'I love the kid': Hardwick leaves door ajar for Ellis return
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'I love the kid': Hardwick leaves door ajar for Ellis return

Brandon Ellis may play in the preliminary final after being dropped for the final against Hawthorn.

Brandon Ellis may play in the preliminary final after being dropped for the final against Hawthorn.

Photo: AAP

Richmond will take a horses for courses approach at selection for their preliminary final in a fortnight, leaving the door ajar for premiership defender Brandon Ellis to return after being dropped on the eve of the finals.

Ellis was forced to watch on as the Tigers steamed into the penultimate weekend of the season with a comprehensive 31-point win over Hawthorn in Thursday night’s qualifying final at the MCG.

The Tigers secured the game with a five goal to two third quarter, and looked to escape without any serious injuries. Star defender Alex Rance played out the game despite a foot complaint and is expected to be available for the MCG clash in a fortnight - which will come against one of West Coast, Collingwood, Sydney or Greater Western Sydney. Youngster Jack Graham was also icing his chest in the rooms, but coach Damien Hardwick said that was just a cork.

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However despite the absence of major injuries, Hardwick said Ellis could yet come straight back in.

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“To be fair, his form was pretty good,” Hardwick said.

“It was just we probably didn’t need his skill set tonight, we went a different way.

“He’s such a valuable player for us, it was really tough leaving him out. It was upsetting for him, it was upsetting for me, I love the kid.

“Just because he wasn’t in the side doesn’t mean he’ll miss out next week. We might require a different skill set at different stages.”

Hardwick praised his side for what he described as a consummate team performance.

“It felt like a Richmond game,” he said.

“I thought we dominated time in forward half, we set up really well behind the ball. I was really pleased with the endeavour of the guys. The pressure was good, tackle pressure was good, and more importantly our setup was back to what we know, so it was pleasing all-round.”

The Tigers will have the weekend off and return to Punt Road on Monday. They have the benefit of having also progressed straight from the qualifying final last year, en route to a drought-breaking premiership.

Hardwick yet again refused to buy into the latest reports about Tom Lynch, who is understood to be joining the Tigers next year after rival suitors Hawthorn and Collingwood were told to look elsewhere for free agency and trade options.

“Nothing’s changed from our point of view,” Hardwick said.

“When Tom’s ready to announce where he’s going to go, then I’m sure we and you will be the first ones to know. But until that stage, once again the window hasn’t open and we’ll just wait and concentrate on what we can control, and that’s playing the preliminary final in two weeks’ time.”