RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick says the club is doing a "truckload of work" to re-sign Dustin Martin as the star midfielder enters free agency in 2017.
Martin is out of contract at the end of the season and a restricted free agent, meaning Richmond can match any rival offer before it risks losing its club champion.
Hardwick said the club's list management team had been in constant communication with Martin's manager Ralph Carr and talks had been positive.
"(Head of football) Neil (Balme) and (list manager) Dan (Richardson) are doing a truckload of work with Ralph," Hardwick said.
"We'd always like to think our talks are positive. Where it's at at the moment … I'm unsure at this stage."
When contacted by AFL.com.au on Thursday, Carr said there was nothing to report or comment on at this stage of negotiations.
Martin signed his last contract – a two-year extension – in February 2015, but his 2013 negotiations dragged into September, weeks before that deal expired.
Hardwick was not concerned about the star midfielder's latest round of talks being a distraction for his team.
"Three years ago clubs would have seen it as a distraction … but Dustin's the ultimate professional," the coach said.
"Dustin has been a great player for the Richmond footy club, and the Richmond footy club has been great for Dustin. He's become the man he is today."
With a "sense of freshness" around the club after a raft of off-season changes, Hardwick said he embraced the pressure he would be under in 2017.
The Tigers are yet to win a final in the coach's seven seasons and 157 games in charge, and his contract expires at the end of 2018.
Hardwick said the bar from Richmond was to make the finals in 2017.
"I don't apologise for putting the expectation bar up high, that's the sort of club we are and the person I am," he said.
"It's a pressure industry and we know what we're in for … I know what my job is. My job is to get the best out of the group I've got at my disposal.
"Where that leads us, I'm pretty confident … my expectation is that we play finals."
Richmond is yet to announce its leadership group for 2017, but Hardwick said he was confident Trent Cotchin would remain captain.
New year, new podium. Damien Hardwick was pumped for today's presser! See more on Footy Feed this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/2yqpNKmtPz— AFL (@AFL) February 23, 2017
The coach said Jack Riewoldt's leadership had improved every year and he would remain a leader in his own right regardless of whether he was promoted into an official role.
Hardwick also addressed the key forward's on-field role and said Riewoldt would play deeper in attack as long as Richmond's ball-use improved.
Moving the ball quicker had been a focus over the pre-season, specifically improving the "connection from half-back to half forward".
New assistant coach Blake Caracella has been placed in charge of ball-movement, with the Tigers' stunted transition from defence last year one of the team's biggest issues.
Hardwick said the recruitment of midfielders Josh Caddy and Dion Prestia would allow star on-ballers Martin and Cotchin to rotate forward more frequently.
Formerly a defender, Nick Vlastuin will also be placed into a group of inside midfielders who rotate forward.
Hardwick said star defender Alex Rance (hamstring tendonitis) would be fit to play during the JLT Community Series, as would half-back Bachar Houli (hamstring soreness).