RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has called on umpires to give superstar midfielder Dustin Martin greater protection from taggers.
Martin had his colours lowered by master tagger Ben Jacobs in last week's hard-fought 10-point win over North Melbourne.
The Brownlow Medal winner was kept to just 16 possessions, but was still influential with three fourth-quarter goal assists, including the crucial final two goals of the game.
The Tigers take on West Coast on Sunday in a much-anticipated top-of-the-table clash at Optus Stadium.
And Hardwick is keen for his midfield bull to get a clear run.
"It's not often we see Dusty getting beaten ... he took that on board and Jacobs did a great job," Hardwick told reporters on Friday.
"But we probably thought he could have got a little bit of protection from the umpires at various stages.
"He's a ball player and he only got one free kick for the day.
"That's something that we can't control but the fact of the matter is we want to see the ball players play."
While the premiership coach feels strongly about taggers playing the man instead of the ball, he didn't bring it up with the League's umpiring department this week.
"That's for the umpires to determine ... all we ask is that players who are playing the ball get a fair go," he said
"In fairness to Dustin he loves winning ... regardless of his performance he's just happy we won.
"He doesn't blame, he doesn't complain, he just gets on with it."
The reigning premiers have enjoyed a charmed run with injury on their way to an imposing 7-1 record that sees them on top of the ladder.
But they could go into the tantalising encounter without No.1 ruckman Toby Nankervis.
The 23-year-old is battling general soreness as well as a wrist injury suffered during the win over the Roos.
"We're reasonably confident at this stage, but that's not to say that doesn't change," Hardwick said before Friday morning's training run.
"We'll make a pretty early call on that because he's such an important player for us ... if it takes a week (to heal), it takes a week. If he plays, he plays."
Back-up ruckman Ivan Soldo has just seven AFL games under his belt, but Hardwick is confident he can hold his own against Eagles star Nic Naitanui if called upon.
Hardwick confirmed Daniel Rioli will play a half of football in the VFL this weekend as he ramps up his return from a foot injury suffered in the Grand Final win over Adelaide.