Dustin Martin has been snapped meeting up with Damien Hardwick on the Gold Coast, further fuelling rumours of a potential move to the Suns. Hardwick left his role as Richmond coach earlier this season and has since signed on to be Gold Coast coach from next season.
Speculation has been rife that Hardwick will attempt to lure Martin to the Suns when he comes off contract, but the coach hosed down the talk when he was unveiled as Gold Coast coach last month. However the speculation will only intensify after Martin and Hardwick were spotted together on the Gold Coast this week.
‘ABSOLUTE FILTH’: Collingwood’s ‘poor’ reaction to Angus Brayshaw incident
‘FOOTY ACT’: Brayden Maynard’s ‘shattering’ confession after brutal KO
Mitch Cleary of 7News broke the story on Thursday night, showing Martin and his former coach catching up. Martin has been on the Gold Coast for an end-of-season holiday, but some believe there could be more to the trip north than meets the eye.
“How about this photo – snapped just this afternoon,” Cleary said. “An interesting sub-plot (to the finals) as Dusty weighs up what comes next for him. It is seen by the Suns that he will stay at Richmond but one to watch as the silly season begins to heat up on the back of the finals series.”
Martin is contracted to the Tigers until the end of 2024. Discussing speculation he will look to lure his former player to the Gold Coast, Hardwick previously said he would respect Martin’s current contract situation.
AFL world captivated by Dustin Martin to Gold Coast rumours
Former Richmond captan Trent Cotchin, who hung up the boots two weeks ago, said he believes Martin’s trip to the Gold Coast was purely for a holiday. “It’d be great to see him as a 300-plus game player for the Tigers in the yellow and black,” Cotchin said on Channel 7.
“Is it some pre-retirement fun to go up there (and play for Gold Coast) and enjoy the sunshine at the very end of his career? I’m not sure (but) I know that one of his values is loyalty.”
Another former Richmond star who has been linked to the Suns is Alex Rance. The 34-year-old retired in 2019 but is reportedly being targeted by Hardwick.
Earlier this week, Melbourne great Garry Lyon said the Rance rumours were “catching fire” and read out a text message on SEN radio saying: “I confirm that’s the word around the Gold Coast members. He’s up here now. He’s been around the club.” But Lyon added: “I don’t know whether people are putting one and one together and coming up with 50.”
Cotchin said of Rance: “Maybe there’s a twinkling heartbeat there. But the game is very hard and he is a little bit older than when he did leave it. In saying that, I have seen recent pictures of his rig and he is in good nick. It is just whether or not he has the appetite to do it.”
Hardwick previously said he believes the Suns have 80 per cent of the players they need to challenge for their maiden AFL flag. “I’m very, very, very excited – I liken it to waking up on Christmas Day, walking into a brand new set of toys,” he said about the Suns’ roster.
“Eighty per cent of our first premiership side is sitting in this room right now … this side and this club are very capable of saluting in the not-too-distant future.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.