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Dusty 'was always going to play'

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick insists superstar Dustin Martin was "fine" to play in Friday night's first preliminary final, saying the Tigers never considered ruling him out of the blockbuster.

1:02am  Sep 22, 2018

Tigers' season comes to an end

Collingwood has stunned Richmond by 39 points at the MCG on Friday night to book its spot in the 2018 Grand Final.

10:18pm  Sep 21, 2018

Final teams: Richmond v Collingwood

Richmond and Collingwood have named unchanged teams for Friday night's first preliminary final at the MCG.

6:20pm  Sep 21, 2018

Graham happy to shoulder the load

Jennifer Phelan, AFL Media  September 9, 2018 8:21 AM

Jack Graham has averaged 15 disposals in his 22 games for the Tigers - AFL,Richmond Tigers,Jack Graham

Jack Graham has averaged 15 disposals in his 22 games for the Tigers

JACK Graham's season could have easily come to an abrupt halt the moment his left arm slipped out of its socket against Adelaide in round 16. 

But the 2017 flag fairytale story is seeking to win his second premiership medal – potentially before he plays his 25th AFL game – after choosing to delay surgery until the end of the Tigers' finals campaign. 

"They said there was a chance it may [come out] again and if you want to do that then that's your plan but I just said whatever it takes to get me out on the field, I'm happy to do that," Graham told AFL.com.au this week. 

"I backed them in and strengthened it up so it's good.

"I've never done a shoulder before and I was a little bit shocked at the time."

It was in the third quarter against the Crows that Graham went to land a move he'd done hundreds of times before – a halting tackle, this time on Myles Poholke. 

But instead of dragging the midfielder to the deck, he slipped down his body and landed awkwardly.

Graham, who had never suffered a serious injury before let alone anything to do with his shoulder, looked down and was alarmed by what he saw. 

His arm hung by his side and his shoulder was a lumpy mess with the dislocation obvious.


"They put it back in when I got into the rooms and I thought I'd be able to come back on," he said. 

"But then I tried to move it and thought, 'Mmm, maybe not'."

The option of immediate surgery was put to him, which would allow for him to start full training before Christmas. 

However, the lure of getting back in time for finals was too tempting to pass up. 

"I backed in the physio team and they got me back out on the track within three or four weeks and back playing within five," he said. 

"The shoulder's feeling good now, I just strap it up each week and I'm ready to go." 
A reconstruction has been scheduled for mid-October, which will have Graham participating in most of the Tigers' fitness training when they return to the club in November. 

Tackling and contact drills will have to wait until early 2019 as the shoulder ligaments recover. 

Last year featured an astonishing end to Graham's first as a Tiger, after he broke into the side in round 22 and held his spot through to the decider. 

He shut down Adelaide star Rory Sloane in the second half of the Tigers' win, which earned him a vote in Norm Smith medal counting. 


"You just keep that to yourself, you don't go talking about it too much," he said. 

"But I'm pretty proud of that. Still, that was last year and now we focus on this year and how far we can go into finals."

None of it might have happened had it not been for wise words from former AFL national talent manager Mick Ablett during the AFL's Academy tour of the US in early 2016. 

Graham was, by his own admission, out of shape and heavier than he should have been after an indulgent Christmas. 

Ablett's advice to "start working your arse off" and "pull your head in" has stayed with Graham and ensured he hasn't made the same mistake again. 

"It fired me up. He said, 'Come on Jack, be true to yourself'," Graham said. 

"You've just got to be so careful with your body and make sure it's right … he's a great bloke, he just wanted the best for me really and I'd just been injured and put on a bit of weight so he was just telling the truth, really.

"I'm kind of happy with how he said it."


Graham is also more familiar now with the importance of balance and the need to avoid being suffocated by too much football, with regular golf games with Nathan Broad, Jayden Short and Dan Butler his escape. 

And he appreciates any time he gets to spend with Trent Cotchin, with the two often catching up for coffee and a non-football-related chat. 

Tagging might have made him famous in the Grand Final but it's not his favourite thing to do; he'd rather be winning the ball himself and crashing through packs.

But if that's what's needed to take down Hawthorn ball magnet Tom Mitchell on Thursday night, Graham is Damien Hardwick's man. 

"He's probably going to get 30 either way if I do go to him or not," he said. 

"We know he's such an important player to them but if the case comes where he's already had 15 or something in the first quarter, there might be a chance I go to him.

"We'll just wait and see."