Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has given his blessing to Dustin Martin to move to a Sydney AFL club

Richmond Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has given superstar midfielder Dustin Martin his blessing to finish his career for a Sydney AFL club as soon as next season.

Speculation has been rife that the three-time premiership and Norm Smith Medal winner may sign with the Sydney Swans or GWS and could already be having secret talks with the rival clubs.

There have also been rumours that Martin could look to make the move soon, after spending time in the Harbour City during his six weeks of personal leave this season to mourn the death of his father Shane.

Martin and Hardwick celebrate after winning the 2020 AFL Grand Final match between the Richmond Tigers and the Geelong Cats at The Gabba

Senior AFL journalist Jon Ralph told RSN927am today: ‘I think there’s a real likelihood that he could request a trade at the end of the season based on compassionate grounds.’

It is understood that Martin may want to escape the constant scrutiny in the Melbourne AFL bubble and seek out a more private life in Sydney. If that happens, Hardwick said the superstar would have his backing.

‘He’s a very important player to our footy club, on the field and off the field,’ Hardwick said at a Tigers media conference on Tuesday afternoon.

‘What he gives us, he’s paid us in spades.

‘Whatever Dustin’s decision is moving forward is up to Dustin and, to be honest, he has my blessing,’ Hardwick said.

‘What he’s given me, us, our fans, he has been incredible and whatever we get from here on is a real bonus.

‘I’m just lucky I get to see him on a weekly basis perform and train the way he does.

‘He was a bit sore last week, he’d never put up his hand and say he was a little bit underdone.

‘He’s a required Richmond player and a very important Richmond player.’ 

Martin soaks up the sun in Cronulla for breakfast while on indefinite leave from the Richmond Tigers earlier this year

While on personal leave from footy, the Richmond superstar recently spent a month training with ex-NRL star turned boxer Paul Gallen in Sydney, where he lived for a year as a teenager.

Earlier this month, GWS chief executive David Matthews described Martin as ‘a genuine superstar of the game’ and noted several players had left Melbourne for Sydney.

Former Collingwood recruiter Matthew Rendell told News Corp that GWS or the Swans would have to pay a heavy price to lure the superstar away from the Tigers no matter how motivated Martin is to move.

‘The first-round pick of Sydney might not be that great. It might be pick 10 at best,’ he said.

‘That’s why you’d have to throw a really good player in.

‘If it was going to come to fruition and I was Richmond, my first port of call [with the Sydney Swans] would be, ‘We’re taking your first-rounder and Tom Papley’.

Star Swans midfielder Papley might have to be traded to Richmond in order to get the Martin deal done

Other recruiting bosses, however, have told News Corp that a top 10 draft pick might be enough to get the deal over the line because of Martin’s age.

If a deal was to be struck this year, that would give Richmond three top 20 draft selections.

Rendell said the Swans could be looking at Martin in terms of marketability, not just ability, with Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin nearing the end of his career.

Buddy Franklin kicked his 1,000th AFL goal this season but the veteran is approaching the age for retirement, leaving Sydney to look for another marquee recruit

‘Dusty would be a massive draw card. I think Buddy will go one more year but he’d be on a lot lower money and they could certainly backend Dusty’s contract, there’s no doubt about that,’ he said.

AFL great Peter Everitt has also endorsed a move for Dusty, after the former St Kilda and Hawthorn player had a sea-change of his own and played two seasons with the Swans.

‘Dusty would love it. He would be a driving force. We know how many fans are passionate Swans fans and at GWS he would put them back on the map, absolutely,’ the three-time All-Australian told the Herald Sun podcast on Friday.

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