Dustin Martin’s continued emergence as a midfield force has been a key factor in Richmond’s reversal of fortunes, according to coach Damien Hardwick.
After a disastrous 1-6 start to the season, the Tigers will be looking for their third win on the trot when they face Essendon in their annual Dreamtime at the `G clash on Saturday night.
Hardwick feels the tide is slowly turning for his side, with Martin’s influence important.
“His fitness levels have improved … but probably the thing that we’ve been really impressed with is his contested ball output has raised incredibly well,” Hardwick said on Thursday.
“So that’s just getting used to midfield patterns of play. He’s played predominantly forward/mid, now he’s probably playing a lot more midfield.
“When we needed him to stand up when Trent (Cotchin) was out (through injury), he did that which is a sign of his maturity level as a player.”
Hardwick likened Martin to Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield in terms of his strength at the contest and ability to effectively dispose of the ball in a tackle.
The 24-year-old has shown impressive focus after his father was deported to his native New Zealand in April over alleged links to an outlaw motorcycle gang.
Richmond can improve to a 4-6 record with a win over the 17th-placed Bombers, Hardwick confident there is still plenty of improvement to come.
“We probably always knew the tide would turn, the confidence within our players and their ability to play the game, would improve,” he said.
“It’s probably taken a little bit longer than we would have liked … we’re still not playing quite to the level of expectation that I would like but we’re certainly on the improve.”