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The real Dusty

Shaun Grigg arrived at Richmond at the end of 2010 — a year after 2017 Leigh Matthew Trophy winner Dustin Martin. The pair formed a close friendship and Grigg explains what the real Dustin Martin is like, in an exclusive column.

My first memories of Dustin are still pretty vivid.

When I got to Richmond, he’d only had a small amount of time in the system, but it was quite clear that he was a super talent.

He may have been a little raw, but all the tools were there and you just knew he was going to be something special.

As a young kid, he was a pretty shy initially, and that’s still the case if you don’t know him that well.

As he has become more comfortable in his skin, his confidence has grown and we’ve begun to see his personality.

The outside perception of him is generally incorrect and may be a little bit harsh, but I highly doubt that he cares about any of it.

It has never bothered him and he probably wouldn’t even see or hear half of it. He just worries about his family, friends and the footy club.

One word that aptly describes him is ‘selfless,’ and believe me, that extends beyond his exploits on the field.

We saw an example in the final on Friday night where he took a run and a bounce and broke the 50, and probably could have had a shot, but he lowered his eyes and delivered to Dan Butler to bring him into the game.

And away from the cameras, he is always one to put an arm around someone.

Unbelievably, Dustin has handled himself remarkable well during all of the speculation surrounding his contract and during the trying times he has faced with his dad.

Thankfully, he has had a great network of support around him. Whether it’s been his teammates or other people at the club, his family, his manager, we’ve all been there for him and have been an ear if he’s needed it.

We were all a little bit in the dark when it came to his contract negotiations.

With free agency these days, you never know what’s going to happen. With Dusty, I was always hopeful that he’d stay and remain a Tiger.

Brett Deledio left the club the year before and that’s the way modern football is going. Players are entitled to see what they’re worth and Dusty did exactly that.

He weighed up all of the information, got all the facts, and made the right decision in the end.

I’m sure he hated the constant speculation that followed him before the decision was made.

It’s funny, because the media were wanting to hear from him but he absolutely hates doing that sort of stuff, even though he handles himself very well when it comes to interviews.

I’m sure he’ll get a few more chances before the season is out to do it with plenty of awards on the radar that might be coming his way.

I’d say his stellar season in 2017 is down to the cumulative effect of a number of pre-seasons.

There’s no one thing that he did to get better, his game has just evolved. He works really hard every year to get in the best nick possible.

He has been very durable over the course of his career, he doesn’t miss a training session and all of those things have added up. If you’re fit and staying on the park, it’s clearly going to help with development and longevity.

He trains incredibly hard, so the season he has put together is no surprise to us. We see it first-hand every day. He’s very competitive at training and definitely trains the way he plays.

Unfortunately, a few of us have been on the wrong end of his stiff arm. I’ve trained with him for about six years and I still haven’t been able to stop the fend off. He dishes them out in the midfield drills and even among us he very rarely gets tackled.

The only one that springs to mind recently is Dusty being brought down by Shai Bolton in one of Shai’s first training sessions in the pre-season.

The depth of our midfield group this year has definitely helped him, but I don’t want to undersell his season in any way.

In my mind, he has been the most valuable player, and I’m sure he is delighted that his peers think that way.

It’s scary to think that he is 26 and not yet in his prime. Imagine if he came back next year or the year after and somehow managed to improve his game by just five or 10 per cent. For Tiger fans and for us playing with him, I hope that’s the case!

It was his moment to show the footy world what he could do on the big stage last weekend. Dustin was keen to show everyone, and he was brilliant.