Dusty’s double: Martin in elite company with second Norm Smith

30 Sep, 2019

In a week when dual Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe cemented his standing as a modern-day great, we should have known Richmond superstar Dustin Martin would respond.

 

By claiming his second Norm Smith Medal, the Tigers talisman not only enhanced his reputation as the ultimate big-game player, but reminded us the debate about the AFL’s best footballer is anything but clear-cut.

Only three other players in VFL/AFL history have been the best afield in two Grand Finals – the last being now-retired champion Luke Hodge for Hawthorn in 2014.

Adelaide’s silky star Andrew McLeod (1997, ’98) and Hawthorn’s five-time premiership player Gary Ayres (1986, ’88) are the only other members of that elite club.

In Saturday’s Grand Final mauling of the Giants, Martin had the first disposal – a handball and centre clearance – and the biggest say.

When the match was up for grabs, and it wasn’t for long, it was the Richmond powerhouse who stamped his authority.

Then, when it was all over, Martin iced the cake, gathering a bouncing ball outside 50m, wheeling onto his trusty right boot and drilling his fourth goal as the Tiger Army rose as one.

He finished with 22 touches, a team-high 12 contested, with eight score involvements and went at an incredible 86.4 per cent disposal efficiency.

“The thing that I love about this footy club is we don’t really care who gets the touches, who kicks the goals,” Martin said.

“I’m lucky enough today to get the recognition, but the thing I love about the team is we all play our role and it was my day today. It was someone else last week.

“I just love how we don’t really care about any of that stuff.”

Martin, who could have been a Giant after touring the fledgling club’s facilities in 2013, has come to embody the new-age Tigers under Damien Hardwick.

Accepting his medal from 2003 winner and Brisbane legend Simon Black, he screamed “yellow and black” as the MCG erupted, and the partying will continue for a long time at Punt Rd.

And with Martin in his pomp at 28, these Tigers are going nowhere.

During the Grand Final parade, Martin dismissed reporters asking how he would handle Matt de Boer, and at the MCG he paid the GWS stopper just as much regard.

He then overwhelmed Heath Shaw and Sam Taylor with his strength and speed inside 50.

As in 2017, when as the Brownlow medallist he completed what Leigh Matthews described as possibly the greatest individual season in history, it was Martin’s threat in attack that separated him from the rest.

It’s hard to believe in the aftermath of an 89-point humiliation, but Richmond needed a steadier after GWS wrested control in the first term and Jeremy Cameron converted from long range.

Enter Martin.

After an unaware Lachie Whitfield was ripped to the ground by Kane Lambert, Jack Riewoldt’s searching left-foot kick found Martin in space, with Shaw beaten all ends up. The tattooed Tiger bizarrely snapped from 35m out directly in front, but the result was the momentum-changing goal.

By the second quarter he exposed Taylor’s inexperience and latched onto a loose ball as his opponent fell to ground and dribbled through his second.

After grabbing Daniel Rioli’s clever handball in the pocket and snapping his third while falling to the ground in a Taylor tackle, it was party time, and the ‘Dusty’ chants had started amongst the Richmond cheer squad.

Martin could have finished with five – but in typically unselfish fashion hit dream debutant Marlion Pickett, who almost completed an unforgettable fairytale by winning the Norm Smith, between the eyes for his maiden goal.

The pair have become fast friends since Pickett’s arrival via the mid-season rookie draft, with the Brownlow medallist opening his home to the South Fremantle product when he moved to Melbourne.

“I was a little bit tired and I thought it might have been a bit too far out for me,” Martin said with a wry grin explaining his pass to Pickett.

“I actually seen him out of the corner of my eye and I gave him the little nod and he worked his way into a bit of space and I popped it there nicely for him.

“It’s an amazing story and I couldn’t be prouder that he went well today.”

The strong bonds weaved through Richmond’s playing group and club is obvious, and media-shy Martin has been integral to that.

“It’s funny, people think that as a coach you teach your players things. I’ve learnt more off this bloke than he’s learnt of me, I guarantee you,” Hardwick said.

“The things that we speak about consistently like mindfulness, connection, he’s had in spades for a long, long time.

“He’s ahead of the curve.”

We can say the same about Richmond which, after breaking a 37-year premiership drought in 2017, now has two flags in three years.

And neither the Tigers, nor Martin, look satisfied yet.

2019 Norm Smith Medal Voting

15 – Dustin Martin, Richmond – 33333
6 – Bachar Houli, Richmond – 222
4 – Marlion Pickett, Richmond – 211
3 – Jack Riewoldt, Richmond – 111
2 – Dion Prestia, Richmond – 2

 

Story – AFL.com.au

 

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