Richmond champion Dustin Martin entered the 2020 finals series with an awesome reputation as a performer on AFL football’s big stage.
By the end of the Tigers’ glorious October campaign, he was being acclaimed by many people throughout the football world as the competition’s greatest-ever finals player.
Martin won a record third Norm Smith Medal following his tremendous performance in Richmond’s Grand Final triumph over Geelong, he received a third premiership medal, and he also was awarded a third Gary Ayres Medal for being the best player in the finals series.
If you take out the 2018 preliminary final against Collingwood, when he was clearly severely hampered with a corked thigh, Martin’s finals form since 2017 has been simply outstanding.
In 11 finals, he has averaged 22.6 disposals, 13.1 contested possessions, 4.7 clearances, 5.0 inside-50s, 2.2 goals (25 in total) 9.1 score involvements and 404.1 metres gained.
Here is a statistical snapshot of Dusty’s brilliance in those 11 finals . . .
Qualifying final v Geelong, MCG: 28 disposals, 15 contested possessions, nine inside-50s, six clearances, 12 score involvements, four goal assists, seven tackles, 418 metres gained.
Preliminary final v Greater Western Sydney, MCG: 20 disposals, 13 contested possessions, four clearances, one inside-50, three goals, two goal assists, 13 score involvements, 247 metres gained.
Grand Final v Adelaide, MCG: 29 disposals, 22 contested possessions, six clearances, three inside-50s, two goals, two goal assists, nine score involvements, 369 metres gained.
Qualifying final v Hawthorn, MCG: 29 disposals, 17 contested possessions, 10 clearances, five inside-50s, one goal, 10 score involvements, four tackles, 512 metres gained.
Qualifying final v Brisbane, Gabba: 14 disposals, 13 contested possessions, three clearances, two inside-50s, six goals, 10 score involvements, 330 metres gained.
Preliminary final v Geelong, MCG: 22 disposals, six contested possessions, four inside-50s, two clearances, two goals, nine score involvements, 454 metres gained.
Grand Final v Greater Western Sydney, MCG: 22 disposals, 12 contested possessions, four inside-50s, three clearances, four goals, two goal assists, eight score involvements, 372 metres gained.
Qualifying final v Brisbane, Gabba: 18 disposals, 11 contested possessions, game-high 10 inside-50s, four clearances, two goal assists, four score involvements, 474 metres gained.
Semi-final v St Kilda, Metricon Stadium: 25 disposals, 13 contested possessions, game-high 10 inside-50s, game-high six clearances, one goal, nine score involvements, 579 metres gained.
Preliminary final v Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval: 21 disposals, 12 contested possessions, three clearances, two goals (out of the team’s total of six), six score involvements, 234 metres gained.
Grand Final v Geelong, Gabba: 21 disposals, 10 contested possessions, five inside-50s, five clearances, game-high four goals, nine score involvements, 457 metres gained.
The man named by the AFL as the player of the 20th century, Leigh Matthews, paid Martin the ultimate tribute in the aftermath of his dazzling, dominant display in the 2020 Grand Final against Geelong at the Gabba.
“Dusty's the only player I don't get insulted being compared to,” Matthews said.
“He has got the strength and power of a bricklayer, and the touch and the deft skills of a surgeon.
“When you've got both those attributes, you become a prodigious talent. And, not only that, he performs under pressure . . .
“I played last century, but if you talk about the modern versions, I guess the powerful midfielder, who was a forward goalkicker, was what I felt I was. And, in the modern era, I think Dusty is that . . .
“I look at Dusty and think, well, he’s a bit bigger and stronger than I was, and he might have better skills that what I did . . .
“I’m in awe of him, to be honest, because he’s got such strength and power, but he’s got the delicate touch and the finesse . . .
“Those four goals he kicked . . . all four of them were almost goals of the day.
“Every one of Dusty’s goals were opportunistic. There was half a chance, and he made it work.
“And he performs on the big day. We always respect that . . . That’s what the three Norm Smith Medals sort of emphasise. On the big days, he turns up.
“And that accuracy stat . . . He’s kicked 19 goals, two behinds in the ’19-’20 finals campaigns. So, the accuracy under pressure is just superb.”