Richmond coach Damien Hardwick knows when he wants to see the Brownlow winning best from star midfielder Dustin Martin, but isn’t sure that aligns with reality.
Martin will return to face Geelong on Saturday having been “knocked around” by the illness which kept him out of last week’s win over Carlton, continuing an interrupted 2022 for the 30-year-old which has seen his regular output below his normal lofty standards.
Hardwick said “this week” when asked on Wednesday when Martin would give Richmond his blockbusting best, but knows that might be fanciful, although acknowledging just having the triple Norm Smith medallist around the club made the Tigers instantly better.
“He hasn’t had the pre-season that we would have liked obviously with the issues that he’s had but the fact of the matter is guys don’t forget how to play,” he said.
“They just need to start getting into a bit of a groove and we’ve got no question that’s not too far away.
“How he comes out (after the illness), we’re not too sure. But we’re pretty confident it (Martin’s best) is not too far away.
“What we have got to realise, the level of expectation on Dustin is incredibly high. The way he plays the game even at 60 per cent is far above probably most, to be fair.
“He has been playing his role. We have been winning games with him playing that role. Just him being in the side is a bonus for us … and what he gives us off field is such a spark, that’s almost as important to us.”
But while Martin will return to boost the Tigers it could be a match-day decision which determines whether key defender Robbie Tarrant will be able to stand star Cats forward Tom Hawkins.
Hardwick said Tarrant, who trained with a glove on his right hand on Wednesday, was a “tough bugger” after playing on against the Blues with a cracked bone in his hand which required a plate being inserted on the weekend.
“He did that injury in the first three to four minutes and got an injection, had a plate inserted on the Friday or Saturday,” he said.
“He is looking likely at the moment.
“It’s not the best thing to look at, to be fair, his hand at the moment. But obviously with the plates in there it does make it stronger.
“He has just got to feel comfortable enough to play and if he is, we will pick him.
“He‘s a guy with great experience, has been around these sorts of things before, so he will have a better understanding than most about what is required to get the job done.”
If Tarrant doesn’t come up youngsters Ben Miller and Bigoa Nyuon are in contention to come in to help curb not just Hawkins but also Jeremy Cameron with Noah Balta also sidelined by injury.