<
>

Richmond star Dustin Martin won't play until AFL finals

Dustin Martin of the Tigers won't play until the AFL finals. Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Dustin Martin has been ruled out of rest of the home-and-away season but Richmond expect the superstar to be back for the start of the AFL finals.

The three-time Norm Smith medallist hasn't played since hurting his hamstring during the Tigers' win against West Coast on July 3.

With Richmond's finals place all but assured, the Tigers are taking a cautious approach with Martin.

The 31-year-old has played just eight games this season as he has dealt with personal issues and soft-tissue injuries.

"The regular season he won't play any further part, and if we make it (finals), he'll be putting his hand up to play," Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said at Punt Rd on Thursday.

"Probably speaking to Dustin really how he feels and where our medical staff think it is, just to give himself the best opportunity.

"We want to give him the very best opportunity to play at his best, we know what he's like at this time of year (in finals)

"If we get there, he'll certainly have a significant part to play."

Adding to the intrigue around Martin is constant speculation the media-shy matchwinner could leave Richmond, and escape the Melbourne AFL fishbowl, to play in Sydney next year.

Hardwick in May gave his blessing for Martin to move if he chooses, despite having two years left on his contract with the Tigers.

But the triple premiership coach is not worried about the rumours and believes Martin will remain at Richmond.

"He's a Richmond man and a Richmond player," Hardwick said.

"The longer we have Dustin Martin in our building, the better for us.

"The 20 per cent of stories that Dusty might go creates the media speculation, that gets the clicks

"It's driven by lots of external forces that we can't control."

Meanwhile, star defender Nick Vlastuin remains a chance to face Hawthorn at the MCG on Sunday after suffering a rib injury in the win over Port Adelaide last Saturday night.

Veteran Shane Edwards is expected to return to take on the Hawks after being rested following his 300th game in round 20.

Richmond (11-1-8) sit eighth on the ladder ahead of winnable games against non-finalists Hawthorn and Essendon.