In Richmond’s qualifying final against Hawthorn at the MCG tonight 2017 Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin plays his 200th AFL game, becoming the 30th player in Richmond’s 100 year plus history to achieve this feat. Dusty created history in 2017 with one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of the VFL/AFL, becoming the first player to win the Brownlow Medal and Norm Smith medal in the same year, in the process playing a pivotal role in Richmond winning their first premiership since 1980.
Throughout his career Dustin has been incredibly durable, playing 199 out of a possible 204 games, only missing a total of five games comprised of one in his debut season due to soreness, two in 2012 as a result of a club suspension, one game in 2014 with hamstring tightness and Round 12 this year with a calf injury. During his career Martin has maintained a remarkable level of consistency not just from season to season but also game to game, he has only been restricted to less than 15 disposals in a game a handful of times over his entire career – five times comprised of two games in 2011 and one game in each of the 2012, 2013 and 2015 seasons. In seven of his eight completed seasons Dustin has finished in the top four at Richmond’s best and fairest, having won the Jack Dyer medal in 2016 and 2017, finished runner-up in 2013 and 2015, third in 2011 and 2014, and 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. Dustin was nominated in the 40 player All-Australian squad in 2014 & 2015 and has been selected in the past three 22 man All-Australian teams from 2016 to 2018, he is one of only five players to be named in the final team in the past three seasons along with Richmond team-mate and 2017 All-Australian captain Alex Rance, Jeremy McGovern, Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin and Patrick Dangerfield.
It has taken Martin eight years and five months since his debut to reach 200 games, setting a new club record, reaching the milestone nine months quicker than his former team-mate Brett Deledio. In the modern era only two AFL players have reached 200 games quicker than Martin – Geelong duo Joel Selwood and Harry Taylor.
On the eve of Martin’s 200th AFL game Richmond coach Damien Hardwick commented on Dusty “It’s amazing, you talk about the significance of a player, but it’s more the impact this kid’s had on our footy club. He’s been a marvel. You look at his tapes and the things that he’s achieved, but it’s more about the things he’s brought to our footy club. His love of his family is really strong, his dad isn’t here but his nana is at every game, his mum’s at every game, his cousins are at every game. That’s something he’s brought to our footy club and that’s something we’re incredibly proud of, the man he is today. We’ve learnt a lot from him. He also works incredibly hard at his craft, he’s always looking to improve an area of his game, and that’s what makes him one of the great players of the competition. It’s a good lesson for a lot of kids out there. If you continue to work hard on your craft, you’re going to become a good player and that’s what he’s done.”1
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. 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 him 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). 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.
Martin has been incredible durable throughout his first nine seasons, making his debut at the earliest possible opportunity and has played a phenomenal 97.5% of Richmond’s games during his time at the club. Only three players on Richmond’s 2018 list have played more games for the club than Martin – Jack Riewoldt (247 games), Shane Edwards (229) and fellow Brownlow Medallist Trent Cotchin (218), Alex Rance (197) is the only other current player to have played more than 175 games for the club. Martin ranks sixth of the current Tigers for most AFL games played as fellow midfielder Shaun Grigg has played 212 AFL games comprised of 169 for Richmond and 43 for Carlton.
Whether Martin is playing in the midfield or the forward line he is an extremely difficult player for opposition clubs to contain due to his wide-ranging skill set – strength, size, speed, skill, ability to bring team-mates into the play, deliver the ball inside 50, ability to win one on one contests, ability to break tackles with his ‘don’t argue’, durability and consistency.
Early life and junior career
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 (1997 and 1998), a feat Dustin will attempt to emulate later this month. 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.
Dustin returned to Castlemaine and played senior football in 2008, he turned 17 years of age midway through the season and predominantly played on a wing. Part of the reason for moving back to Castlemaine was being able to compete against better players. Dustin recalls “I moved back but I had missed the Pioneers’ try-outs so I started training with Castlemaine and I played seniors there most of the year in 2008. I was lucky enough to get four games with Bendigo at the end of 2008 and made the Pioneers squad in 2009 and played with them all year.”2
After playing the last four games of 2008 as a bottom-age player for the Bendigo Pioneers in the under 18’s TAC Cup, Dustin played 11 games for Bendigo as a top-age player in 2009, averaging 13.6 kicks, 11.1 handballs, 9.9 contested possessions, 4.1 clearances and 0.7 goals per game whilst having a disposal efficiency of 68.0%. Martin was named in the centre in the 2009 TAC Cup Team of the Year, however it was an unsuccessful season from a team perspective with Bendigo recording four wins and 14 losses to finish 12th out of 13 teams, only percentage ahead of the Sandringham Dragons.
At the 2009 Under 18 National Championships Martin played five games for Vic Country, predominantly playing as a midfielder he averaging 12.6 kicks, 8.8 handballs, 7.2 contested possessions, 3.4 clearances and 0.8 goals per game whilst having a disposal efficiency of 68.2%. Martin was named in Vic Country’s best players in four games including one game as his state’s best player and one game as his state’s second best player. Martin is named in the centre of the 2009 Under 18 All-Australian team, other members of the team included Jack Trengove, Tom Scully, Daniel Talia, David Swallow, Mitch Duncan, Ben Cunnington, Jack Darling and Gary Rohan who won Vic Country’s MVP award.
Drafted by Richmond and AFL Career from 2010 to 2014
Martin was selected by Richmond with pick 3 at the 2009 National Draft, behind Melbourne duo Tom Scully (pick 1) and Jack Trengrove (pick 2). Martin was recruited from the Bendigo Under 18’s and the Castlemaine Football club. At the time of being drafted as an 18 year old Martin was 187 centimetres tall and weighed 86 kilograms. The profile for Martin in AFL Record Season Guide 2010 said “The attacking midfielder played with Castlemaine and the Bendigo Pioneers in 2008, representing Vic Country at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships and scoring impressive 20m sprint and beep test results at the NAB AFL Draft Camp. Importantly, Martin has a body, ready-made for AFL football, is highly committed and can penetrate zones with his exceptional long kicking.”3
In the lead up to the 2014 National Draft Richmond Recruiting Manager Francis Jackson looked back five years and commented on the club’s decision to pick Dustin Martin with the number 3 selection at the 2009 National Draft, saying “We were ecstatic when we found out that Melbourne had committed to Tom Scully and Jack Trengove . . . When they committed to those two, we actually organised to meet Dustin and his mother and grandma, maybe two days out from the draft. Thought we’d go up and have a chat to Dustin, because clearly Melbourne had committed to those two players. Our recruiting team went up and played golf with Dustin in Bendigo, and organised to meet his mum for lunch later. So, that was a bit of fun . . . ‘Dusty’ is certainly a much better footballer than he is a golfer. He reminded me a bit of Happy Gilmore. In fact, he even tried to run up and drive at one stage. So, we had a bit of fun, got to know Dustin a lot more, and then certainly put their (the family’s) minds at rest, telling them that unless something most unusual happened, that we were picking Dustin at pick three.”4
Richmond appointed a new coach for 2010, Damien Hardwick who played 207 AFL games comprised of 153 for Essendon from 1994 to 2001 and 54 for Port Adelaide from 2002 to 2004, he played in two premierships, one for Essendon in 2000 and one for Port Adelaide in 2004. Predominantly playing at half-back during his career Hardwick won Essendon’s 1998 best and fairest and was named in the 2000 All-Australian team. Just days after his last game as a player – the 2004 Grand Final victory with Port Adelaide Hardwick was appointed as an assistant coach at Hawthorn, during his five years at the Hawks the club improved dramatically and won the 2008 AFL premiership. In the decade before being appointed Richmond’s head coach Hardwick had been involved in three AFL premierships, two as a player and one as an assistant coach, the experience he gained during this time has proved invaluable. Richmond finished 15th on the AFL ladder in 2009 out of 16 teams with five wins, a draw and 16 losses, two premiership points behind 14th placed Fremantle and six premiership points ahead of Melbourne.
His profile in AFL Prospectus 2010 said “Tough, quick and an excellent kick, Martin is a player that new coach Damien Hardwick will love. He recorded the fastest time in the agility test and 20m sprint at the 2009 NAB AFL Draft Camp and also recorded the equal fastest time in the 10m sprint. He was named in the centre in the All-Australian side at the 2009 NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, winning the eighth most disposals of any player. He is damaging forward of centre, recording the equal second-most inside 50s at last year’s championships, with 37% of these entries converted into goals – the third-highest strike-rate of the top 10 – while also averaging more than one score assist per game across his junior career.”5
Martin made his AFL debut at 18 years and nine months of age in Round 1, 2010 at the MCG, being named on a wing for the game against Carlton which had a crowd of 72,010. On debut Martin had five kicks, 13 handballs, four marks, three tackles and three clearances in the 56 point loss. Eight seasons later only three players from Richmond’s Round 1 2010 side remain on the club’s list in 2018 – current captain Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards and Jack Riewoldt, whilst another player is on another AFL list being Brett Deledio at the GWS Giants. Other members of the Tigers team in Round 1, 2010 included Chris Newman who was the club captain, Ben Cousins and Daniel Jackson.
Martin had no trouble at all adapting to the increased speed and physicality at AFL level and had at least 17 disposals in his first nine games, however the team lost all nine games. Martin received a Rising Star nomination in Round 10, having 14 kicks, seven handballs, one mark, four tackles, a game-high 11 clearances – three more than the second ranked player for the game Shane Tuck, 17 contested possessions – ranked second for the game one behind Tuck, and a goal assist in Richmond’s 47 point win against Port Adelaide in heavy rain at Football Park.
Martin had started 2010 living with a couple of team-mates, however during the season he moved in with Gary March who was the President of the Richmond Football Club. Dustin commented to the AFL Record in June 2010 after receiving the Round 10 Rising Star nomination “It’s been awesome. I was living with (teammates) Jayden Post and Ben Nason earlier in the year, having originally been at a host family, but I moved in with Gary two weeks ago. I felt like going back to a family environment and Gary said I could jump in with him, which has been really good.”6
Martin polled his first Brownlow Medal vote in Round 12, 2010 receiving one vote for his performance against West Coast at the MCG in which he nine kicks, 11 handballs, four tackles, seven contested possessions and kicked two goals to be one of three multiple goal kickers in the Tigers 49 point win along with Jack Riewoldt and Ben Nason who kicked 10 and three goals respectively.
In his debut AFL season Martin ranked second at Richmond for long kicks, 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. Martin polled six Brownlow medal votes, ranked third behind Deledio and Riewoldt with seven votes each. It was common for the form of first year players to fluctuate greatly, however this was not an issue for Martin who probably found the transition to AFL level easier due to having played football in the seniors for Castlemaine previously. Martin only had less than 17 disposals in one of 21 games, having a season-low 15 disposals in the penultimate round of the season, he had more than 23 disposals five times, with a season high of 26 disposals in Round 13 against Brisbane.
The player that received the Rising Star nomination one week before Martin, Fremantle midfielder Nat Fyfe was the first Brownlow Medal winner from the 2010 Rising Star class, winning the 2015 award with 31 votes. Two years later Martin became the second member of the 2010 Rising Star class to win the Brownlow Medal with his record voting 36 votes in 2017. Due to receiving a reprimand for an illegal bump Martin was ineligible for the 2010 Rising Star award whilst Fyfe polled three votes to finish seventh. Sydney’s Daniel Hannebery won the award with 45 votes, ahead of Melbourne’s number 1 draft pick Tom Scully with 35 votes, Brisbane’s Tom Rockliff on 24 votes and Melbourne’s number two draft pick Jack Trengove who finished fourth with 11 votes.
In 2010 Martin played 21 games for Richmond, averaging 96 minutes, 10.0 kicks, 10.2 handballs, 2.4 marks, 3.5 inside 50s, 3.3 tackles, 4.8 clearances and 0.5 goals per game. His profile in AFL Prospectus 2011 said “Martin finished with the second-most Champion Data ranking points of any AFL debutant last season, winning 101 clearances – ranked No. 1 at Richmond and 42 more than any other debutant across the H&A rounds. He continually won his own ball, finishing with the second-highest contested possession rate (41%) of any Richmond midfielder and had more scoreboard impact than any midfield teammate, recording the equal-most kicks into the forward 50 of any player at the club.”7
Martin wore number 36 in his impressive debut season and only missed one game – Round 6 with soreness. For his second season at Richmond he was promoted to the number four jumper, Martin’s profile in the AFL Record Season Guide 2011 said “Some believe the bullish midfielder had more impact in his debut season than any Tiger since the great Royce Hart, so it’s fitting that Martin has since been awarded Hart’s famous No. 4 jumper. A natural inside player who loves the tough stuff and yet boasts terrific skills, he might have won the NAB AFL Rising Star award if not for a tribunal reprimand for an illegal bump.”8 Hart was named at centre-half forward in the AFL team of the century, being one of four Richmond players named in the team along with Francis Bourke (wing), Ian Stewart (centre) and Jack Dyer (interchange). Hart played in four premierships for Richmond, 1967, 1969, 1973 and 1974, being named at full-forward in the 1967 Grand Final and at centre half-forward in the later three Grand Finals. If Richmond win the premiership tomorrow Martin will join Hart as a player that wears the number four jumper named at centre half-forward in a Richmond premiership side.
In a nine point Round 5, 2011 victory against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium Martin received three Brownlow Medal votes in a game for the first time in his 26th AFL game, having a game-high and then career-high 26 kicks, seven handballs, seven marks, a game-high eight rebound 50s, four clearances, 12 contested possessions, one goal assist and kicked four goals – ranked second for the game behind Jack Riewoldt with five. The Round 5 game against North Melbourne was the first time Martin had 30 disposals in a game. Martin followed it up with another 30 plus disposal game the following week in Round 6 against Brisbane at the MCG, amassing 26 kicks – seven more than the second ranked player for the game, nine handballs, three marks, a game-high 10 inside 50’s, 13 contested possessions, four bounces and a game-high four goal assists to receive two Brownlow Medal votes in the 26 point victory.
Against Brisbane at the Gabba in Round 13 Martin had the second best afield performance of his career, receiving three Brownlow Medal votes for a performance in which he kicked a game-high and then career-high five goals, had 17 kicks, five handballs, one mark, five inside 50’s, an equal team-high five clearances, 10 contested possessions and a goal assist in the 31 point victory.
Martin was one of eight Richmond players to play all 22 games for the club in 2011, he ranked second at Richmond for kicks, inside 50s and handballs received, third for goals, equal fourth for tackles and fifth for rebound 50s.
Martin finished third in Richmond’s best and fairest with 198 votes, 38 behind Trent Cotchin and just five votes behind runner-up Brett Deledio. Martin was judged best afield by the umpires twice in 2011 and polled a total of 12 votes for the season, ranked second at Richmond three votes behind Cotchin. His profile in AFL Prospectus 2012 said “Martin’s major improvement last season didn’t come in his disposals, averaging two more per game than in 2010, but more in the fact he was able to kick the ball more and his scoreboard impact increased due to spending more time as a forward. Martin kicked three times more goals and recorded three times more score assists than in his debut season, ranking second at the club for scoreboard impact.”9 Martin was extremely accurate in front of goal during 2011, kicking 33 goals, 14 behinds, and due to his mix of speed, skill, size, strength and ability to win one on contests he was a difficult proposition for clubs to curtail when he was playing as a deep forward.
In a 10 point loss to West Coast at Etihad Stadium in Round 5, 2012 Martin polled three Brownlow medal votes, he had an equal game-high 17 kicks, nine handballs, three marks, four clearances, nine contested possessions and kicked two goals, three behinds.
Martin played the first 13 games of the 2012 season, averaging more than a goal a game and had less than 19 disposals only once. However in the week after having 23 disposals and kicking three goals against Adelaide in Round 14 Martin missed a compulsory training session which resulted in Richmond suspending him for two games, in the second week of the suspension he played in the VFL. Another player who missed training in the incident – Dan Connors was sacked as Connors was on his final chance with the Tigers. Martin returned to play in the AFL in Round 17 and played the remaining seven games of the season. Martin’s disposals per game increased slightly from 22.1 in 2011 to 22.4, however his influence on games and impact on the scoreboard dropped, only having eight goal assists – down from 20 in 2011, and his goals per game fell from 1.5 to 1.15. Richmond had concerns about Martin’s off-field discipline. After finishing in the top four of Richmond’s best and fairest in his first two seasons Martin scraped into the top 10 in his third season, finishing equal 10th with Bachar Houli on 170 votes. As well as recording the worst b & f result of his career to date Martin also polled his least Brownlow Medal votes in a season with five, ranked sixth at Richmond.
From Round 1 to Round 6, 2013 Martin only polled one Brownlow medal vote and only had more than 22 disposals twice, however from Round 7 to Round 17 Martin polled 12 Brownlow Medal votes and had at least 23 disposals in seven of his 10 games. After having a record of three wins and three losses after Round 6 Richmond won eight of their next 10 games to improve their record to 11 wins and five losses. In a 41 point win against Port Adelaide at Football Park in Round 7 Martin had a game-high 23 kicks, equal team-high 10 handballs, equal team-high 13 marks, eight contested marks, one goal assist and kicked a goal to earn the three Brownlow Medal votes. Martin polled 16 votes at the 2013 Brownlow Medal including three best afield performances to finish equal 11th overall and second at Richmond behind Cotchin with 19 votes.
In Martin’s first three seasons at the club Richmond finished 15th, 12th, and 12th, winning 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. In a Sunday afternoon elimination final at the MCG in front of 94,690 spectators Richmond led by 26 points at half-time but were over-run by a Chris Judd inspired Carlton side, conceding 12 goals to four in the second half to be defeated by 20 points. In his first AFL final Martin had 19 disposals, six inside 50s, a goal assist and kicked a goal to be named in Richmond’s best players. Rotating between the midfield and the forward line Martin averaged a then career-high 24.2 disposals per game but also continued to make an impact on the scoreboard, averaging exactly a goal per game to rank third at Richmond with 23 goals, however he had the least accurate season of his career, also kicking 32 behinds. Dustin led Richmond for kicks, handballs received, was ranked third for inside 50s and fourth for loose-ball gets. Dustin finished runner-up in the Tigers 2013 best and fairest with 255 votes, nine votes behind Daniel Jackson and 14 votes ahead of Troy Chaplin on 241 votes, followed by Brett Deledio (238), Trent Cotchin (237) and Alex Rance (231).
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].”10 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.
In Round 10, 2014 against the GWS Giants Martin set a new personal best for disposals in a game with 36, comprised of a game-high 24 kicks and 12 handballs, he also had a game-high seven inside 50’s, equal team-high six clearances, 11 contested possessions and an equal game-high four goal assists to receive two Brownlow medal votes in the 113 point victory at Spotless Stadium, Jack Riewoldt was judged best afield for a 17 kick, 12 mark, 11 goal performance.
After winning only three of their first 13 games of 2014 Richmond were languishing in 16th position only percentage ahead of the 17th placed Brisbane and bottom of the ladder Saints. However, after being discarded as a finals chance Richmond turned their season around in dramatic fashion, winning their last nine games of the season including a three point win against Sydney at ANZ Stadium in the final round to amazingly fight back and make the finals, finishing the season in eighth position with 12 wins and 10 losses, one game ahead of the ninth placed West Coast Eagles. Richmond travelled to Adelaide Oval for an elimination final against Port Adelaide who had finished in fifth position with 14 wins and eight losses. The game proved to be a disaster for Richmond right from the coin toss which their captain Trent Cotchin won, but he then infamously opted to kick against the wind. Port Adelaide kicked the first seven goals of the game and comprehensively outplayed the Tigers to win by 57 points.
His profile in AFL Prospectus 2015 said “Martin ranked elite for score assists, score involvements and goals last season. He was involved in 29% of all scoring chains in games he played – ranked second at the club and 11th among the top 50 goal scorers in the AFL during the H&A rounds. An attacking weapon he won possession 57% of the time he was a target inside 50 – the third-highest percentage of the top 75. He also won 55% of his offensive one-on-ones – clearly the highest percentage of the top 75, and 9% better than any other player.”11 Martin led Richmond for kicks in 2014, ranked equal first for handballs received, equal second for inside 50s, third for marks and hard-ball gets and fifth for loose-ball gets. Dustin finished third in Richmond’s best and fairest with 266 votes, 17 behind Brandon Ellis and 26 behind Trent Cotchin who won the third b & f of his career, placing him equal fourth on the Tigers all-time list.
2015 and 2016
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.”12
Martin didn’t poll any Brownlow Medal votes in the first seven rounds of the 2015 season, however from Round 7 onwards Martin polled 21 votes, ranked first in the AFL. Martin registered his votes for 2015 with a best afield performance in Round 8 against Port Adelaide, having an equal game-high 20 kicks, nine handballs, an equal game-high six rebound 50’s, four clearances, a team-high 16 contested possessions and kicked a goal in the 33 point victory at the Adelaide Oval.
In four consecutive games from Round 8 to Round 11 Martin polled Brownlow Medal votes, having his second three vote performance of the season in Round 10, against Fremantle, having a game-high 26 kicks, eight handballs, eight marks, five tackles, an equal game-high five inside 50’s, a team-high five clearances, an equal team-high 12 contested possessions and kicked a goal in the 27 point win at Subiaco Oval.
After winning only two of their first six games in 2015 Richmond developed into one of the most consistent teams in the AFL, winning 13 of their last 16 games to finish the home and away season in fifth place, one game behind Hawthorn and Sydney in third and fourth place respectively.
Dustin polled Brownlow Medal votes in six of Richmond’s last eight games of the season including a best afield performance against the Gold Coast in Round 20, with 20 kicks, nine handballs, a team-high six tackles, five inside 50’s, six clearances, 11 contested possessions, a goal assist and kicked three goals in the 83 point win at the MCG.
For the second time in three seasons Richmond played an elimination final at the MCG against a Melbourne based team, this time against North Melbourne who had won 13 games in the h & a season. Richmond played exciting and accurate football in the second term, kicking seven goals straight to lead by 13 points at half-time. North Melbourne fought back to lead by three points at three-quarter time and outplayed the Tigers in the final quarter to win by 17 points.
Martin’s profile in AFL Prospectus 2016 said “Despite having a reputation as a ‘hard-nut’, Martin has been an outside player for at least four seasons, with a below average contested possession rate. Last year was arguably his best, ranking seventh in the AFL for metres gained and top-20 for uncontested possessions and inside 50’s. He spent more time as a permanent midfielder than in any other season, but was still one of only three midfielders to average more than one goal per game.”13 Martin led Richmond for kicks and inside 50s in 2015, second for score involvements and uncontested possessions third for tackles and uncontested possessions, fourth for goals, fifth for handballs and clearances. Martin had the equal best result of his career to that stage in the Richmond best and fairest, polling 60 votes to finish second behind Alex Rance and six votes ahead of Brett Deledio in third place. Martin polled 21 Brownlow Medal votes to finish seventh overall, he was best afield three times, polled in 10 games including two sequences of four consecutive games from Round 8 to Round 12 and Round 18 to Round 21. Three Richmond players were selected in the 2015 All-Australian team – Alex Rance at full-back, Jack Riewoldt at centre half-forward and Brett Deledio on the interchange. Martin was one of 11 Richmond players to play all 23 games. During the 2015 home and away season Martin ranked second in the AFL for kicks with 383 – 37 behind Heath Shaw and equal seventh for inside 50s.
Martin polled one Brownlow medal vote in the first seven rounds of 2016, and for the second year in a row he led the AFL for votes polled between Round 8 and Round 23, polling 24 votes in this time, highlighted by four best on grounds in five games from Round 9 to Round 14. In all four best afield performances he had at least 30 disposals including a new career-high 38 disposals in two of these games.
For the third consecutive season Richmond were slow out of the blocks in 2016, however this time around they were unable to recover, after defeating Carlton by nine points in the season opener at the MCG the Tigers lost six games in a row to be 15th on the ladder after Round 7, three games outside the 8. Richmond finished 13th on the ladder with eight wins and 14 losses, four games behind North Melbourne in eighth place.
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 go 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.”14 Martin led Richmond for kicks with 427, to be 136 ahead of the second ranked Cotchin, he also ranked first for handballs, 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 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.
Record-breaking 2017 season
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.
In the opening quarter of Richmond’s 19 point Round 2 victory against Collingwood at the MCG Martin suffered a fractured cheekbone but courageously played on, having 25 disposals, a team-high 15 contested possessions and kicked an equal team-high two goals.
Martin didn’t miss any games due to his fractured cheekbone and in Round 3 he earned a rare perfect 10 in the Inside Football Player Ratings for a performance 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.
In five games from Round 4 to Round 8 Martin had his quietest period of the season in terms of polling Brownlow Medal votes, receiving a total of two votes in this period, the single vote twice, in Round 5 against Melbourne and in Round 7 against the Western Bulldogs. In the 13 point win against Melbourne Martin had a game-high 22 kicks, 10 handballs, two marks, six tackles, an equal game-high seven inside 50s, an equal game-high nine clearances, 14 contested possessions, one goal assist and kicked a goal.
Richmond won their first five games of the season to be third on the ladder. In Round 6 they travelled to Adelaide Oval to play the Adelaide Crows. Richmond started well, kicking six goals in the first quarter to lead by nine points at quarter-time, however were thoroughly outplayed in the remaining three quarters, being outscored 16 goals to four and were defeated by 76 points. Martin had 25 disposals, 15 contested possessions and kicked a goal, however he was one of only three Richmond players to have more than 21 disposals along with Trent Cotchin (26) and Kane Lambert (24), with Adelaide dominating the disposal count 461 – 334. After Round 6 Martin was equal second in the Brownlow Medal on seven votes, five votes behind Adelaide Crows midfielder Rory Sloane, it was the biggest deficit he faced all count.
In the five point loss to the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium in Round 7 Martin had 15 kicks, 13 handballs, three marks, four inside 50s, one goal assist, kicked two goals, seven clearances and 15 contested possessions to set game-highs in the last two categories.
From Round 7 to Round 9 Richmond created some unwanted history by losing three consecutive games by less than a goal, to the Western Bulldogs by five points, Fremantle by two points with Fremantle midfielder David Mundy kicking the match winning goal after the siren and finally to the Giants by three points. After four consecutive losses Richmond had fallen to be seventh on the ladder. During the four losses Martin retained a high output – averaging 28.8 disposals, 15.5 contested possessions and a goal per game. In the last of these losses Martin had his third best afield performance of the season to increase his tally to 11 votes and be in second place, one vote behind Rory Sloane. In Round 9 against the GWS Giants at Spotless Stadium Martin had 23 kicks, an equal team-high 12 handballs, six marks, five clearances and a game-high 10 inside 50s – four more than the second ranked player, 20 contested possessions, and three goal assists.
In Richmond’s return to the winners list in the Round 10 Dreamtime at the G game in front of 85,656 spectators at the MCG Martin was impressive, having a game-high 23 kicks, seven handballs, five marks, an equal game-high seven tackles, five inside 50s, six clearances, 13 contested possessions, one goal assist and kicked a goal to win the Yiooken Award for being best afield, an assessment the umpires agreed with as Martin recorded the 3 votes in consecutive games for the first time in 2017 and moved into a share of the Brownlow Medal lead on 14 votes with Sloane.
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 more than $1 million a season. Martin polled three Brownlow Medal 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, gained 677 metres, 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%. After Round 11 Martin was the outright leader of the Brownlow Medal for the first time in the 2017 count on 17 votes, three ahead of Sloane and Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury, the ineligible Dangerfield was also on 14 votes. For the first time in his career Martin recorded three consecutive best afield performances in Rounds 9, 10 and 11, his previous best was two three vote games in a row twice in 2016 – Rounds 9 and 10, and also Rounds 12 & 14 (the Tigers had the bye in Round 13).
Martin polled one vote in Round 14 against Carlton to move to 18 votes, three ahead of Pendlebury whilst Dangerfield increased his tally to 19 votes with a best afield performance against Fremantle. During the 26 point victory against Carlton at the MCG Martin had a team-high 18 kicks, 12 handballs, equal game-high seven inside 50s, team-high six clearances, team-high 16 contested possessions and a goal assist.
From Round 10 to Round 15 Richmond won four of their five games to rise to fourth on the ladder. 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 Richmond 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 three Brownlow Medal votes for his game-high 22 kicks, equal game-high 14 handballs, eight mark, game-high eight inside 50s, 10 contested possessions, a goal assist and a goal. After Round 15 Martin led on 21 votes, six ahead of Pendlebury, however the ineligible Dangerfield had polled 22 votes.
In the Round 16 Maddie’s match against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium Richmond got blown away in the first half to trail by 82 points at half-time and lost the game by 67 points, Martin kicked a goal and had 19 disposals – his second lowest tally for the season.
Round 17 against Brisbane was a mixed performance from Martin as he was brilliant when focussed on the football but got frustrated by the close tag from Nick Robertson and received two fines totalling $2,500 from the match review panel for separate instances, making unnecessary contact to the face of Nick Robertson and rough conduct on Lewis Taylor. One more fine in the home and away season would have made him ineligible for the Brownlow Medal. Martin had a massive second half and finished the game with 24 kicks, 16 handballs, 12 inside 50s, 14 clearances and 18 contested possessions to set game-highs in all five categories. Highlighting how dominant he was no other player had more than four clearances, or five inside 50s, Martin also made an impact on the scoreboard, kicking two goals and recorded his seventh best afield game of the season.
Martin received the maximum three Brownlow Medal 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.
With his third consecutive best afield performance in the 33 point Round 19 victory against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium Martin increased his Brownlow Medal tally to 30 votes, two ahead of the ineligible Dangerfield and nine votes ahead of Tom Mitchell. Against Gold Coast Martin had a game-high 24 kicks, 10 handballs, five marks, team-high seven inside 50s, seven clearances, game-high 16 contested possessions, a game-high three contested marks and kicked a goal.
In Round 20 and 21 Dustin didn’t poll a vote, however Tom Mitchell only polled one vote during this time so with an eight vote lead and only two rounds remaining Martin was certain to win the 2017 Brownlow Medal outright. There was still considerable interest as to whether Martin or Dangerfield would poll the most votes and with two rounds remaining Dangerfield led by a vote, the duo had already created history as it was the first time two players had polled 30 votes or more in the same season.
Dangerfield failed to poll a vote against Collingwood in Round 22 despite having 32 disposals and kicking two goals whilst Martin polled three votes against Fremantle during the 104 point win at Domain Stadium to move to 33 votes, two ahead of Dangerfield. In the massive victory Martin had 17 kicks, an equal game-high 19 handballs, a team-high seven clearances, one goal assist and kicked two goals.
Martin finished the season strongly with his 11th best afield 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%.
Following the poor Round 16 performance against St Kilda, Richmond won six of their remaining seven games of the home and away season to finish in third position with 15 wins, 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.
Dustin’s dad Shane had his Visa cancelled early in 2016 due to having links with a bikie gang and not having an Australian passport, he was deported and returned to live in New Zealand. 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, days later on Thursday 31 August he signed a seven year deal with Richmond which was announced in the opening segment of The Footy Show on channel 9 with footage of an interview earlier that day between Martin, Eddie McGuire and Sam Newman. On Martin’s long-term deal Richmond 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.”15
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. North Melbourne offered Martin a lucrative seven year deal for approximately $11 million. After signing with Richmond Martin commented to The Footy Show “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.” Martin signing the seven year contract with Richmond was a key factor in Richmond building momentum and belief on the eve of the finals.
Martin played all 22 games for Richmond during the 2017 home and away season and consistently performed at an exceptional level, 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. On the field Martin was unaffected by the considerable discussion about his future during 2017 and as strange as it sounds given the pressure involved, playing an AFL game with thousands of people watching him is his sanctuary, the time when he feels the most comfortable.
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 win by 51 points, recording their 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 AFL Coaches Association Gary Ayres medal for player of the finals, Trent Cotchin was ranked second with eight votes.
Richmond hosted the GWS Giants in a Saturday twilight preliminary final at the MCG in front of 94,258 spectators, 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 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, 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 award 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.
On the Monday of Grand Final week explosive midfielder Martin won the 2017 Brownlow Medal in comprehensive fashion, polling 36 votes to finish 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 started the 2017 Brownlow Medal as the hottest favourite in the events 90 season history, lived up to expectations and provided a 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 in 2016 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, surpassing Richmond ruckman Roy Wright’s winning margin of 10 votes in 1954.
The 2017 Grand Final week was the biggest of 26 year-old Dustin’s life, as well as winning the Brownlow Medal on Monday night he played in his first AFL Grand Final on Saturday, 35 years after the club’s last Grand Final appearance. In his Brownlow Medal acceptance speech Martin said “Like, I wouldn’t have thought in a million years I would be up here getting a Brownlow and playing in an AFL Grand Final so I’m soaking it up and enjoying it.”
Martin won the Brownlow Medal in his eighth season in the AFL, he had played 177 AFL games and kicked 185 goals which was a remarkably similar record to that of Patrick Dangerfield at the end of his 2016 Brownlow Medal winning season. If Martin kicks two goals in the Grand Final, as well as winning the Brownlow Medal at 26 years of age the dominant duo will have each played 178 games and kicked 187 goals at the conclusion of their respective Brownlow Medal winning seasons, 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.
After the 2017 Brownlow Medal Martin had polled 134 votes in his eight season career, ranked fourth on Richmond’s all-time list behind Kevin Bartlett (160), Matthew Richardson (140) and Francis Bourke (139). Having polled more than 20 votes in each of his past three seasons, it is likely that Martin will surpass Bartlett to become the top Richmond vote-getter of all-time in 2018 or 2019. Martin ranks seventh of AFL players who played in 2017 for career Brownlow Medal votes behind Gary Ablett (234), Sam Mitchell (227), Joel Selwood (181), Patrick Dangerfield (165), Scott Pendlebury (165) and Lance Franklin (155).
Richmond finished the 2016 season in 13th position with eight wins and 14 losses, finishing the season in disappointing fashion by losing seven of their last nine games with their worst loss of the season being in the final round to Sydney by 113 points at the SCG. Whilst Richmond had made the finals in three consecutive seasons they lost all three elimination finals and had not a won final since 2001. A league-high 41 players were used by Richmond at AFL level in 2016.
Most experts expected Richmond to miss the finals in 2017. In the 2016 trade period Richmond’s most experienced player and two time best and fairest winner Brett Deledio was traded to the GWS Giants. Richmond traded in three players that each played more than 20 AFL games for the club in 2017 and have been valuable additions to the team – ruckman Toby Nankervis, midfielder Dion Prestia and forward/midfielder Josh Caddy.
One of the biggest improvements by Richmond in 2017 is the defensive pressure applied, particularly by the small forwards. Whilst Martin was an All-Australian in 2016 only 10% of his disposals were in the forward line. With Richmond predominantly playing only one key forward during 2017 in Jack Riewoldt, Martin has spent more time forward of centre allowing him to be more damaging and be the club’s second highest goal kicker.
Given how much midfielders have dominated the Brownlow Medal in the past 25 years it has been frequently referred to as the midfielders medal, however there is a significant type of midfielder that has risen to the top of the leader-board in recent Brownlow medal counts – the goalkicking midfielder. Of the 10 players to have won a Brownlow Medal in the past decade from 2008 to 2017 all have been midfielders and only three have not averaged at least 0.9 goals per game during the home and away season, all three have been contested possession beasts. Martin’s 1.45 goals per game is the most any Brownlow Medallist has kicked in the past decade.
Goals per game of Brownlow medallists 2008-2017
Year Player Goals per game Games Goals
2017 Dustin Martin 1.45 22 32
2011 Dane Swan 1.43 21 30
2013 Gary Ablett 1.33 21 28
2009 Gary Ablett 1.26 19 24
2016 Patrick Dangerfield 1.05 22 23
2012 Trent Cotchin 0.95 22 21
2008 Adam Cooney 0.95 22 21
2015 Nat Fyfe 0.94 18 17
2010 Chris Judd 0.74 19 14
2012 Sam Mitchell 0.33 21 7
2014 Matt Priddis 0.29 21 6
Martin’s 1.45 goals per game is the most any Brownlow Medallist has kicked in the past decade, just ahead of another heavily tattooed fan favourite in Dane Swan with 1.43 goals per game. All three Brownlow Medallists that averaged less than 0.9 goals per game – Judd in 2010, Sam Mitchell in 2012 and Priddis in 2014 were all contested possession beasts in their Brownlow Medal winning season. Martin has set a new career-high for contested possessions per game in 2017 and ranks in the top 10 of the AFL in this category.
During his Brownlow Medal acceptance speech Dustin spoke about a turning point a few years ago, commenting “I was just a young bloke who liked to play up every now and then, and Ralph and my old man were sick of it. They sat me down and told me to pull my head in or they weren’t going to help me any more. So I pulled my head in.”
One of Martin’s greatest strengths is countering an opponent’s attempt to tackle him with a don’t argue which almost invariably leads to Martin brushing the would be tackler aside and continuing on his destructive path. In Round 15 this season against Port Adelaide Martin equalled the record for most broken tackles in a game with seven, a mark that had been set by one of his opponents on that day Jarman Impey for Port Adelaide in Round 11, 2016. Three players have broken six tackles in a game, Sam Lloyd, Clay Beams and Martin three times. “Martin’s amazing ability to bust through pressure or make the opposition miss sticking a tackle was epitomised by the AFL-leading 68 broken tackles he recorded across the home and away season. Such was Martin’s dominance, that figure was 44 more than the next best player – Port Adelaide’s Sam Powell-Pepper (24).”16
2017 was the sixth time in his career that Martin polled more than 10 Brownlow Medal votes in a season and the third year in succession that he had polled at least 21 votes and finished in the top seven, having finished seventh in 2015 with 21 votes and third in 2016 with 25 votes. Martin is the third consecutive Brownlow medallist to win with a tally of more than 30 votes, following Dangerfield last year and Nat Fyfe with 31 votes in 2015.
As well as winning the Brownlow Medal and many media awards in 2017 Martin also received the Leigh Matthews Trophy as the AFL Players Association’s MVP and also won the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award, Dustin Martin received the perfect 10 votes eight times, the most a player had ever achieved, ranking ahead of Fyfe in 2015 (6), Ablett in 2009 (5) and Dangerfield in 2016 (5). Martin polled 122 votes to win the AFL CA Player of the year award by four votes from Patrick Dangerfield, with Rory Sloane in third position on 78 votes. As well as setting a record for most 10 vote games in a season Martin also set a new record for total votes polled in a season.
Dustin Martin was named the AFL Player’s Association Player of the month for June and July before winning the Player of the Year Award with 1,333 votes to finish 557 votes ahead of runner-up Patrick Dangerfield, with Rory Sloane third on 416, Josh Kelly fourth on 267 and Lance Franklin fifth on 215 votes.
Martin won the Brownlow Medal in his eighth season in the AFL, at the end of the 2017 season he had played 178 AFL games and kicked 187 goals, remarkably, an identical games and goals tally to his predecessor Patrick Dangerfield at the end of his 2016 Brownlow Medal winning season. Taking the comparison further their career Brownlow Medal votes were almost identical with Martin’s 134 at the end of 2017 just edging Dangerfield’s 132 votes at the end of 2016.
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 team was unchanged for all three finals, with the same 22 representing the club in the qualifying final against Geelong, preliminary final against GWS and the Grand Final against the Adelaide Crows. Of the 22 players that played all three finals for Richmond in 2017 six had been recruited from rival AFL clubs – Josh Caddy, Shaun Grigg, Bachar Houli, Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia and Jacob Townsend.
On Grand Final day 2017 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 year.
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 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, with just under half of his disposals being kicks, 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.
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 quarter 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.
To be in a select group of six players that have won a Brownlow Medal, Norm Smith Medal and a Premiership medal during their career places Martin in elite company, however Martin took 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.
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, 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 was 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 (Richmond coach Hardwick), a lot of people at the club, a lot of people outside the club, family and friends. I’m very grateful.”
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.
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 Brownlow Medal 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.
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 midfielder 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 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.
The profile for Martin in AFL Prospectus 2018 said “In 2016, Martin added volume to his game but the quality wasn’t there. In 2017, the quality and quantity came together, culminating in the best season of any player as his disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, goals, score assists and score involvements all rated elite.”17
In 178 games from his debut until the 2017 Grand Final Dusty had only kicked more than four goals in a game once, kicking five goals against Brisbane in Round 13, 2011. In the first four rounds of 2018 Martin kicked more than four goals in a game twice, starting with five goals straight against Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval in Round 2, he also had a team-high 19 kicks, six handballs, three marks, five tackles, five inside 50’s, a team-high six clearances, 14 contested possessions and two contested marks.
Martin kicked a career-high six goals straight against the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Round 4, he also had an equal team-high 14 kicks, three handballs, six marks, six inside 50’s, 10 contested possessions, two contested marks and a goal assist in the 93 point victory, he was the only player to kick more than three goals in the game.
Against Essendon in an eight point Round 22 victory at the MCG Martin kicked an equal game-high four goals, had 14 kicks, 12 handballs, a game-high 10 marks, an equal game-high six inside 50’s and 10 contested possessions.
In the final round of the 2018 home and away season against the Western Bulldogs Martin had a game-high 25 kicks, eight handballs, a game-high 12 inside 50’s – five more than the second ranked player for the game, a game-high nine clearances – three more than the second ranked player for the game, a team-high 13 contested possessions, a game-high four goal assists and kicked a goal in the three point victory at the MCG.
Whilst had didn’t have more than 33 disposals in a home and away game during 2018, he had at least 26 disposals in 14 of his 21 games. During 2018 Martin has averaged 16.1 kicks, 9.4 handballs, 3.8 marks, 1.4 goals, 5.3 clearances, 6.1 inside 50’s and 2.1 tackles per game.
Richmond finished the 2018 home and away season on top of the ladder with 18 wins, four losses and a percentage of 136.1%, to finish two games ahead of the second placed West Coast Eagles, in the process the Tigers have established a new all-time record of 21 consecutive wins at the MCG. For the first time ever 12 teams recorded at least 12 wins a season, smashing the previous record of nine teams winning 12 games in 1994, 1998, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Collingwood and Hawthorn finished in third and fourth position respectively with 15 wins each. Richmond’s 18 wins this year is the most recorded in a season since Hawthorn won 19 games in 2013, the last time the Tigers won 18 games in a season was in 1982 when they won the minor premiership but were beaten by Carlton by 18 points in the Grand Final.
Whilst had didn’t have more than 33 disposals in a home and away game during 2018, he had at least 26 disposals in 14 of his 21 games. During 2018 Martin has averaged 16.1 kicks, 9.4 handballs, 3.8 marks, 1.4 goals, 5.3 clearances, 6.1 inside 50’s and 2.1 tackles per game. Martin’s performances in 2018 haven’t matched his incredible 2017 output but it has to remembered that few players in the history of the game have performed at that level for a season. Martin’s disposals have fallen from 29.8 per game 25.5 in in 2017 and his contested possessions have reduced from 14.5 to 11.8,however in several other key areas Martin has maintained similar numbers including goals, inside 50’s and goal assists per game.
A league-high eight Richmond players were selected in the initial 40 player squad for the 2018 All-Australian team. Martin was named in the centre of the final 22 man team and was one of four tigers selected, being joined by Alex Rance at full-back, Jack Riewoldt at full-forward and Shane Edwards on the interchange.
During the 2018 home and away season Martin led the AFL for total inside 50’s, ranked second for score involvements, equal fifth for goal assists, 13th for kicks, equal 26th for goals, equal 18th for contested possessions and equal 21st for clearances.
In 2018 Martin led Richmond for total kicks, disposals, contested possessions, clearances and inside 50’s,ranked second for goal assists, third for goals 30 behind Coleman Medallist Riewoldt (65) and Caddy (44), equal fourth for contested marks, fifth for handballs.
Martin finished equal eighth in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year award with 70 votes, 27 votes behind the winner, Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn. In the AFL Players Association MVP Award Martin finished fourth on 304 votes, behind Tom Mitchell (773), Patrick Cripps (529) and Max Gawn (412).
Martin is second favourites for this year’s Brownlow Medal behind Tom Mitchell, he is expected to poll strongly in the first 5 Rounds of the season and from Round 16 onwards but wont feature as prominently from Round 6 to Round 15, during this eight game period he had only had more than 26 disposals in a game twice, he also missed the Round 12 game due to a calf injury. Only two players polled more than 20 Brownlow Medal votes in all three seasons from 2015 to 2017 – Martin and Dangerfield with each member of the explosive powerful duo winning a Brownlow Medal during this time.
In his 199 game AFL career to date Martin has averaged 16.0 kicks, 9.3 handballs, 4.0 marks, 1.1 goals, 0.69 Brownlow Medal votes, 4.2 clearances, 4.6 inside 50’s 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 0.69 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 (0.55), Maurice Rioli (0.52), Francis Bourke (0.50) and Matthew Richardson (0.50).
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 25.30. Martin ranks 30th on Richmond’s all-time list for games played and 17th for goals kicked.
Martin turned 27 years old in the middle of the 2018 season and on the eve of the 2017 finals signed a lucrative seven year deal with Richmond until the end of the 2024 season, by which time he will be 33 years old. Given his durability it is likely that Martin will join a trio of Tigers in the 300 game club in Kevin Bartlett (403 games), Jack Dyer (312) and Francis Bourke (300).
Throughout his career Martin has maintained a high standard of performance to have seven top four finishes in Richmond’s best and fairest in eight seasons from 2010 to 2017. Martin is one of only five players to be selected in three consecutive All-Australian teams from 2016 to 2018. Dusty’s strengths are his power, size, speed, skill, ability to bring team-mates into the play, deliver the ball inside 50, ability to win one on one contests, ability to break tackles with his ‘don’t argue’, durability, versatility to make a significant impact in the midfield and forward line and consistency. On the eve of his Tonight Dustin Martin plays his 200th AFL game tonight Dustin Martin has already established himself as an all-time great of the Richmond Football Club and with a 2018 finals campaign and another six seasons remaining on his contract Dusty is set to provide plenty more don’t’ argues, skilful passages of play and sublime games, further enhancing his legacy.
By Dean Andrews
Twitter – DeanAndrews7777
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6 AFL, AFL Record Round 11 June 4-6, 2010, page 76
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17 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – the essential number-cruncher for season 2018, 13th Edition, page 300