Dustin Martin.
Dustin Martin will run out for his 300th game in Tigers colours against the Hawks at the MCG. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Stage set for Martin’s milestone as Hawks lie in wait

Shayne Hope June 14, 2024

Dustin Martin will lick his lips at the familiar sight.

A heaving MCG, with all eyes on him – this is his stage.

And while there’s no premiership or Norm Smith Medal on offer this time, Richmond’s modern-day superhero will relish the chance to put on a show for his legion of fans to mark his latest milestone.

“We’re looking forward to it. It’s a massive game for him,” Tigers coach Adem Yze said ahead of Martin’s 300th AFL game, against Hawthorn on Saturday.

“His whole focus will be around performance and trying to get a win for the Tiger Army, and we will be trying to do the same thing for him.”

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell is preparing his team to play the role of “villains” and spoil Martin’s party.

The Hawks are warm favourites, having won five of their past six matches, but are wary of an injury-hit Richmond outfit that still boasts plenty of big-game experience.

“Probably half their side are premiership teammates of Dusty so it’s going to be a big challenge for us,” Mitchell said.

“There’s the two hours of the actual game and there’s the event that goes on around it, which we’ve got no control over.

“The only thing that we’re focused on is making sure that we play the game in the manner that we need to to get the win.”

For the record, Richmond have picked a dozen premiership players, including the return of Martin from a week’s rest and key forward Tom Lynch after a long lay-off with a hamstring injury.

Tom Lynch, Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt and Shai Bolton.
 Tom Lynch (19), Dustin Martin and Tigers teammates celebrate the 2020 grand final win over Geelong. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS 

The pair replace fellow flag hero Dion Prestia (calf) and Samson Ryan (ankle).

Hawthorn ruckman Lloyd Meek returns from a syndesmosis injury, replacing Ned Reeves (back spasms) for a battle against Tigers captain Toby Nankervis.

Nick Watson is also back for the Hawks, with Seamus Mitchell dropped.

While the form book has second-from-bottom Richmond (2-11) as outsiders against a rising Hawthorn (6-7) side, there’s no telling what emotional lift the Tigers’ will get from Martin’s big occasion.

Yze has witnessed a “good energy” about his side over the last three weeks, which included a breakthrough interstate victory over Adelaide last time out.

It snapped a run of eight consecutive defeats.

“We felt like we turned a corner and we’ve had a consistent performance for the last three or four weeks, but we just haven’t got across the line,” the first-year coach said.

“We hadn’t executed for four quarters, but last weekend we did.

“After a win it’s high energy but it was back to work on Monday and we’re looking forward to playing against a really good team.”