Richmond's reward for completing a late push into the AFL finals will be a return to action for Dustin Martin, head coach Damien Hardwick has hinted.
Martin has endured a difficult season in 2022, in which he was still dealing with the death of his father before hamstring trouble set in.
The Brownlow Medallist hasn't played since July and has managed just eight games in 2022 as he has focused on his mental health, as well as rehabilitating his hamstring.
The Tigers need to win their remaining two games in order to make the top eight, but could finish as high as sixth on the ladder if other results fall in their favour.
Martin has been the subject of much speculation this season, with many reports suggesting he could seek a move to one of the Sydney based clubs next year.
While Hardwick notably gave Martin the club's blessing to do as he sees fit this off-season, the 31-year-old remains under contract at Punt Road for the next two years.
Despite ruling Martin out for the rest of the home and away season, Hardwick said the plan was for Martin to play should the club make the eight.
“He’s had a reasonable week this week, so our plans are if we make finals, he will be available to play,” Hardwick said.
“But there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge – that’s some three or four weeks away.
“Probably regular season he won’t play any further part, but if we make it, he’ll be putting his hand up to play.
“(We made the decision from) speaking to Dustin; really how he feels and where our medical staff think it is and just to give himself the best opportunity."
Hardwick also admitted that the constant talk of Martin deciding on a move to Sydney had become more frustrating as the season has worn on.
Nick Vlastuin (ribs) and Dustin Martin (hamstring) both running laps together away from main group.
Vlastuin won’t do a full training today, but is still a chance for Sunday’s game against Hawthorn.
Dusty expected to be fit for a hopeful finals campaign 🐯 @Richmond_FC
— Will Faulkner (@willzfaulk) August 11, 2022
Dustin Martin to return for potential Richmond run to AFL finals
Martin memorably toured the GWS Giants facility as a free agent in 2013, but ultimately decided to stick with the Tigers - a move that paid off in the form of three premierships in 2017, 2019 and 2020.
“He’s got two years of his contract to run, so unless you know something I don’t, he’s a Richmond man and Richmond player,” Hardwick said.
“You’ve got to realise how important this guy is to the way we play the game, so the longer we’ve got Dustin Martin in our building, the better for us.
“I think what happens is it’s the 80-20 rule. I think the 80 per cent of stories that are out there that Dustin’s a contracted player are easy, but the 20 per cent of Dustin might go creates the media speculation.
“That gets clicks. So, from us, we know exactly where he’s at, we’ve got a really strong belief of where he’s at – and (the speculation is) driven by a lot of external forces we really can‘t control.”
Meanwhile, Geelong are set to welcome back a host of players from injury this weekend, including Patrick Dangerfield, as they continue their finals preparations.
The Cats sit one game clear of second placed Collingwood, and have a good chance of wrapping up the minor premiership this weekend with a win against the Gold Coast Suns
Dangerfield was a late withdrawal for last weekend's thumping win over St Kilda, but is right to go this week.
Coach Chris Scott revealed on Wednesday Gary Rohan, Joel Selwood and Mark Blicavs are all likely to join Dangerfield in returning to the Cats' side for Saturday's trip to the Gold Coast.
Scott said running-machine Isaac Smith (rested) will be one player to miss out, but there's still plenty of calls to be made adding the returning players into a side that smashed St Kilda by 45 points last time out for an 11th straight win.
"From our conversations, it's all looking really positive in terms of (Dangerfield) playing ... it was a really conservative call to take him out last week," Scott told reporters.
"But we absolutely reserve our right to be really conservative again if need be, but we just don't see any reason to think that that would be the case at the moment."
Scott will still have to work on his ruck set-up, with Jon Ceglar suffering a concussion in the VFL after being the Cats' medi-sub against the Saints.
Rhys Stanley rucked solo, while he'll get help from the rested Blicavs should he return.
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