The legend of Dustin Martin grows after grand final win
IT is the late 1990s on the Martin farm in Castlemaine.
The sun has set and even as darkness sweeps the field a young Dustin Martin refuses to bring the Sherrin inside.
The Martin family owns three acres, but parents Kathy and Shane have converted one paddock into a football field complete with goalposts.
"Before school in the morning he would go out and have a kick," Martin's nan, Lois, told the Sunday Herald Sun from the MCG rooms.
"Then he'd come home from school, drop his bag at the door and he'd be out kicking the football again."
Brother Tyson would join on the weekends, along with their best mates Cody and Josh.
Tyson flew in from Barcelona at 6am on Saturday. This was no kick-to-kick session. Instead, 136km from where it all begin, Tyson watched as his brother kicked himself into Richmond royalty.
Martin, 26, became the AFL's first ever player to collect a premiership medallion, Brownlow Medal and Norm Smith Medal in the same season.
He will become the richest Tiger in history when that seven-year contract worth $8.75 million kicks in but after erasing 37 years of Punt Rd pain, Martin has already paid his way.
"I say to the bloke who makes the statue, start building the statue," Tiger champion Rex Hunt beamed.
Martin's 2.2 from 28 disposals earned 13 out of a possible 15 Norm Smith Medal votes as Essendon great James Hird draped the medal around his neck.
"Better than the Brownlow by a million, by a million," he beamed after stoning the Crows.
"I just go out there and play.
"That's all I've done since I was a young bloke. Apply defensive pressure and then once we get the ball, just play footy.
Not many would carry a Crown Lager to a press conference. But Martin did, and good on him.
Still a media newbie, he was terrified beforehand and delighted after.
Martin is the inked megastar with a persona as secretive as it is seductive. A patch of skin on his left quad is already sectioned off for the Tigers' premiership tattoo.
NORM SMITH MEDAL VOTING
13 - Dustin Martin
10 - Bachar Houli
2 - Alex Rance
2 - Shane Edwards
2 - Dion Prestia
1 - Jack Graham
After Richmond players sang the song, Martin reached for a Carlton Draught and necked almost half of it in one hit. Refreshing and warranted, as he slid into the crowd of revellers it became bleedingly obvious his backstory has parallels to so many households.
"I never miss a game, I never miss a game. I go interstate to Queensland, Perth - I love it," nan Lois said.
"When he was five he had a football in his hand all the time. He'd sleep with it and even go to bed with a St Kilda cap on."
Kathy's eyes welled with pride.
"He's just lived his fairytale at 26. I prayed hard, and all my praying has come off. There are no words," she said.
"I knew he was going to be a champion, but not this big. He's famous. My boy is famous . He's only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger."
That's a scary thought, for Martin has gazumped Gary Ablett, Nat Fyfe, Patrick Dangerfield and Buddy Franklin as the game's No.1 man.
The trademark fend-off put many Adelaide players on their backside and it has now been immortalised as a signature move of a champion on the biggest of stages.
Can he go on with it? Teammate Dylan Grimes is with Kathy.
"This is just the beginning of him," Grimes said.
"He's 26 years old and the style that he plays and the game that he plays I think is going to hold up.
"Anyone with that level of fame and success and individual accolade would potentially let it go to their head, but I can honestly say he's the most humble player I've ever played the game with.
"We don't have an award for best clubman - but if we did he'd be right up there. The thing I love most about Dusty is the stuff he does inside our four walls.
"He's a great culture man. Off-field he's improved his character tenfold. He certainly realised he had some work to do in becoming a professional and he's more of a leader than ever."
Manager Ralph Carr spelled that out emphatically.
"(Two years ago) I said to him I wouldn't work with him anymore, and I didn't think we were going in the right direction," Carr revealed.
"If he didn't change his ways, or change his attitude, in relation to becoming an elite athlete (then) I wouldn't work with him."
That was pre-game. Post-game Carr gave a heart-warming insight after Martin lived at his house for chunks of the second half of the season.
"My three kids love him and my wife (Emma) loves him. He's terrific with my kids, they all love him because he gives them time and that's the most important thing," Carr said.
"He's very respectful.
Captain Trent Cotchin's two daughters also adore Dusty.
"Whenever he's out at our home he's always lying on the floor with them, doing drawings, puzzles and playing hide and seek," Cotchin has said.
What about as a brother?
"He's a very loving brother," Tyson said.
"He cares about everyone in the family and he's the perfect brother."
Deported dad Shane told the Sunday Herald Sun from Auckland: "Wow, he's the man".
Martin briefly spoke to his dad via a radio interview after the game.
"It sounded like he'd had 40 beers. We've got to catch up," he said.
Coach Damien Hardwick said he has been "blessed" to play and coach some of the game's best.
"But his season," Hardwick said, "Ranks as the most special I've seen from a player.
"There's no doubt."