Dustin Martin return for Richmond Tigers, latest, Damien Hardwick post-match press conference, Anzac Day Eve loss to Melbourne Demons

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says “it was nice” to see Dustin Martin back at the club, but remained tight-lipped on when the three-time Norm Smith medallist could return to the field.

The Tigers went down to the Demons by 22 points in Sunday night’s Anzac Day Eve clash a day after Martin returned to Punt Road after taking personal leave last month.

But speaking after the game, Hardwick wasn’t willing to speculate on when Martin could reappear at AFL level ahead of a five-day turnaround against West Coast this Friday night.

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“It was good, it was nice to see him,” Hardwick said.

“I can‘t tell you (if he’ll return this week). I’m not sure. Once we know, you’ll know.”

Martin is mourning the death of his father Shane, who died in New Zealand in December, and has spent time in Sydney with the Tigers’ blessing.

His last game for Richmond was it’s Round 1 loss to Carlton on March 17.

Martin took personal leave last month (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The Tigers’ loss to the Demons saw the club fall to 2-6 on the season after Melbourne, who were wasteful in the first half, broke the game open with a five-goal third quarter.

Hardwick lamented his side’s inability to win contests on the night against the top-of-the-table Demons.

“Just their (Melbourne’s) cleanliness in and around the contest was first class, there’s a reason why they’re reigning premiers and have won 13 on the trot,” he said.

“They just taught us a lesson in and around the contest… the frustration was the way we lost contest, behind the ball and at the ball. It’s probably been a bit of a common theme this year at various stages, the inconsistency of our ability to nullify a contest.

“But also sometimes we’ve got an uncanny ability to lose a contest where we have superior numbers. Which is a little bit disappointing on our point of view, but probably a great trend of the side next door.”

Melbourne Demons press conference | 04:22

The Tigers went in with a strategy to keep Melbourne accountable across the field at all times and play a slower brand.

But Hardwick believes his team was too conservative at stages.

“Early days we sort of played with a handbrake on, we wouldn’t take the contest when we had 2 v 2s,” he said.

“Sometimes when you play a side as good as Melbourne, you don’t tend to attack them. But sometimes you’ve got to back your blokes in and I thought we were a little too gun shy at the start and probably controlled the ball a little bit too much.

“Scoreboard probably flattered us a little bit, but there’s some signs that we’re going OK in various areas.”

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