RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick expects his star Dustin Martin to be at his best for tonight's qualifying final at the MCG despite the distraction of his father being blocked from entering the country to attend.
Currently residing in his native New Zealand, Shane Martin had launched a challenge in the High Court to overturn the cancellation of his visa over his criminal record and association with outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had said yesterday the government was "proud” of its decision to prevent Shane Martin back into Australia.
"People who are outlaw motorcycle gang members, who are criminals or threats to national security, cannot stay in the country,” Mr Turnbull told Melbourne radio station 3AW, adding "of course” he was a risk to the safety of the country.
Dustin Martin was hoping to have his dad as part of packed MCG crowd tonight when the Tigers take on Geelong, and also attend the Brownlow Medal later this month. Martin is unbackable favourite to win the AFL's highest individual honour.
"He's a resilient lad,” Hardwick said.
"He's disappointed obviously from a human element, I think we all are, we'd all love our father to see us playing in a final.
"But Dusty has dealt with this for a long period of time, so he understands. He'll put his best foot forward and play some good footy for us on Friday night.
"With the contract status he's gone through all year and we've seen how he's handled that, once he crosses that white line he understands what's there to be done.
"We're looking forward to a big performance from him.”
Martin's battle with last year's Brownlow Medallist, Patrick Dangerfield, in the midfield will be the headline act tonight as Richmond attempts to win its first final in 16 years and beat the Cats for the first time in 11 seasons.
It will be in front of 95,000 fans.
"This is a different side ... it's by far the best side I've coached (and) the way they play the game, I think, stands up to a finals brand,” Hardwick said.
"We're pretty fortunate in a way at the Richmond footy club that we consistently play in front of 70,000-80,000 people.
"At the deck across the road (the MCG), I think we've played 11 games this year and we're 9-2. Those two games we lost by a kick. We're pretty happy to be playing there.
"We've lost some finals along the way but we've also won 10 flags along the way, which is exciting. We're a pretty good footy club ... we keep putting our heads up.”
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.