Dustin Martin in (clockwise from left) the 2019 QF, 2017 GF, 2019 GF and 2020 GF. Pictures: AFL Photos

DUSTIN Martin's greatest hits as a master of the big stage came during a peerless run of form between 2017 and 2020, when he played 13 of his 16 finals.

They are a collection of games that are treasured by the yellow and black, including three Grand Final masterclasses that resulted in a historic three Norm Smith medals.


When re-living Martin's finals performances, it is remarkable how consistent the champion midfielder was through those four particular seasons, with his top 10 finals made up entirely from that peak period of his remarkable career.

But Martin's three elimination finals between 2013 and 2015 were also a preview of what would come, with the young Tiger also showcasing his tenacious competitiveness and skill in flashes on the big stage.

As Martin prepares for his 300th game, against Hawthorn at the MCG on Saturday, AFL.com.au has ranked the Tiger champion's 'sweet 16' September appearances.


16. 2018 Preliminary Final v Collingwood

Martin entered the first final between Richmond and Collingwood since 1980 under an injury cloud, suffering a badly corked thigh that bled into his knee. The Tigers took a risk in playing him after not training for a week-and-a-half and it didn't pay off in one of the biggest September upsets in recent memory. Martin finished without a clearance after six kicks from his 19 disposals and spent time deep forward, where he was well held. Best remembered for Mason Cox's pack marking and three influential goals, it was the loss that inspired the Tigers' 2019 year of redemption.

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15. 2022 Elimination Final v Brisbane  

Martin's most recent final was one of his quietest, with one goal from 15 disposals in a thriller at the Gabba. The match is most memorable for Tom Lynch's overturned goal and the late match-winner from Joe Daniher that followed it in the goalsquare. Martin's 15 touches were his second-lowest return in a final, edged only by the 14 he had against the Lions in 2019 in a six-goal qualifying final performance. 

14. 2020 Qualifying Final v Brisbane

One of only two scoreless finals for Martin during his 2017-2020 run, the champion midfielder started brightly but faded somewhat to finish with 18 disposals and 10 inside 50s. It was the Lions' night as they ended a 15-game losing streak against the Tigers and 11 years without a finals win. Without a big influence from Martin, the Tigers were led by Dion Prestia, Jayden Short and Kane Lambert.

Dustin Martin is tackled by Brandon Starcevich during the qualifying final between Richmond and Brisbane at the Gabba on October 2. 2020. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

13. 2014 Elimination Final v Port Adelaide 

The Tigers entered the finals on an 9-0 run but, like they had 12 months' earlier, fell at the first hurdle, losing by 57 points. Martin racked up plenty of the footy with an equal team-high 29 disposals and nine score involvements. But he was part of a team that couldn't hold its own in the contest and gave the ball back repeatedly, shuffling players around to try and get back in the game. 

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12. 2015 Elimination Final v North Melbourne

Among his team's best players, Martin won the footy but didn't use it with precision in his third final as the Tigers went down by 17 points. Found himself in defence on occasion and was one of too few fighting hard in the midfield. Had 21 disposals after a fast start and created a goal from nothing for Kamdyn McIntosh when he won possession on the wing and burst forward. 

11. 2013 Elimination Final v Carlton

A young Martin in his first final gave a taste of what was to come on the big stage when he outmuscled Jeff Garlett and then ran inside 50 to kick his first September goal. There was also a first-quarter 'don't argue' that electrified the crowd. The Tigers lost a blockbuster final by 20 points, with Martin finishing with 19 disposals and six inside 50s in the first of three straight elimination final defeats from 2013-15. 

Dustin Martin in action during the elimination final between Richmond and Carlton at the MCG on September 8, 2013. Picture: AFL Photos

10. 2019 Preliminary Final v Geelong

Richmond looked destined for a second straight preliminary final defeat with the Cats leading by 21 points at half-time and looking comfortable. And while Tom Lynch, Bachar Houli and Dion Prestia were the stars, Martin was heavily involved in the comeback, crumbing off the back of a contest and running in to kick an early goal in the third quarter that built momentum. He finished with nine score involvements, including two goals, from 22 disposals.  

9. 2020 Semi-Final v St Kilda

Like was so often the case, the door remained ajar for the Tigers' opponents until Dusty slammed it shut himself. On this occasion, it was a left-foot goal out of a stoppage halfway through the fourth quarter that made sure of things, capping a performance that saw Martin among the best few players on the ground with 25 disposals, one goal and nine score involvements. The Tigers won by 31 points in a clash on the Gold Coast as they continued to surge towards a premiership during the pandemic. 


8. 2017 Preliminary Final v GWS

Another excellent performance that contains signature moments in Martin's career, spearheading a 36-point win in his first preliminary final. Martin got the Tigers off to a fast start, roving brilliantly off the pack and handballing forward to Kane Lambert for the opening goal 15 seconds in. He ended the contest either side of three-quarter time with three goals in succession, steaming out of the goalsquare, faking left and powerfully spinning to his right to kick one of his iconic goals on the outside of his right boot. Finished with 20 disposals and 3.3. 

7. 2018 Qualifying Final v Hawthorn

Martin produced another finals special at the MCG in his 200th game, with this performance memorable for an incredible goal he kicked on his right foot running towards the boundary line in the pocket. Provided his usual brilliance inside the contest with 17 contested possessions among his 29 disposals and a massive 10 clearances. Coach Damien Hardwick has warned his star was primed for a big return to the finals stage, and he wasn't wrong.


6. 2019 Grand Final v GWS

It is easy to mark this Grand Final down given it was so one-sided, but it included a key interjection from Martin when the Giants had early momentum and several memorable moments. The Tigers needed a spark late in the first quarter and it was Martin who got clear off Heath Shaw to mark and then snap a set shot. He then wrong-footed his man in the second quarter to get behind him and snap the second of four goals. His second quarter was influential and he played a crucial hand in a famous Grand Final moment, kicking unselfishly to Marlion Pickett for the debutant's first career goal. A unanimous Norm Smith medallist, he received his medal from Simon Black and screamed "yellow and black" into the microphone. 


5. 2020 Preliminary Final v Port Adelaide

One of the tightest finals Martin played in, with the margin never extending beyond 11 points and the Tigers winning by six at a wet Adelaide Oval. Martin was heroic in a best afield performance, finishing with two goals, including his team's first when he crumbed expertly and snapped with his right foot. He defied the conditions with some sublime kicks against the minor premiers on their home deck, finishing with 21 disposals and six score involvements to help send the Tigers through to a third Grand Final in four seasons.

4. 2019 Qualifying Final v Brisbane

The Tigers took a gamble at the Gabba and it paid off in a big way, playing Martin as a near permanent forward and winning by 47 points to progress to preliminary final. The superstar Tiger kicked an equal career-high six goals and was a clear best afield in the deep role as the Tigers worked to isolate him on a variety of opponents. They stuck with the plan after the Lions' fast start, with Martin going on to outmuscle opponents in marking contests and kick multiple stoppage goals. His sixth, which was a 35m kick along the ground, was the exclamation point on one of his most memorable performances.


3. 2017 Qualifying Final v Geelong

Martin's first emergence as a finals force as he moved on from a magnificent home and away season and became a master of the big stage at the MCG. The midfielder was central to the Tigers' frenzied game style and attack on the ball, breaking the Cats when he set up goals for Shane Edwards and Shaun Grigg either side of three-quarter time. Finished with 28 disposals, nine inside 50s and six score assists – double the next best – as the Tigers won through to their first preliminary final since 2001 with a 51-point win.

2. 2017 Grand Final v Adelaide

Given a license to roam by coach Damien Hardwick, Martin was devastating at the MCG and completed arguably the greatest ever season by a player by winning a Norm Smith, premiership and Brownlow medals in the same week. It was Martin's ability to win possession inside the contest and feed it out to teammates that separated him, finishing with 22 contested possessions among his 29 disposals. Calm in the chaos of Richmond's first Grand Final appearance since 1982, he kicked two goals as the Tigers overpowered the Crows by 48 points. 

Dustin Martin lifts the premiership cup in front of fans after the Grand Final between Richmond and Adelaide at the MCG on September 30, 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

1. 2020 Grand Final v Geelong 

Martin's Grand Final masterpiece. The champion Tiger repeatedly imposed himself in the game's most important moments and when his team needed him, kicking four brilliant goals in a match-turning performance. His first goal was a highlight, snapping accurately under heavy pressure when the Tigers were 21 points down in the second quarter to turn the tide. A powerful late goal shaking off Patrick Dangerfield was the cream in a performance that showcased his ruthless competitiveness. Finished with 21 disposals and nine score involvements in a 31-point win and was stamped as the modern game's greatest finals performer with a record third Norm Smith Medal.