Coming to Terms With Losing a Star – The Curious Case of Dustin Martin

Firstly, I start this piece by stating that I do not want to get caught up in the media frenzy surrounding Dustin Martin’s lucrative contract. From 2017 thus far, we as a football public know four things from over thirteen weeks of reporting. These are; Martin does not want to talk about his contractual situation until the end of the season,  Richmond have put what they believe to be a fair offer to him, a few Victorian based clubs have ‘thrown their hat into the ring’ to sign the player and that the Tigers are keen to get an indication from his management team sometime in the near future. To me, these rumblings have been a total waste of time and resources. However, the constant hubbub has achieved a small victory nonetheless. It has led Richmond fans like me consider our positions on the matter and on free agency more generally. Rather than weigh in on statements made within the whirlpool of media repetition, I’ll instead give my view on the potential loss of a star.

 

Obviously, I would like to see Richmond keep the man in the yellow and black. Without question, he is a one of a kind midfield talent with a combination of sheer power and goal kicking ability the likes of which have scarcely been seen at the club. In the number made famous by the likes of Hart and Raines, ‘Dusty’ is carving out his own legacy as a truly great Tiger. While Martin is putting together a Brownlow worthy season, I look back to the 2011 season to demonstrate the point of his prowess. In just his 26th league game, he tore North Melbourne to shreds, kicking four goals (including a ripping snap from the pocket) and claiming thirty three possessions in a best afield performance. This game signified the emergence of a star, the future of our club and a leader in our charge out of the pits of the competition. 139 games later I see that leadership coming to fruition. So far this season, he is averaging 29.3 disposals, 1.5 goals and 4.25 tackles per game and has been a key factor in all seven of Richmond’s wins. I feel that if the club is to push forward and challenge for that illusive premiership that has burdened us for the past 37 years, then Dustin Martin has to be a part of that team. To some extent, he is the team. When he’s winning on field, we’re winning as a club.

 

And yet, I find myself having already come to terms with his departure, as if a deal has already been done. I am prepared for life without ‘Dusty’. When thinking about player movement in the modern game, one of the first things that springs to mind is the chorus of boos and jeers that a player receives from their former supporter base (Patty Ryder being the most recent case). My immediate response is, ‘why?… Why does this happen?’ Most will boo out of a question of loyalty. However, what is loyalty in the professional era? The game of Australian Rules Football is a national game that is striving to expand as a marketable business overseas. It is played by a bunch of professionals and their job is to chase a ball for two hours and fulfil a role for their side. Is it fair for us as the football public to criticise a player for getting a better monetary deal for completing the same tasks week in and week out? To me, this is cause for applause in my day to day life. I have seen friends and family gain employment for companies that will pay them a better wage for essentially doing the same job. I cannot blame an individual for wanting to ensure financial security for their immediate and long term future. Moreover, our game is no longer one based around the local community. If it was, we would not see Dale Thomas wearing navy blue each week, nor would we see Matthew White in a Port Adelaide jumper and playing in an Elimination Final (2014) against the team that had he had supported as a child and played at for eight seasons. I will certainly not call Dustin Martin ‘disloyal’ for ensuring his future and that of his family is well accounted for.

 

Then there will be those that state ‘he needs to repay the faith that the club has put in him’. My answer again to that is ‘why?’. Has he not already done this? On field, Dustin Martin has been a best and fairest winner (along with numerous top 10 finishes, including a runner up), All Australian and finished in the top 3 of a Brownlow medal count. He has been a major reason for three finals appearances during his tenure and was the shining light during a season of underachievement (2016). To me, he has more than repaid the faith placed in him by the club. Now, my argument could quite easily be quashed by the masses with cries of ‘but he has been in trouble off field and we’ve allowed him family time in New Zealand etc, etc.’. Let me offer an alternative take. Firstly, other clubs have stood by their stars for both on field and off field indiscretions of a far greater magnitude than those carried out by ‘Dusty’. That does not mean that I agree with threatening a member of the public while they eat their dinner, however other clubs have supported their players through periods of alcoholism, inexcusable on field acts and drug use for example. Secondly, he is not the first player to be offered support and time away from the game to deal with whichever personal issue they may encounter. In such a professional era, the handling of a player’s personal circumstances from the exterior appears to be of high quality – If we think back to just a few weeks ago, Collingwood’s Alex Fasolo received a heap of public and private support when diagnosed with depression. In short, when it comes to ‘repaying the faith in a club’, Dustin Martin has no case to answer for.

 

I have considered the ideas and thoughts without even touching on what this means for the Richmond list. I am in no way suggesting that I would love to see a special talent just simply walk away. I’d rather see him in the number four winning contested ball and kicking goals. However, in an era in which compensations in drafts and the trading of future picks are a major part of the game, Richmond could find itself in the very unique place of being a club outside of the expansion teams with three draft picks inside the top 20 if Martin were to leave as a free agent. One of these picks, according to Cal Twomey of AFL.com.au should be enough to secure talented Vic Metro and father/son prospect, Patrick Naish who is the son of former Tiger, Chris. In addition to this, salary cap room would free up and allow Richmond to target the key forward it definitely needs. The point that I have tried to make is that we as members of the football public do not need to cloak our fears and ideas of doom and gloom with a chorus of boos and jeers. Dustin Martin, or any other free agent for that matter are not ‘disloyal’ or any other adjective for that matter – he is quite simply a product of the modern football system and should be treated as such.

 

About Liahm O'Brien

Mad tigers fan. There has been no better sight in my lifetime than Richo belting out of the forward line and clunking a big mark. Keen interest in all sports, in particular in Tasmania.

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says:

    he will stay. i still think he will win a Norm smith, a Brownlow AND A COLEMAN!

    he is the best player we have had since Royce. with all due respect to some deadset champions like St Francis, KB etc.

    he sees shit that normal mortals can’t, which is why he sometimes looks out of synch with his teammates

    he will stay. he and Cocthi have the Trusty thing happening.

    starting to think we should think about taking Tippett off the swans’ hands if they will contribute to his salary. but Jezza Cameron is the one, more Royce than Royce. chuck our two first rounders and B ellis at them. surely their cap has to start to bite soon?

  2. Liahm O'Brien says:

    With the way the caps are set, if we were to take Tippett off of them then they’d have to pay part of his monster salary (similar to the Cloke deal). Only issue is having two injury prone CHF’s on the list which would make things tough despite adding depth.

    I personally think he’ll stay too, but stranger things have happened that’s for sure.

  3. Joe De Petro says:

    Regardless of what Dusty chooses to do, we Richmond fans are very lucky. Watching Dusty and Rance play each week is a privilege.

    I hope he stays.

  4. yes these are once in a generation players, true A+ graders, with Jack and Cotch on the verge. we haven’t had anything like that since the 80 team (Lee, Flea, KB, Cloke, St Francis, Rowlings, Wiley etc). or 82, with Rioli in the mix.

    it will be a shame if we can’t cash in on the talent they bring and put ourselves in serious contention.

    alas, when i look at the middle tier, that need to bind the team together and bridge the gap between the stars and the kids, I see a lot of dross. Houli Grigg B Ellis McIntosh Maric Batchelor Lambert and I am putting Caddy and Prestia in that category on form to date. Hunt, all of them. we don’t have much quality to bring in to put selection pressure on some of the inconsistent performers.Townsend. Lloyd. McIntosh. Morris.

    Not ruthless enough at a couple of a trades and drafts. will take a couple of years more to dig us out I guess : (

    and/or Markov Lennon C Ellis and Soldo all go through the roof quickly and we morph into the 1993 Bombers…!

  5. God I hope Dusty stays. It’s hard to lose a favourite player. I’m still trying to deal with Brad Ottens leaving for Geelong.

  6. If he leaves Richmond it will be another victory for the machine over the club.

  7. Paul Young says:

    Nice work Smoove83. Good to see a mature take by a supporter on the prospect of losing a super player. On the booing of a former player, I too don’t understand the point of it. It’s juvenile. Unless you are a modern day George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) it’s hypocritical of anyone to criticise a player choosing to leave for more money for doing the same job.

    Not a Richmond fan, but I do hope he remains at Tigerland. I’m not sure there is any compensation that could justify losing such a gun player.

  8. Stainless says:

    Good piece Liamh.

    In a professional game, I think we have to accept the reality of the best players being highly tradeable commodities. As fans, it will still hurt when they go, but we can soften the blow by abandoning this childish notion that they’re lifetime, infallible heroes, and be more hard-nosed in our assessment of their worth to our club.

    Like most Richmond fans, I love watching Martin play. His power and athleticism are awesome to behold. But as I’ve previously said, when we’re discussing players at this level, I reckon you have to put sheer skill and athleticism aside and ask yourself – do they really step up when a really big game’s on the line? I’ve already expressed doubts about Martin in this regard and based on Saturday’s performance, I’d happily trade him for Josh Kennedy.

    If Martin walks? It’s not obvious to me that there are many other current players that you’d target in preference to going for the best daft picks you could get. Snaring Cameron would be amazing, but unrealistic IMO. I wouldn’t go near Tippett. I’m of the firm belief that Sydney will not win a flag while he and Buddy are there. Absolute antithesis of the Bloods Culture, both of them.

  9. Paul – Thanks mate, it’s something that has bugged me for sure. Hard to criticise someone for doing the exact same as we would do ourselves. A player’s relationship to the club they play for has many more stakeholders than just the two.

    Stainless – I completely agree. There isn’t another free agent that comes close to Dusty. If he does decide to go, I wish him all the best and hope that the club can make the best out of an otherwise undesirable on-field situation.

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