Martin was a rampaging, almost unstoppable machine between 2012 and 2020, missing only four matches – three of those through suspension.
But he has missed 10 games, six through personal leave and four through injury, over the past two seasons. That injury absence, which is likely to be linked at least in part to the personal leave, is growing, and may well now take in the final four rounds of the home-and-away season. It has added fuel to speculation that Martin’s time with the Tigers could be up.
Coach Damien Hardwick has said Martin has given the Tigers more than enough and has his “blessing” to leave, should that eventuate, while club chief Brendon Gale maintains Martin has, and will continue to, thrive in his current environment.
However, over the past two years, the Martin of old has been less prevalent, prompting Matthews’ comments on 3AW.
“I mean, he is still the best player in the game. He was the best player in the first half of last year,” Matthews said.
“In almost a season and a half, for one reason or another, he hasn’t been able to produce it, he just hasn’t been able to produce it.
“In terms of whether he is going to be able to produce it again is a question, not an answer. And if he is at Richmond, you just keep going and hope like hell we can get him going again.
“For another club to invest in Dusty, I think he is a risky investment from now on.”
In eight games this season Martin is averaging a career-low 18.8 disposals, less than three clearances per game for the first time since 2014, less than one score assist for the first time since ’15 and, for the first time, less than two tackles per game.
While Martin has been meticulous in his preparation through the second half of his career, next season will be year 14 and at 31, he has 268 games to his credit. However, a move up forward has eased the physical impact on his body and industry sources say he should have several years ahead.
But he has already won three flags, three Norm Smiths, a Brownlow, four All-Australian jackets, and two Jack Dyer Medals with the Tigers. Is there more for him to achieve at Punt Road?
Martin, who took personal leave earlier this year to grieve the death of his father, has two years remaining on his nine-year contract. But his manager Ralph Carr told The Age in May: “He has got this year and then another two [under contract]. He is kind of set there. But he who knows him? Football is a funny world.”
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