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Dusty fends off the critics with a return to his 2017 best

Dusty rediscovers his damaging best Richmond superstar Dustin Martin set the tone against Hawthorn on Sunday afternoon at the MCG

THE TALKING point after Dustin Martin's 30-disposal outing in round one was how young Blue Zac Fisher – not known for his strength – had brought him down in a tackle.

Fisher had pre-emptively slapped Martin's hand to blunt the superstar Tiger's famed fend-off, then wrapped him up.

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Everything to do with Martin is hyper-analysed.

The source of the tactic was supposedly Eagle Elliot Yeo, who successfully implemented it against Richmond in round nine last year.

That fuss soon faded into the background as stoppers Levi Greenwood and Matt de Boer kept Martin to consecutive sub-20-possession tallies.

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The 2017 Brownlow and Norm Smith medallist was officially in a very public form slump – and had a week to ponder it after being banned for an undisciplined elbow to Giant Adam Kennedy's head.

Martin's 2018 campaign, still stellar by everyday AFL players' standards, was similarly closely scrutinised for his inability to match his other-worldly season a year earlier.

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There have been glimpses of what he can do this year, but there was collective glee as the one-man wrecking ball exploded out of the blocks on Sunday afternoon.

Virtually impossible to miss amid Martin's staggering 13-disposal opening quarter were a pair of trademark stiff-arms, one of them on lightweight Hawk Jack Scrimshaw, who had no answer.

The question must be asked: is the fend-off Dusty's firestarter, the action that illustrates he is 'on'?

The early two on Sunday preceded Martin's gut-busting run forward, coinciding with the Tigers winning the ball at half-back, then launching a blistering scoring chain that ended in his arms.

Eight of those 13 touches to quarter-time were contested and he won four of Richmond's 12 clearances to that stage.

Martin spent large portions of the second term deep in attack, opposed to Shaun Burgoyne and Ben Stratton.

He uncharacteristically missed a close-range snap – the only blot on his copybook – but moments later he burst through two rivals at the other end to dish off a handball and put a teammate in the clear.

Then, of course, soon after he elevated to outmark Liam Shiels inside 50, with another Hawk nearby, and slam a checkside kick through the uprights.

The cries came thick and fast on social media. This is the 2017 Dusty – the season he can't escape.

Nineteen possessions at half-time became 37 by the final siren, including 17 contested, to go with 10 clearances (six from the centre), nine score involvements, 568 metres gained, four inside 50s and even three tackles.

Some of the early-season critics will have taken notice of that last one.

Whether this was Martin of 2017 or not, it was certainly his finest solo display this year and it coincided with an important Richmond triumph that has it on the brink of the top four.

In what has been an at-times difficult season for Martin and his injury-depleted Tigers, there's little to be too concerned about.