Damien Hardwick has declared Richmond star Tom Lynch a certainty to return from injury in an AFL semi-final that he expects to be played at Metricon Stadium.
The Tigers’ coach made clear his preference for a home final on the Gold Coast after his side’s premiership defence was dealt a significant blow in a 15-point qualifying final defeat to Brisbane.
He said the 10.9 (69) to 8.6 (54) loss at the Gabba will be treated as a “gift” despite Richmond being relegated to a do-or-die meeting with St Kilda or the Western Bulldogs.
The difficult path to a grand final is an unfamiliar one for the Tigers, who advanced directly to the preliminary final stage in each of the past three seasons.
“For us it’s all about the growth that we take out of the game,” Hardwick said.
“A lot of things that we did tonight were areas that we can certainly improve.
“We’ll go to school on that and there’s a couple of things that we’ll take out of the game that will certainly get us better for next week’s opponent.
“We don’t really care who we play, we’re just looking forward to getting back out and playing a hell of a lot better than we did tonight.”
Hardwick lamented the Tigers’ ill discipline in giving away a string of free kicks and 50-metre penalties during the latter stages of the second term, allowing Brisbane to take control of the contest with three quick goals.
He also bemoaned the umpires “trigger happy” approach as Richmond lost the free kick count 17-11.
“The players know, they understand. The situation is it’s a volatile game and players will get angry,” Hardwick said.
“I think at the end of the day the game is umpired in a certain way.
“It’s a final, let them play. It’s for the players to play.”
Hardwick apologised for a pre-match blunder when he forgot to join his players on the field for the welcome to country ceremony.
He raced across the field moments just moments before the national anthem to stand in the line-up.
“I just completely forgot,” Hardwick said.
“It was a mad dash down and I got there in the end.
“It was disappointing I stuffed that up. It probably sums up our night.”