New dawn: Richmond players train at their redeveloped Punt Road facility on Monday. Photo: Jason South
RICHMOND veteran Chris Newman says former Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams could be just what the club needs to help explosive midfielder Dustin Martin realise his full potential this season.
The Tigers lured Williams away from Greater Western Sydney to be its head development coach, hoping he could fast-track the club's emerging youngsters - such as former No. 3 draft pick Martin - and help in setting up a winning culture.
For all the impact Martin has made in three years at Punt Road, many believe the 21-year-old still has plenty of talent lying untapped, and headlines generated from his off-field behaviour have only added to that feeling.
Most notably, the club suspended Martin for two games last season for sleeping in and missing a training session after admitting to mixing alcohol and sleeping tablets the night before.
Newman was asked on Monday about rumours that Tigers coach Damien Hardwick had been forced to have stern words with Martin and pull him into line a few weeks ago.
The former captain did not deny the talk, instead saying: ''I think with Dustin it is an ongoing thing and I think he is still trying to develop himself, not only as a footballer, but as a person. And off field, we've got a standard here that everyone has to adhere to. So Dustin is still trying to get that good balance between having a healthy lifestyle outside football and also delivering on field.''
While conceding that Martin still has some growing up to do, Newman said it was important to remember he was only 21 and pointed out how hard the midfield jet had been working during the pre-season.
The reputation of Williams as a developer of talent was enhanced last season in his role as Kevin Sheedy's right-hand man at the Giants.
''We are lucky enough to have a really good development program here and that's where 'Choco' Williams has come in and is really trying to take these young blokes under his wing,'' Newman said.
''That's why we brought him into the organisation, because he knows what it takes to succeed and win premierships. And that's why a lot of the young guys are continually in his office, [he is] trying to give them the life skills that are required of an AFL footballer.''
Newman was also quizzed on why recruit Ricky Petterd escaped club sanction after clashing with cricket patrons during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. ''It was in the Christmas break and the boys know that they have to be very careful what they do,'' he said.
''But also you've got to have a life. He was out and he was having a couple of beers watching the cricket. But I really don't think there was a lot in that incident. Ricky has been fantastic since he's been at the footy club, so we can only believe his version of the story.''
Newman, who has given up the captaincy and been replaced by Trent Cotchin, said he was relishing the opportunity to focus simply on playing. ''Some of the coaches say that I'm a new person, and I'm a bit more vibrant now,'' he said. ''Four years of captaincy does take a toll.
''Now I'm not going out of my way to look for things wrong. It frees the mind up and I'm certainly enjoying this pre-season more than any other I can remember.''
The Tigers trained for the first time on the new surface at its ME Bank Centre at Punt Road on Monday, the result of a six-month, $1.9 million project to re-size its training base to match the proportions of Etihad Stadium. The club's Fighting Tiger Fund helped finance the revamp.