Coach Damien Hardwick has warned Dustin Martin won’t be Richmond’s panacea as the struggling Tigers prepare to welcome back their biggest star against St Kilda next week.
With Martin sidelined by bruised ribs, the Tigers were held to just five goals for the second straight week in a 32-point defeat to Hawthorn on Thursday night.
It left the reigning premiers winless from two games since the season restart after a dour draw with Collingwood in round two.
Slow starts have hurt Hardwick’s side, who have gone goalless in first quarters against the Hawks and Magpies and laid only nine tackles in the first half against Hawthorn.
Hardwick declared Martin a highly probable inclusion against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium in round four but said his underperforming needed a lift across the board.
“You take one of the best players, if not the best player in the league, out of your side and you’d prefer to have him than not,” Hardwick said.
“But the reality is there’s 22 other players that play our way, they just didn’t play well enough tonight (against Hawthorn).
“Dustin is one player. He’s not the Richmond Football Club.
“He’s a very important player, don’t get me wrong, but our expectation is that our players that pull on the jumper play a hell of a lot better than they did tonight and I’ve got to coach them better as well.”
Martin has been incredibly durable over the course of his decorated career, with Thursday night’s match just the eighth AFL game he has missed in 10 seasons.
The 28-year-old has played 226 of the Tigers’ 233 matches since making his AFL debut in round one of the 2010 season.
He hurt his ribs in an intra-club match before round two and carried the injury into the Collingwood clash before being rested.
“We think he’s highly probable next week,” Hardwick said.
“He was touch and go this week but we made the call just to get it right.
“We don’t want it to be nagging him for another two to three weeks.”