Hardwick explains Richmond’s late sub call as questions are raised over tall defender’s injury

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has explained why tall defender Ben Miller was subbed off in the final quarter of the Tigers’ crucial draw with Fremantle.

Key points:

  • Tigers defender Ben Miller was medically subbed out late in the draw with Fremantle
  • Reports differed on why Miller was taken out of the game, with Damien Hardwick saying it was a calf injury
  • A player can only be subbed out if he is deemed medically unfit to participate in any match for at least the next 12 days

With Richmond up by a goal after 16 minutes of play in the final quarter, Miller came to the bench and was medically-subbed out of the game for the smaller, quicker Maurice Rioli.

A minute later, Fremantle tied the scores up on the back of a Bailey Banfield goal, leading to the first draw of the 2022 AFL season.

The substitution raised eyebrows, with Miller not appearing to suffer any visible injury.

The medical substitute rule was brought in ahead of the 2021 season, with doctors supposed to determine the “player will be medically unfit to participate in any match for at least the next 12 days”.

“I think he had a calf, and was cramping significantly towards the end, but I think he tightened up in his calf as well so he might be OK,” Hardwick said.

Tigers teammate Nathan Broad said he believed Miller had been suffering full body cramps, rather than tightness in the calf.


“Benny Miller had the full body cramps. He just couldn’t move,” he said.

“He could not move. He genuinely could not move. His whole body had shut down.”

Meanwhile, former Tigers spearhead Matthew Richardson said on the Channel 7 broadcast that Miller had been receiving work on his groin during the match, while Fox Footy journalist Jon Ralph reported that the Tigers had told him the defender had been subbed out due to a groin injury.

Richmond doctors will now have to provide the AFL with a medical certificate today as evidence that Miller sustained an injury.

If a club is found to be breaking the medical substitute rule, it can be sanctioned “for conduct unbecoming, or prejudicial to the interests or reputation of the AFL, or to bring the game of football into disrepute”.

Hardwick backs the Tigers to bounce back in run to finals

Hardwick maintains the Tigers’ best is good enough despite a third frustrating result in as many weeks.

The draw followed an after-the-siren defeat to Gold Coast and losing to bottom of the table North Melbourne during a frantic finish last week.

Against the Kangaroos, it was Jake Aarts playing on when he was just 30m out from goal, this time young forward Noah Cumberland wheeled onto his left foot just as the siren sounded.


Earlier, Noah Balta had a chance to put the Tigers ahead with a set shot from 40m, but was called to play on after taking too long to start is run up. The resulting kick was smothered.

It was another blow to the Tigers’ top-eight hopes, and they could drop to as low as 10th by the end of the round should the Bulldogs beat the Demons and the Saints beat the Eagles.

“(Cumberland’s) disappointed, and the kid would be, but the fact of the matter is it’s a part of the whole equation,” Hardwick said.

“There’s a number of things we didn’t do that well and a number of things we did.

“We made some errors defensively and offensively that cost us goals the other way.

“It’s a mountain, there’s a summit out there and we don’t know which way it will take us.

“What we do know is that our best footy will challenge sides and if we just get it right at the right time.”

Fyfe injury a “road-bump” for hurting Dockers

Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir believes Nat Fyfe’s latest injury is merely a “road-bump” for the dual Brownlow medallist.


The draw could mean Fremantle drop out of the top four by the end of the weekend should the Lions beat the Suns and the Magpies beat the Bombers.

But the Dockers are facing another stretch without their captain after Fyfe was subbed out in the third quarter with a hamstring injury.

“(Fyfe’s) a pro, he had a smile on his face and got around his teammates so we’ll get it scanned,” Longmuir said.

“This is a road-bump, the way I see this, because he’s got over his big injuries and sometimes when you’re trying to come back and trying to be committed, you can have little setbacks.

“Hopefully that’s all this is, a little setback.”

It has been a frustrating 12 months for Fyfe, who only made his first appearance of the season in round 13 after multiple shoulder surgeries, a knee injury and a back operation since the end of the 2021 campaign.

The 30-year-old was just six games back and now will be racing the clock to be part of the Dockers’ first finals campaign since 2015.

Author: Ivan Robinson