Richmond forward Tom Lynch’s return will be “critical” to the Tigers’ assault on next weekend’s elimination final, football legend Leigh Matthews has declared.
Lynch has been named as “absolutely” a certain starter for next weekend’s clash by coach Damien Hardwick after suffering a hamstring injury in Round 17.
The Tigers will take on St Kilda at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
Meanwhile, the second semi-final will be played at the Gabba on Saturday night.
Lynch did not play in a scratch match on the Gold Coast on Saturday morning, while premiership duo Josh Caddy and Nathan Broad took on a range of players from the Cats and Power, including Geelong’s Jack Steven and Port Adelaide forward Justin Westhoff.
Tigers midfielder Jack Ross also played in sunny Queensland conditions.
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And Matthews believes that had Lynch played on Friday night, the result against the rampant Brisbane Lions – who are through to a home preliminary final – may have been very different.
“I just reckon if Lynch was playing (on Friday night) and Harris Andrews happened to play on Lynch, then he can’t float off and help (Ryan) Lester on (Jack) Riewoldt,” Matthews said on 3AW.
“My view is Richmond would be a number of goals better off – probably winning the game better off, unless they gave up more 50 metre penalties against them.
“I think that’s how critical the two together is.
“That’s where the (Josh) Kennedy/(Jack) Darling combination (at West Coast) and the Lynch/Riewoldt combination (are unique) – it’s the only (tall forward) duos in the competition.”
The four-time premiership coach believes tall forward and back-up ruck Mabior Chol may be forced to make way for the flag-winning forward.
Matthews said that the Tigers’ tendency to “long bomb” kicks forward to attack would only benefit from an extra tall target.
“Richmond are used to having Lynch and Riewoldt (there) — two really good, big, marking forwards deep,” he said.
“You can bomb the ball in when you’ve got Lynch and Riewoldt jumping at the footy.
“(Without Lynch there) it’s very hard for teams to adjust with, ‘well what have we got tonight, compared to what we normally have?’. And normally, they’ve got enough marking power deep forward to bomb the ball in.”
Hardwick declared on Friday night that the Tigers would seek to play the elimination final at Metricon Stadium, which Matthews said made geographical sense despite suggestions that the reigning premier may be better served from another outing on the ground that will host the Grand Final.
“They’ve played plenty of games at the Gabba this year,” Matthews said.
“I think they just thought, let’s play at the stadium that’s next door to where we’re living.
“I think that’s basically why they would pick Metricon rather than the Gabba, would be my thinking.”