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Martin on track for AFL return next week | Blayney Chronicle

Richmond manager Damien Hardwick has said Dustin Martin is a “strong possibility” of making his AFL return in next week’s blockbuster against Collingwood at the MCG.

Martin will not play in Friday night’s critical clash with West Coast in Perth after returning to the club recently from personal leave.

Norm Smith’s three-time medalist looms as a key cog in Richmond’s final hopes, and Hardwick is optimistic Martin will be ready to play soon.

“We saw him move and he moved well,” Hardwick said Thursday.

“It would probably do us and him a disservice if we put him there (against the West Coast) without the preparation he needs.

“He’s an important player and to be honest, Dustin Martin’s half will probably be better than the vast majority of players.

“But we just want to make sure that when we get him back he’s ready to go.

“There’s a good chance it’ll be the Collingwood game, but we’ll have a better understanding of that next week.”

Martin returned to Tigers headquarters at Punt Road on Saturday and joined training with his teammates for the past few days.

Hardwick was cheerful when asked if Martin would return via the VFL.

“Sorry, VFL. He wouldn’t even know what it is,” Hardwick joked.

“He’ll have a big training session tomorrow and then he’ll start pushing his case from there.

“We have to start giving him football. He has been training hard away from the football club but he hasn’t done much football work which is the only thing that can undo players.”

Martin walked away from the club after the first-round loss to Carlton.

The 30-year-old mourns the death of his father Shane, who died in New Zealand in December.

Hardwick thinks Martin is in a better place after the personal leave.

“He will have his good days and his bad days, like most people going through this,” Hardwick said.

“At this stage, it’s more good than bad. We’ll just keep cheering him on and supporting him and reaching out an arm when we need it.

“He’s in a much better space than he’s been, which is really positive for us and I think the football world in general.”

The Tigers (2-4) hosted co-captain Dylan Grimes, Kane Lambert, Sydney Stack, Maurice Rioli Jnr and ruckman Ivan Soldo for the game against West Coast.

Veterans Trent Cotchin and Robbie Tarrant were rested, Jack Ross, Rhyan Mansell and Matt Parker were dropped, while Thomson Dow was sent off with a clogged thigh.

The West Coast (1-5) was boosted by the return of All-Australian defender Jeremy McGovern, while debutant Greg Clark and former Blue Sam Petrevski-Seton were also named.

Forward Zac Langdon was dropped, while Bailey Williams (hamstring), Elliot.Yeo (concussion) and Luke Foley (COVID protocols) were sent off.

Australian Associated Press