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Blues’ midfield the challenge for Tigers

Thursday, 29th March, 2012

MELBOURNE - Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says his club will need to beat Carlton in their area of greatest strength, the midfield, to win toight’s MCG encounter.

 The Blues have won the past seven contests between the clubs and Hardwick said their midfield dominance had been the key to that streak.

 While Carlton are missing three first-choice defenders, forward Andrew Walker and ruckman Robbie Warnock for the much-anticipated round-one clash, Hardwick said their midfield remained as strong as ever.

 But he said a fast-improving Tigers midfield brigade could still outpoint them.

 “Their midfield, we’ve lowered our colours to them a number of times over the last couple of years, so we’re looking to reverse that trend,” Hardwick told reporters yesterday.

 “If we can get the ball inside 50, an area of strength of ours is our ability to score, so we’ll just make sure we try to win the midfield battle and go from there.”

 Hardwick said the move of Brett Deledio this season from defence to the centre of the ground would make a big difference, along with the development of young guns Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin.

 “It’s very similar to the age bracket (of Carlton’s midfield) when (Chris) Judd first came to the Blues,” he said.

 “Our players are starting to get three to four pre-seasons under their belt, so they’re maturing as a group, which is really exciting for us.”

 Hardwick said a strong pre-season had put the Tigers in a positive mood.

 “We go in confident, we’re playing some good football, but Carlton on the other hand are a formidable opposition,” he said.

 “They’re a top four, five side and although their pre-season record says they haven’t won a game, they’ve been well and truly in every game, so we’re under no illusions how good they can be.”

 Meanwhile, Carlton livewire Mitch Robinson will play his 50th game tonight but has set his sights on 100 after signing for two more years with the Blues.

 The deal, which keeps the fearless Tasmanian 22-year-old at Carlton until at least the end of 2014, pleased Blues football operations manager Andrew McKay.

 “Mitch is highly regarded by everyone at the club and I know the supporters love the way he plays the game,” McKay said.

 “The fact he finished seventh in last year’s best and fairest is an indication of his importance to our team.”

 Taken at No.40 in the 2008 national draft, Robinson made his debut against Richmond in the opening round of the 2009 season.

 He said notching his 50th AFL game in Thursday night’s meeting with the Tigers would be a significant milestone.

 “With the new contract, I hope I am able to play more than 100 games and get my name on the N