'Massive challenge': Dustin Martin opens up on sad father ordeal

Pictured here, father and son Shane and Dustin Martin throw up their arms in celebration.
Dustin Martin's father Shane has been missing from the stands during all three of his son's premiership wins. Pic: AAP/Getty

Dustin Martin has won it all in the AFL but the Richmond superstar admits there is still one thing missing from his incomparable CV: having his dad watch him from the stands during a grand final.

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick this week warned AFL rivals that they would be facing a fitter and more defensively minded version of the three-time premiership star this season.

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Martin - the only three-time Norm Smith Medallist in history and regarded as one of the greatest to play the game - says his one big regret centres around his father's absence for the biggest moments of his career.

Shane Martin was deported to New Zealand in 2016 and has so far had his attempts to re-enter Australia knocked back.

The Richmond player's father was deported on the basis of bad character due to his previous bikie gang association.

However, the younger Martin says it would be his "dream" to have his father watch him play in an AFL decider and admits he hasn't given up hope of it happening.

“It’s been a massive challenge, but it is what it is,” Martin said on Fox Footy during an interview with AFL great Nick Riewoldt.

“I love my dad and he’s made me the man I am today. I’ve got full belief he’ll back here to watch us win another flag.

“That’s my dream to be able to have the old man up there (in the grandstand) with the rest of my family and watch the Tiges win another flag.”

Richmond begin their new season in front of 50,000 fans at the MCG on Thursday night, aiming to cement their legacy as one of the greatest teams in AFL history with a fourth flag in five seasons.

In a scary omen for rivals clubs, the Tigers coach believes Martin is ready to take his game to an even higher level.

"His fitness work this year has been phenomenal," Hardwick said.

"That's one area that I've noticed that he's put a lot of work in and certainly we're seeing the benefits of that."

Improved fitness will help Martin adjust to a return to full-length quarters this season - back to 20 minutes from last year's reduced 16 minutes.

But Hardwick said the three-time Norm Smith Medal winner's fitness focus was more about his personal desire to improve his game.

Seen here, Dustin Martin celebrates Richmond's 2020 AFL grand final win
Dustin Martin and the Tigers are chasing a fourth grand final win in five years in 2021. Pic: Getty

Tigers superstar focused on defence

Martin's defensive output has also been noticeably higher during the 2021 pre-season.

"That's one of the things - he's covering the ground a lot better and his speed is up as a result of that," Hardwick said.

"He's been really impressive this pre-season and hopefully he takes that into Thursday night's game."

After going 37 years without a premiership, Richmond supporters are lapping up the current golden era that has seen the Tigers claim three of the last four premierships.

The season where they fell short, 2018, was their most dominant after finishing on top of the ladder, but were brought undone by a Mason Cox cameo in the preliminary final.

Two teams have claimed three-straight premierships this century - the Brisbane Lions (2001-03) and Hawthorn (2013-15) - but a fourth title in five years is something that has not been done since Melbourne won five from six between 1955 and 1960.

Even the Hawks' powerhouse teams of the 1980s and early 1990s spread their five premierships out over nine seasons.

Despite Richmond's shot at history, captain Trent Cotchin has insisted the Tigers are not motivated by great teams from other eras.

Time will tell how much energy the unique experience of winning a premiership in the Queensland hub last season took out of Damien Hardwick's group.

But their journey to the 2021 flag begins against a team that have not lost for eight years, back when the Tigers were still the butt of jokes.

While Geelong, the team Richmond defeated in last year's grand final, Port Adelaide and the Brisbane Lions are strong contenders to take the Tigers' crown, any team with Dustin Martin in it already carries a major advantage.

Apart from defender Bachar Houli (calf), the bulk of the Tigers' premiership squad have been named to take on the Blues.

Two-time premiership hero Marlion Pickett is a chance to be named as Richmond's first medical substitute after being included as one of four emergencies.

with AAP

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