RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has vented his frustration at the on-field treatment of superstar midfielder Dustin Martin after the leading Brownlow Medal contender was baited into striking his opponent on Sunday.
Martin, who is the second favourite for this year's Brownlow Medal, landed what looked to be a light but closed-fisted strike around the neck of opponent Nick Robertson in the Tigers' 31-point win at Etihad Stadium.
The dynamic midfielder was lashing out after Robertson deliberately kneed him in the leg, but the incident is sure to attract the attention of the Match Review Panel on Monday.
"When you probably get belted in the back 35 times for the game, I reckon it would be fair enough," Hardwick said on Sunday when asked about the Martin incident.
"We got a memo from the AFL saying if you consistently hit someone in the back it's going to be a free kick.
"So that's up to the umpires to adjudicate."
Martin was exceptional in the Tigers' win, finishing the match with 40 possessions, 14 clearances, two goals and a career-best 12 inside 50s to spearhead his otherwise wayward team.
Hardwick praised the superstar for his second-half lift, with Martin's third quarter alone netting 15 possessions and five clearances.
The coach was also pleased with midfielder Dion Prestia, who was sent to Lions' gun Dayne Zorko and restricted him to 11 possessions, while winning 19 of his own and kicking a goal.
"I was really pleased with Dion's game … I thought it was the best game he's played for our footy club and I'm really happy he got the performance we were hoping he'd bring," Hardwick said.
"We've had Kane (Lambert) do that (run-with role) at various stages and Dion has done a couple of jobs like that before.
"He tends to feel he plays his best when he does have a starting point off an opposition.
"We thought that worked really well for us today and we quelled a good player out of the game in Zorko. It was a good result for us."
Hardwick was frustrated with the Tigers' overall performance, with a lack of efficiency going inside the 50-metre arc preventing them from taking full toll of a massive inside 50 advantage (67-39).
The team's contested play at stoppages had improved, however, winning the clearances 41-26 and the centre clearances 20-4.
"We had better balance in and around the contest and I thought our guys hunted the contest a lot more," Hardwick said.
"I think the only quarter we were a little bit down in that was the second quarter … I thought after that we were pretty strong in that facet of the game."