Boom Richmond recruit Tom Lynch has hogged the headlines but Tigers fans have another reason to be excited about the coming AFL season: just quietly, Dusty is in the best shape of his career.
After taking all before him in 2017, Dustin Martin struggled with a sore knee late last year and recently revealed he also battled anxiety during the Tigers’ premiership campaign that ended in a preliminary final loss.
No one’s suggesting he’s about to win a Brownlow Medal and a Norm Smith Medal in a premiership team as he did two years ago, but the 27-year-old is ready to hit the 2019 season at full pace.
“It’s pretty hard to emulate that 2017 season … I’ve been in footy for a long time and I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it, to be fair,” coach Damien Hardwick replied when asked if Martin can reach the same heights this season.
“If he gets anywhere near those lofty standards we’ll be very happy.
“But he’s in fantastic nick at the moment, as good a nick as he’s been in and probably even better than that season, so we’re really happy with him.”
Lynch will be one of three new players to don the yellow and black against Carlton in Thursday night’s season opener at the MCG.
The former Gold Coast skipper was named in a forward pocket, while exciting tall prospect Noah Balta will make his debut, with former St Kilda midfielder Maverick Weller also forcing his way into the 22.
Months of speculation ended on Wednesday with Lynch receiving the all-clear to play his first AFL game for the Tigers after overcoming a nagging knee injury.
Now that the off-season’s most prized recruit has been cleared for action, fans will be keen to see what he can do.
The chemistry with crowd favourite Jack Riewoldt will be a key factor.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how those two come together,” Hardwick said.
“It might possibly take a bit of time or it might click straight away … I’m hoping for the latter.”
Carlton will unveil six new players on Thursday night, with No.1 pick Sam Walsh and mature-aged rookie Michael Gibbons to debut, with experienced recruits Mitch McGovern, Alex Fasolo, Will Setterfield and Nic Newman to play their first games for the club.