MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 18: Shai Bolton of the Tigers celebrates after scoring a goal during the round 22 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the West Coast Eagles at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 18, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The retention of flashy midfielder Shai Bolton is becoming more and more critical for the Tigers as the season progresses.

The 22-year-old, who is enjoying a stellar campaign this season, is yet to commit to a new deal past 2021 at Punt Road.

Having signed a two-year extension back in 2019, Bolton has recently been linked to a move home to Western Australia, with the pair of Perth clubs likely to have the two-time premiership Tiger on their radar.

Despite the likely interest of either Fremantle or West Coast, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick remains confident in retaining Bolton, but admits there is some concern.

"I'm always uncomfortable with good players out of contract," Hardwick said on Wednesday.

"We love Shai and I'm pretty sure he loves us as well.

"That'll just take a bit of time to work through. Contract discussions are always like that, but we're very confident in what we've created here, that players want to stay and players want to come."

With a tight purse likely strapping Richmond of offering Bolton a lucrative deal to match potential offers from rival clubs, Hardwick said he would hold no resentment in players opting for a more favourable offer.

"I don't begrudge players for looking for different situations that might afford them some luxuries in life, that's the game we're in. We understand that.

"Ideally I'd love to keep Shai Bolton a Tiger and I'm pretty sure he'd like to stay one as well."

DNA web comparison between Shai Bolton and Hugh McCluggage. Source: Stats Insider

Hardwick drew comparisons to some of the greater clubs of the past 20 years, like Hawthorn and Geelong, in how individual sacrifices can be the root of a premiership winning side.

"A number of players have signed for less," he added. "That's a reality, they could get a lot more money somewhere else.

"It's the thing you give up to stay at a successful club. We've seen it over a number of years at other other clubs that have been really successful.

"If you want to play in success, you've got to give up something, and generally it's monetary."

Bolton has taken his game to new heights in 2021, averaging 21.89 disposals, 5.29 inside 50's, 4.71 clearances and one goal per game.

The mercurial Tiger will be hoping to bring his best in Round 8 as the Tigers face Geelong at the MCG on Friday in a Grand Final rematch.

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