Jack Higgins will make a welcome AFL return in Richmond’s season-reopening match against Collingwood, but dual-premiership forward Josh Caddy misses out with a calf injury.
The reigning premiers made two changes for Thursday night’s much-anticipated MCG clash, with Caddy and Toby Nankervis (omitted) dropping out of the side that defeated Carlton by 24 points back in Round 1.
Caddy sat out of Tuesday’s main training session, but is expected to return to the track by the weekend.
Star defender Bachar Houli, who missed Round 1 with a calf problem, comes into the line-up with Higgins, who will play his first AFL match since twice undergoing brain surgery last year.
We love a good news story 🥰
Nine months after his most recent bout of brain surgery, Jack Higgins has been named to play in tomorrow night's #AFLPiesTigers blockbuster.
— AFL (@AFL) June 10, 2020
There were fears the 21-year-old might never fully recover – let alone play football at the highest level again – and his comeback shapes as one of the feel-good stories of 2020 as the Tigers reboot their premiership defence at the MCG.
It will be Higgins’ first game at senior level in 364 days.
“It’s a great story, Jack. He’ll play his first game back since that significant injury last year,” Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.
It’s a testament to the lad. His professionalism and his dedication to his craft is incredible.
“One thing he’s done is gone away and improved some facets of his game that we love as well.”
Hardwick said Higgins’ return had lifted the Tigers when they were told the news on Wednesday morning.
“Any brain injury is significant and quite scary in nature and there was a chance that he might not have been able to play again,” Hardwick said.
“But his doctors and surgeons have done a wonderful job … and Jack himself has done a wonderful job in rehab to make sure he’s given himself every chance.”
Thursday night footy teams are in! https://t.co/6tWu5JXvt2
— AFL (@AFL) June 10, 2020
The Tigers will take only one ruckman into the match against the Magpies, who will feature rucks Brodie Grundy and Darcy Cameron, after Ivan Soldo won the selection battle over Nankervis.
Hardwick tipped shorter quarters and more “dynamic” play would favour the one-ruck policy.
Marlion Pickett has been floated as a Shaun Grigg-type backup for Soldo, while Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt are also capable of competing at the ball-ups.
Hardwick allayed fears over Dion Prestia, after the best-and-fairest winner skipped Wednesday’s light training run at Punt Road.
The four emergencies are Nankervis, Jack Ross, Patrick Naish and Kamdyn McIntosh.