The only team in the AFL still to beat expansion club Gold Coast is a tag Richmond knows it must shake if it is to ease the pressure it could face in the run to the finals.

As a result the inclusion of valuable ruckman Ivan Maric will be pivotal for Saturday's match against the Suns in Cairns.

Richmond is close to ending 12 years of near misses for fans waiting for September involvement, sitting in sixth position and two games ahead of the chasing pack with seven games remaining.

But another loss to a team below it, such as Gold Coast, following last week's flop against 10th-placed North Melbourne, could make for a worrying two months for the club and supporters.

After Gold Coast, Richmond hits a three-week stretch where it plays top-four contenders Fremantle (MCG), Sydney (SCG) and Hawthorn (MCG), although the Tigers look safe in the top eight and have a favourable last month.

All of which makes the Gold Coast assignment a ''danger game'', firstly for the potential consequences and secondly because the Suns have won both their previous matches at Cazaly's Stadium against the Tigers in the past two seasons.

Coach Damien Hardwick acknowledged on Thursday how much Gold Coast had improved this year and how tough it would be to win on Saturday. But the Suns still sit seven spots below Richmond on the ladder, which presents the Tigers with the opportunity to bank a percentage-boosting victory that could be crucial when competition for finals positions heats up in the last month.

''There's a lot of sides vying for those top eight positions in the run home. We're one of those and we've got to make sure we take the opportunities when they present,'' Hardwick said.

Adjusting to the humid and slippery conditions in Cairns, a problem during the Western Bulldogs-Port Adelaide game in Darwin - is another issue for the Tigers.

Then there is Gary Ablett, the hot favourite for this year's Brownlow Medal.

Unfortunately for Richmond, the calf injury that kept Ablett out of the Gold Coast's loss to the Brisbane Lions last week has healed in time for the Suns skipper to make the trip to Cairns.

Ablett was welcomed back by the Suns, along with Seb Tape and Josh Hall, while Daniel Gorringe is out with a shoulder injury and Tim Sumner and Joel Wilkinson were both omitted.

Hardwick could hardly have been more glowing of Ablett, who has averaged an AFL high of 32.2 disposals this season, as well as leading the Suns for goals (18) and inside 50s (5.8 per game).

''His season thus far has been absolutely outstanding,'' Hardwick said.

''I don't think there's a player over the history of the game that's improved every season.

''He's changed the way he plays. I think he's more attacking now than he has been previously.

''His possessions, I think, are better, a lot of them are in the front half.''

There was still no Bachar Houli or Brandon Ellis for the Tigers when teams were released, with both defenders still recovering from injuries.

But the Tigers did recall Ricky Petterd and Matthew Arnot to replace the axed trio of Orren Stephenson, Jake Batchelor and Matt Dea.