It was the 17th minute of the last quarter, with Geelong’s Sam Simpson sprawled out on the turf and awaiting a stretcher, when the chant started from the Richmond cheer squad on the eastern side of the ground. It was reminiscent of the crowds that roared Dennis Lillee in to bowl to terrified Englishmen in the 1970s. But this chant was for a footballer.
“DUS-TY, DUS-TY” they roared.
Their champion had just kicked his third goal, hacked from half-forward into open space, arcing low through the air, then along the ground, on the basis of seemingly nothing but total belief and a refusal to countenance the possibility of defeat. In this grand final, Dustin Martin – and Richmond – had faced it, looked it dead in the eye, and stared it down.
With that play, Martin had just become the first player to collect three Norm Smith medals on the way to the Tigers’ third premiership in four years, a dynasty that he has defined. It’s no longer enough to bracket him simply among the modern greats. Exceptional is the grand final with two all but certain future certified AFL Legends playing. This was one.
The other, of course, was Gary Ablett Jr, the greatest player of his generation, diminished only by age and the agony of a shoulder badly damaged in the opening minutes.… Read more..