Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has issued the Brisbane Lions an AFL finals warning by tipping an “80 per cent” fit Dustin Martin to cause havoc at the Gabba on Thursday night.
Hardwick has confirmed that both Martin and Shai Bolton, who hasn’t trained in recent days for “personal reasons”, will play in the do-or-die affair.
Bolton didn’t travel with his Richmond teammates to Queensland but was due to arrive in Brisbane late on Wednesday.
“He’s on the plane now,” Hardwick said on Wednesday afternoon after the Tigers trained at the Gabba.
“Everything’s OK … he’s a certainty to play.”
As is Martin, who is set to make a comeback from a hamstring injury he suffered in early July.
“He’s a certain starter,” Hardwick said of the Tigers superstar.
“He did everything we’ve asked. It’s been a little bit of a delayed preparation, but he’s turned the corner in the last three weeks.
“We can’t wait for him to play. What impact we get, we’re not too sure, but what we do know is he’s a very good player.
“He’s not going to be 100 per cent, but he’s probably about 80 per cent, which is good enough.
“He might touch the ball anywhere between 12 and 16 times, and it’s going to be high impact for us, so that’s going to be the most important thing.”
Hardwick said Martin would play predominantly as a forward but could pop up and cause damage anywhere on the field.
“With the work he’s got under his belt, he’s not quite to the AFL midfield level but … he puts himself where he needs to be, and that’s what great players do.”
Hardwick said the Gabba, the venue where the Tigers won the 2020 AFL Grand Final, held great memories for Martin and Richmond.
“He’s excited for this time of the year and there’s no better place to be than the warm weather of the Gabba,” the Richmond coach said.
“To sit there and feel the heat on your body, it just makes him feel good. He’s pumped, he’s trained really well and we look forward to him making an impact come (Thursday) night.
“It’s just a great place to play footy. It’s a great cauldron-like atmosphere. We are very fortunate; we have great support up here from our Tigers faithful and we’re pretty sure they’ll show up again come (Thursday) night.
“We’ve got a little bit of a rivalry with (the Lions) as well. We always play them in the big games this time of the year and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“They’re probably a little bit like us – we’ve both had indifferent seasons at different stages, but we both know our best form is more than capable.”