AAP AFL

Houli, Vlastuin return for Tigers in AFL

By AAP Newswire

Richmond are bracing for a mini-final against GWS on Saturday night when they aim to break their AFL interstate drought.

While the Tigers will regain premiership stars Bachar Houli and Nick Vlastuin, coach Damien Hardwick has warned that the Giants have also improved considerably over the last month.

GWS have won four of their last five matches and are 10th, half a game out of eighth spot.

"Over the last three or four weeks, their style of game has really lifted to another notch," Hardwick said.

"It's probably a mini-final for them, so to speak.

"They've been one of the best over the last four weeks at maintaining possession through their back half.

"They're playing some really good footy - last week they were pretty stiff not to beat West Coast."

The one knock so far on Richmond's premiership defence is they are yet to win on the road.

"We've haven't won away, we accept that, we're looking to rectify that," Hardwick said.

"I'm really confident our boys will play their best footy and give ourselves the best chance possible."

While Richmond lost Nathan Broad, Dan Butler and Jack Graham to injury, Houli and Vlastuin are big inclusions.

Broad has a fractured cheekbone and was sporting a black eye as he trained on Thursday morning.

Vlastuin is back from suspension and Houli has not played since round 10 because of a groin injury.

"He's one of the premier half-backs in the league ... his ability to generate offence for us is really good," Hardwick said of Houli.

The coach noted fellow defenders Jayden Short and Brandon Ellis have shown strong form in the last few weeks.

"We're really pleased those guys are putting together a nice little back six or seven down there," he said.

"We're in a really good place at the minute."

Small forward Shai Bolton was named as the Tigers' third inclusion but Hardwick noted there were plenty of other contenders putting their hands up.

"Probably in alphabetical order, who have we got? We've got (Liam) Baker, (Shai) Bolton, (Sam) Lloyd, (Connor) Menadue - yeah, we've got a lot of those players," Hardwick said.

"We have some challenges this week, obviously, with three quality players going out, but we're very happy with the quality of players we're able to bring in.

"You never know how your side changes - you only have to look at last year, some guys came into the side late and helped us play some really good footy at the death."