Dustin Martin (L) with the 2017 premiership cup, and Royce Hart with the 1974 premiership cup, celebrate with Richmond supporters.

I was so fortunate to start my Richmond-supporting life at a time when the Tigers were about to enter a golden era.

The first Richmond match I saw was in 1965, which was the year we started playing home games at the MCG . . .  such a pivotal move for the Club.

Two years later, with the great Tommy Hafey in charge as coach, the Tigers broke what until then was the longest premiership drought in our history (24 years), winning a classic 1967 Grand Final against Geelong.

Teenage sensation Royce Hart kicked 55 goals for Richmond in his debut season that year, alternating between full-forward and centre half-forward, including six in the second semi-final against Carlton and three v Geelong in the Grand Final.

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Hart would go on to star in three more Tiger Grand Final triumphs, captaining the team in two of them.

For Yellow and Black baby boomer barrackers such as myself, Royce Hart was something extra special.

I’ve mentioned this in print previously, as well as several times on the Club’s Talking Tigers podcast, that I had Hart’s No. 4 on the back of my Richmond jumper before he had even played a senior game for the Club.

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Having closely followed his progress through the under 19s and reserves, even at my then tender age I had a strong feeling he was going to be the next big thing for the Tigers.

Before long, numerous young Richmond fans were wearing the No. 4 on the backs of their football jumpers.

There were so many other star players at Tigerland throughout that time, but it’s fair to say Royce Hart ruled the roost in terms of popularity because of his phenomenal football feats. He was the idol of the Richmond faithful.

The Tiger Army back then felt strongly connected to the Club through Hart’s consistently brilliant, match-winning efforts.

Fast-forward four decades, and with Richmond now experiencing by far the longest premiership drought in its history, it is another superstar wearing the No. 4 guernsey who steps up superbly to become the connector for the current-day Tiger Army.

Dustin Martin, recruited by Richmond with its first pick (No. 3 overall) in the 2009 AFL national draft, had been a young gun for the Tigers from the outset of his league football career.

By 2017, he was ready to take the competition by storm.

What Martin achieved in that 2017 season was extraordinary – the Brownlow Medal, Jack Dyer Medal, AFL Coaches Association’s Champion Player of the Year award, Gary Ayres Medal (best player of the finals series), Norm Smith Medal (best afield in the Grand Final) and, most importantly for him, a premiership medal.

From an overall Yellow and Black barracking perspective, Dusty changed the narrative for all of us.

Those many years of being ridiculed by opposition fans for finishing ninth, or down the bottom of the ladder, became a distant memory, as Dusty strutted his stuff so stunningly on the biggest football stage of them all.

Here was a winner, turning all of us of the Tiger persuasion into winners again after such a torturous time in the football wilderness.

I will never forget the sheer elation that we felt on that last Saturday in September 2017, largely due to Dusty’s dominance against Adelaide.

Sitting here now writing this, there are shivers surging through my spine, and even some tears, as I reflect on that wonderful day when Richmond broke its 37-year premiership drought.

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What made the occasion even more memorable for us older Tigers, is that we were able to share it with our children.

My daughters, Emily and Laura, had frequently been lectured to by me about the good old days at Tigerland, when Royce Hart inspired the team to achieve greatness.

They, like plenty of other younger Richmond fans, were tired of the history lessons and wanted to experience their own Tiger success.

Dusty made it happen. Not on his own, of course, because that drought-breaking premiership team contained several other stars and some very valuable role players. It was Dusty, however, who ignited the Tigers with his awesome power, exquisite football skills and fanatical will-to-win and led us into football’s promised land.

As a result, he brought generations of Richmond supporters together as one – those, like me, who had known a time when the Tigers ruled the football jungle, and those like Emily and Laura, basking in premiership glory for the first time.

That Dusty-inspired drought-breaking premiership was magnificent enough, but there was more, much more, still to come.

Back-to-back flags in 2019-2020, on the back of back-to-back Norm Smith Medals by the exalted, modern-day Richmond No. 4 against Greater Western Sydney in the ’19 Grand Final and Geelong in the ’20 GF sent the Tiger Army into seventh heaven.

And now, as Dusty prepares to reach the AFL’s coveted 300-game milestone against Hawthorn at the MCG on Saturday, it’s time to say thanks to him.

Dusty, your accomplishments at the game’s highest level are truly outstanding. But your greatest achievement, I believe, has been instilling a strong sense of pride in Richmond supporters everywhere for the mighty Tigers due to your winning ways.

You have been the ultimate Yellow and Black connector.