Dustin Martin ahead of Richmond's clash with Carlton in round 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THE DUSTY dilemma needs to be dealt with first, and fast, by Richmond.

Does Dustin Martin want in on the 2025 season? If yes, the club needs to know now. If he's out, plans can be put in place for a proper and deserved farewell toward the end of what has been a disastrous year.

Then, the Tom Lynch matter needs to be determined. Liam Baker also. Then Daniel Rioli. After that, tough conversations need to be had with Dylan Grimes and Dion Prestia, too.


There is so much to work through at the Tigers, given how far they have fallen since securing the 2017, 2019 and 2020 premierships.

Preparation for 2025 and beyond needs to begin now, not after the remaining eight matches of the 2024 season, and the Martin situation is symptomatic of the Tigers' broader issues. A lauded premiership player who is not playing anywhere near premiership-winning levels. There are 15 in that category on the current list – players who helped the Tigers to win flags.

Martin's form has plummeted as this year has unfolded. He and his teammates weren't even properly able to elevate their performances in his 300th match, against Hawthorn in round 14.


Martin took himself out of game No.301 last Sunday with a back spasm, having tallied just seven disposals. Even before that match, new coach Adem Yze, now clearly struggling with a 2-13 scoreline, had already conditioned the industry for Martin to not be playing next Saturday, against Fremantle.

I'm not calling for Martin to end his time as a Tiger. I always want the greats to remain as long as possible and, having won three Norm Smith Medals, he is the one Richmond player who has fully earned the right to do what he wants at this club for at least one more year.

There has always been a beautiful mystique attached to Martin's time in football, but right now there is a frustrating unknown surrounding him.

Richmond would be entitled to demand full knowledge of Martin's plans in the next fortnight. In fact, it should set that as a deadline. Three outcomes remain at play here – retire, continue as a Tiger, play with the Gold Coast Suns – and all three could be managed privately until late August.

Dustin Martin is chaired from the field after his 300th game, against Hawthorn in round 14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Therein lies another problem for the Tigers, for CEO Brendon Gale has already determined his own football future is with another club. He has followed Damien Hardwick out the Punt Road door, so he is no longer in a position to genuinely sell the Tigers to anyone, even Dusty.

This is why I strongly argued in May that Gale, having publicly announced he would become the inaugural CEO of the Tasmania Devils, should have exited Richmond immediately.

Yes, the co-bosses in the football department, Tim Livingstone and Blair Hartley, can control a lot of the football decisions which must be made, and maybe they are both in discussions to replace Gale as CEO. But clarity – immediately – in that post would make all discussions about future roles and responsibilities infinitely clearer.

No one could begrudge Hardwick or Gale for leaving, given their roles in the transformation of Richmond. Hardwick was so tired he simply had to exit, he said. Yet less than 100 days later he was so energised with football that he was projecting premierships in his first media conference as Gold Coast coach. Hardwick ultimately bailed the moment Gold Coast made it obvious to him that its coaching job was his. Decisions made under his watch only nine months earlier, in the 2022 player exchange period when big money and tenure wooed Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper from GWS, would not have been made after he quit.

Lynch, contracted for 2025, has been a fantastic Richmond player since crossing from Gold Coast after the 2018 season. However, he played just four games last season, and has just four to his name against in 2024.

Collingwood was the under-bidder for Lynch when he left the Suns, and was so desperate to gain his signature that then-football department boss Ned Guy escaped the Lynch family property via the back fence when media discovered him making his final pitch. It is known the Pies are interested in adding a key forward for 2025 and beyond, and have already made people connected to St Kilda's Max King (who is contracted until the end of 2026) aware of that.

If the Pies wanted to engage with Lynch again, the Tigers should be very open to that, and like Martin, this is a conversation that needs to be thrashed out now, not at the end of the season. And not with Gale as part of it.

Tom Lynch celebrates a goal during Richmond's clash with Carlton in round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Baker has full control of his situation: stay with the Tigers or head back to Perth. But again, Richmond is able to maturely approach this matter and seek a final answer now.  And part of that maturity would need to be a commitment to still play him in 2024 even if it gets the answer it doesn't want.

Richmond doesn't need to move on any talks with Rioli, as he has three seasons remaining on a contract. But it would be derelict in business duty if it didn't at least know what Gold Coast would be prepared to offer for him. There is always a sell price, even for a contracted gun like Rioli.

Grimes and Prestia, two club greats, have bodies now regularly letting them down. Grimes is unlikely to be playing in 2025. Prestia wants to continue.

Dion Prestia ahead of Richmond's clash with Carlton in round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Richmond has allowed itself to meander through the back half of 2023 and for all of 2024. It was validated in having a crack at being a mix of Geelong and Sydney in the hope of perpetually being a Grand Final possibility, but it simply hasn't worked.

The three flags are distant memories only now, not a base for more success. This is a club in limbo, with tough decisions needing to be made by tough people very soon.

X: @barrettdamian