Dustin Martin of the Tigers
Dustin Martin of the Tigers Quinn Rooney

Martin, Kelly stocks rise after powerful displays

HARD to fathom now of course, but there was a time when Dustin Martin wasn't the bees knees.

Right now, he's probably among the two most in-demand players in the game.

He's out of contract at season's end and becomes a restricted free agent.

But, rewind almost four years and it the GWS Giants and St Kilda turning their noses up at the Richmond midfield beast, while the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne also weren't interested.

Martin said earlier this year he always wanted to remain a Tiger.

But the fact was, when still only 22, he was open to a move and even toured the Giants' headquarters.

"We took up the invitation to meet with Martin and his manager Ralph Carr and showed them around our new training facility ...but we have made a decision not to pursue further discussions," then Giants football boss 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. We wish Dustin Martin all the best for his career ahead."

This flew in the face of incoming Giants coach Leon Cameron saying Martin would complete "the jigsaw" for his team.

The jigsaw was completed, but it wasn't Martin who became the final piece.

It was the player they knew they were going to draft just two months later.

Tom Boyd had been selected by the Giants with the coveted No.1 pick, but Josh Kelly, the quiet unassuming young midfielder, would turn out to be the jewel taken next.

It came after he had narrowly missed out on being one of the 17-year-olds picked in the 2012 mini draft, to Jesse Hogan (Melbourne) and Jack Martin (Gold Coast).


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 03: Josh Kelly of the Giants is tackled during the round 11 AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Essendon Bombers at Spotless Stadium on June 3, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Josh Kelly of the Giants Cameron Spencer

The son of two-time Sandover Medallist (as the best player in the WAFL) Phil Kelly, Josh Kelly may well collect a couple of medals himself in just his fourth season in the AFL - a Brownlow and premiership.

But, it might very well be his last in Giants colours, with clubs opening up their cheque books for the silky-smooth onballer, who stands alongside Martin as the other highly sought-after star coming out of contract.

North Melbourne is one club that has made its intentions clear for both players, throwing at least a $1million a season at them - believed to be over nine years for 22-year-old Kelly and over five years for 26--year-old Martin.

Those deals may have to be upped after both collected 38 disposals in best-afield displays for their respective sides on Saturday. Kelly earned 176 Champion Data (Supercoach) points, Martin 165.

Martin's ironically came against the Roos and in front of two fans who had brought their 'Come to North Dusty' banner.

Perhaps once perceived as having too much baggage away from the field, Martin is now well and truly letting his actions on it do all the talking.

He's now $3.75 second favourite for the Brownlow behind Patrick Dangerfield.

You can't help but wonder if the likes of the Giants and Saints could have their time again.

For now the Giants at least have Kelly and the hope they can get him to sign a new deal.

He is on the fourth line of betting for the Brownlow at $12. That figure will continue to fall all the while while his asking price will skyrocket.

The Giants have been content to see a plethora of talent walk out the door, Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams and Boyd for instance - and knock back others - but they won't want to lose Kelly.