Dustin Martin’s clouded injury status has finally been cleared up, with Damien Hardwick admitting the Richmond superstar has been struggling with a corked thigh.
But the premiership coach is adamant last year’s Brownlow medal winner will be close to his best for Friday night’s blockbuster preliminary final against Collingwood.
Martin sparked speculation he was under an injury cloud with his early departure from a training session at Punt Road, just a week out from the highly-anticipated encounter at the MCG.
Club officials initially insisted Martin was fine but Hardwick told reporters on Wednesday that a knock suffered in the qualifying final win against Hawthorn had limited his preparation.
“It’s a pretty significant corkie with bleeding down into his knee,” Hardwick said.
“That takes a little bit of time to settle but it’s settled now and he’ll be available to play on Friday.
“He’s battled through these sort of things before and we’ve had the week off, so we’re not in any rush to get him out to train to make sure that he plays.
“We’ve just taken a conservative approach.
“The reality is he’s not going to get any fitter, stronger or better now … all we’ve got to do is get him to the line and make sure that he plays.”
Collingwood defender Jeremy Howe was sidelined for several weeks with a corked thigh late in the season and was forced to undergo a procedure to drain excess blood.
Hardwick said that could have been a consideration for Martin but there wasn’t enough blood to warrant it.
He is confident the midfield bull won’t be forced to modify his on-field role due to the injury.
The Tigers, who will have played just once in 26 days by the time they run out onto the MCG on Friday night, have stuck with basically the same September template that delivered them premiership success last year.
“We’re really confident in our preparation, we’ve been here before and we’re very confident that we’ll be able to do the job again,” Hardwick said.
“We’ve been carrying the weight of expectation (all year) and the expectation can weigh you down if you acknowledge it – we don’t. We just go about and do what we do.
“We’re very process-oriented here. We’ve got a good understanding of what makes us play our best football and if you start worrying about the outcome you’re not going to get the result that you’re after.”
Hardwick revealed small forward Dan Butler is in the selection mix after overcoming an ankle injury.