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Milestone Martin: An unfussed superstar hits 200

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He doesn't really have much to say, but when he does say something everyone kind of listens to him because it's pretty important and pretty wise
Jack Graham on Dustin Martin

IT'S NO surprise the highlights package shown to the Richmond players this week on the cusp of Dustin Martin's 200th game ran for 35 minutes.

It's simply impossible to condense the best of Dusty into a production any shorter than that.

Not that there's been much made of Martin's approaching milestone this week, internally anyway.

When you speak to his teammates about it, it's surprising they even know it's happening.

"You don't hear him talk about it – he's not too fussed about it, really," Jack Graham told AFL.com.au this week.

Martin's on-field achievements speak for themselves.

There was his remarkable 2017 where he won every award under the sun, including a premiership medallion.

There's the fact he's crept into back-to-back Brownlow Medal contention this year after finding a way to overcome the fear of not reaching his own expectations.

 

However, it's Martin off the field that provides the most intrigue.

The Dustin Martin who is loved by Trent Cotchin's kids, has rock-solid family values of his own, and works hard behind closed doors to play as consistently as he has for the past nine years.

"It's amazing, you talk about the significance of a player, but it's more the impact this kid's had on our footy club," coach Damien Hardwick said.

"He's been a marvel. You look at his tapes and the things that he's achieved, but it's more about the things he's brought to our footy club.

"His love of his family is really strong, his dad isn't here but his nana is at every game, his mum's at every game, his cousins are at every game.

"That's something he's brought to our footy club and that's something we're incredibly proud of, the man he is today. We've learnt a lot from him."

For Graham, Martin is the type of player he wants to be when he grows up – dynamic through the midfield, unstoppable up forward, and explosive whenever the ball is in sight.

Cotchin and Kane Lambert might be more natural mentors for the second-year player, but Martin gives him something else, even if it's spelled out in words.

"He doesn't really have much to say, but when he does say something everyone kind of listens to him because it's pretty important and pretty wise," Graham said.

"Between him and Trent, I model my game around them … Trent with his leadership, I like to bring that into my game, but also with Dusty taking on the game and tackles, I can see myself hopefully becoming a player like him.

"But, I think everyone really wants to play like him. It's going to be pretty hard to match him, but along those lines."

Dustin Martin has a strong relationship with coach Damien Hardwick. Picture: AFL Photos

Hardwick, who was entering his first year as Richmond coach when Martin was recruited with the third pick overall in the 2009 NAB AFL Draft, has been there for the entire Dusty ride.

He's watched him grow from a sometimes-wayward teenager and early 20s lad to become one of the AFL's best players, and who will reach 200 games on Thursday night in just 3087 days since his debut.

Martin ranks behind only Joel Selwood and Harry Taylor as modern-day players to notch up 200 games so quickly.

He has played 199 games of a possible 204, and two of those games missed were in 2012 as the result of a club suspension for missing training in an incident that saw Daniel Connors sacked.

Martin's potential was evident when he was drafted, but Hardwick conceded there was some surprise at how durable and consistent he has been.

"Francis Jackson was the head of [recruiting in 2009] and he was always very confident this kid was going to be a star of the competition," Hardwick said.

"Has it taken us a little bit by storm? You probably would say so.

"He also works incredibly hard at his craft, he's always looking to improve an area of his game, and that's what makes him one of the great players of the competition.

"It's a good lesson for a lot of kids out there. If you continue to work hard on your craft, you're going to become a good player and that's what he's done."