THE hottest name in the AFL at the moment is Richmond teenager Dustin Martin.And neither of the Tiger star’s previous two coaches are surprised at the impact the 19-year-old has been able to make in the AFL less than 30 games into his career.Martin – whose previous two clubs were Castlemaine and the Bendigo Pioneers – has been lauded by the Melbourne media and commentators in the past two weeks for his phenomenal start to his second season with the Tigers.The powerfully built midfielder has recently drawn comparisons with a young Mark Ricciuto, who won a Brownlow Medal, premiership and selection in eight All-Australian teams during his 312 games with the Adelaide Crows.Martin has played only 27 AFL games, but so explosive has he been this year he is already being spoken about as a Brownlow Medal fancy and All-Australian prospect this season.He has been prominent in five of the Tigers’ six games so far this year – 21 possessions and three goals against St Kilda in round two; 25 touches and five tackles against Hawthorn in round three; 28 disposals and two goals against Collingwood in round four; 33 touches and four goals against North Melbourne in round five; and 35 possessions and one goal against Brisbane last Saturday night. Yet, it was only three years ago in 2008 that Martin was a 16-year-old playing in the Bendigo Football League with Castlemaine.The Magpies coach in 2008 when Martin made his senior debut in round one at Camp Reserve against Gisborne was Jamie Elliott, who believes Martin was ready to play AFL by the age of 17.Right from that first game against Gisborne, it was clear Martin was destined for greater things as his penetrating kicking, ability to win the contested ball, speed and clean disposal was an obvious standout in the 69-point loss for the Magpies.“I thought as a 17-year-old he could have played league footy,” said Elliott, who himself played 58 AFL games at Fitzroy, Richmond and St Kilda during the ’90s.“I’m not surprised at all at what he has already been able to come in and do at Richmond.“He was always going to be a good player, it was just a matter of whether he had his head screwed on right, which he has and he has obviously learned a fair bit since he got down there.“This year the substitute rule has probably helped him in that he can go forward and be a power forward.“Even when he was a 16-year-old with us, we use to play him in the centre and change him at full-forward, so it’s great he is getting that opportunity to play forward again.”While Martin – who was a runaway winner of the BFL’s Rising Star Award in 2008 – played predominantly as a midfielder with Castlemaine, he possessed the goalkicking ability that has become an added string to his bow this year, as North Melbourne found out in round five with his four majors.Martin won the Magpies’ goalkicking in 2008 with 22, which included kicking five of Castlemaine’s 10 goals playing a mix of centre and full-forward in a 79-point loss to Golden Square in round 16.“He had one of the best work ethics when he was with us. I used to pick him up from Bendigo to go to training, and we would have a kick before training, he’d then do all the training, and then stay out afterwards and have another kick of the footy,’’ Elliott said.“His work-ethic was always good with us. I spoke to him the other week and he hasn’t changed as a person, that’s for sure.”Bendigo Pioneers coach Mark Ellis agrees that despite now being regarded as one of the AFL’s hottest prospects, Martin hasn’t forgotten where he has come from.After playing four games with the Pioneers late in the 2008 season, Martin – who first played as a junior with Campbells Creek in the under-10s – spent 2009 with the Pioneers in the TAC Cup where his reputation continued to prosper as the season wore on.“Even now you can still ring him and talk to him, and he always asks how we’re going and who is playing well,’’ Ellis said.“Last year he was more than willing to come up to one of our camps where we had some under-16 kids in... he’s just that sort of person who hasn’t forgotten where he has come from.“He hasn’t changed at all. He’s very level-headed and appreciative of his time in Bendigo.”Martin’s 2009 season with the Bendigo Pioneers included selection for Victoria Country in the mid-year under-18 national championships, with his stellar carnival capped by being picked in the centre in the All-Australian team.“He was doing things in the TAC Cup in 2009 that were going to stand him in good stead to be able to play AFL,” Ellis said.“The thing that convinced us of how far he could go was the way he played in the nationals. Every time he had to step up a level, he did it easily and looked comfortable.“It was just the nature of the way he played. He didn’t rely on anyone to get the ball for him, he just went and got it himself.“His kicking skills and strength was always going to be his big asset. He was a mini Mark Ricciuto in the TAC Cup.“He never got ahead of himself or thought he was better than anyone else, he was very good for the club, and it’s no surprise he’s now playing the type of footy he is.”Martin juggled his commitments at the Pioneers in 2009 with his job at Luke Arnott Electrical, but in late November he went from labourer to full-time footballer after he was selected by Richmond with pick No.3 at the national draft.“He was a good worker with us, but he has shown he made the right choice in going down the footy path. We’re very proud of him,” Luke Arnott said.