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50 things we'll remember: 5-1

Dustin Martin was Mr September - AFL,Jarryd Roughead,Dustin Martin,Patrick Dangerfield,Richmond Tigers,Hawthorn Hawks,Brownlow,Grand Final,Matthew Kreuzer,Nick Riewoldt,Jobe Watson,Sam Mitchell,Robert Murphy,Tom Lonergan,Josh Gibson,Matthew Boyd,Leigh Montagna,Matt Priddis,Andrew Mackie,Steve Johnson,James Kelly
Dustin Martin was Mr September

ONE PLAYER and one team dominated the 2017 season, with Richmond's remarkable flag driven by its superstar midfielder Dustin Martin. Along the way we said goodbye to some of the game's greats and welcomed one back in a season full of twists and turns.  

5. Roughead returns to lead Hawks into a new era

Jarryd Roughead finished 2016 with the heart-warming news that he was cancer free, and less than two months later he started 2017 as Hawthorn's new captain. Taking over from Luke Hodge, what followed was the game's best comeback story since Bali bombing survivor Jason McCartney in 2003. Roughead opened the season against Essendon and kicked his first goal after a strong contested mark, with teammates mobbing him in emotional scenes. That wouldn't be the most memorable goal of his season, however. With scores tied against Sydney in round 10, and just over a minute to play, Roughead marked right on 50m at the SCG. In a sign of his leadership, he took the responsibility of kicking the goal and Hawthorn notched an important win. It was a great moment for the popular big man who played every game of 2017 after a year out. 

4. Dangerfield ruled ineligible for Brownlow Medal for "football act"

Never has a tackle been analysed to such an extent, but never has a tackle been the deciding factor in a Brownlow Medal favourite's eligibility. When Patrick Dangerfield dumped Matthew Kreuzer into the ground in round 19, leaving the Carlton ruckman with concussion, the debate started. Was Kreuzer in a vulnerable position with both his arms pinned? Did Dangerfield know his opponent didn't have the ball? Was there excessive force in the tackle? Some, including Jude Bolton, thought it was the perfect tackle and Dangerfield had attempted to rotate his opponent in the tackle to protect him. Kreuzer's concussion was an unfortunate accident. Others believed harsher tackling laws meant the superstar midfielder had breached his duty of care to his opponent and must pay the price. Ultimately Dangerfield accepted a one-match ban from the MRP and the debate moved to Brownlow Medal eligibility. Thankfully, a player other than Dangerfield polled the most votes for the season and he was able to present the award without any awkwardness.

3. The retiring class of 2017

It could well have been the best collective group of footballers to retire at the end of one season, rivalling the class of 2007 that included Nathan Buckley, Mark Ricciuto, James Hird, Anthony Koutoufides and Glenn Archer. This year we said goodbye to some of the game's greats. Among them Sam Mitchell, Jobe Watson, Nick Riewoldt and Robert Murphy. The final rounds of the season, as more announced their imminent departures, became nostalgic as fans prepared to say goodbye. Triple-premiership Cats Andrew Mackie, Steve Johnson and James Kelly retired, so did courageous Geelong hero Tom Lonergan. Leigh Montagna and Matt Priddis wrestled with the decision before announcing their retirements. For Josh Gibson and Matthew Boyd, the time was right. There were too many to list, but the game lost more than 5,000 games of experience among those retiring stars, as well as 21 premierships and 28 All Australian selections. Riewoldt best explained the emotions elite players battle with when deciding to retire. "I was just fighting myself, saying 'Don't be weak, don't be weak, you've gotten yourself out of that many situations of adversity before that this is no different'," Riewoldt said. "(But) you speak to those around you that you trust and the more I did that, the more the decision crystallised in my mind that it is the right time. I've given everything I possibly can to the game and the footy club."

2. 'Dusty' scoops the pool

Dustin Martin achieved a feat no other player has in a remarkable 2017 in which he announced himself as the game's best player. After winning the Brownlow Medal, Martin went on to star in the Grand Final, collecting a Norm Smith Medal to sit alongside his premiership medal. He was the first player in the game's history to win all three major awards in the same season. Martin was the Tiger Army's hero in 2017, with the tattooed superstar putting his contract saga to one side to perform every week at an unmatched level, also collecting the AFL player and coaches' awards, the Gary Ayres Medal as the player of the finals, and Richmond's best and fairest. One of the game's most private players, we learned a little bit more about Martin as he collected each award. "The two hours when you play footy is freedom. You don't have to worry about anything else," he said after the Grand Final. "You just go out there and play footy and that's what I love doing … it's what I've done since I was a young bloke, and that's what's been so great about this year."  

1. Richmond wins its first premiership in 37 years

The remarkable turnaround at Punt Road Oval in 2017 and the Tigers' Grand Final triumph was the story of 2017 as a fan base so tortured for the past three decades finally had reason to celebrate. Just 12 months after a disastrous 2016 season saw the club fighting off a board challenge, Richmond completed the game's greatest year-on-year turnaround as captain Trent Cotchin and coach Damien Hardwick lifted the club's 11th premiership cup. From the unity shown by the club's leaders, who backed Hardwick at the end of 2016, to the coach's ability to change and bring his players together in a powerful way, there were great lessons in Richmond's premiership for other clubs. The high-pressure game plan that got the Tigers to the Grand Final proved too much for the fancied Adelaide, and the Tigers' heroes were many. Alex Rance controlled the backline, while Bachar Houli rebounded with precision. Jack Graham booted three goals in a fairytale fifth game, and David Astbury shut down Adelaide skipper Taylor Walker. It was Martin, however, who stood above in an unforgettable day for the Tiger Army. 

Nathan Schmook's top 50 countdown

- 50 things we'll remember: 50-41

- 50 things we'll remember: 40-31

- 50 things we'll remember: 30-21

- 50 things we'll remember: 20-11

- 50 things we'll remember: 10-6