Lynch to play for Tigers in AFL opener

Key Richmond recruit Tom Lynch will make his debut for the Tigers in round one of the AFL.
Key Richmond recruit Tom Lynch will make his debut for the Tigers in round one of the AFL.

Richmond and Tom Lynch have answered the summer's burning question about his fitness for the AFL season opener but now they must answer another: Can the star forward have an immediate impact?

Months of speculation ended on Wednesday with the boom recruit receiving the all-clear to play his first AFL game for the Tigers in Thursday night's big clash with Carlton.

Lynch was named in a forward pocket, while exciting tall prospect Noah Balta will make his debut, with former St Kilda midfielder Maverick Weller also forcing his way into the 22.

Lynch had a season-ending operation to repair a posterior cruciate ligament in July, then underwent a further procedure to remove scar tissue in November after arriving at Punt Road as a free agent.

His availability for round one has been a hot topic all summer, a fact not lost on coach Damien Hardwick.

"He's playing, alright? That's it. See you tomorrow," a smiling Hardwick said before making as if to leave his weekly press conference.

"Tom will play his first game for the footy club, which is very exciting for us."

Now that the off-season's most prized recruit has been cleared for action, fans will be keen to see what he can do in yellow and black after he kicked a career-high eight goals in the Suns' round two win over the Blues last year.

The chemistry with crowd favourite Jack Riewoldt will be a key factor.

Lynch spent most of the pre-season working on his recovery away from the main group and Hardwick admitted there will be an element of the unknown about the combination.

"We're looking forward to seeing how those two come together," he said.

"It might possibly take a bit of time or it might click straight away ... I'm hoping for the latter.

"... We're still a pressure-first side. Our ability to get the ball to ground is really important to us and it something that we pride ourselves on.

"Tom will help us do that."

Carlton will unveil six new players on Thursday night, with No.1 pick Sam Walsh and mature-aged rookie Michael Gibbons to debut, with experienced recruits Mitch McGovern, Alex Fasolo, Will Setterfield and Nic Newman to play their first games for the club.

Australian Associated Press