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Martin pips Rance to win Tigers best and fairest

It's been an eventful year for Dustin Martin - ${keywords}
It's been an eventful year for Dustin Martin

STAR midfielder Dustin Martin has won Richmond's best and fairest for the first time, capping a career-best season that has seen him overcome personal adversity to flourish. 

Martin edged fellow 2016 All Australian Alex Rance by one vote to take home the Jack Dyer Medal, polling 62 votes in a thrilling count at Crown Palladium. 

Captain and three-time winner Trent Cotchin finished third (51 votes) ahead of star forward Jack Riewoldt (43) and midfielder Shaun Grigg (35).

Martin finished second to Rance in the best and fairest last year and had finished on the podium four times before Thursday night's breakthrough triumph.

"I'll keep this short and sweet, because you know I don't like to talk too much," Martin said after being met on stage by a standing ovation.

"I'd like to thank Peggy (O'Neal), the board and Brendon (Gale) for sticking by me.

"'Choco' (Mark Williams), as every year, you've helped take my game to another level and I'm going to miss you around the club.

"I'm very blessed to have so many great people in my life and I'm very grateful for it." 

Martin was named All Australian for the first time last week and is among the leading Brownlow Medal contenders after averaging a career-high 31 possessions this season as a permanent midfielder.

The 25-year-old ranked No.1 at Tigerland for total disposals, contested possessions, uncontested possessions and inside-50s, and No.2 for clearances, centre clearances and rebound 50s.

He racked up a career-high 43 touches against Essendon in round 17 and had 30 disposals or more in 14 games, including in 10 of his last 11.

Under the Tigers' voting system, Richmond's match committee casts a consensus rating for each player, between zero and five, with no votes awarded for a below average game. 

Cotchin led the count up to Richmond’s round 13 bye before Martin struck a rich vein of form, polling the maximum five votes three times in the final 10 rounds.

 

Martin was able to overcome a dramatic year that started last December when he was accused of threatening a woman with a chopstick in a Melbourne restaurant.

A Victoria Police investigation into the accusations was dropped, as was an AFL investigation, and Martin was handed a $5000 suspended fine by his club for being drunk in public.

Yet another challenge for Martin in 2016 has been staying in touch with his father after he was deported to New Zealand in March for his involvement in the outlaw Rebels motorcycle gang.

Thursday night's event was a sombre one for the Tigers, who were this week forced to defend themselves in the face of a rival board ticket threatening to challenge.

President O'Neal described the year as bitterly disappointing, but called for the club to avoid letting anger and finger pointing dictate the club's future. 

"The answer is not to forget how far we've come and not to tear down what we've built so that the club is faced with starting again," O'Neal said.

The president said the review Richmond is undertaking with consultants Ernst and Young was close to being revealed to supporters with CEO Brendon Gale's "implementation plan".

An emotional coach Damien Hardwick said the coaching staff and players took full responsibility for the club's eight-win season.

"We expected much better and we failed you as a fraternity of fans and as family," he said.

"We feel that pain every day and we look forward to having the opportunity to respond." 

2016 Jack Dyer Medal top 10
1. Dustin Martin – 62
2. Alex Rance – 61
3. Trent Cotchin – 51
4. Jack Riewoldt – 43
5. Shaun Grigg – 35

6. Anthony Miles – 31
7. Dylan Grimes – 30
    Brandon Ellis – 30
9. Nick Vlastuin – 29
10. Brett Deledio – 28

Last year's winner Alex Rance finished second behind Martin. Picture: AFL Photos