MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND -- Dustin Martin's 2017 will forever be remembered as one of the greatest individual seasons ever seen.
Richmond's star midfielder averaged 30 disposals, six clearances and six inside 50s per game as well as a staggering 37 goals for the year. By 6pm on Grand Final day, he had become the first player in league history to win the Brownlow Medal, Norm Smith Medal and a premiership in the same year. It's a remarkable achievement which may never be matched.
Naturally, maintaining that sort of never-before-seen form in 2018 was going to be a challenge. Martin's averages dipped marginally and of course the critics came out in force, claiming he looked lethargic and was no longer the player who was dazzling us just a few months earlier.
His numbers dropped further at the beginning of this season and many believed he was never going to hit those magical heights again. Or so they thought.
On Sunday afternoon against West Coast, in a game Richmond simply had to win in order to keep their top four hopes alive, Martin was like an adult playing against children.
He completely monstered the Eagles' midfield, dominating from start to finish as the Tigers came from four goals behind to win by six points in one of the games of the season.
"I thought he started to turn the game for us," Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said of Martin. "He started to get some really important possession, went to work and started to get the game on our terms."
By fulltime, Martin had amassed 35 disposals (14 contested), sent the ball inside 50 on 13 occasions, won six clearances and gained 818m. He also kicked a crucial goal late in the third quarter which dragged the Tigers to within a point heading into the final change. It was an absolute masterclass.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson was in awe of Martin and the difference he proved to be in what was a hard-fought, tight battle between two genuine premiership chances.
"Dusty played really well," Simpson acknowledged. "He did it on ball and as a half forward. That's the way he plays. We had avenues to try and quell his influence, but it's hard to do!"
Martin's performance continues a sensational run of form for the 28-year-old.
In the past five weeks, his output has surged dramatically. He missed last week's clash against the Blues, but either side of that he has been electric and has raised the bar back to where it was in 2017.
Since Round 18, Martin is averaging 34 disposals, 10 inside 50s, five clearances and a goal per game. Those numbers -- even for a short period of time, but critically heading into finals -- are extraordinary. Right now he's playing like the league's most valuable player.
Had he not been handed a one-week suspension for striking Giant Adam Kennedy in Round 3, Martin might well have been heading to Crown Casino in late September as the Brownlow Medal favourite.
Richmond will face ladder-leading Brisbane at the MCG in the final round of the home and away season and a win could see them move to top of the ladder, meaning they would host a qualifying final at the MCG.
Make no mistake, if Richmond are to win a second premiership in three years, it will be on the back of Martin. Not Jack Riewoldt. Not Tom Lynch. Not Trent Cotchin. Because when he wants to be, Martin is still the best player in the competition.