Richmond player hurt in altercation at local soccer match

Richmond key defender Noah Balta was allegedly punched in the mouth while helping to coach a local soccer team in Altona North on Sunday, the club has confirmed.

A fight broke out during the game and Balta, who was helping coach the team which also featured close friend and former Tigers ruckman Ivan Maric, was struck in the mouth. He was not seriously injured.

Noah Balta celebrates for the Tigers.Credit:AFL Photos

He informed Richmond of the incident and the Tigers have cleared him of any wrongdoing. The AFL integrity unit has been informed as a matter of protocol.

Meantime, the Tigers are likely to finally have full-forward Tom Lynch and midfielder Shae Bolton back to lead a group of senior players returning for the second practice match.

Lynch has been battling a plantar fascia problem over the summer, with the Tigers patiently building him towards fitness for round one.

Tom Lynch had a goal overturned on review in the elimination final loss to the Lions.Credit:AFL Photos

He will be assessed during the week but is a strong chance to play at least some minutes in the second practice match this week, against Melbourne at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon.

Bolton missed the first practice match against North Melbourne last week while he attended a funeral, but he is likely to return to the club this week and play against the Demons.

Jack Graham’s turf toe injury, which he managed last year then had treatment for at the end of the season, is still causing him problems. He is a chance albeit possibly unlikely for round one.

Liam Baker had his appendix out, forcing him to miss the first practice match. He could be a chance to play this week but will certainly be fit for round one.

The management of Lynch, however is the most critical. While Richmond will have a new-look midfield with the arrival of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, they have a very familiar-looking forward set-up with veterans Lynch and Jack Riewoldt still the key targets.

The former All-Australian Lynch, who has turned 30, won the Jack Dyer Medal last year and is probably the Tigers’ most critical structural player.

Geelong, meanwhile, are still waiting for clarity on the extent of damage and the rehab plan for Jack Henry’s foot after he suffered an injury in the Cats’ practice match win over Hawthorn.

It was the same foot Henry twice injured last year and spent seven matches on the sidelines. Henry will see a specialist early this week to determine the course of action.

Geelong’s Jack Henry re-injured his foot in the first practice matchCredit:Scott Barbour, The Age

Henry had been used as a forward target during the pre-season due to Tom Hawkins being in the rehab group as he recovers from injury. Henry has been used forward periodically and would have been an option forward were Hawkins to miss the early rounds.

Given his history, Henry himself now looks doubtful for the first rounds, but that will be confirmed this week.

Geelong on Saturday night announced Patrick Dangerfield as the club’s new captain after Joel Selwood’s retirement. All Australian defender Tom Stewart was appointed vice captain.

A late Saturday evening announcement might be a clue to the fact this was more of a confirmation of an expected appointment than surprising news.

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