FLAWED GENIUS: Dustin Martin has been great on the field for the Tigers but less than exemplary off it.
FLAWED GENIUS: Dustin Martin has been great on the field for the Tigers but less than exemplary off it. JULIAN SMITH

Martin the best in a really bad bunch

CALL them players with a “bit of mongrel”.

Former Melbourne forward David Schwarz, though, describes them as “ratbags” ... in the nicest possible way.

They’re the footballers who can sometimes go looking for trouble – be it on or off the field – but are also capable of causing havoc for the opposition.

And Schwarz reckons every team should have one.

“They’re risky, they’re out there. You get the good, you get the bad but when the good is good, it’s sometimes unbelievable,” he said on Melbourne radio this week.

“Kevin Sheedy used to embrace them and used to be able to get the best out of them.”

Richmond rogue Dustin Martin is a prime example of a player who has delivered the good, the bad ... and the very ugly.

The 25-year-old infamously threatened a woman with a chopstick at a Melbourne eatery in the off-season.

The midfielder was cleared by police but received a $5000 suspended fine by his club.

Then in March, his father Shane had his visa cancelled and was deported back to his home country of New Zealand due to his links to the Rebels motorcycle gang.

Martin, who has the words “Ngati Maru” and “Matai Whetu” – in reference to his father’s Maori tribe – inked on his neck, visited Shane during Richmond’s recent bye weekend.

“He has been my No.1 supporter,” Martin told media.

Despite the off-field turmoil, Martin is now in career-best form.

He has stormed into Brownlow Medal contention as arguably best-on-ground in the five wins the Tigers have enjoyed in their past six games, gathering disposal hauls of 28, 30, 38, 38 and 35.

A former “student” of Sheedy, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has taken a leaf out of his old mentor’s book by being patient with his young tyro – even after he shopped himself around three years ago.

Martin toured the facilities at GWS but, in the end, the Giants didn’t want him – or the trouble he might bring.

Schwarz, though, reckons, “Don’t turn your back on a player just because he is a ratbag, because you do need different characters.”

YEAR OF THE RAT(BAG)?

Some so-called “trouble-makers” are making 2016 a season to remember.

DUSTIN MARTIN (RICHMOND): Suspended for two weeks in 2012 for missing training. Threatened a woman with a chopstick at a Melbourne restaurant in 2015. Averaging 28 disposals in 2016 as fourth favourite for the Brownlow Medal.

TOBY GREENE (GWS): Was caught on CCTV footage involved in a violent brawl outside a Melbourne nightclub in 2014 and subsequently banned for five games. Greene has kicked at least three goals in a match seven times in 2016 while also averaging 22 disposals.

HEATH SHAW (COLLINGWOOD/GWS): Charged with drink-driving after crashing into a parked car in 2008. Pushed an umpire and banned for a match in 2009. Detained by police for drunken behaviour in 2014. At 30, is now the AFL’s No.1 defender, averaging a league-high 8.2 rebounds.

MITCH ROBINSON (CARLTON/BRISBANE): Was involved in a Big Day Out brawl in 2013, then caught lying to Carlton officials after he suffered a broken eye socket during a late-night altercation in 2014 . Was vying to win second straight best and fairest at Lions before suffering a hamstring injury last week.

STEVEN MAY (GOLD COAST): Ended up with a broken jaw after then-teammate Campbell Brown stopped him from gate-crashing a private LA party hosted by pop princess Rihanna in 2013. Has matured into a strong leader who spoke well during a members’ forum in May.


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