Dustin Martin showed his class in Richmond’s Qualifying Final win over Hawthorn.Milestone man Dustin Martin was gang-tackled, double-teamed, tagged and provoked but none of it was enough to stop him from stealing the stage as Richmond steamrolled Hawthorn in Thursday night’s AFL qualifying final.
Martin was a clear best-afield in his 200th game as the Tigers stormed to a 13.17 (95) to 9.10 (64) victory at a near-capacity MCG.
The reigning Brownlow Medallist racked up 29 possessions (17 contested), 10 clearances and five inside-50s despite close attention from Hawthorn tagger Daniel Howe, who came in as a late replacement for Ryan Schoenmakers.
But it was Martin’s astonishing goal late in the second quarter that will live on in Richmond folklore and add to an already extensive highlight reel.
Hurtling towards the boundary at full speed, Martin received a handball and found the composure to kick a drop punt from the tightest of angles, sending Tigers fans into raptures.
Minutes later, Martin sent an audacious handball through the legs of his defender to Dion Prestia, who set up Kamdyn McIntosh to extend the Tigers’ lead.
Both acts reflected Martin’s ability to effectively perform in a shoebox.
Howe’s close tag meant Martin rarely had space to burst out of packs, while the Hawks also made a point of double-teaming him to prevent his signature fend-off.
Howe and the rest of Hawthorn’s midfielders also niggled Martin at every opportunity in an attempt to provoke him into losing his cool.
None of it worked. The tattooed dynamo remained unflappable throughout and the Tigers made the most of his efforts with a dominant second half.
Martin has struggled at times to replicate his incredible 2017 but as Tigers coach Damien Hardwick forecast in the lead-up to the match, he will be extremely tough to stop in September.
“He’s certainly primed,” Hardwick said.
“The season he had last year – I’ve never seen a better season.
“Can you live up to that? Well, it’s going to be tough.
“But once again he’s playing the consistent brand of footy we know and love and he’s incredibly damaging because of it.”