When it comes to putting bums on seats at the footy, the Prince of Punt Road may be the best at it in the game currently. With his trademark fend off and haircut, both known as the “Dusty”, Dustin Martin has the world of the AFL at his feet. His ability to play his best footy when it matters most has spectators in awe, with numerous past players and coaches posing the thought that Martin may be the best big game player ever, highlighted by his multiple Norm Smith medals. Despite his laid back and media shy personality, Dustin is a superstar of the competition, perhaps being the most marketable player of the competition.
Something which may haunt Melbourne supporters forever is the fact they had the first two picks of the 2009 national AFL draft. Despite possessing the top two picks, the Demons opted for midfielders Tom Scully and Jack Trengove ahead of Martin, not knowing the potential heights Dustin would reach. Consequently, the tigers took Dustin with the very next pick (Pick 3). Dustin had spent the previous year with the Bendigo Pioneers in the TAC Cup, after growing up in the rural Victorian town of Castlemaine. He was a clear first round selection, gaining All Australian honours throughout the under 18’s national championships in 2009 whilst representing Victoria Country. Dustin was good enough to make his AFL debut in round 1 of the 2010 season, picking up 18 disposals and 4 marks in a loss to the blues. He finished the season averaging over 20 disposals a game, whilst booting 11 goals for the season. Dusty continued to develop and build form throughout his next few seasons, utilizing his explosiveness and penetrating kicking to become one of the more dangerous midfielders in the competition, albeit a very young player. His establishment as one of the up and coming midfielders of the competition saw him make the '22under22' team in 2012 and 2013, recognizing the game’s finest young players. Dustin’s first few seasons did at times become overshadowed by numerous off field mishaps. His persona as a party boy could see him come under criticism for a lack of maturity, however Martin usually let his work on the field do the talking.
Season 2013 enabled the AFL world to get a glimpse of Dusty on the big stage, with the Tigers breaking a 12-year finals drought. Martin collected 19 touches and kicked a goal in front of a packed MCG crowd, however the Blues had the last laugh, running out the game as 20-point winners. The disappointment of the elimination final loss carried through the following two seasons for Dusty and the Tigers. Richmond once again fell short in the elimination finals of 2014 and 2015, defeated by Port Adelaide and North Melbourne respectively. 2016 saw a turn for the worst at Punt Road, with the Tigers slumping to 13th on the ladder, missing out on the finals completely. Amidst the heartbreak at Richmond, Martin well and truly turned himself into a premier player of the competition, claiming his first All Australian jacket as well as his first Richmond ‘Best and Fairest’ award in 2016 after averaging just under 30 disposals a game.
2017 was a breath of fresh air for Richmond, with a focus on enjoyment and becoming more culturally focused as a club being key pillars for their eventual success. Dustin played a big part in this, elevating his game to heights no one could’ve ever imagined. Martin’s 2017 season has been spoken about as potentially the greatest individual season from a player ever. Martin claimed his second All-Australian jacket and club ‘Best and Fairest’ whilst also leading the Tigers to their first premiership in 27 years, doing enough to earn the Norm Smith medal for being judged best afield in their Grand Final thumping of Adelaide. Oh, and if that wasn’t already enough, Dustin claimed his maiden Brownlow medal, recording 36 votes… the most votes ever received in the Brownlow medal. To add to this, Martin’s work on the field kept hairdressers extra busy. It seemed as if every Richmond supporter had strolled into their local hairdresser and asked for “The Dusty”. A dominant 2018 season saw Martin once again gain All-Australian honours, however Richmond fell to Collingwood in a shock preliminary final loss, leaving them extra hungry heading into 2019. And that they were. Despite a slow start to the season, Richmond once again held the title of the greatest team in the competition after crushing the Giants in the 2019 Grand Final. And surprise, surprise… Martin rose to the occasion, taking home his second Norm Smith medal to go with his second premiership.
As Dusty left his mark on the competition, he quickly became the face of the game. This translated off the field also. After first wearing the Puma EvoPower boot in 2016, Dustin again wore the Puma’s for his captivating 2017 season. Shortly after the 2017 season, Puma partnered up with Martin on a deal reported to be worth $500, 000 a season within a 4-year contract. However, only a year into the contract Martin cut ties with Puma, after their decision to stop producing the EvoPower boot which Martin dominated in for seasons. Consequently, Martin trialed different Adidas, Puma and Nike boots before eventually settling for Nike boots earlier this year. It’s expected that he’ll stick with Nike, with a big deal predicted to be on the horizon between Martin and the powerhouse brand.
Whilst Dusty boasts a current career tally of 243 games at Richmond – comprising of 2 Brownlow medals, 2 premierships, 2 Norm Smith medals and 4 All- Australian awards – he’s not done yet! Awaiting him at the Gabba this Saturday night may be his toughest task yet. An in-form Geelong looking to farewell Gary Ablett and have Patrick Dangerfield capture his elusive first premiership seems an almighty task to prevent. But it’s nothing Dusty hasn’t done before. He ruined the party for a rampaging Adelaide Crows outfit in 2017, before spoiling the big, big sound of the Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2019. Dusty has done it all before, going about business with his no fuss attitude, making the big stage his own. A third premiership to go with a third Norm Smith medal will put him into a league of his own, with no individual player ever claiming three best on ground performances on the sport’s biggest stage of them all. Can the champ produce another game for the ages? We’ll have to wait and find out, however one thing is for sure… The party boy from Castlemaine will leave his mark on the game, being one of the best to ever go out and strut their stuff.