Martin on track for AFL return next week

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Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says Dustin Martin is a "strong possibility" to make his AFL return in next week's blockbuster against Collingwood at the MCG.

Martin won't play in Friday night's crunch clash with West Coast in Perth after only recently returning to the club following a stint of personal leave.

The three-time Norm Smith medallist looms as a key cog in Richmond's finals hopes, and Hardwick is optimistic Martin will be ready to play soon.

"We watched him move around and he moved fine," Hardwick said on Thursday.

"It'd probably be doing us and him a disservice if we put him out there (against West Coast) without the preparation he needs.

"He's an important player and to be honest half of Dustin Martin is probably going to be better than the vast majority of players.

"But we just want to make sure when we get him back he's ready to go.

"There's a strong possibility it'll be the Collingwood game but we'll have a better understanding of that next week."

Martin returned to the Tigers' Punt Road headquarters on Saturday and has joined training with his teammates in recent days.

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

"Sorry, VFL. He wouldn't even know what that is," Hardwick joked.

"He'll get a big session tomorrow training-wise, then he'll start to push his case from there.

"We've got to start getting some footy into him. He's been training hard away from the footy club but he hasn't been doing a lot of football work, which is the one thing that can bring players undone."

Martin stepped away from the club following the round-one loss to Carlton.

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

Hardwick feels Martin is in a better place following the stint of personal leave.

"He'll have his good and his bad days, like most people going through that situation," Hardwick said.

"At this stage it's more good than bad. We'll just continue to encourage and support and put an arm around him when we need to.

"He's in a lot better space than he has been, which is a real positive for us and I think the footy world in general."

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

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

West Coast (1-5) have been 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 forced out.

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