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Hardwick confident on Martin's AFL future

3 minute read

Richmond's Dustin Martin has two years left on his AFL contract and coach Damien Hardwick isn't concerned about ongoing noise linking the star to a move away.

DUSTIN MARTIN. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has "no doubt" Dustin Martin will honour his contract with the AFL club despite ongoing speculation about the superstar's playing future.

Martin is contracted for the next two seasons but continues to be linked to a move away from Punt Road, potentially to Sydney.

The 31-year-old is fighting to overcome a hamstring injury in time to resume his role in the Tigers' finals push.

If he doesn't get back on the field in the next four rounds there is some chance the 268-game champion will have played his last game for Richmond.

But not according to Hardwick.

"I've got no doubt he'll be there next year," Hardwick told reporters on Thursday.

"The fact of the matter is, and we've said this publicly, he's a Richmond man for the next two years.

"He's such an important piece of our puzzle and what he brings to the football club on and off the field can't be measured.

"What we love about him is when he's playing he's vibrant and active but also off the field he's got such an emotional connection to this place and our playing group and our staff that is missed when he's not here.

"So, as far as I'm concerned, he'll be here for the next two years."

In May, Hardwick gave Martin his blessing to leave Melbourne's AFL fishbowl if the three-time Norm Smith Medal winner decided that was best for him.

It came soon after Martin returned from a six-week break from the game due to personal reasons.

Hardwick laughed on Thursday when asked about that comment, saying one thing had changed since then: "Sanity."

He added his players feel loved at respected at Richmond and are confident in the support structures the club has put in place, noting in-demand utility Liam Baker's decision to sign a new two-year deal this week.

Martin has not played since suffering a hamstring injury in round 16 and suffered a setback last week, putting his return this season in doubt.

"Whether he gets back, we're hopeful he does," Hardwick said.

"He's a pretty important player to the way we play the game, so we'll give him every chance."

Richmond sit 10th after last week's draw with Fremantle and face a huge test of their finals credentials against Brisbane at the MCG on Sunday.

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