In the first half hour after he won the Brownlow medal in 2017, Richmond Football Club gun Dustin Martin, 26, refused to bow to cheesy tradition and kiss the medal for photographers.
Asked if winning the AFL’s best and fairest award might make him more keen to embrace the spotlight, he was blunt: “Nah, I don’t think so.” Martin then concluded his deadpan, quirky acceptance speech with a question of his own: “Can I go now?”
While he was unstoppable and imposing on the field – off the back of a testing two years that threatened to derail his career and life, Martin produced the greatest single individual season in living memory, snaring Norm Smith and premiership medals as well as the Brownlow – it’s his man-child personality that made him truly intriguing.
In a world of cookie-cutter players eager to draw sponsorship bucks, Martin is authentic, a standout of self-acceptance who doesn’t have tatts and that haircut for effect, but because he simply likes them.
Off and on the field, he doesn’t care about trying to impress; on Brownlow night his date was a teammate, not an over-styled blonde, and he’s the sort of player who makes sponsors leery despite his gun talent.
“The No.1 thing he has taught me is to be comfortable with who you are,” said Richmond captain Trent Cotchin of Martin. “Stand up for what you believe in. He does it every day.”
Martin made an investment in himself this year, diving into meditation, business courses, supporting charities and balancing his lifestyle, but, while’s he’s not disrespectful, gestures to convention don’t interest him.
He befriended Victorian teenage paraplegic Will Murray and plays hide-and-seek with friends’ kids, but he also hit Vegas with good mate and former Collingwood gun, Dane Swan, and made no secret he loves to party hard and push it.
Still, under intense scrutiny and pressure, he didn’t put a foot wrong, dealing with contract negotiations (he inked a new $8.75 million deal with the Tigers until 2024) and the ongoing absence of his beloved dad Shane Martin, who is parked up in New Zealand after being deported.
“The thing that people miss about him is his genuine care for people,” said Cotchin. “There’s an element of shy. He doesn’t do a lot of media, so people think he’s either arrogant or stand-offish. If you knew him, he’s not that sort of person.”
As to what motivates the one-time forklift driver who left school at 14, it’s something more old-fashioned and simple than fame and money: family.
“It’s what you live for,” said Martin. “That’s your life. To share things with your family.”
From A-list stars to politicians and athletes, we’ve named the 13 Australians who made headlines and sparked conversations – both heated and admiring – across the nation in 2017. Some covered themselves in glory. Some created controversy. Some made reputations, others lost them. From the cricket arena to the same sex marriage battlefield, regardless of whether they were beloved or booed, their personal and professional wins and downfalls had us talking over dinner tables and media channels.