Former great Jordan Lewis believes Richmond are making a mistake, by confirming champion Dustin Martin won’t be considered for selection in Round 7.
Martin has only returned to the club this week from personal leave which has seen him absent since shortly after the Tigers’ loss to Carlton in Round 1.
However, despite Martin looking ‘fit and strong’, according to Tigers general manager of football Tim Livingstone, he won’t be thrown straight back into the AFL cauldron against West Coast on Friday night.
“It has been a five-week break, so that is not the best preparation coming into this round,” Livingstone said of Martin’s availability on Wednesday.
“We will have a look again next week and see how he is progressing.”
However, speaking on AFL 360, Lewis said he is strongly in favour of an instant return for Martin, even if he is unable to play his usual minutes in the midfield.
“If I was the coach, I’d really consider playing him,” the former Hawthorn and Melbourne great said.
“The parameters need to be really clear – just stay in the 50! Imagine coming up against the Eagles this week, and all of a sudden you’ve got to deal with Dusty staying deep.
“He’d probably get [Jeremy] McGovern or [Tom] Barrass or some type of key defender, because of his power in the air and his power one-on-one.
“Then that takes them out of a position where they can impact in the air – it’s so dangerous.”
Part of Lewis’ reasoning is that the Tigers, who sit 12th on the ladder with a 2-4 record, are fast running out of time to make something of their season; he said the club ‘don’t have the luxury’ of easing Martin back.
“This is an important three weeks for them,” Lewis said.
“I know they’ve said it’s a five-day break and he hasn’t done enough training… but they would have had some conversations within that club, and half on one side saying ‘why can’t we play him?’
Alongside Martin, Richmond have confirmed veterans Trent Cotchin and Robbie Tarrant will also not be making the trip west.
A spate of injuries to ruckmen in recent rounds have prompted yet more calls for the traditional centre bounce to be removed from the game.
Carlton’s Marc Pittonet and Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy will both miss up to three months, after injuring posterior cruciate ligaments (PCL) knocking knees in ruck contests over the weekend.
Magpies captain Scott Pendlebury even took to Twitter following news of Grundy’s injury, wondering whether something should be changed about the centre bounce set-up.
With Swans ruckman Tom Hickey and Richmond co-captain Toby Nankervis suffering similar injuries during 2021, there are fears the traditional centre bounce may be a catalyst for the injuries.
Also a factor in the calls to scrap the bounce are the impact they have on umpires; an ability or lack thereof to bounce the ball has in the past been cited as making finding suitable umpires for AFL level exceedingly difficult.
“The umpires don’t like it – throw it up!” former coach Ross Lyon said on Footy Classified.
“How about we listen to the shop floor… they’re doing the job, throw it up!”
According to fellow panellist and AFL journalist Caroline Wilson, the bounce is ‘causing so much stress’ for the umpiring fraternity.
However, former All Australian ruckman and prominent AFL commentator Luke Darcy hopes the league don’t make any hasty changes, saying injuries are part of the challenge of rucking at the highest level.
“You make it a basketball tip-off, is where you end up if you start going down that path… not keen on that,” Darcy told The Age.
“In a combat sport where you can’t reduce injuries down to zero… anytime someone gets injured you should have a think about it, but I’ve been around long enough not to see an obvious solution.
“Two people jumping flat out, even if it’s in a small circle, there’s always a risk. It’s how much of that you’re to be exposed to.
“Two in a week raises a question, I’m not super alarmed about it.”
In response to a staggering 19 PCL injuries between 1999 and 2004, the AFL implemented the 10m centre circle, reducing the distance ruckmen could have for their run-up before leaping.
North Melbourne boom recruit Callum Coleman-Jones is in line for an AFL return this weekend, following news Roos ruckman Tristan Xerri is set to miss with a foot injury.
Coleman-Jones arrived at Arden Street from Richmond with high expectations, but has been unable to crack the team after a quiet debut in Round 1.
Xerri and veteran Todd Goldstein have shared the ruck duties ever since, with the trio’s appearance in their opening round loss to Hawthorn widely criticised.
However, the former’s foot problem will see him miss up to a month of action, with Coleman-Jones in ideal form to make the most of his looming recall.
The former Tiger gathered 24 disposals, 37 hitouts and eight clearances in the VFL over the weekend, despite a 44-point loss to Frankston.
Speaking before news broke of Xerri’s injury on Wednesday, North coach David Noble said Coleman-Jones’ game had turned heads.
“‘CJ’ is in good form and he’s had a couple of really good games at VFL level so he’s pressing pretty hard,” Noble said.
“We think ‘Goldy’ [Goldstein] is going OK … he’s an awkward forward to match up on, that’s the methodology. He’s also got great experience.
“We like the two rucks. I think there’s enough pressure from ‘CJ’ as to what we’ll do and what we’ll consider this week.”
The Kangaroos come up against Carlton, who will themselves be without their first-choice ruckman Marc Pittonet, who is set to miss three months with a PCL injury.