Dustin Martin should leave Richmond Football Club and – if executed correctly – a blockbuster trade would benefit both the club and player in equal measure.
Don’t trust those archaic, self-proclaimed traditionalists: any romanticism around being a one-club player died years ago. Do I think less of Luke Hodge because of his stint at Brisbane? No way – his record as an all-time would’ve been secure even if he played on the bloody moon. What about Sam Mitchell’s one year at West Coast? Absolutely not. Good on him for getting out and learning a new system.
Consider the career paths of arguably the three greatest full-forwards of all time. Do I think ill of Tony Lockett (St Kilda and Sydney), Gary Ablett Snr (Hawthorn and Geelong), or Wayne Carey (North Melbourne and Adelaide) for playing at two clubs apiece? Again, absolutely not.
The same applies to Lance Franklin, Chris Judd, Nathan Buckley, Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Ablett Jnr, and many others. Two clubs. One club, meh. They’re all legends.
Football, and probably all professional sport, is at an interesting juncture where some fans are still living in the 1960s – an era when loyalty was king and if you moved you were a traitor. Times have changed, such binary views are antiquated, and the players don’t have mud on their knees nor 9-5 jobs anymore. If you want an injection of nostalgia, go and listen to The Beatles, because their songs will always be the same. Footy, on the other hand, won’t be.
Martin, who is arguably the greatest big-game player of all time, demonstrated by his three Norm Smith Medals for Best on Ground in three Grand Finals, is entitled to believe his work is just about done at the Tigers. What more can he achieve? Next month, he’ll be 31, and while he boasts a lucrative contract until the end of 2023, these deals are barely worth the A4 sheet of paper they’re printed on.
Before you throw your hands in the air and cry foul on behalf of Richmond, consider how many clubs have shafted players in recent years before their contracts were up. Jack Watts, Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson, Josh Bruce, Dan Hannebery, and Jake Stringer are just some who wanted to stay but were given no choice. Even though they had existing deals for the following season.
I’m saying that it works both ways. Clubs and players are equally as guilty for looking after themselves first. And why shouldn’t they be? Even Nick Riewoldt, a great one-club servant for St Kilda, was flicked before he was ready to retire. Clubs answer to members and sponsors, while players have a finite career and should make the most of their time at the top level above any supposed loyalty.
Martin’s case could be unique if handled correctly. Living in the footy fishbowl is not Dusty’s cup of tea, just as it wasn’t Buddy Franklin’s. If Sydney – which is either in or about to enter a premiership window – offers an attractive deal to Martin, why shouldn’t he consider it?
If the Tigers can get a couple of first round draft picks back in return that’ll help them accelerate a mini-rebuild, plus freeing $2 million from their salary cap, then why not? Like I said before, it would be mutually beneficial.
Oh yes, blind loyalty. That old chestnut. It’s a crock of shit these days, for reasons I’ve explained. The sooner we all start accepting this is an entertainment business and not a community level sport, the better we’ll be.
Martin has been an unbelievable player for the Tigers. If he played out the rest of his career in yellow and black, he’d receive as many post-career accolades as anyone. But if he went to Sydney – or any other club for that matter – his reputation would remain the same.
Dustin Martin should leave Richmond, for his own sanity, a fresh challenge, and for the long-term good of the club which has nurtured him since his teens. And if the deal is right, the Tigers should facilitate it. Sometimes the right calls aren’t the easy ones to make.