Sport AFL Dustin Martin is a winner, but his father deserves no sympathy

Dustin Martin is a winner, but his father deserves no sympathy

Dustin Martin Brownlow Medal 2017
"Mum and Dad ... I’m so grateful for everything you’ve done for me," said Dustin Martin on claiming the 2017 Brownlow Medal. Photo: Getty
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Channel Seven’s Bruce McAvaney had to work hard for his money interviewing newly-crowned Brownlow Medal winner Dustin Martin on Monday.

McAvaney gushed, rattled off stats and tried several lines of questioning with the deadpan Richmond star before he finally got what he wanted: Dustin to talk about his father Shane.

In response to McAvaney’s probing, the quietly-spoken champion said: “He means the world to me.”

Martin’s words – written by a mate, but delivered with the perfect amount of controlled emotion and honesty – saw Crown’s Palladium Room erupt with applause.

“Dad, I know it is tough for you not being here this week,” he added, “but I know how much you love me and I love you very much.”

By Martin’s own admission, he and his dad share a “special relationship”.

That’s fine. Actually, it’s better than that.

It’s inspiring when a 26-year-old is so close to his father, and so appreciative of what he’s contributed to his life, that he talks him up, defends him loyally and drops in to visit whenever he can.

Even if, as in Dustin and Shane Martin’s case, home visits mean flying to another country so the pair can duck off to the local together.

Shane Martin’s colourful history has been much-publicised in various forms, but for accuracy’s sake, let’s revisit it here.

Allegedly a top-ranking official of the Rebels motorcycle club, the elder Martin was deported from Australia to New Zealand last March when immigration officials ruled he was not of good character.

shane martin
Shane Martin was deported to New Zealand in March 2016. Photo: Sky News

Over almost three decades, Shane Martin has compiled a significant criminal history in Australia and New Zealand.

In Australia, he received a two-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, in 2004 for aiding and abetting in ecstasy trafficking and was fined for drug possession.

Across the Tasman, his past charges include unlawful assault, burglary, armed with intent and drug offences – a record dating back to 1990.

A groundswell of support for Shane Martin being allowed back into the country to watch his son play in finals, and now the AFL Grand Final, was knocked on the head earlier this month by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Talking to 3AW, the PM said he made “no apologies” for putting the kibosh on a Martin father-son reunion in Australia.

“[Shane Martin] has had his visa cancelled because of his criminal record and association with outlaw motorcycle gangs.”

On Brownlow night, Joe Daniher received muted applause for committing a sporting crime – taking down a more favoured competitor to win the Alex Jesaulenko Medal for Mark of the Year.

Shane Martin’s crimes are of a different ilk (for a start, they’re real) yet his plight in being separated from his famous son struck much more of an enthusiastic chord.

Here’s hoping the positive reaction was in support of Dustin, not his dad.

It must be hard for Dustin to do what he does best, play AFL at the height of his powers, and not be able to have his father watching from the sidelines, or hugging him in the change rooms.

But that’s Shane Martin’s own fault. Dustin’s dad has created this heartbreak.

Instead of lamenting the pain of his separation from his son, he could acknowledge his own actions have caused it. Hopefully, privately, he’s man enough to explain that to Dustin.

Australia has every right to deport people when they not just bend rules, but break laws.

Shane Martin deserves no sympathy, especially not from a crowd gathered to celebrate the best and fairest.

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