It had the feeling of the night before Christmas at Lois Knight’s Castlemaine home on Friday.
Lois’ family was together and buzzing with excitement as there was something big to look forward to the next day – not Christmas, but the AFL grand final where one of the family’s own is set to take centre stage.
Lois Knight is Richmond star Dustin Martin’s Nan, and on Friday the countdown was on to one of the biggest days in the family’s life as the Tigers prepared to take on the Adelaide Crows.
It has already been a week to remember for the family, with Lois’ grandson now a Brownlow medallist after Martin’s win on Monday night when he polled a record 36 votes.
“It has been absolute bedlam this week and now we’re really looking forward to tomorrow,” Lois said as the AFL grand final parade was being shown on the TV in the background.
“I’m just so proud of him and it all just feels like a bit of a dream this week.
“It’s hard to believe that he’s going to be playing in a grand final tomorrow, but he will be focused. Once he walks over that white line, all he will be thinking about is football.”
Lois has scrapbooks filled with clippings on her grandson, and she’s needed to buy some extra this week on the back of Martin’s Brownlow Medal triumph.
“It has always been about footy for him. I remember he’d get up in the morning, it would be frosty and he would grab his footy and be out in the paddock kicking goals,” Lois said.
“He would sleep with his footy at night wearing a St Kilda hat. Now all the hard work he put in has paid off.”
Following his Brownlow Medal win, Lois told the Bendigo Advertiser on Monday night she knew from the age of just five her grandson was going to be a special football talent.
So too did Martin’s mum, Kathy Knight, who has been brought to tears every time this week she was re-watched her son’s Brownlow Medal win.
“I’m very proud of him, but I always knew he would play AFL and that he would one day win a Brownlow… I know my boy,” Kathy said.
“I’ve got home video footage of him sitting on my knee and my arm wrapped around him saying, ‘this is Dustin Martin, my little AFL star’.
“He was just born with a football in his hand and I truly believe that Richmond will win tomorrow and Dustin will live his fairytale at 26.
“I probably didn’t think he would become as big a name as what he has, but he’s only going to get better and better because it’s just in him.”
Kathy watched the Brownlow Medal at a friend’s house in Winchelsea, where she has recently moved to.
“I balled and danced around the lounge room like a maniac when he won it. It couldn’t have gone any better and the night was just perfect,” Kathy said.
“I rang him and he even answered the phone… he’s obviously very busy so I normally need to leave a voicemail or send a text.
“You haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face since Monday night. The amount of times I’ve watched it on my phone since; I shed tears each time because that’s my boy.”
Before Martin rose to superstardom with Richmond he played junior football at Campbells Creek, senior football with Castlemaine, winning the Bendigo league Rising Star Award in 2008, and TAC Cup with the Bendigo Pioneers.
“I’ve never been into sports, but I raised the boys (Dustin and brothers Tyson and Bronson) on good food and weight training,” Kathy said.
“We had three acres (at Yapeen) and they definitely weren’t inside boys; they just loved it outside always playing footy.
“One of the paddocks was turned into a football oval for them with goalposts and they were always out there kicking the footy. And when it would be raining they were inside kicking it in the hallway.”
Also at Lois’ on Friday was her mum and Martin’s Great Nana, 90-year-old Mavis Chellew.
“I’m really proud to have him as a top man,” Mavis said.
To the football public, Martin has become universally known as “Dusty” – one of those rare sportsmen who come along where they are instantly recognisable by just one name.
He was just born with a football in his hand and I truly believe that Richmond will win tomorrow and Dustin will live his fairytale at 26Kathy Knight, Dustin Martin's mum
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But to Lois, her grandson will always be “Dust”.
“He’s Dust to me. Sometimes saying Dusty sounds a bit funny,” Lois said.
“We used to call him Dusty Bust when he was younger because it rhymed, but to me he’s Dust.”
Martin – drafted by Richmond with pick No.3 in 2009 – has played 177 AFL games for the Tigers and Lois has been to all bar just a few of them, including interstate matches.
Even when she had a hip replacement she only missed one of his games.
“I was fortunate, there was a bye when I had my hip done, so that worked out alright,” she said.
A contingent of 23 of Martin’s family will be at the MCG on Saturday as part of the Yellow and Black Army desperately hoping to see Richmond win its first premiership since 1980.
Among them will be Martin’s 16-year-old cousin Shae Denahy.
“I’ve got a good feeling they are going to win,” Shae said.
“Everyone always asks what it’s like to have a famous cousin, and I know he’s a very good player, but I just see him still as my cousin; not famous or anything like that.”
And the final word on how Saturday is going to play out goes to Lois.
“I reckon it will be close… Richmond by five points, but I’m hoping it will be by a lot more than that,” Lois said.
“I’m confident Richmond can win… you have to be, don’t you? I’m very nervous, but I know Dust will play a big game.”