Hardwick returned serve to Friday night opponent Chris Scott.
Hardwick returned serve to Friday night opponent Chris Scott.

War of words heats up before showdown

RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has returned serve with a smile on Geelong counterpart Chris Scott ahead of their AFL preliminary final.

Scott has been provocative this week before the Friday night clash at the MCG, saying Richmond were a better side before last year's preliminary-final loss to Collingwood.

The Cats finished minor premiers, but will start underdogs after having to come through a semi-final.

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In a huge blow, they have also lost All Australian key forward Tom Hawkins to suspension.

Hardwick was in a relaxed mood on Thursday and laughed when asked about Scott's comment.

"Chris is very good at giving you an insult without giving you an insult I reckon," Hardwick said.

"I love the way he goes about it. I love that football club, really.

Chris Scott started the war of words earlier in the week.
Chris Scott started the war of words earlier in the week.

"They're probably something we've (aspired) to be - they've been an incredible performer over a long period.

"That's something our football is starting to get an understanding of and to create that long-term success."

Geelong belted Richmond by 10 goals in round 12 and, while Richmond are on a 10-game winning streak, Hardwick said the Cats were in a dangerous proposition.

"We have some work to do if we want to win this game."

Hardwick also has mixed feelings about playing Geelong without Hawkins.

"It's a funny one as a coach - you love the predictability of what a Tom Hawkins brings, but I'm also very happy he's out," Hardwick said.

"He's an outstanding talent.

Tom Hawkins leaves the tribunal after failing to have his striking ban overturned. Picture: Michael Klein
Tom Hawkins leaves the tribunal after failing to have his striking ban overturned. Picture: Michael Klein

"What it does bring is something different, whether Harry (Taylor) goes forward, Danger (Patrick Dangerfield) plays a bit more forward, whether (Lachie) Henderson strolls down there, Gary Rohan comes in.

"They will look different, no doubt, but … we're still pretty happy with our defensive mix.

"We feel we can handle anyone."

While Richmond suffered a major blow at the start to the season when they lost Alex Rance to a knee reconstruction, they look in a much better spot compared to last year's preliminary-final loss to Collingwood.

They will take an unchanged side into Friday's game and appear to have none of the injury or health worries that plagued them before Mason Cox ran amok.

"We certainly feel we've given ourselves the best preparation over the last four-five weeks," he said.

"You just have to be playing your best footy at the right time.

"We feel we're in that window."

News Corp Australia

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