Richmond coach's positive update on Dustin Martin amid absence

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Pictured here, Richmond superstar Dustin Martin at a training session with the Tigers.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says Dustin Martin is in a 'better space' but has not put a return date on his star player. Pic: Getty

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has offered fans an encouraging update on Dustin Martin amid the superstar's continued absence from the AFL.

Martin has been on indefinite personal leave from Richmond since mid-March, as he deals with a number of things including the tragic death of his father Shane in December.

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While Hardwick admits he's still not sure when his three-time Norm Smith medallist will return to Richmond, the coach has confirmed Martin is "in a better space" than when he left.

Martin was given permission to spend time with family and friends in Sydney but has since returned to Melbourne, fuelling speculation that his return could be imminent.

However, Richmond are still yet to put a specific timeline on the 30-year-old's return to action, having previously said that they'll give him all the time he needs.

"We're reluctant to provide a running commentary but what we do know is he's in a better space," Hardwick said.

"When we know more we certainly will give you guys more information but at this stage it's the same as it has been."

Martin is mourning the loss of his father, Shane, who died in New Zealand in December.

A fortnight ago, Richmond senior adviser Neil Balme insisted Martin had not played his last game for the club, declaring the midfielder's return was "just a matter of when".

That was contrary to a report from AFL journalist Sam McClure who claimed Martin was "considering his future in the game".

Pictured right is Dustin Martin has his late father Shane, who died in December, 2021.
Dustin Martin has been left heartbroken by the tragic death of his father Shane in December, 2021. Pic: Richmond FC/Getty

Tigers face Demons in Anzac Day eve clash

Richmond have been inconsistent in the absence of Martin, as well as several injured stars, slipping to a 2-3 record ahead of the Anzac Day Eve blockbuster against Melbourne.

Kamdyn McIntosh will return after missing last week's loss to Adelaide through COVID-19 protocols and Kane Lambert is set to play his first senior match of the season.

Lambert has overcome a hip injury and has built his fitness on limited game time in the VFL over the past fortnight.

Hardwick is "very bullish" Lambert will be given the all-clear to take on the unbeaten Demons but concedes the midfielder won't be at peak fitness.

"He's a pretty fit guy overall, footy-wise he hasn't played a lot, but we're pretty confident that what he can bring is going to be pretty good," Hardwick said.

"He's just such an important guy to our club.

"He's a coach on and off the field and just a wonderful ambassador for us with the way he plays the game."

Richmond will consider recalling ruckman Ivan Soldo to help Toby Nankervis against Melbourne duo Max Gawn and Luke Jackson.

But Soldo needs to be cleared to play after spending time in hospital this week with an infected toe.

with AAP

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