<
>

Tigers back Dustin Martin for big 2023 season

Richmond boss Brendon Gale expects to see AFL superstar Dustin Martin back at his brilliant best next year as the Tigers seek to atone for an "uncharacteristic" campaign.

Martin managed just nine games last season as an inconsistent Richmond clawed their way into the finals, only to be eliminated in week one.

They have loaded up again for 2023, with the acquisition of boom recruits Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper laying bare their premiership ambition.

And a fit-again Martin is crucial to the plan.

The 31-year-old joined his teammates for pre-season training at Punt Road on Monday, eager to build a strong platform over summer.

"He's an impeccably well prepared athlete," Richmond CEO Gale said.

"A lot of people probably wouldn't get that impression, but he is. He's really finely tuned and he's really, really proud.

"He's played at a very, very high level for a long time and that's not going to continue forever, but he's still got a very, very important role to play at our football club.

"He's well supported and we expect him to respond this year."

Martin has been through a turbulent 18 months on and off the field.

His father Shane died last December and the superstar went through a lengthy rehabilitation from a lacerated kidney, which ended his 2021 season early.

Martin spent six weeks' personal leave away from Richmond early last season and missed another seven games while sidelined by hamstring injuries at the end of the home-and-away campaign.

Post-season speculation the Tigers' talisman would leave the club with two years left on his contract was ultimately put to bed, and Martin was cleared last month by the AFL integrity unit over his actions in a leaked video of Mad Monday celebrations from 2015.

"He had a really tough year, coming back from a fairly significant injury to start with, and the tragic loss of his father," Gale said.

"He's been training pretty hard, he's been away up north, and he's been doing a fair bit of boxing away from the club.

"He's a proud athlete and he's a proud man and he'll look forward to getting back in the swing of things, that's for sure."

Gale also said coach Damien Hardwick has a fire in his belly for 2023 after the heartbreaking elimination final defeat to the Brisbane Lions in September.

Richmond won their last four home-and-away games to secure a top-eight spot but were knocked out in a pulsating two-point loss at the Gabba.

"(Hardwick) probably wasn't that enthusiastic about the way we finished up last year," Gale said.

"It was an uncharacteristic year and we're looking forward to atone."

Hardwick is overseas on a holiday and study tour but will return in the coming weeks.