If Richmond are to pull another rabbit out of their hat and play finals this year the stellar play of Dustin Martin will be a key factor.
The Tigers won their third game on the trot when they dispatched Essendon by 38 points in the Dreamtime at the ‘G clash on Saturday night and Martin led the way.
The bullocking midfielder amassed a career-high 38 possessions, which earned him the Yiooken Award for best on ground and the praise of coach Damien Hardwick, who agreed Martin is in career-best form.
“He’s an incredible athlete, some of his contested-ball gets were very good where he takes on two or three players and delivers the ball out of traffic,” Hardwick said.
“You can’t put a value on those sort of players.
“The scary thing is he still has some areas of his game that we’d like to improve. It’s a credit to the lad – every year he seems to get better and better. He’s 24 … so it’s a great sign.
“He works really hard on his game and he’s always looking for areas to improve.
“We’ve been crying out for that inside mid and he’s put his hand up for that, which is great.
“Credit to him.”
Martin’s performance was pivotal but Brett Deledio, Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards and Shaun Grigg were also important in a Richmond midfield that proved the difference.
Even so, after a 1-6 start to the season, Hardwick isn’t about to paper over the cracks in his team’s play after a workmanlike win over a severely depleted Bombers side.
“I think we won ugly,” he said.
“All credit to Essendon, I thought their pressure around the ball was very good.
“We weren’t overly pleased with our performance, but we were good enough to get the four points.
“We’ve got some work to do, there’s no doubt about that.”
The Tigers will try to make it four in a row when they face ladder leaders North Melbourne in Hobart on Friday night.