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Dusty takes flight as Tigers leave Blues in their wake

Football

Carlton were on the wrong end of a potent reminder that Dustin Martin is a lot easier to taunt than he is to stop.

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The Richmond star was best afield last night, leading the Tigers to a 43-point win over the Blues in their AFL season opener at the MCG.

The Carlton pre-game banner cheekily took aim at the Tigers and Martin’s haircut: “Richmond’s five-year plan has become a disaster – the vision impaired like Dusty’s barber.”

Martin’s hair and prominent tattoos make him stand out, but last night it was his football that commanded attention.

He had 33 possessions and kicked four goals, plus he gave away two more and is guaranteed three Brownlow Medal votes.

It was the perfect start to a massive year for Martin and Richmond.

He and Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe are by far the biggest names among the players who become free agents at the end of the season, while the Tigers are coming off last year’s drop out of the finals.

Earlier this month, Martin looked uncomfortable and then walked away from a media conference when questions were asked about his future.

But there is nothing shy about his football when he is full flight.

“That’s what good players do,” coach Damien Hardwick said when asked about how Martin copes with on and off-field pressure.

“He’s the ultimate professional, Dustin – he goes about his business, he trains incredibly hard, he looks after himself and he get the result that he deserves (against Carlton).”

It also helps Martin that the Tigers have recruited Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy – as Hardwick noted, it means the star onballer can go forward more often.

But Martin was also outstanding in defence, launching a booming kick from halfback early in the last quarter that went 70m and set Caddy up for the game-sealing goal.

Hardwick liked what he saw, saying Richmond could not be faulted for their effort.

But he admitted the third term was frustrating – Carlton stayed in the game by kicking 5.0 to 2.6 – but Hardwick liked the way his team finished off the match.

“The key for us is the consistency we’re looking for with that effort and we get a great test, round two against Collingwood,” he said.

Another feature was the tackle count of 88-66 in Richmond’s favour – Nick Vlaustuin had 10 to halftime.

“People say his possession rate wasn’t high, but his influence on the game was massive,” Hardwick said.

Apart from Caddy and Prestia, first-gamer Dan Butler (two goals) was another Richmond newcomer who impressed.

Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer beat Richmond’s ruck import Toby Nankervis, but Hardwick said it was a duel worth watching.

-AAP

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