Richmond officials have already seen the AFL umpiring department since the weekend in an attempt to gain a fairer deal for Dustin Martin, who has received just one free kick while conceding seven in three matches this year.
That the Tigers would be complaining about the lack of protection for Martin was foreshadowed by the post-match frustrations expressed by Damien Hardwick, who felt that Martin's loss of composure could be attributed, at least in part, to the off-the-ball methods employed his highly effective tagger in round three, Matt de Boer.
While rival clubs might see Richmond's complaints as whingeing after a loss, the Tigers are right to question how their superstar – a ball player who plays without the brutality that was a trademark of his coach – could earn just one free kick in a season when the opposition, sniffing wounded Tiger blood, have intensified the obstruction of Martin.
In 2019 to date, Martin has failed to rise to the challenge posed by the loss of Alex Rance and Jack Riewoldt, with his skipper Trent Cotchin about to join that champion pair in the stands.
Collingwood's Levi Greenwood successfully negated Martin in round two and then de Boer drove him to the point of implosion on Saturday, when Dusty – usually an implacable character, with a range of expressions as limited as Charles Bronson – became embroiled in a sledging match with Shane Mumford that has prompted a "please explain'' from the AFL.
It seems remarkable that Martin could earn only one free kick in a season when the AFL has cracked down on off-the-ball pushes, shoves and nasty niggling that crept into the game last year. Perhaps his best chance to get a few frees is to line up on James Sicily when the Tigers meet Hawthorn, the team that paid the heftiest price for the AFL's war on shoves when overrun by the Doggies nine days ago.
Interestingly, of those seven frees paid against Martin, three were for holding the ball. Symbolically, Dusty is finding it harder to fend off opponents, both with that signature stiff arm move and more generally.
So, Martin isn't blameless. He must carry responsibility for his slump and for not doing what we expect of champions, which is to pick up an ailing team and bear a greater burden when the team needs leadership.
Teams will continue to scrag, niggle, sledge and do whatever they deem necessary to get under his heavily inked skin, because they've seen that he can be distracted. In 2017, Martin was impervious to opponents and the Tigers often isolated him one-out against the hapless tagger.
This year, as Richmond have been weakened by injury and the pressure on Dusty has risen, he has not met that challenge in the way that Gary Ablett jnr, Chris Judd, Michael Voss, Robert Harvey, Nathan Buckley, James Hird and Greg Williams have overcome aggressive tags.
But the umpires also must be more consRead More – Source