Dustin Martin’s manager Ralph Carr and former GWS list manager Stephen Silvagni have recalled how they thought the three-time Norm Smith medallist had become a Giants player – before someone intervened.
It was just days after the end of Richmond’s 2013 campaign, when they lost an elimination final to a Carlton side that technically finished ninth, that Martin was filmed touring the GWS facilities.
The Tigers issued a statement confirming a then 22-year-old Martin was to “pursue other opportunities” after talks over a long-term deal at $600,000 a year fell through.
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That’s when GWS, following a wooden spoon in their second season as an AFL club, made its move.
Martin flew to Sydney, with cameras at the airport to capture every moment of his visit to the Showgrounds.
“It was certainly gonna happen,” Carr told AFL Trade Radio.
“Dusty had had not the year we’d hoped in 2012, and in 2013 he was missing his family, so it was definitely gonna happen.”
With Martin missing his father Shane, who was deported to New Zealand in 2016, the future Brownlow medallist was about to sign a five-year deal worth $3.5 million.
Then came “a call from above”.
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“I’ve got no idea (who it was). As SOS knows, between Dustin, myself and SOS, we thought he was a GWS player at that point,” Carr said.
“We thought the deal was done, we’d been up there, Dustin was gonna reunite with his father in Sydney because he’d had personal issues about not being close to his father.
“The deal was done and the next thing I heard was that it got pulled from above.”
Carr claimed he still doesn’t know who made the call – whether it was someone at GWS or at the AFL.
“We thought it was done and the next time I spoke to SOS, we didn’t know. We just didn’t know, but we knew it came from above,” he said.
“Maybe it was the CEO, maybe it was someone at the AFL, not too sure.”
Several days after Martin and the Giants met, the club released a statement.
“We took up the invitation to meet with Martin and his manager Ralph Carr and showed them around our new training facility and Skoda Stadium but we have made a decision not to pursue further discussions,” then-GWS GM of football Graeme Allan said at the time.
“We will continue to explore a number of opportunities with other players with a view to add more experience to our playing list and we wish Dustin Martin all the best for his career ahead.”
Martin ended up signing a two-year deal at Richmond on less than $600,000 a season, and emerged over the coming seasons as one of the game’s most dominant forces.
It’s scary to think what the Giants could have been if they’d had him.
“My word, you put Dustin Martin in the GWS team they were assembling then with SOS, I dare say they would’ve won a couple of flags,” Carr said.