Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says star midfielder Dustin Martin should be able to leave the Tigers if he chooses, amid speculation the premiership star's days at the club could be numbered.
Martin has missed a chunk of the 2022 season as he grieves the death of his father Shane in December last year, returning to play his first game of the season earlier this month.
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Contracted until the end of the 2024 season with Richmond, the 30-year-old has long been rumoured to be wanting a change from AFL-obsessed Melbourne, to somewhere he will have more ability to go about his daily life unbothered.
Hardwick has gone on the record, publicly stating that his preference would be for Martin to finish his career with Richmond - but admitting that there was little more the Tigers could expect from him, having already lead the team to three premierships since being drafted third overall in 2009.
Martin signed a lucrative deal to remain with Richmond back in 2017, knocking back a big offer from North Melbourne to stay with the Tigers.
Though it would be a bittersweet moment the day Martin walks out the door at Punt Rd, Hardwick said a late-career team switch would have absolutely no bearing on what he accomplished at Richmond.
“What I will say is he’s a very important player to our footy club, both on the field and off the field, and what he gives us, he’s paid us in spades,” he said.
“Whatever Dustin’s decision is moving forward is up to Dustin and, to be honest, he has my blessing. What he’s given me, us, our fans has been incredible.
“Whatever we get from here on is a real bonus, from my point of view, so I just luckily, like the rest of us, get to see him on a weekly basis perform and train the way he does."
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Hardwick hailed Martin's influence in victories over Collingwood and Hawthorn as the Brownlow medallist played mainly as a forward.
In his first matches after a five week absence, Hardwick said Martin was unsurprisingly a little sore after returning from his time away, and that he would get all the time he needed to get back to his best.
"The way this guy prepares physically and mentally is first-class, it's what the great ones do," Hardwick said.
"There's no coincidence the work he puts in gets rewarded with his on-field performances.
"Even after (Tuesday's training) session, he's doing extra running because that's the sort of performer he is.
"We use him as an example for our young blokes, 'listen you want to reach that level, first of all good luck but this is how you go about it'."
Meanwhile, the Tigers will be hoping to overturn Marlion Pickett's one-match ban at the tribunal on Tuesday evening.
Pickett was offered a one-match ban for a high bump on Hawthorn livewire Dylan Moore during Saturday's clash at the MCG.
It is unfortunate timing for both Pickett and the Tigers, with the 30-year-old and his partner, Jessica Nannup, having designed the jumpers to be worn during Richmond's 'Dreamtime at the 'G' match against Essendon on Saturday night.
"The jumper he's put on show is significant to him and his people and it's just one of those events," Hardwick said.
"To the letter of the law, he struggles to get off." 🗣
Dimma admits Marlion Pickett's Tribunal case will be tricky
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"He plays the game a hard, tough Richmond style and it's unfortunate he finds himself in trouble with the tribunal.
"Hopefully he can get off.
"It's a football act and goes into a contest not hoping to cause injury but we understand these are the rules of the game and we've got our fingers crossed.
"We probably think it's low impact but according to the rules it comes across as medium so it's unfortunate."
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