Richmond coach Damien Hardwick admits Tigers will have tough time covering for suspended Brett Deledio

Deledio is serving a one-week ban. Photo: Wayne Taylor Deledio is serving a one-week ban. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Deledio is serving a one-week ban. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Deledio is serving a one-week ban. Photo: Wayne Taylor

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A host of candidates have put their hand up to replace Brett Deledio this week, but Richmond coach Damien Hardwick conceded his team will have a tough time covering for the suspended star.

Deledio was one of Richmond’s best against Carlton last round but paid the price for his head-high bump on Simon White which led to him receiving a one-match ban – the first suspension of his career.

Kane Lambert, Matt McDonough, Ricky Petterd and Chris Knights, who hasn’t played since Round 7, 2013, are all in line to fill the void left by the two-time best-and-fairest against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on Saturday.

“Obviously (he’s) a very hard player to replace,” Hardwick said of Deledio.

“We’ve got some options there to replace him, it’s just a matter of finding the best piece of the puzzle.”

Hardwick revealed that Deledio probably wouldn’t have played this week even if he wasn’t suspended due to a calf injury, but fully expected the veteran to be fit to tackle the Brisbane Lions in Round 3.

The Richmond coach praised the improved physical aspect of Deledio’s game, but still lamented the “split-second” decision he made when confronting White in the first few moments of the season opener.

“It’s disappointing to lose a good player but the fact of the matter is you’ve got two guys running at the ball and you’ve got a split second to make a decision whether to dive under, whether to take out the legs and give away a free kick, whether to bump,” Hardwick said.

“So it was one of those ones we probably wish he made the other decision, but he didn’t.

“We’re disappointed he’s reported but his overall vigour and attack on the ball we have been really impressed with over the course of the last 12 to 18 months.”

But Hardwick was happy with the revamped match review panel system and that leniency was being applied to incidents such as Steve Johnson’s late bump on Sam Mitchell on Easter Monday.

“The great thing about it is we’re not seeing players miss for minor indiscretions which is really important,” he said.

“I think we love to see the good players playing the game.”

Defender David Astbury is also a chance to play against the Bulldogs as he continues to recover from being stung in the left foot by a stingray, but Hardwick intimated that a horses-for-courses policy might keep him from being selected.

“Dave will be thereabouts, he played pretty well last week in our VFL side so it’s one of those ones with matchups,” he said.

“They’ve obviously not got a tall forward line the Bulldogs, so all our key (backs) played pretty well (against Carlton) but he’ll certainly put his hand up to play, it’s been a really good recovery from the stingray sting.”

“He’s still got stitches in his foot but that’s a common occurrence with that type of injury.

“It will be a little bit of a problem for two to three weeks but he’s managing the pain pretty well.”

Hardwick described the Bulldogs as “incredible” following their 10-point win over West Coast last week but hoped Richmond would have an advantage by playing at the MCG – a ground the Dogs have visited only six times in the previous four seasons.

“Their pressure has been outstanding, their forward-50 tackling … they’ve probably shown even last year their ability to win contested ball, to tackle, to pressure the opposition – it’s gone up a notch again,” Hardwick said.

“We’re a good contested side also so it’s just a matter of absorbing that pressure and getting the ball on the outside. It’s easier said than done against a side that come in waves of defensive pressure so it’s going to be a tough game.”

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