AFL: Richmond star Dustin Martin returns to training ahead of Gather Round

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Richmond star Daniel Rioli says the Tigers have “full confidence” in whoever is picked to fill the massive void left by injured key forwards Tom Lynch and Noah Balta.

Experienced trio Dustin Martin, Jack Graham and Dylan Grimes could all return on Sunday against St Kilda, but the Tigers’ match committee will need to grapple with how to replace their two talls in attack as a potential option was also struck down by injury.

The Tigers confirmed on Tuesday Lynch would miss 10 to 12 weeks following surgery on a hamstring tendon injury to his left leg.

The injuries to Lynch and Balta, who will miss four to six weeks, could have opened the door for Jacob Bauer to play his fifth game, but the 192cm swingman will be out for the same amount of time as Balta after scans confirmed a hamstring strain.

Rioli said tall utility Ben Miller could go forward or Jacob Koschitzke could earn a recall to replace the duo, while ruckmen Samson Ryan (three goals) and Sam Naismith (two) both hit the scoreboard in a 12-point VFL win over Sydney on Sunday.

“I might have to put myself down there, I’ve got that experience! It’s unfortunate, Balta out and Lynchy … two quality players at our footy club,” Rioli said.

“Who knows, even Benny Miller might go down forward, Kosi (Jacob Koschitzke) might come back into that line-up, but I’m sure the coaching staff will bring in players who will fill in that role and have good confidence going into next week.

“I think it will be good for the long run as well, getting players (to have the opportunity).”

Rioli said he felt for Lynch after another serious injury setback just as the 31-year-old looked back to his best against the Swans.

“We rely on Lynchy so much in that forward line and he’s a key target for us. We’re going to miss him, he’s had tough luck with injuries and what not but he comes into the club with a smile on his face and a positive attitude which we love here at the club,” he said.

“He doesn’t really get down on himself, he loves his playing group and he always has a laugh … it sucks to have Lynchy go out of the side, but we’ll have to throw in new soldiers … whoever it is, we’ve got full confidence.”

Martin (calf) and Grimes (wrist) were both withdrawn from the Tigers’ squad in the days before the Swans clash but are set to return to training this week ahead of likely returns against St Kilda.

Jack Graham is also a chance to play his first game of the season after recovering from the quad injury he suffered in the pre-season clash against Collingwood in February.

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