RICHMOND star Dustin Martin never truly considered leaving the Tigers and is now poised to take his game to a new level in 2014, according to captain Trent Cotchin.
Cotchin said the 22-year-old had been welcomed back to pre-season at Tigerland with open arms and he was confident the powerful onballer hadn't considered a future elsewhere.
"I think in his head there was never really a period where he was leaving the footy club," Cotchin said on Wednesday.
"I know how much he loves the guys and I know how much he's learned from so many different individuals within our club.
"He just wants to make people happy and that's the best thing about him, he will do anything and everything for his teammates.
"He's a very good person, he's very genuine and he cares a lot about where this group is going."
Martin finished runner-up in the 2013 Jack Dyer Medal, underlining his individual improvement, which was eventually overshadowed by his contract negotiations.
Cotchin said he thought Martin had the ability to push on and become one of the Tigers' greats.
"I certainly do, [but] he's got to play some consistent footy," Cotchin said.
"That's been his issue in the past.
"He had his best year last year, his most consistent, and hopefully that's a stepping-stone for him to take his game to a new level.
"So it's pretty much in his hands to start with. He's really enjoying his footy at the moment."
Martin, who hasn't missed a session this pre-season, has made significant gains with his fitness after a slow start and worked hard during Wednesday's session at the ME Bank Centre.
Key forward Jack Riewoldt and club champion Daniel Jackson were among those on light duties, while Reece Conca (hamstring) and forward Chris Knights (knee) continued to be managed.
Cotchin said the group was being driven this summer by its elimination final loss to Carlton.
"We had an opportunity that we let slip in the first week of the finals and that's going to sit in our guts all through pre-season, which is only a positive thing," he said.
"Leading up to the game we spoke about opportunities not being there all the time and you've got to make sure you play your best footy on the day.
"That's been our message throughout the pre-season and in our review we spoke about the majority of us not stepping up and playing our role on that day.
"We really want to attack this season full of steam and a lot of our guys are really fit and setting new bars."