Dustin Martin doesn’t need much of an introduction given how much he has featured in the news during 2017.
The star Tiger is the overwhelming favourite for the Brownlow Medal, but the noise surrounding his future has only grown louder and louder as the season has gone on.
Historically, it isn’t a good sign when it gets to this late stage of the season and a player hasn’t committed to his current club.
Martin was, of course, the third pick in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft and has been a regular for the Tigers ever since.
2016 saw him finish third in the Brownlow Medal and in 2017, he has taken his game to an even higher level. After 18 games, Martin has averaged 30 disposals, 6.5 inside 50s, seven clearances and four tackles, while also kicking 24.21.
The 26-year-old has been durable for his entire career, playing 20 plus games in all eight of his years in the AFL system, and hitting the scoreboard was only an issue last season.
Martin is arguably the most well-rounded player in the competition, and while he is prone to the odd poor game, he has turned himself into a consistently high-level performer.
The only knock on the midfielder relates to his inability to hit targets consistently. While Martin is rated as an elite kick overall, he is prone to the horror clanger by foot, which can creep into his game on a semi-regular basis.
Clearly, Richmond want him to stay with the club, but won’t be offering the huge dollars offered elsewhere.
Trent Cotchin has publicly stated he’d like Martin to stay, and in recent times has posted a video of his child embracing Martin. Clearly, the club is angling for loyalty to prevail and Martin to stay onboard for something special.
Of course, there are only two clear-cut options for Martin, and either one will leave a set of supporters and a club heartbroken.
WHY HE STAYS
The Tigers love Martin and there isn’t much evidence to suggest the feelings aren’t mutual. He has a special relationship with his captain, Trent Cotchin, with the two now one of the elite midfield duos of the competition.
The club itself is well and truly on the right path, challenging for a top four spot in 2017. With the list still very young, Richmond could finally be entering a period of sustained finals football, and leaving at this point seems strange.
Martin is the face of the Richmond Football Club from a marketing and football perspective, and is often the central piece in the structure, whether he plays in attack or defence.
Given Martin knows the club intimately, knows exactly how he fits in and how the team can play in the future with him in the side, it makes for a compelling case to stay. The money, too, will be massive.
Ideally, a decision to stay at Richmond would come before the Brownlow, otherwise the entire interview with Bruce McAvaney (if he wins), will heavily feature his contract situation.
Unless, of course, he signs a new contract on the stage. Tigers fans can dream.
WHY HE GOES
Money. Ultimately, the only reason why Dustin Martin would leave Richmond is for a bigger payday elsewhere. In this market, it appears as though North Melbourne can offer him $1.3 million plus per season.
Last time Martin was out of contract at the end of 2015, it was a confusing and ugly situation which ultimately led to him re-signing for less money. His manager, Ralph Carr hasn’t forgotten about this, and it could be a driving factor behind this potential move away from the Tigers.
Ultimately, one of the stars of the competition can take full advantage of free agency and continue to drive his value up, which would seemingly be the only incentive to go.