Dustin Martin's telling message to AFL critics as commentary box moment comes to light

Dusty has found himself at the centre of retirement speculation in 2024.

Write off Dustin Martin at your own peril. That was the message from former AFL star Dale 'Daisy' Thomas after the triple premiership-winning Richmond legend returned to form in style to almost help mastermind a stunning upset win over Essendon on Saturday night. An epic moment involving Thomas in the commentary box for Triple M summed up the mood of many as Dusty put on a show to prove to his detractors that he's far from a spent force.

There was plenty of talk about Martin's form and future before the Dreamtime At The 'G clash, with Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes among those to question his future in the game recently. Veteran AFL journalist Caroline Wilson also suggested Martin appeared to have "lost the hunger" to continue playing beyond this year and would struggle to command anywhere near the salary he is on now if he were to extend with Richmond.

Pictured left to right, former AFL star and commentator Dale Thomas and Dustin Martin.
Former AFL star Dale Thomas absolutely loved Dustin Martin's return to form for Richmond against Essendon at the MCG on Saturday night. Pic: Triple M/Getty

But in his 298th game, the media-shy star answered his critics with a game that was vintage Dusty, despite the injury-ravaged Tigers falling short in a 12-point loss. Martin kicked three goals and was a constant problem for the Bombers, with one magical run and goal seeing 'Daisy' Thomas jump out of his seat in the Triple M commentary box and pretend to give it to the critics.

“He winds back the clock and reminds everybody at the MCG how bloody good he is," Leigh Montagna said in commentary as Martin broke free from Essendon's defence, ran and snapped a brilliant goal from close to the boundary line and 50m arc. "And he’s still got plenty left in the tank."

The superb goal saw Thomas spring out of his seat in the commentary box and give an 'up yours' gesture to Martin's detractors. “That’s why, when you line up and you pile into champions and you want to be the first to cut them down,” Thomas said.

“And they come out here on the biggest of stages. The (goal) umpire had two fingers out, he had two of them up. See ya later, shove a bit of that in your pipe and smoke it”. Thomas' passionate response came after he labelled critics "weak" for focusing on his form slump when he's 32, has won three premierships and three Norm Smith Medals and is edging towards 300 games.

“When you get older, you’re not going to be as good as you once were,” Thomas said. “The perception is that he still should be winning games for the football club. If you’re going to be criticising blokes, criticise the blokes who should have taken his spot and fulfilled the potential... I think it’s a weak process trying to clip blokes on the way out rather than celebrate them.”

Coach Adem Yze praised Martin after the match and said criticism of his form was unfair, considering its a much different and less experienced Tigers side now than the juggernaut that won three premierships in four years between 2017-20. "It was just good to see him get some reward out on the field. He's trying so hard, trying to lead our younger forwards," Yze said.

"We have a really young forward line at the moment, so synergy can take a little bit of time. He's been used to playing with the same guys for the last 10 years. We're not the same team we were five years ago, and we're dealing with a fair bit, with some injuries."

Seen here, Dustin Martin is mobbed by Richmond teammates during his side's AFL clash against Essendon.
Dustin Martin is mobbed by Richmond teammates during his side's AFL clash against Essendon. Pic: Getty

The Tigers injury woes only worsened on Saturday, with Shai Bolton having to subbed out in the last term after a strong showing against the Bombers. It was a crucial blow to Richmond's chances of snatching an upset and Bolton will miss next Saturday night's game against the Cats in Geelong.


"This game means so much to him, as we know. It was unfortunate," Yze said about his injured Indigenous star. "Losing him at that time of the game, he was looking so dangerous." Richmond were a transformed side after massive losses in their previous two games to the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane and the coach said the vast improvement was encouraging.

"We feel like our supporters would have been proud with the effort, that's what we expect every week," Yze said "The main thing was around our spirit and energy and doing the jumper proud ... that's the standard we want. The whole week, they dug in as a group ... just really disappointed we couldn't get away with the win."

with AAP