Dustin Martin will be one of up to a dozen contenders as Richmond take their time in choosing the man to replace Trent Cotchin as captain.
After nine seasons at the helm, Cotchin on Tuesday night announced he would not continue as skipper in 2022. He led the Tigers for a club-record 188 games, including to three premierships.
Martin and Cotchin with the 2020 premiership cup.Credit:Getty Images
Unlike Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli or Essendon’s Dyson Heppell – who had been anointed as likely future skippers well before their official respective elevations – Richmond do not have a clear standout option to take over from Cotchin.
The Tigers have, in recent years, shunned the bloated leadership group model favoured by some other clubs, appointing only a vice-captain (Jack Riewoldt) behind Cotchin.
But Riewoldt turns 33 next month and would therefore likely only be a short-term option if favoured.
Three-time premiership backman Nick Vlastuin has been earmarked previously as a potential future captain and is still in what should be his football prime at 27.
Nick Vlastuin (right).Credit:Getty Images
Vlastuin’s fellow defensive stalwart Dylan Grimes is another option, although he turned 30 this year.
The most intriguing candidate is Martin. The superstar turned 30 earlier this year but still has three years left to run on his contract at Punt Road.
Still recovering from the lacerated kidney, which ended his season, Martin was on Wednesday variously described by industry sources as Richmond’s “spiritual leader” and “the logical choice” to replace Cotchin.
The three-time Norm Smith medallist has filled in as match-day skipper occasionally when Cotchin and Riewoldt have both been unavailable.
However, while Martin’s on-field exploits place him head and shoulders above potential rivals for the role, several of the off-field responsibilities of a 21st century AFL captain do not come naturally to him.
In particular, Martin’s almost complete aversion to the media would make him an extremely unorthodox choice.
Richmond senior club adviser Neil Balme told The Age on Wednesday that he expected Martin would be open to taking on the captaincy, but that it was way too early to start seriously narrowing down what he said is a wide field.
“We haven’t spoken to him about it,” Balme said.
“I imagine he probably would [put his hand up].
“But if you look at it, there’s probably a dozen or 10 or something who really could well be contenders for it. It’s a matter of which way we want to go and how we want to do it.
“So there’s no rush, we’ll just have a bit of a think about it, see what the coaches think, talk to them and let them talk about it. I wouldn’t be mentioning any names yet, we’ll see what happens.”
The Tigers have a former AFL skipper on their list in the form of ex-Gold Coast co-captain Tom Lynch.
Tom Lynch (left).Credit:AFL Photos
Jack Graham, 23, and Jayden Short, 25, both dual-premiership players, are considered the leading captaincy candidates of the next generation of Tigers beneath Lynch, Vlastuin, Grimes and Martin, according to insiders.
Ruckman Toby Nankervis and veteran Shane Edwards are other experienced players considered by sources to be outsiders for the role.
Balme said the Tigers were yet to determine their process for choosing the next skipper.
“We’ll look at what we’ve got, what do we need, what sort of leadership do we require, who’s available, who will it be good for, and then talk to the players about what they think they need as well. We’ll go through all of those processes but, fortunately, there’s no rush,” he said.
Balme, meanwhile, paid tribute to Cotchin, who has one year left to run on his playing contract.
“He’s been fantastic,” Balme said.
“He’s shown the way. He’s aware of his own vulnerability, which is good because it makes it easier to lead others because you’ve got some feeling for people when things don’t go quite right. He’s always there for them. He got the game, showed the way, [he’s a] really marvellous leader really. [He] takes responsibility. He’s very good.”
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