While the Brownlow Medal is typically a gala night for football players and their partners to shine on the red carpet, Richmond Tigers star Dustin Martin took a very different approach to the event.
The three-time premiership winner and Norm Smith Medalist has been notoriously reclusive since the death of his father Shane in 2021.
His Twitter and Instagram accounts have been dormant for almost a year and Martin rarely – if ever – speaks with the media.
So while other players and their WAGs lapped up the spotlight on the red carpet at the 2023 Brownlow Medal ceremony, Martin was spotted quickly slipping into the venue via an alternative entrance.
Martin was snapped rushing into the Crown Palladium Ballroom via an alternative entrance to avoid media scrutiny on the red carpet
Other Richmond players had no issues with posing for the cameras, including Daniel Rioli with Paris Lawrence (left) and Tim Taranto and Tash Hoole
Paparazzi only managed to get one shot of the Tigers flag-winner on the night in contrast to just about every other star in attendance.
Given the intense speculation that the 2017 Brownlow Medal winner is set to change clubs and link with former coach Damien Hardwick at the Gold Coast Suns, it is hardly surprising that Martin wanted to keep a low profile.
Martin has also been at the centre of rumours linking him with former NRL player Brett Finch’s wife Elli Johnston.
The Richmond star used to date Johnston and rumours have swirled they are romantically linked again – which a well-placed source has denied.
‘Dustin is 100 per cent single,’ the source said. ‘He is not dating anyone at the moment. He just wants to concentrate on his footy.
‘Dustin and Elli only wish each other the best. They have both moved on.’
The source also added there was no bad blood between Martin and Finch.
‘Dustin hasn’t spoken to Brett in many years but there were never any bad feelings between them.’
Martin dated Elli Johnston for around nine months about a decade ago, with a source denying they had rekindled their relationship
Former NRL star and commentator Brett Finch is now married to Elli Johnston but has not spoken with Martin in several years
Martin, 32, is under contract with Richmond until the end of next season but that hasn’t stopped the persistent speculation that he will join the Suns to re-unite with Hardwick.
That speculation was fuelled by an image released two weeks ago showing Martin and Hardwick dining together at a Gold Coast pub.
‘It was a bit naive of me to be honest, I thought we would go to a quiet pub, but that pub was busy,’ Hardwick told Channel 7’s Talking Finals.
‘It took about 30 seconds before someone took a photo.’
But the former Richmond coach is adamant that Martin is staying with the Tigers.
‘Look, Dustin’s going to stay at Richmond. I think personally, for my opinion, that is absolutely the right thing for him to do,’ the coach said.
‘He’s going to stay at Richmond, which is an enormous positive for that footy club.
‘Me, like 17 other coaches, would love to have him on my side, but the fact of the matter it’s great that he’s going to play his 300th game at the Richmond Football Club next year.’
Martin was spotted having a meal with former Richmond coach Damien Hardwick at a pub on the Gold Coast
Martin and Hardwick forged a strong relationship at the Richmond Tigers where they won three AFL premierships together
Wherever Martin ends up in 2024, he may be forced to be less reclusive when it comes to media commitments.
The new AFL Collective Bargaining Agreement was announced last week including proposed changes to the media availability of players.
Under the new proposal, all players who were named for the previous week’s game will be available to the media in the week following the match.
This could potentially mean Martin will be compelled to carry out regular media appearances.
AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh says clubs, who can be protective of player media availabilities, will need to get their heads around the tweak.
‘There will be circumstances where for whatever reason it won’t be appropriate for a player to do media in a week,’ Marsh told SEN Breakfast.
‘The commitment here is that it’s not that hard. It’s a place we’ve been at for a little while and the clubs are going to need to buy in to this.’