ATTENTION fellow premiership contenders: Dustin Martin wants more.
Not content with a brilliant four-season era that has seen him clinch three premierships, a historic three Norm Smith Medals, a Brownlow Medal and three All-Australian jumpers, the Richmond superstar is intent on getting even better after what coach Damien Hardwick describes as an "incredible" pre-season.
But the Tigers do have two injury concerns heading into the home and away season, with key players Bachar Houli (calf) set to miss round one and Dion Prestia (hamstring) racing the clock to face Carlton on March 18.
Martin, though, is on track to continue his outstanding stint as the competition's preeminent matchwinner, with Hardwick saying he had blitzed the pre-season with a focus on improving his fitness.
"I'm worried he's too far ahead. He's training that well at the moment. He's been incredible," Hardwick told AFL.com.au.
"He's one of these guys who surprises me every year, Dustin. You generally think of the superstars of the competition that they come in and they do what they do, but there's a reason they're superstars.
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"They generally work harder and are better at things that other players aren't, and he tries to improve one part of his game every year. This year I think he's taken on some noticeable improvement in his fitness. He's trying to improve that part of his game and he's training really, really well at the moment.
"I couldn't be happier with where he's at. Like I said, I'm worried he's too far ahead of the game. I've got to slow him down a little bit because he's his own worst enemy with how he works."
Martin booted four goals in a game-changing display in last year's Toyota AFL Grand Final win over Geelong, tallying 22 for the season, and will continue to float between the midfield and forward line this season, according to Hardwick.
"Dustin is the best coach of himself. He knows where the team needs him at certain times of the game and where he's of best benefit and we give him that licence, as we do the majority of our players. On the ground they get to make the decisions," Hardwick said.
The 29-year-old Martin is due to play his 250th game for the Tigers early this season and has played 20 or more games in each of his 11 AFL seasons. But Hardwick said he had no trouble motivating Martin, whose mega contract runs to the end of 2024, to go again.
"He loves the game. I hate saying this, but he loves winning. I've never met a guy that loves winning so much. After every game it's always like he's won the Grand Final. It's so impressive to see that the game can mean so much to one person," the three-time flag coach said.
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Houli tore his calf early in the clash with the Cats but played out the game, with Hardwick saying the veteran half-back would have missed a month with the injury had it been in-season.
"It probably hasn't come on as well as we'd like so he probably is doubtful for round one," he said.
Prestia returned from ankle surgery last year and complications to feature in the club's back-to-back flag win but has had an interrupted pre-season, with a recent hamstring injury ruling him out of Richmond's lead-in games.
"Dion's had a bit of a stagnated period. He's probable at this stage for round one. He probably won't play any of our practice matches at this stage just to make sure he does get right," Hardwick said.
"He's got some tightness in the medial hamstring, which is not severe. We're not overly worried about it, we just have to manage that along the way."
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The pair are the Tigers' main injury concerns, with ruckman Ivan Soldo and youngster Noah Cumberland also dealing with their respective knee reconstruction rehabilitations.
Soldo suffered the season-ending injury in round 17 last year having been Richmond's premier ruck, but the Tigers are confident of seeing him in 2021.
"If there's one guy who is going to do his rehab to an incredible level, it's Soldo. Our guys are really positive that he'll play some football towards the back end of the year which is a great get for us," Hardwick said.