Martin given licence to thrill in AFL

Dustin Martin and James Hird in their AFL Brownlow Medal seasons essentially have had the same licence – they play wherever they want.


The Richmond ace will be the centre of attention in Saturday’s grand final against Adelaide.

Martin is playing so well – and handling the constant attention on him with such ease – that he could make history as the first player to win the Brownlow and the Norm Smith Medal in the same season.

One of the features of Martin’s great season is that the midfield ace has gone forward more often, with lethal effect.

He has kicked a career-best 35 goals compared with last year where he only managed nine, his career-worst.

“I’d like to tell Dustin where he plays, but he just plays wherever the hell he wants,” coach Damien Hardwick said.

“No, look, he’s one of the best, he’s a great player to have as one of those pieces you can move if you need a spike in performance.

“So he will play through the midfield and also play up forward, what that split is depends on how the game is tracking at certain stages.”

It was put to Hardwick that is exactly what Hird did when they were Essendon teammates.

Hird was the joint winner of the 1996 Brownlow as a half-forward who kicked 39 goals, but basically had free rein to go wherever he could do the most damage.

Hardwick replied that Martin was not the only senior Tiger with that on-field commission.

“He is but so is the guy beside me (captain Trent Cotchin). We expect all our leaders to be like that,” he said.

“They think they can make a difference at any stage of the game by going to a certain position on the ground, that is what they do, that is what makes them great players.”

It would be a stretch to say that Martin is enjoying the spotlight this week in the wake of his Brownlow win.

But while Martin remains no fan of the media, he looked more relaxed when swamped by journalists at the start of Friday’s traditional grand final parade.

“It’s pretty amazing, a beautiful day, so I’m just going to enjoy it,” he said.

“I haven’t thought about the game all that much, just soaking it all up and enjoying it.

“I suppose everyone gets a little bit nervous, but it’s just footy – we love playing it, so just be excited for it.”