Oh Dusty, how could you?

* This piece was originally published on September 27, 2013*


When it emerged that Dustin Martin may leave his club, people thought Richmond fans would be devastated.

Still recovering from their club’s loss to Carlton in its first final for 12 years, surely the thought of losing our toughest midfielder would be too much to take?

And what about all those wide-eyed kids with number 4 on their back?

Not so fast.

Most Richmond fans were angry, but not at the fact they might lose a star player.

They were angry that Martin, who grew up in Castlemaine and didn’t finish high school, might reject those who had invested so much in him on and off the field.

They were also angry at his manager, Ralph Carr, for allowing such a mess to develop. When Martin and Carr said he was pursuing other options, many Richmond fans said “good riddance”.

How could someone who had been given a better chance in life by his football club threaten to walk out for the sake of a few bucks?

We all know about Dustin Martin’s off-field indiscretions and need for a steadying influence, particularly during his early days at Punt Rd.

No-one begrudged Martin his background and limited education. As long as he behaved and gave 100 per cent on the field he’d be accepted. And he was.

Now 22, Martin debuted in 2010. He has shown flashes of brilliance and until recently professed his loyalty to the Tigers, building a strong following of youngsters who idolise his silky skills.

Richmond fans embraced “Dusty” and his prodigious talent, which has yet to reach its full potential. This year he played some fantastic footy but faded occasionally when it mattered.

The Carlton elimination final was a case in point. After a brilliant first half, Martin went missing as Chris Judd led the Blues to a comeback victory.

He still has the potential to do anything with Richmond, but sadly we may not see that now.

Despite the club doing everything it could to help him, he may still leave. The most recent reports say the stand-off is continuing despite a number of clubs pulling out of the race.

This is frustrating for everyone and not doing Martin any good. What people need to realise is just how much Richmond has invested in this young man as an individual.

Early on the club was worried enough about his behaviour to have Martin board with club president Gary March and his family for two years.

This was a stabilising influence but didn’t stop him transgressing, particularly after he moved out.

Concerns were raised about his friendship group, late-night sightings and a lack of remorse after being disciplined. Rumours abounded; if a fraction were true it was not good.

Martin was last year discouraged from socialising with former teammate Dan Connors, who was sacked after the pair took sleeping pills and slept through a training session.

Then there were reports that Martin needed an off-field minder and captain Trent Cotchin has also mentored him.

This didn’t stop his friendship with Connors, whose twitter response to fans critical of Martin’s actions proved the club was right to sack him:

“Bunch of Richmond flogs let the kid live spare me with ya pathetic tweets! To the few gooodies out there I apologize in advance! #please

Chris Riches spoke for many when he retorted: “Oh Dan. You should probably keep your thoughts to yourself considering the chances you were given (& wasted) by the club/fans you criticise.”

When Martin lifted his arms into a cross as a sign to mates in jail during the elimination final, he also lost my husband. “He can piss off,” Brian said. “He did nothing after that.”

This appears to be the sentiment of many Richmond supporters if “Dusty” decides to go.

We know loyalty in footy is all but dead. Footy careers are short and the likes of Dustin Martin and Lance Franklin, who may have limited post-footy earnings, need to look after themselves.

But this case is different. Richmond went to extraordinary lengths to nurture Martin and possibly prevented his career ending before it started. This must count for something.

Despite the messy situation that has developed, many Tiger fans like me still want “Dusty” to stay. We’ve also invested in him emotionally and want him to succeed in footy and life.

Martin has also clearly tried to improve his behaviour in recent years. No-one is perfect and he deserves credit for trying.

If he wants to leave his Richmond support network and try his luck elsewhere, then good luck to him. The club is bigger than the individual and Richmond and its fans will move on.

But we would love you to stay Dusty. Some of us are angry but we’ll get over it if you choose to stay with a group of players that could really take us somewhere.

At the end of the day I’m with Justin Flynn, who tweeted on the Tigers’ stance: “For three decades the club has let its players make the rules. That all ended today. Bravo @Richmond_FC.”

Cheryl Critchley is a Richmond member and is on twitter @CherylCritchley.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good Article Cheryl it seems that Ralph Carr has been incompetent in this whole affair surely he should have checked how much interest was in his player before he put him out in to the Market place I I hate how people forget so Quickly who has helped them in life I fear this situation will become more prevalent in Footy as in other sports players seem to only have loyalty with that organisation till there contract runs out
    Richmond are fascinating in that how many players have doubts over there ability to perform in big games Deledio and Chaplin are two others
    Will Richmond fade away yet again remains to be seen

  2. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Malcolm, part of Richmond’s problem is not playing finals for so long – it is all so foreign to them. Hopefully if they can regularly play finals they’ll build a winning culture and more confidence in playing big games. As for Dusty, the club has seriously invested heavily in him as a person and staying would be the best option for him. But fans – and it appears the club – are fast losing patience. Let’s hope it’s resolved soon.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I agree re The Finals part and that is where Chaplin is such a fascinating point recruited on big coin on a 4 yr deal with injury doubts and a appalling record in big games of which he only added to in the Elimination Final

  4. Love the way Dusty plays and really hope he stays, but, the club is reaching a level of maturity required to be a strong force for the long term. Look at the problems that, Adelaide got themselves into with Tippett. Reckon they might regret that decision for a few years.
    Tigers making a bold statement on this one.

  5. Cheryl Critchley says

    Yep the club has been strong on it, which I think most fans appreciate. Hope it works out for everyone.

  6. Stephen Cooke says

    Chop him and move on, that’s my recommendation.

  7. Cheryl Critchley says

    Easier said than done Cookie! Us Richmond fans have emotionally invested in Dusty which makes it hard to let go.

  8. Cheryl

    Whatever the outcome, we’ll try and rationalise why it’s good for the club. But it’s hard to see any upside in losing such prodigious talent because of a belligerent manager and gaining nothing in return, especially if he does well at another club that’s done none of the hard yards in developing him.

    Cookie – did you think the same way about Stevie J in 2007??

    Malcolm – what is your issue with Chaplin? He may not have played a great game in the Elimination Final but he wasn’t Robinson Crusoe there. For the rest of the year he’s been a great asset in defence. I don’t doubt your broader question about the resilience of the team in 2014 and beyond (next year will tell us so much about our latest re-build) but to repeatedly and pointedly pick on one player like that is a bit rich.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Richmonds recruiting this year smacked of panic Chaplin Knights Stevenson Petterd you were better than that
    I and most of the Footy world were stunned that Rich offered him a 4 yr contract it is common knowledge that His management were clever enough to promote that other clubs were after him when they weren’t and Richmond fell for it .It is Fact his record in big Games at Port and this year is terrible granted his year was better than expected but in several games he was diabolical and if a Player is going to gain respect from his peers eg A Hartlett Tweet he can’t keep failing in big games

  10. peter janssen says

    @Malcolm, Deledio not performing in big games – bang there goes your credability.

  11. So panicked recruiting of a bunch of mature age “duds” resulted in improvement by four and a half wins and seven ladder positions? Obviously a catastrophic failure! (Seems not to have worked at Hawthorn either, BTW).

    Coming back to the topic of Cheryl’s post, one of the lessons from the Dustin Martin situation is that the purity of team-building through the draft is all very well in theory. You can identify, recruit and nurture young talent as carefully as you can but it comes with no guarantees.

    In reality, all but the most exceptional young players need some experience and leadership around them in their early years. At Richmond these commodities have been in drastically short supply in recent years and our deficiencies were cruelly exposed in a succession of games last year where we lost from winning positions. I’ve got no doubt the strategy to recruit more mature-age players was a direct response to this.

    OK – under the unfamiliar blow-torch of our first final in over a decade, we were found wanting, but there were a number of matches during the year, including games against tomorrow’s combatants, where the Tigers were tested, challenged and came through. Chaplin (and a number of the other mature recruits) were important parts of these wins.

    I will admit to having doubts about the recruitment of some of these players and about our capacity to make the finals in 2013, but to my pleasant surprise I was proved wrong. I’m not convinced that Chaplin et al are long-term solutions for Richmond in its quest to become a quality side, but I think they can provide some useful stability in the interim.

  12. As a tiger fan i was pleasantly surprised to see the club take a stance with Dusty and his manager on this. For too long we’ve focused on the individual. Whilst Martin is a big talent it was reassuring to see the club maintain its position. Managers need to look at more than the $$$ on a contract, there should be more accountability for the welfare of the player off the field and beyond their sporting career. Hopefully Dusty stays and becomes an elite AFL player on the field for the tigers and also a success once he hangs up the boots.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Stainless overall your logic in answering is correct and yes extra experience was always a chance to help in that aspect I still reckon natural progression iwas happening as well in relation to a lot of those contests . I Still fail to see how a guy gets recruited on big coin as a experienced player as part of that he must be able to perform in big games and you only get so many chances

  14. Cheryl Critchley says

    Overall I think the club has come a long way since the early 2000s when it was a shambles on and off the field. There is much more stability, decisions and much more research-based and the players (Martin excepted) are now busting a gut to stay rather than leave. However there is still room for improvement and when that comes we will truly be a force again.

  15. Totally agree Cheryl. The sad thing with the Martin situation is that I’m sure he wants to stay and, with another manager, his new contract would have been long since signed. That said, I agree with Ian that Richmond has been admirably strong in staring down this nonsense. I’m still hopeful that sanity will prevail.

    Malcolm – let’s revisit Troy Chaplin in another 12 months. You’ve obviously been following his career far longer than I have.

  16. Malcolm Ashwood says

    No Problem Stainless overall you have Put your case v well Cheryl
    Peter you have to be joking it is recognised in the Footy industry that Deledio does not handle a tag and does not work hard enough he has ability to be elite but does not do any where near enough in the crunch consistently

  17. Cheryl Critchley says

    Malcolm I never said anything about Deledio. I’m just saying the club is better run than it was a decade ago and there is still a way to go. Part of that is learning to handle the pressure of tags/big occasions etc. I do think Lids is great though and an asset to the team.

  18. Good Article Cheryl I agree with you entirely re Martin and have enjoyed the sensible debate re recruits and yes the jury is out re Chaplin and personally I agree entirely with
    Malcolm re Deledio he must be a lot more consistent and would love him to get a bit of that Fremantle Mongrel in him and I wish we had recruited Grundy

  19. The frustration with Deledio is that we all think he could be as good as Judd in his game-breaking prime. In doing so we forget what an outstandingly consistent high quality player he has been in a largely ordinary team for nearly a decade. For the record, I reckon his best game this year was against Port Adelaide. Acting captain, responding to the latest round of media vitriol and leading a side staring at a 4th consecutive loss, he took Kane Cornes to the cleaners and led us to one of our better wins for the year.

  20. Love dusty- but we can do without him- rumour is he will sign on Monday but I really would not care if he goes- I just think the tiges look really good out of this and dusty and that goose Carr dont- the image of him and azza as pairs at the brownlow made me laugh- dusty is a regular bloke that wants to have a few beers and enjoy his footy with his mates- his lifeline is the tigers I wait in anticipation of his next move but I seriously think there are good kids out there who would have loved the faith that we have shown in our boys

  21. The whole episode makes you realise these guys are just commodities for their manager’s and clubs to make money from. Do you really think Carr gives a stuff about Dusty and his welfare? As long as he can sign him for a better price he makes more money. What a shame he’s just not a very good negotiator! Makes me think back to when Fevola got traded to Brisbane. The fallout from that – Bradshaw moving to the Swans – was a disgrace to Brisbane and football in general. A Premiership player who had been nothing but a credit to his club for over a decade got shafted in favour of a player with a long history of behavioural problems! Work that one out! My point is football is all about $$$ these days and nobody (players or clubs) seems to care about loyalty if they can all make bigger bucks. Sad but true… Despite this I hope Dusty stays.

  22. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Haje. I think your attitude is typical. It’s strange that there’s a rumour about him re-signing on Monday and announcing it at the B&F, but I also heard he was going to a concert that night and won’t be there. Interesting times!

  23. Cheryl Critchley says

    That is so true about Daniel Bradshaw. He was a fantastic player and person but was completely shafted and for what? There have been way too many “sorry episodes” like that and Dusty’s is just another in a long line.

  24. Well, surprise, surprise, he’s re-signed (not resigned).

  25. Cheryl Critchley says

    I’m not surprised :-). Given all we know about what Richmond has done off-field, this is the best possible result.

  26. Stephen Cooke says

    Love this line on the AFL site: Emerging star Dustin Martin stays faithful to Tigers after trade options dry up.


  27. •”Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
    – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Book 1, Ch. 1.
    Dusty and Damian – a marriage made in heaven.

  28. Or an adaptation of the Winston Churchill quote about Americans:
    “We can always count on Dusty to do the right thing, after he has exhausted all the other possibilities.”
    (Cookie inspired)

  29. Cheryl Critchley says

    The whole situation does sum up families so well. Every family has a member that others shrug their shoulders at but still embrace at the end of the day despite their misdemeanours. :-)

  30. I’ll give you my opinion of how well this decision impacts on the Richmond family in September 2015.

  31. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You were two years too early Stainless.

  32. Swish – I probably didn’t post my 2015 opinion because after that awful final against North it would have been unprintable.
    Can’t a lot change in two years? Or, as we look ahead, in two weeks?
    And on the latest signing of MVP Martin, I’ll give you my opinion of how well this decision impacts on the Richmond family in September 2024!

Leave a Comment