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Stack’s on for contract extension, Vlastuin seeks recall

“What I have been really impressed with is his ability to learn and grow from an off-field perspective, which we think is going to hold him in good stead moving forward,” Hardwick said.

“He’s only scratching the surface of his career. There’s no doubt he can play the game, and we’ll continue to invest in him, both on and off the field.”

Stack’s breakout game came as the Tigers and Bachar Houli mull whether the three-time premiership star plays on. Houli, 33, will not play again this season due to a syndesmosis injury.

Superstar Dustin Martin continues to recover on the Gold Coast from a lacerated kidney.

While the Tigers have lost six of their past seven matches, they sit only four points adrift of the top eight, with three matches remaining. They are set to be boosted by the return of premiership defender Nick Vlastuin (knee, quad) against North Melbourne on Saturday.

“We are confident that he will get up,” Balme said.

“He’s only scratching the surface of his career. There’s no doubt he can play the game, and we’ll continue to invest in him, both on and off the field.”

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick on Sydney Stack

The Tigers continue to back the game plan that led to three premierships in four years, but Hardwick admitted on Sunday the manner in which several teams were playing this season, notably through more uncontested marks, had changed.

He also cited fatigue in another challenging year, with the pandemic forcing late fixture changes and teams into quarantine.

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The Tigers have also been derailed by injuries but their drop-off, statistically, has been damning. It includes slipping from eighth to last since round 13 in scores per inside-50 percentage, and from fifth to 16th in goals per inside-50 percentage in the same period.

They face Greater Western Sydney in round 22 in what shapes as a crunch clash, and finish the home-and-away campaign against Hawthorn.

The Tigers believe they can “cause some grief” should they make September, but Essendon great Matthew Lloyd said he hopes “they are more realistic, internally, than what they are publicly, because they are in a big hole”.

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