Dustin Martin wins second consecutive Jack Dyer medal to cap record breaking season

Last night at Crown Palladium Richmond midfielder Dustin Martin won his second consecutive Jack Dyer Medal, polling 89 votes to finish ahead of vice-captain Alex Rance on 80 votes and midfielder Kane Lambert on 76 votes. It was the sixth time in eight seasons that 26 year-old Martin has finished in the top three of Richmond’s best and fairest, having finished second in 2013 and 2015, and third in 2011 and 2014.

Each player receives a rating of 0-5 from the Richmond match committee collectively after each game of the season. Martin polled the maximum five votes eight times including three out of the last four games of the season. Martin also polled four votes in nine games and was extremely consistent throughout the season, only failing to poll a vote in two of his 25 games.

Martin is the second current Richmond player to win back to back best and fairest awards along with Trent Cotchin who achieved this feat by winning the 2011 and 2012 best and fairest awards, and the 16th Richmond player of all-time to win back to back best and fairest awards. After winning the 2017 Jack Dyer Medal only nine players in the history of the Richmond Football Club have won the best and fairest more times than Martin being Jack Dyer (six times), Kevin Bartlett (five times), Wayne Campbell and Roy Wright (four times each) along with Bill Morris, Ron Branton, Neville Crowe and Geoff Raines (three times each). Given how dominant Martin has been in 2017 it is extremely likely that will join this select group as a three-time best and fairest winner and he might even be able to threaten Jack Dyer and Kevin Bartlett who are currently ranked first and second on this list. Jack Dyer won his sixth and final best and fairest award in 1946, in 1964 Richmond’s best and fairest award was renamed the Jack Dyer Medal in his honour.

In seven of his eight seasons Dustin has finished in the top four at Richmond’s best and fairest, as well as his six top three finishes mentioned earlier Dusty finished fourth in 2010. The only time that Martin has not finished in the top four of the b & f was in his third season – 2012 when he finished equal 10th having played a career-low 20 games for the season.

It was the second consecutive season that Rance has been runner-up to Martin in the Jack Dyer Medal, having been beaten by a solitary vote in 2016. Key defender Rance was rewarded for his brilliant 2017 season by being named All-Australian captain, his fourth consecutive selection in the team. Whilst Martin and Rance have regularly finished in the top three at Richmond’s best and fairest, the third place-getter in 2017, midfielder Kane Lambert easily had the best season of his career, highlighting his improvement throughout 2017 is the fact that he was overlooked for Richmond’s team in Round 1, he was selected in Round 2 and played all 24 remaining games for Richmond.

At the end of 2016 Martin had polled a total of 98 Brownlow Medal votes in his career, he polled his 100th career vote in the Round 1 AFL season opener against Carlton at the MCG in front of 73,137 spectators, receiving the maximum three votes for a brilliant all-round game in which he had a game-high 23 kicks, 10 handballs, five marks, four tackles, equal team-high four rebound 50s, six inside 50s, six clearances, a game-high four goal assists – two more than the second ranked player and kicked a game-high four goals to be influential all over the ground in Richmond’s 43 point victory. Martin’s four goals was the equal second most he had kicked in an AFL game, only behind the five goals he kicked in Round 13, 2011 against Brisbane at the Gabba. For his sublime performance against Carlton Martin polled the maximum five votes in Richmond’s best and fairest.

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Despite suffering a fractured cheekbone against Collingwood in Round 2 Martin took his place in the Richmond team for Round 3 and delivered his second maximum five vote performance of the season in the 11 point victory against West Coast in which he had a game-high 33 kicks -12 more than the second ranked player for the game, seven handballs, 898 metres gained, 15 clearances and kicked an equal team-high two goals.  Martin also received a rare perfect 10 in the Inside Football Player Ratings for his incredible game. After Round 8 fellow midfielder Shaun Grigg led the Jack Dyer medal with 28 votes, two ahead of Martin, followed by Trent Cotchin in third position on 25 votes and Alex Rance in fourth place on 24 votes.

In the game before Richmond’s Round 12 bye the club played against North Melbourne who were considered to be the Tigers biggest rival to secure Martin’s services for 2018 and beyond. Martin gave a performance which highlighted why North Melbourne were prepared to offer him around $1.5 million a season. Martin earned five best and fairest votes in the 35 point Round 11 victory against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, having a game-high 25 kicks, 13 handballs, eight marks, two goals, six tackles, a goal assist, nine inside 50s, 677 metres gained, nine clearances, and 15 contested possessions to set game-highs in the last three categories and an equal game-high for goals kicked. Despite winning so much contested ball Martin’s ball-use was superb, having a disposal efficiency of 76%.

Richmond had a Round 15 road trip to play another team that was competing for a top four position,  Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. Richmond trailed by 16 points at half-time and Martin played a pivotal role in the Tigers gaining the ascendancy late in the third quarter, capped off by taking a mark 55 metres out from goal, playing on, running to 42 metres out and kicking a goal two metres in from the boundary line on the preferred side for a right footer to put Richmond in front by two points with just under three minutes remaining in the term. Richmond outscored Port Adelaide four goals to two in the last quarter to win by 13 points. Martin polled five b & f votes for his game-high 22 kicks, equal game-high 14 handballs, eight marks, game-high eight inside 50s, 10 contested possessions, goal assist and goal. After Round 16 Martin led the Jack Dyer Medal on 49 votes, two votes ahead of 2016 runner-up Rance, with Kane Lambert and Grigg equal third on 41 votes and Cotchin fifth on 40 votes.

Martin polled five votes in a 19 point Round 18 victory against GWS at the MCG. GWS got out of the blocks quickly in dry conditions to kick the first three goals of the game and led by 20 points at quarter-time against a goalless Richmond. Rain started to fall at the commencement of the second term which signalled a dramatic change to the contest with Richmond adapting far better to the change in conditions and comprehensively outplayed the Giants for the remainder of the game, kicking nine goals to three after quarter-time to win by 19 points. After a quiet first term Martin was influential in swinging momentum Richmond’s way, he finished the game with a game-high 25 kicks, six handballs, four marks, four tackles, one goal, 10 inside 50s, 11 clearances, 17 contested possessions and two goal assists to set game-highs in the last four categories.

Martin finished the home and away season strongly with his sixth five vote performance of the season in the 41 point Round 23 victory against St Kilda at the MCG, having a game-high 20 kicks, equal team-high 16 handballs, four marks, an equal game-high seven inside 50s, 14 contested possessions, two goal assists, kicked two goals and was damaging with his ball use to have a disposal efficiency of 77.8%.

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Over the course of 2017 there had been considerable speculation on Dustin Martin’s future given that 2017 was the last year of his contract with Richmond and at the end of the season he would have become a restricted free-agent. Despite the intense attention on him and discussion about his future Martin has remained completely focused on performing his role for the Richmond Football Club to the best of his ability and actually found playing AFL games for the Tigers a release from this attention. Martin spoke about feeling more comfortable during the two hours of the game with tens of thousands of people watching his every move than at any other stage of the week “The two hours when you play footy is freedom, you don’t have to worry about anything. You can go out there and just play and that’s what I love doing. I just go out there and play, that’s what I have done since I was a young bloke.”

During 2017 Martin elevated his game to a new stratosphere, he played all 22 games for Richmond during the home and away season, averaging 85% game-time, 19.7 kicks, 10.6 handballs, 4.4 marks, 6.2 inside 50s, 3.5 tackles, 6.5 clearances, 1.5 goals per game and a disposal efficiency of 64.3%. Martin had a career-best season for kicks, inside 50s, clearances, contested possessions and goal assists. Whilst his 30.3 disposals per game was slightly down on his 31.1 per game in 2016 this was due to spending more time playing as a deep forward and he made the most of his forays forward to kick 32 goals – ranked second at Richmond behind Jack Riewoldt and the second highest tally of Martin’s career behind 33 goals during his second season in 2011. During the 2017 home and away season Martin led the AFL for total inside 50’s, ranked third for disposals, second for kicks, equal third for clearances, equal fourth for contested possessions and fifth for goal assists. During the home and away season Martin was very consistent, having at least 25 disposals 18 times including eight games with more than 33 disposals and kicked multiple goals 11 times with a season best of four goals in the opening game of the AFL season against Carlton.

Late in the 2017 home and away season North Melbourne offered Martin a lucrative seven year deal for approximately $11 million. In the bye between Round 23 and the finals Martin spent a couple of days in Auckland, New Zealand discussing his playing future with his dad Shane and his manager Ralph Carr. On August 31, during the bye between Round 23 and the first week of the finals 26 year-old Martin signed a seven year deal with Richmond, commenting on the Nine Network’s program The Footy Show he said “I’ve decided to stay at Tigerland for another seven years, which I’m incredibly grateful for. It’s a massive relief. I’m sick of people talking about it. I don’t like being the centre of attention so people can go and find something else to talk about now. The Richmond Football Club has been great to me, we’re on an incredible journey together, and I’ve just got such great relationships at the club. I certainly though about (leaving), it was a stressful year, I was wrestling with myself. But the relationships I’ve got there are far more important. You’ve got to make the most out of your football career while you can, so with Ralph (his manager) and my dad and people close to me, there was plenty of conversations, but in the end, Richmond’s home to me.”

In Martin’s first three seasons at the club from 2010 to 2012 Richmond finished 15th, 12th, and 12th, and won a total of 19 games across the three seasons, however in 2013 the club improved significantly to record 15 wins and seven losses to finish in fifth position and make the finals for the first time since 2001. Richmond made the finals in three successive seasons from 2013 to 2015, however in all three seasons they lost an elimination final, despite leading at half-time against Carlton in 2013 and North Melbourne in 2015. During 2016 Richmond performed below expectations, finishing 13th on the ladder with eight wins and 14 losses, four games behind North Melbourne in eighth place.

At the annual AFL Captain’s day in 2017 none of the captain’s predicted Richmond to make the eight. During 2017 Richmond played many games with a unique structure involving a smaller line-up than most teams and they regularly played with one key forward in Jack Riewoldt and had 190 centimetre midfielder Shaun Grigg provide back-up support in the ruck when number one ruckman Toby Nankervis was resting. Richmond built their game around applying intense pressure and they were very consistent throughout the 2017 season finish in third position with 15 wins, and seven losses, percentage ahead of the GWS Giants. The battle for positions in the top four throughout 2017 was incredibly close and at the end of the season only two premiership points separated minor premiers the Adelaide Crows who finished the season with 62 premiership points and the GWS Giants in fourth place with 60 premiership points. It is the smallest gap between the top four teams since the AFL introduced a final eight in 1994. Second placed Geelong had 15 wins, a draw and six losses, finishing percentage behind Adelaide.

Richmond’s belief could have tested several times throughout 2017 including on the rare occasions when they played poorly and were comprehensively defeated by Adelaide by 76 points at Adelaide Oval in Round 6 and after a 67 point loss to St Kilda at Etihad Stadium in Round 16. Richmond were competitive in every other game and after starting the season brilliantly with five consecutive wins they had four consecutive losses including three consecutive games from Round 7 to Round 9, all by less than a goal with the most dramatic loss being to Fremantle by two points in Round 8 with Fremantle midfielder David Mundy kicking the match winning goal after the siren.

On Martin’s long-term deal to play for Richmond until the end of the 2024 season general manager football talent Dan Richardson commented “We are absolutely delighted that Dustin has committed to a long-term deal with the Club. As we have said consistently, in the modern football landscape players and their management are entitled to explore their options. Our fans will be thrilled that after undertaking that process, Dustin has decided he wants to be at Richmond Football Club and a part of our future. Despite the constant media speculation, negotiations have always been conducted with transparency and in good faith. Dustin has played some outstanding football this season. His focus has always been on the team and that will again be the case as we head into the finals’ series.”1  Martin signing the seven year contract with Richmond was a key factor in Richmond building momentum and belief on the eve of the finals.

In the qualifying final against Geelong at the MCG Richmond dominated the play in the first half, however a Patrick Dangerfield goal right on half-time reduced the Tigers lead to nine points. Each team kicked two goals in the third quarter, however Richmond dominated the final term, kicking seven goals to one to power away and win by 51 points, recording the Tigers first finals victory since defeating Carlton by 11 points in the 2001 semi final. Martin had a game-high 18 kicks, 10 handballs, two marks, seven tackles, a game-high nine inside 50s, six clearances, 15 contested possessions and a game-high four goal assists – no other player on the ground had more than one goal assist. Martin received a game-high nine votes in the voting for the Coaches Association Gary Ayres medal for player of the finals, Richmond captain Trent Cotchin was ranked second with eight votes.

Richmond hosted the GWS Giants in a Saturday twilight preliminary final in front of 94,258 spectators at the MCG, mostly comprised of passionate Richmond supporters making it possibly the most lopsided crowd in VFL/AFL finals history. Richmond got off to the perfect start by kicking the first two goals early in the first quarter, with Martin involved in both scoring chains. GWS struck back and the first half was hard fought with the Tigers leading by one point at half-time. Richmond increased their lead to 20 points in time-on of the third quarter, whilst playing as a deep forward Martin kicked the next three goals of the game, two in the third quarter and one early in the last quarter to extend Richmond’s lead to 37 points. Although Martin had one of his quietest games of the year from a disposal perspective with only 20 comprised of 13 kicks and seven handballs this was largely due to spending more time in the forward line. Martin was one of the most influential players on the ground in the 36 point victory, making a significant impact on the scoreboard, having two goal assists and kicked three goals – ranked second for Richmond behind small forward Daniel Rioli with four goals. Martin received an equal game-high eight votes in the Gary Ayres medal along with Daniel Rioli, Trent Cotchin ranked third with seven votes. After the preliminary finals Martin on 17 votes led Cotchin on 15, followed by Callan Ward on 14 and Brad Crouch on 11. With their 36 point win against the GWS Giants, Richmond progressed to their first Grand Final since 1982 with their last premiership having been won 37 years ago against Collingwood.

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Richmond’s team from the qualifying final against Geelong had no changes for the preliminary final against GWS or the Grand Final against the Adelaide Crows. Of the 22 players that played both of these finals for Richmond six had been recruited from rival AFL clubs – Josh Caddy, Shaun Grigg, Bachar Houli, Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia and Jacob Townsend.

From 1980 until 2016 Richmond only won three finals, the 1982 second semi-final against Carlton, 1995 semi-final against Essendon and 2001 semi-final against Carlton. At the start of the 2017 season the two AFL clubs with the longest drought of making the Grand Final (excluding expansion clubs Gold Coast and GWS) were Richmond (35 years since 1982) and Adelaide (19 years since 1998), both clubs went on to prove themselves as clearly the best two teams in the AFL during 2017 and progressed to the Grand Final. Richmond rebounded from conceding the first two goals of the Grand Final to Adelaide to kick six of the next eight goals of the game and kept the Crows goalless in the second half to lead by nine points at half-time. Richmond dominated the second half, kicking eight goals to four to win the Grand Final by 48 points and secure the club’s 11th Premiership.

On the Monday after Richmond’s preliminary final the Brownlow Medal was held with Dustin Martin entering the count as the hottest favourite in the events 90 season history. Martin polled 36 votes to win the Brownlow Medal, finishing 11 votes ahead of Hawthorn inside midfielder Tom Mitchell, with Sydney captain Josh Kennedy third on 23 votes. Martin polled votes in 14 games comprised of 11 best afield three vote performances and the single vote three times.  2016 Brownlow medallist, Patrick Dangerfield polled 33 votes but was ineligible due to a one game suspension for a tackle on Carlton ruckman Matthew Kruezer in Round 19 which resulted in the ruckman taking no further part in the game due to concussion. Martin provided a customary don’t argue to brush past several impressive records:

  • Polling 36 votes to break the record for most votes in a season set by Patrick Dangerfield last year with 35 votes.
  • Was voted best afield by the umpires 11 times in 2017 to set a new record, surpassing the previous record of nine best on grounds in a season by Greg William (1994), Nat Fyfe (2015) and Dangerfield (2016).
  • His winning margin of 11 votes was the greatest in the awards history under the 3,2,1 system, surpassed Richmond ruckman Roy Wright’s winning margin of 10 votes in 1954.

Martin became the second Richmond player in 12 months to receive a Brownlow Medal, joining his captain Trent Cotchin who was retrospectively awarded the 2012 Brownlow Medal in December 2016 along with Sam Mitchell as a result of original 2012 winner Jobe Watson being stripped of the award due to his involvement in the Essendon supplements saga. Martin is just the sixth player in Richmond’s history to win the Brownlow Medal, joining Stan Judkins (1930), Bill Morris (1948), Ian Stewart (1971), Cotchin and Roy Wright (1952 & 1954) who is the only player to win two Brownlow Medals playing for Richmond. Ian Stewart is only of only four players in VFL/AFL history to win the Brownlow Medal three times, however he was playing for St Kilda when he won his first two awards in 1965 and 1966.

Martin won the Brownlow Medal in his eighth season in the AFL, at the end of the 2016 season Martin is 26 years old, has played 178 AFL games and kicked 187 goals, amazingly 2016 Brownlow Medal winner Patrick Dangerfield at the end of his 2016 season was also 26 years old, had played 178 AFL games and kicked 187 goals in his career, the exact same stats as Dusty. Taking the comparison further their career Brownlow Medal votes are almost identical with Martin’s 134 at the end of 2017 just edging Dangerfield’s 132 votes at the end of 2016.

On Saturday afternoon explosive Richmond midfielder Dustin Martin capped off a phenomenal record breaking year playing a pivotal role in Richmond winning their first premiership in 37 years by defeating minor premiers, the Adelaide Crows by 48 points in front of 100,021 spectators at the MCG. For his outstanding Grand Final Martin won the Norm Smith Medal for being best afield, in the process he became the first player to win the Brownlow Medal, Norm Smith Medal and play in a premiership in the same season.

As has been the case throughout 2017 Martin’s strengths during the Grand Final were his speed, skill, power, ability to bring team-mates into the play, deliver the ball inside 50, win one on one contests whether in the midfield or the forward line and make an impact on the scoreboard. After the game Martin commented on Richmond winning the premiership “I just cannot believe it, this is a dream come true, the best thing in the world….I’m proud of each and every player, not just those who played today.”

In Grand Finals the pressure is immense which makes the ability to win the contested ball and then use the ball effectively when it is your possession even more important than it is during the home and away season. In Richmond’s Grand Final victory against Adelaide Martin had 22 contested possessions surpassing his previous season-high of 21 set against West Coast in Round 3, Shane Edwards ranked second for contested possessions won by a Richmond player in the Grand Final with 13 – nine less than Dustin. Highlighting how impressive Martin’s feat in winning so much contested ball on the biggest stage of all only one player has had more than 22 contested possessions in a Grand Final – Simon Black with 25 for Brisbane in a Norm Smith Medal winning performance in 2003. Despite winning so much football under pressure Martin retained his composure to use the ball superbly, having a disposal efficiency of 83%, his second best rating in this category in 2017, fractionally behind his 83.3% disposal efficiency against Fremantle in Round 22 when the pressure was nowhere near as intense with Richmond recording a 104 point victory. Only two Richmond players had a higher disposal efficiency than Martin in the Grand Final – key defender Alex Rance (90.9%) and midfielder/forward Josh Caddy (83.3%) who both had a lower proportion of contested possessions than Martin.

As he had done consistently throughout 2017 Martin made a significant impact on the scoreboard in the Grand Final victory, having an equal game-high two goal assists and kicked two goals to rank equal second for the game behind 19 year-old Tigers team-mate Jack Graham who kicked three goals in just his fifth AFL game.

Against Adelaide Martin had 14 kicks, 15 handballs and 29 disposals to set team-highs in the latter two categories, he also had six clearances – ranked equal second for Richmond. Adelaide were intent on limiting the amount of times that Martin exploded out of a pack and tried to force him to handball to limit the damage he could cause with his penetrating kicking. Adelaide had some success in achieving this as Martin handballed more often than usual, and the Crows were even able to catch Martin holding the ball a couple of times. When Martin had the ball and two or more Adelaide players were drawn to him he was effective in using the ball well, creating time and space for his teammates and being a link in several scoring chains. Despite the close attention from Adelaide Martin still had his moments when he was able to break into space and be damaging with his speed and ball use.

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Martin joined elite company in becoming just the sixth player to win a Brownlow Medal, Norm Smith Medal and a Premiership medal during their career, however Martin has taken it to another level by creating history and winning three of the most sought after medals in football all in the same year. Six players in AFL history had previously won a Norm Smith Medal and a Brownlow Medal during their career – being Greg Williams, James Hird, Nathan Buckley, Simon Black, Chris Judd and Jimmy Bartel, however they had won these two awards in different seasons. Buckley and Judd’s Norm Smith medals were won in sides that narrowly lost the Grand Final and whilst Judd played in a premiership with West Coast a year after winning the Norm Smith medal Buckley never played in a premiership, the closest he got was Collingwood’s nine point loss to Brisbane in the 2002 Grand Final that he won the Norm Smith Medal in.

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Martin got the maximum three votes from four members on the Norm Smith Medal voting panel, with one member in Terry Wallace only giving him a single vote. Martin won the award with 13 votes and defender Bachar Houli was runner-up with 10 votes. Alex Rance, Shane Edwards and Dion Prestia each polled two votes and Jack Graham polled one vote. Martin is the third Richmond player to win a Norm Smith Medal, joining Kevin Bartlett (1980) and Maurice Rioli (1982).

After the game Martin commented on winning a premiership “It was a bit surreal and a bit of a blur, but now it feels real and it feels bloody awesome. I’m so lucky to have so many people who have supported me.  This great man next to me (head coach Damien Hardwick), a lot of people at the club, a lot of people outside the club, family and friends. I’m very grateful.”

With his distinctive hair cut and heavily tattooed body Martin stands out from a crowd, he has said that he will get a tattoo celebrating Richmond’s 2017 premiership. In the hours after the Tigers premiership triumph a barber shop in Richmond was giving free Dusty hair-cuts which proved to be extremely popular.

Dustin Martin polled eight votes for the Gary Ayres Medal in the Grand Final, ranked second for the game behind Richmond defender Bachar Houli who received the maximum 10 votes. Martin was a convincing winner of the 2017 Gary Ayres Medal, polling 25 of a possible 30 votes to win by 10 votes from Richmond captain Trent Cotchin with GWS captain Callan Ward third on 14 votes.

Martin played all 25 games for Richmond during 2017 averaging 85% game-time, 19.2 kicks, 10.6 handballs, 4.1 marks, 6.0 inside 50s, 3.5 tackles, 6.4 clearances, 1.5 goals per game and a disposal efficiency of 65.1%. Martin led Richmond for disposals, contested possessions, clearances, metres gained, inside 50s and goal assists, he ranked second for goals behind Jack Riewoldt, third for uncontested possessions and fourth for contested marks.

Dustin Martin was born on 26 June, 1991 in Castlemaine, Victoria, a small town located 40 kilometres from Bendigo and approximately 120 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, he has two brothers – Bronson and Tyson.  Dustin’s dad Shane is a New Zealand Maori who later moved to Australia and his mum Kathy is Australian, Dustin’s parents later separated. Dustin grew up in Castlemaine, started Auskick when he was five or six years old and played football for Castlemaine in the Bendigo Football League. Martin started playing junior football in the under 10’s when he was just six years old, which was illegal it turned out, despite being much younger than most of his team-mates and opponents he was one of his side’s best players. When he was growing up Dustin barracked for St Kilda and idolised ruck-rover Robert Harvey, the most recent player to win back to back Brownlow Medals, a feat Dustin will attempt to emulate next year. When he was in Year 9 Dustin left school and moved to Sydney to live with his dad. Dustin drove forklifts for his dad’s business and played some under 16s and under 18s Australian Rules football in Sydney.

Martin made his AFL debut at 18 years and nine months of age in Round 1, 2010 at the MCG against  Carlton and received a Rising Star nomination in Round 10 for his 21 disposals, 11 clearances and 17 contested possessions in Richmond’s 47 point win against Port Adelaide in heavy rain at Football Park. It was Martin’s first win as a Richmond player and also Damien Hardwick’s first win as coach. It was clear early in his debut season that Martin had a body that was ready-made for AFL, however he exceeded expectations to rank second at Richmond for long kicks in 2010, fourth for handballs, third for handballs received, fourth for tackles, and second for inside 50’s. Martin polled 159 votes at Richmond’s 2010 best and fairest to finish fourth behind Jack Riewoldt, Chris Newman and Brett Deledio.

From 2011 to 2015 Martin rotated between the forward line and midfield and increased his disposals per game in all five seasons, going from 22.1 disposals per game in 2011 to 26.0 disposals per game in 2015. Due to missing a compulsory training session in 2012 Martin received a two game club imposed suspension. At the end of the 2013 season an out of contract Martin and his manager Ralph Carr considered if it was best for Martin to leave Richmond and move to another AFL club which led to reports that Martin had walked out on the Richmond Football club. In mid-September 2013 22-year-old Martin wrote “At the weekend, I asked my manager Ralph Carr to request an extension of time from Richmond, to allow me to fully consider the options about my future. This decision was made purely by me, together with my family. As you can understand, this is a very important decision for myself and my family and one that I won’t make lightly. I want to make it clear that I appreciate everyone’s patience in allowing me the time to make this decision. The claims that I have walked out on the Richmond Football Club are totally incorrect. I can tell you that at this time, no decision has [been made].”2 Martin had discussions with several AFL clubs and was filmed touring the facilities of the GWS Giants. After exploring his options Martin decided to remain at Richmond, re-signing with the club for two seasons until the end of 2015.

Throughout his career the biggest concerns Richmond have had about Martin have regarded his off-field behaviour. Most years Martin has been able to improve on his previous seasons on field performances. After re-committing to Richmond he elevated his game to another level and was named in the 40 player All-Australian squads in 2014 and 2015. Whilst in 2013 Martin’s contract negotiations were drawn out and created considerable discussion his following contract was relatively straight forward and in February 2015 Martin signed a two year extension to remain at Richmond until the end of 2017. Richmond’s General Manager of Football Dan Richardson commented “It’s obviously great news, as Dustin is such a pivotal player in our plans for the future. Dustin’s development, both on and off the field, has been extremely impressive, and it’s exciting to think that at just 23, he still has scope for significant further improvement. Following a strong pre-season, we look forward to seeing him take another key step in his league career in 2015.”3

In Round 20, 2016 Martin played his 150th AFL game at 25 years and one month of age against Collingwood at the MCG, becoming the first player from the 2009 National Draft to reach this milestone. In recognition of Martin’s milestone and his New Zealand heritage the traditional Maori haka was performed by three men in the Richmond rooms after the game. Martin averaged a career-high 31.1 disposals per game in 2017 – a 20% increase on his previous best of 26.0 disposals per game in 2015, however after averaging at least a goal per game in five consecutive seasons from 2011 to 2015 he averaged only 0.4 goals per game in 2016. His profile in AFL Prospectus 2017 said “Making Martin more of a permanent midfielder saw his game from quality over quantity, to the reverse in 2016. He racked up career-high disposals, contested possessions, uncontested possessions and clearances. His metres gained rated elite, but his impact on the scoreboard dipped and his 6.4 turnovers per game were second-most in the AFL.”4 Martin led Richmond for kicks with 427, 136 more than second ranked Cotchin, he also ranked first for handballs and inside 50s, contested possessions, uncontested possessions, second for score assists and clearances and third for tackles. The main factor in his significant rise in disposals per game was his contested possessions game increasing to 12.6 per game, a 35% increase on his previous best of 9.3 per game in his debut season. Martin polled 25 Brownlow Medal votes, ranked first for Richmond and third overall, one vote behind Luke Parker and 11 votes behind Patrick Dangerfield. Dustin polled in 11 games and was judged to best afield six times. Martin polled 62 votes at the Richmond best and fairest to win his first Jack Dyer medal by a solitary vote from key defender Alex Rance with Cotchin in third position on 51 votes. Martin was selected in the All-Australian team for the first time in his career, being named on the interchange bench, one Richmond team-mate Rance was also selected in the team, being named at full-back. Martin ranked fourth in the AFL for total disposals during the 2016 home and away season and fifth for inside 50s.

In his 178 game AFL career to date Martin has averaged 16.0 kicks, 9.3 handballs, 4.0 marks, 1.1 goals, 0.78 Brownlow Medal votes, 4.4 inside 50s, and 3.3 tackles per game. Of players that reached at least 50 games at Richmond only six have averaged at least 0.5 Brownlow Medal votes per game,  Martin’s 0.78 Brownlow Medal votes per game leads this select group on Richmond’s 1965-2017 list ahead of Ian Stewart (0.65 votes per game), Trent Cotchin (0.61), Maurice Rioli (0.52), Francis Bourke (0.50) and Matthew Richardson (0.50).

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Martin has had at least 34 disposals 22 times in his career, reaching this mark eight times each in 2016 and 2017.  Records of disposals per game have been kept from 1965 onwards and during this time Martin is ranked first at Richmond’s for disposals per games with 25.29.

Of the players on an AFL list in 2017 only 17 had finished in the top three of a best and fairest five times or more at the start of the 2017 season, Martin was ranked equal ninth with five top three finishes in his seven AFL seasons equating to a strike-rate of 71.4% ranked second on the list behind Sydney inside midfielder who has seven top three finishes from nine AFL seasons for a strike-rate of 77.8%.

During the 2017 season Dustin Martin performed at a phenomenal standard to win his second consecutive Jack Dyer Medal to cap his record breaking season in which he won just about every award available to him. With his mixture of strength, size, speed, skill, ability to bring team-mates into the play, deliver the ball inside 50 and win one on one contests, and durability Dustin has been remarkably consistent throughout his incredible 2017 season. Dustin Martin is a much deserved winner of the Jack Dyer Medal and many other awards during 2017 and given his wide-ranging skill-set is sure to maintain an exceptional standard of performance for many more seasons. Without question the most important award to Martin is the one he got to share with 21 of his Richmond team-mates on Saturday, becoming a premiership player.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 http://www.richmondfc.com.au/news/2017-08-31/martin-a-tiger-for-life

2 http://www.afl.com.au/news/2013-09-16/martin-quits-tigers

3 http://www.richmondfc.com.au/news/2015-02-17/martin-resigns

4 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – the essential number-cruncher for season 2017, 12th Edition, page 302

 

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