Dustin Martin wrestles with Lion Darcy Gardiner. Pic: Getty Images
Dustin Martin wrestles with Lion Darcy Gardiner. Pic: Getty Images

Schwass’s Lethal tip on Dusty

DUSTIN Martin was only 32 games into his AFL career when Wayne Schwass went all-in on his talent.

Triple best-and-fairest winner Schwass said he had never seen a player who reminded him so much of Leigh Matthews.

Martin, 19, had just beaten up Brisbane with a five-goal virtuoso performance as a midfielder pushing deep forward. Sound familiar?

On Saturday Martin finally eclipsed that goal tally with a personal-best six-goal haul playing mostly as a deep forward against the Lions.

And in doing so he gave us a fascinating insight into how he might play out the next seven years of his highly-paid career.

Let's make one thing clear.

There is only one Leigh Matthews in over a century of football.

You only need to rewind 31 seasons to his 91-goal, 658 possession season in 1977.

To put it in perspective, he averaged 3.8 goals and 27 possessions that year, with three performances of seven goals and 30-plus touches.

That's rarefied air.

No matter the number of Lions, Dustin Martin was too good on Saturday. Pic: AAP
No matter the number of Lions, Dustin Martin was too good on Saturday. Pic: AAP

But Schwass's prophecy about Martin's skill set seven years on looks eerily prophetic.

"I haven't seen a bloke who has reminded me of Leigh Matthews in the same way," Schwass said in June 2011.

"The rider is that he has a hell of a long way to go. But Leigh was an uncompromising rover who then went forward and finished his career, and I am not saying Dustin will kick 900 goals, but I see that versatility in him.

"I think he could kick 400 or 500 goals. He is in his second year and knows how to kick goals, so he can play four or five years in the midfield, and then go forward with great impact.

"This kid could be a gun mid who also has a real upside as a much more intimidating version of Brad Johnson.

"If he has space in the forward 50 to do his stuff one-on-one, there aren't many who can beat him."

Martin might share the low centre of gravity and menacing air as Matthews, but until last year he was only a goal-a-game midfielder.

After 150 games he had exactly 150 goals.

But after 37 goals last year he already has a dozen goals for the year, with Martin yet to turn 27.

Dustin Martin booted a career-high six in Round 4. Pic: Getty Images
Dustin Martin booted a career-high six in Round 4. Pic: Getty Images

Matthews not only kicked goals as a midfielder, he finished off his career with hauls of 74, 79, 77 and 56 goals.

Martin now has 199 goals from 182 games, but it's not hard to see him averaging two goals a game from here on in.

Given his contract states he will be playing until at least 33, he won't end up too far short of Schwass's prediction of 500.

In the short term, why wouldn't Martin play deep forward for much of this year.

Damien Hardwick has already forecast that type of role for him while the Tigers continue building midfield depth.

Admittedly against a dismal Lions outfit, he had 17 possessions, 10 score involvements, six inside-50s and six goals.

Surely that's more effective than 30 possessions and two goals, especially as the Tigers have such midfield depth.

Reece Conca tried the patience of Tiger fans but his past fortnight is excellent, while Richmond believes Jack Higgins will eventually become a midfielder.

Yet if anyone had any concerns about the Tigers paying up for seven more years of Dustin Martin, they should think again.

Like Matthews and Kevin Bartlett and even key forward Alastair Lynch before him, his amazing versatility will prolong his career well into his 30s.

Leigh Matthews is considered the greatest player to play the game.
Leigh Matthews is considered the greatest player to play the game.

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