AFL: Dustin Martin ‘really important’ to Tigers forward line, says coach

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Richmond coach Adem Yze says the Tigers will lean on Dustin Martin for leadership in their ravaged forward half as the superstar returns for his third game of the season on Sunday.

Martin, who will play after overcoming a calf complaint that kept him out of the win over Sydney, is set to spend crucial periods as a deep forward as Richmond covers for the double loss of Tom Lynch (hamstring) and Noah Balta (knee).

Yze said the 32-year-old would still rotate through the middle of the ground but stressed his importance to a vastly different Tigers’ forward structure for their clash against St Kilda at Norwood.

“Having Dustin back in the side is a great thing for our team – he’ll still have a mixture of inside midfield time and forward, Shai (Bolton) is doing the same,” Yze said.

“We’ll look at the balance of our team … but to have him available is great for our group.

“With two quality forwards and experienced forwards going out, his organisation in our front end is going to be really important for us, so we can’t wait to have him back out there.”

Yze said the hamstring tendon injury to Lynch, who may not play again this season, had made the stirring victory over the Swans “bittersweet”.

“We obviously really enjoyed the win and it was good for our fans, good for our players to get some reward for effort,” Yze said.

“But when you hear the news of two really quality players … Noah’s going to be OK, he’ll be back in three or four weeks, but knowing what Lynchy went through last year was just gut-wrenching.

“He had his operation (Thursday), it all went well and he’ll be back. The positive is this year he’s going to be able to run within three weeks and he’ll be around the group a bit more, but it’s sad for him.”

Yze said he wanted to keep Ben Miller in defence rather than use him at centre half-forward after his impressive form playing alongside Tylar Young, suggesting both Sam Naismith and Jacob Koschitzke could come into the Richmond side.

If Naismith is picked, he would play his first game with Toby Nankervis since the duo rucked together for Sydney in the 2016 semi-final win over Adelaide.

“We have to think about it (moving Miller). I feel like he’s in really good form. My gut feel is that we’ll keep (the backline) pretty stable and we’ll work out how we’re going to reshuffle the front end,” he said.

“(Naismith) is in really good form, he’s knocking the door down. If we do decide to go that way, we know we’ve got a quality player and a quality person who can come into that area.”

As he remained tight-lipped over the prospect of a Gather Round debut for South Australian draftee Kane McAuliffe, Yze said Richmond was planning carefully for the tighter dimensions at Norwood Oval, which is 30m narrower than the MCG surface.

“We obviously marked the ground out to just get a feel for how narrow it is (before) we train there on (Saturday),” he said at Punt Road.

“We’ve gone with a smaller side the last couple of weeks anyway, there might be more stoppages, so we’ve got to consider maybe a second ruck.

“It is hard to get it out of your back end, whether you do play down at Geelong or Norwood as well.

“We can’t have that being a shock. If we kick the ball out on the full too many times this weekend, that’s my fault.”