows how important he is to our side. If we want to get to where we need to go, he certainly needs to be a part of that.
“He’ll go back and [has] got to learn how to enjoy his footy a little bit when he goes back, not put so much pressure on himself. I think he’s such a guy that wants to achieve such great heights, I think sometimes he can become his own worst enemy.
“If Richmond’s playing its best footy, Jack Higgins is certainly part of our side. I’m looking forward to watching him play and seeing him back in the seniors very soon.”
The Tigers will welcome back six players this weekend, with captain Trent Cotchin, defender David Astbury and Shane Edwards all returning from hamstring injuries, while Kane Lambert (Achilles), Jayden Short (Elbow) and Ivan Soldo (illness) have also been added to Richmond’s 26-man squad for Sunday.
The Tigers will be looking for their first win in four matches, while Hardwick admitted the rejuvenation of a stronger squad won’t solve the Tigers’ on-field problems immediately.
“The fact we’ve had four players play every game together, the connection of sides – you look at the sides who are at the very, very top, the way they’ve had a great connection and a lot of their players have played together for a sustained period,” he said.
“We probably haven’t had that, we’ve been filling gaps along the way. The guys have hung tough for the vast majority, but it probably came to a tipping point in the last couple of weeks.
“Once again, those guys that are available for selection and coming back, they’re not going to solve the problem straight away. We’ve got to play them playing in unison, get them a good understanding of patterns and movement and continue to play well from that.
“It’s all good to have names back, but the reality is on-field we need to make sure we connect heavily.”
Short returns to Hardwick’s side after dislocating his elbow in round three, with his coach backing the nifty half-back flanker to find his stride as he returns to the first team without any rehabilitation through the VFL.
“Once again, he’s been training for a sustained period of time now and his fitness is good,” Hardwick said.
“We had some match practice earlier this week and on Sunday, I think it was, as well, and he was a standout for us. He’ll certainly put his hand up to play.”