Balta earns high praise from Tigers' coach

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says Noah Balta has proven his value to the AFL premiers, as the Tigers mauled the Western Bulldogs.

DAMIEN HARDWICK
DAMIEN HARDWICK Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

His AFL career is less than 20 games deep but Richmond coach Damien Hardwick is in no doubt about the importance of Noah Balta to his team.

The 20-year-old defender was among the Tigers' best at Metricon Stadium on Wednesday as Richmond mauled the Western Bulldogs by 41 points.

In a team already missing the talent of evergreen Bachar Houli, and with Nick Vlastuin sidelined due to a calf injury, Balta's display drew high praise from Hardwick.

"We think for us to be a really good side he has to play," Hardwick said.

"He's just going to grow into the role and, I'm loathe to say it, but he does remind me of a young Alex Rance.

"I look at the way he plays the game and he does some things that only players like him can do and then he'll make a mistake like only him and Alex can do but he's a prodigious talent and we're really excited about what he's got to offer.

"He's got a lot of work to go but we think he's starting to progress nicely ... It's up to Noah how far he wants to go. He's certainly got the talent and the athletic traits to do it."

Balta wasn't alone in impressing for the Tigers on Wednesday.

Experienced stars such as Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt played their part but there were impressive displays too from Jake Aarts (three goals) and Shai Bolton (19 disposals, seven inside 50s).

With Houli, Shane Edwards and Dion Prestia still to return and premiership duo Daniel Rioli and Jack Graham eager to force their way back into the team, Hardwick admits he has some selection headaches coming his way.

"We're going to continue to invest in those players, they'll continue to grow in the roles and continue to be good players for us," he said.


AAP