RICHMOND premiership defender Dylan Grimes says he can’t wait to see what’s next for team-mate Dustin Martin.
The former Bendigo Pioneers midfielder and Campbells Creek and Castlemaine junior had a season for the ages in 2017, completing the first ever Brownlow Medal, premiership medal and Norm Smith Medal treble and winning his second Jack Dyer Medal as the Tigers’ best and fairest.
Speaking on the eve of Richmond’s AFL Community Camp visit to Bendigo and Echuca, Grimes was intrigued with what his star team-mate would do to back up his astonishing 2017 season.
“Internally, the thing Dusty is working hardest on this year is his leadership and off-field mentoring with the young players,” he said.
“But naturally the players in the midfield already look to Dusty to learn from him. A lot of the things he does are pretty special.
“Once we get more out of him from an off-field perspective, his on-field growth will also be improved because the better payers you have surrounding you, the better you play.”
As his team-mate, Grimes has been in a unique position to monitor Martin’s development from talented and shy teenager to midfield superstar.
His arrival at Punt Road via pick two in the 2010 pre-season draft came three weeks after the Tigers made the former Bendigo Pioneer the number selection in the national draft.
What has impressed Grimes most is Martin’s growth and maturity as a person.
“Honestly, I think he would be most fondly spoken about at Richmond, he’s a genuinely special bloke,” he said.
“We love having him around.
“He has matured a lot and that has led to a more-rounded game on-field on the weekends.”
While it was a banner year for Martin, it was also a career-best year for numerous other Richmond players, including Grimes.
The 26-year-old finished fifth in the Tigers’ best and fairest award behind only Martin, Alex Rance, skipper Trent Cotchin and Kane Lambert, and also won the Francis Bourke award as selected by his teammates for most embodying the qualities of awareness, unitedness, relentless and discipline.
Following a frustrating run with injuries, Grimes finally passed the 100-game milestone and for the first time played in all 22 home and away games and the Tigers’ three finals.
His nullifying role on star Adelaide Crows forward Eddie Betts was one of the keys to the Tigers’ first AFL premiership in 37 years.
Grimes talked up the special bond between the club and its massive supporter base and conceded he was genuinely awestruck by the sight of grown men hugging each other and hundreds of people shedding tears in the stands as he and his 21 team-mates made their way around the MCG on their victory lap.
He said players were looking forward to connecting with more fans in Bendigo and Echuca, starting Monday.
“Getting away on these country visits really breaks up the pre-season for us, but it’s also a good opportunity to get out and see some of the Tigers faithful we wouldn’t get to see on a regular basis,” he said.
“We get a huge kick out of seeing how much the yellow and black means to the people in regions like Bendigo.
“We have some really loyal fans in and around Melbourne, but it’s something to see how far those colours stretch out in rural Victoria.
“What’s special is seeing the multicultural and female support we have been getting; our indigenous teams and our VFLW teams are only going to help that.”
Grimes was confident there would be no hangover from the club’s drought breaking season.
He singled out small forwards Dan Butler and Jason Castagna, both premiership players at age 21, and Jack Graham, who was just 19 in September, as players who had plenty of scope top grow their games.
“We also just recently drafted a really good group of young players – a lot of them are almost ready made AFL players,” Grimes said of the likes of Jack Higgins and Noah Balta.
“It’s real exciting around the club at the moment to see some fresh faces really pushing for selection.
“We’ll get a good look at them during the AFLX carnival.”
Meanwhile, open training sessions at Bendigo’s Queen Elizabeth Oval and Echuca’s Victoria Park on Tuesday at 9.15am will be among the highlights of the Tigers’ community camp.
Richmond’s AFLW football operations manager Kate Sheahan and VFLW and Academy coach Tom Hunter will hold a VFLW training session at Queen Elizabeth Oval during the Bendigo visit.
About 800 fans flocked to Rosalind Park on Sunday to be photographed with the 2017 premiership cup.