DUSTIN Martin has been a trailblazer of so much good in the past five seasons.
But this week he presents as an AFL test case for the bad.
Two incidents from the Tigers' loss to GWS at Giants Stadium on Saturday are moments he'd like to take back, and now need proper AFL-system scrutiny and sanction. Not lip service.
The AFL tells us it loathes behind-play hits. But too often it tolerates them – remember Ben Cunnington's punch in round one?
Martin's was worse. Grainy footage of a Martin forearm making contact with a Giants player at least 80 metres off the ball should result in a minimum two-game penalty. And please, Michael Christian, don't hide behind a medical report.
The flipping of the middle finger at Shane Mumford and words clearly referencing that player's video-recorded drug use are another matter. In the eyes of some, merely a fiery moment within a competitive game. Regardless, this too requires an official and public AFL stance.
DUSTY LASHES OUT Dimma pleads for more protection for his star
Dustin Martin stuck up the middle finger towards a Giants player. pic.twitter.com/LySIkzQWo0— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) April 6, 2019
Too often, the AFL lets such matters slide, particularly when the players don't want to lay a complaint, and Mumford isn't personally seeking admonishment.
When St Kilda's Jake Carlisle and Carlton's Marc Murphy traded ugly, personal words they later regretted in a May 2017 match, the AFL weakly turned away. It should have acted then under its respect and responsibility policies, as it now needs to against Martin.
Dozens of thousands of kids idolise Martin and his every move. Those kids need to know from the AFL that it is not an action that should be seen on any football field.
It's getting serious for the Tigers
With Martin almost certain to be suspended, the Tigers could be without their big four for next round's crunch away match against Port Adelaide.
The season is slipping away for Richmond even at this early stage. A solid win against the lowly Carlton in round one was followed by way-off-the-pace losses to Collingwood and the Giants.
Save for the opening bounce, captain Trent Cotchin didn't take part in the final quarter of the bad loss to GWS because of a hamstring complaint, and is a highly doubtful starter.
SKIPPER OUT? Hamstring injury could sideline Cotchin
Alex Rance and Jack Riewoldt are already out long-term. The strongly-built Jack Ross, the No.43 pick in last year's national draft, could make his debut against the Power.
After the Port clash, the Tigers have Sydney (Marvel), Melbourne on Anzac Day Eve (MCG) and the Western Bulldogs (Marvel). If they don't win at least two of those four, it's going to get very difficult, very quickly.
Confused about the rules? So are the players
In round one, umpires had seemingly forgotten a lot of things they preached in the off-season. It was a near free-for-all with off-ball contact.
In round two, we saw an over-the-top correction on prohibited contact, and again present the free kick paid against James Sicily on Josh Schache as Exhibit A of that overcorrection.
Then we get to round three, and the ever-controversial sliding rule is again confusing, and there also seemed an easing of prohibited contact adjudications.
'ABSOLUTE DISGRACE' Danger slams sliding rule
I'm not an umpire basher, but it's confusing at the moment. No two games are umpired the same, and even quarters within games can be very different.
A free kick against Tom Phillips in the second quarter has generated discussion about the below the knees contact rule. pic.twitter.com/y1tFwJSHgj— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) April 6, 2019
Are SCG issues only surface-deep?
The AFL dodged a bullet when Matt Suckling and David Swallow escaped serious leg damage in round-one matches after losing footing on badly-shifting Marvel Stadium grass.
It rightly immediately sought to fix the problem. Now, those player safety issues head to the SCG. Four football codes are using that venue this season, and on Saturday night Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat blamed the surface for a serious knee injury to his star player Terry Antonis.
On Thursday night, the Swans host the Demons. There is no chance the game won't be played there. There's nowhere else to play it anyway.
But imagine if big Buddy goes down like Antonis.
NINE THINGS WE LEARNED Why the Dees are easybeats
Beautiful one week, perfect the next
Football is flying in south-east Queensland.
Just think about that for a moment. The Lions and the Suns combined for just nine wins last season (and let's face it, given they're scheduled to play each other twice a year, they're always guaranteed for a combined two wins anyway).
Three rounds in to the 2019 season, the tally is five, and would have been a perfect six had the Suns got even a modicum of luck in a one-point loss to St Kilda.
They got it Sunday, when the Dogs were wasteful in front of goal early and late in the match. Jack Martin, Jack Bowes, Lachie Weller, Brayden Fiorini were great contributors for the Suns.
The Lions are running wild late in matches, and against the Power at the Gabba on Saturday night, slammed on four late goals to win with flair and authority. Loved Eric Hipwood snagging six and Mitch Robinson's continued maturity and effect. Lachie Neale would be leading the Brownlow with Paddy Dangerfield.
Who needs a win the most?
North Melbourne, Melbourne and Carlton are the early-season worries.
The Roos just don't have any form of spark, and their best is only OK. Hawthorn was there for the taking at the MCG on Sunday, but Jaeger O'Meara, Luke Breust, Isaac Smith, Ben McEvoy and, when it counted most, Chad Wingard in his first game for the Hawks, were able to influence the outcome.
AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Who starred for your club?
Melbourne was kidding itself after its round two loss, attempting to sell positives even after an 80-point loss to Geelong. But there is nothing to promote right now, after Essendon ran harder and played smarter on Friday night.
Still reckon the Dees will surge, but they will need to begin that push this Thursday against the Swans, who were only OK in winning against the Blues. Isaac Heeney needs to maintain his outstanding round three form if Sydney is to make finals.
Carlton, again, lost. It happens a lot. Three times already this year, 20 times last year, 16 times in 2017 and 15 times in 2016. And now the rejuvenated Suns loom next weekend. There are no green shoots if there are no W's.
Heppell stands up
When you endure a fortnight of questioning as Dyson Heppell had, there's a perfect way to respond: a best-afield performance on the Friday night stage.
Heppell's actual captaincy was never in question, but the leadership structure at the Bombers around him was, and probably still is.
A win against the Lions on Saturday will make it disappear.
FANTASY FORM WATCH Pig, rage trades and your questions
Contenders or pretenders? No idea
Was convinced the Crows and Pies were going to be occupying top-of-ladder spots, and both still could.
But at 1-2 after three games, there are clearly matters which need fixing. Both will start favourites in round four. The forward lines of both teams are not functioning at their optimum level.
Don't lose heart, Saints and Port
St Kilda and Port Adelaide were the brave losers of round three.
The Saints never gave up against the Dockers and in the end, probably only needed another 90 seconds of game time to pull off a huge win. Could very easily, even deservedly, be unbeaten.
Port didn't do much wrong against Brisbane. It just lost to a team which is white hot and on one of those compelling self-belief rolls.
Injury, match review worries ahead of Derby
Nat Fyfe with concussion issues and Jesse Hogan with MRO concerns may not be available for Saturday night's Western Derby against West Coast.
For match spectacle reasons, really hope they're both right to play.
The Eagles, after their round one lethargy in quarters two, three and four against the Lions, found beautiful rhythm against GWS and Collingwood. Their premiership defence has begun very nicely.