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Big AFL season tipped for Tigers' Martin
Sam Lienert
16:30 AEST Tue Mar 12 2013

Leave Dustin Martin out of your AFL fantasy side at your peril, warns Richmond coach Damien Hardwick.

The powerful 21-year-old midfielder had his struggles on and off-field last year, earning a club suspension and failing to live up to the promise of his first two seasons.

But as Martin enters his fourth year, Hardwick says he's fitter, more settled and ready to play the sort of football he's always looked capable of producing.

"The fact is he's working incredibly hard on the field and off the field he's started a part-time job, which we're really excited about," Hardwick told AAP.

"He's getting some stability in his life and he's formed a really close relationship with (new Tigers development coach Mark) Williams.

"We think this will be the making of him as a player.

"He's had a fantastic pre-season, we certainly look forward to him having a good season in 2013.

"I'd be getting him in your (fantasy) side, put it that way."

Hardwick rated Martin as the Tigers' best in several of their early pre-season games.

He said even in their nail-biting recent win over Essendon, when Martin played only a half, he was best afield.

It hasn't surprised him, given Martin's training performance.

"He's had an enormous pre-season. He's been very, very good," Hardwick said.

"His fitness work has improved."

The flow-on effect of Martin's increased fitness could be new Richmond captain Trent Cotchin becoming even more damaging.

The 22-year-old, admired for his courageous ball-winning in tight and smart distribution, was already joint runner-up in last year's Brownlow Medal count.

But Hardwick said Martin's readiness for more midfield time, the drafting of promising young midfielder Nick Vlastuin and the development of other youngsters would free up Cotchin.

The coach wants him to get more touches in space and kick more goals.

"We think he's capable of kicking two goals a game on a regular basis so we'll look to exploit that," Hardwick said.

He said while Vlastuin needed to learn where to run to gain more possessions, his toughness and good ball use were great starting ingredients.

"He's got some things that you look at him and go `Wow, this kid could be a very good player for us,'" Hardwick said.


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