Chasing the Sun: Why Gold Coast must make an offer to lure Dustin Martin

Ever since the death of his father, Dustin Martin has been linked with a move to Sydney for two reasons.

One: that Dusty is known to enjoy spending time in the harbour city. Two: the widespread view that he wishes to escape the suffocating surrounds of the Melbourne football environment.

But, there is a third option that could well suit Martin, Richmond and the AFL more than an increasingly improbable move to the Swans, who have maintained they are not pursuing Dusty.

Brandon Ellis, Dustin Martin, Craig Cameron, and Wayne Campbell.Credit:Stephen Kiprillis/ AFL Photos/ Getty Images

Martin has a relationship with Sydney the city, but he has a far closer bond with key people at the Gold Coast Suns.

Football boss and former Richmond great Wayne Campbell is a close confidant of Martin’s and the Suns’ list manager Craig Cameron, when he was then Richmond football chief, handled Martin in his first four seasons.

Suns recruit and fellow premiership Tiger Brandon Ellis is also a good friend. He and Martin were drafted to Richmond two years apart from each other and the pair have remained close since Ellis left for Gold Coast at the end of 2019.

According to teammates, Dusty has not portrayed his usually bubbly demeanour at Punt Road in recent months, which has some of them pondering whether he’d benefit from a change of scenery. Even his coach Damien Hardwick said that Martin would leave with his blessing if he wanted to shift clubs.

Martin still has two years to run on a contract worth close to $1.3 million per season. This is the major obstacle for any club interested in recruiting the triple Norm Smith medallist.

Like the Swans, the Suns have a bulging salary cap and there would have to be significant moves made to make room for Martin.

They would almost certainly have to offer him a longer-term contract, where they could pay him significantly less in the back end. This would allow them to spread the money out and alleviate the pressure on the yearly total player payments.

Could the next chapter of Dustin Martin’s playing future be further north than the harbour city?Credit:Getty Images

Then there’s the question of how much extra financial support the club would receive from the AFL. On top of his playing contract, Suns young star forward Ben King is receiving ambassadorial money that sits outside the cap.

For all the recent positivity surrounding the club, Gold Coast are about to finish their 12th season without a finals appearance. Surely AFL boss Gillon McLachlan knows nothing makes a bigger impact in a developing market than a superstar player.

Although we haven’t seen it in recent times, Martin is still the most unstoppable player in the competition when he’s at his best. His on-field impact – if he’s fit and healthy – would turn Gold Coast into a finals team overnight. But his off-field impact could be just as pronounced.

As Franklin did when he made his famous move to Sydney, Martin would have a significant impact on membership and crowds.

The lessons that young midfielders like Matthew Rowell and Noah Anderson would receive from time spent with Martin would be priceless.

In the twilight of his career, Martin could then play out of the goal square with King and Izak Rankine. Carlton players speak glowingly about Eddie Betts’ final year at the Blues, where he was able to be a kind of playing coach for the likes of Corey Durdin and Matthew Owies. Dusty could have a similar impact with the Suns’ young forwards.

And, perhaps most importantly, the move to the Gold Coast would almost certainly solve Martin’s environment issue.

It is true to say that for a person of Martin’s stature, it would be nearly impossible to find a place in Australia where he definitely wouldn’t be recognised.

But he’s far less likely to be hassled on the sand at Kurrawa Beach than on the footpath on Swan Street.

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