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North Melbourne is poised to launch a major play for explosive Tigers star Dustin Martin with a long-term contract offer worth more than $1 million a season in a deal that would tie him to the Kangaroos until at least the end of 2022.
The North board has given the club the green light to table the offer of between five and six years to the 25-year-old who has told Richmond he will not make a decision on his future until the end of this season.
In an attempted recruiting raid reminiscent of decades past, the North Melbourne Martin offer marks the second audacious bid by the club in recent months following the $9 million nine-year play for young GWS Giant Josh Kelly.
Richmond has accepted it will need to pay Martin $1 million a season to retain him and has offered its star a five-year deal. The North offer will exceed that.
The Kangaroos are hopeful of luring Kelly and Martin to Arden Street next season saying their war chest remains one of the most generous in the competition following the forced retirements last year of Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Michael Firrito.
Martin’s manager Ralph Carr refused to confirm or deny whether North had yet officially made the offer although it is known he has held specific discussions with the Kangaroos football bosses. “I’m not going to answer that question,” Carr told Fairfax Media. “We will be making our decision at the end of the year and that’s final.”
Carr also angrily denied he had been shopping his No.1 client to rival clubs although he has spoken at the very least with North, the Giants and St Kilda and indicated those clubs should put forward their offers should they wish to remain in the market for Martin, Richmond’s reigning club champion and a Brownlow favourite.
St Kilda is also understood to have shown significant interest in Martin while the Giants have not.
The player manager has held talks with the Kangaroos whose board, now chaired by Ben Buckley, approved the parameters earlier this season for the Martin offer. North’s governance rules dictate that any offer of five years or more or exceeding a specific financial amount must be ratified by the club directors.
Richmond’s football boss Neil Balme said the club was in constant contact with Carr and added he was not aware of specific offers to Martin from rival clubs.
“We accept that this is the way it is and we completely understand it’s Dustin’s right to consider his future,” said Balme.
“We are in this situation due to free agency and we had no say in it but the AFL brought it in and it’s here. I personally don’t think it’s good for footy.”
The Tigers remain steadfast in their belief that Martin will remain at Richmond while the player himself has reportedly communicated to the club through his manager that he has delayed a decision on his future not only due to money but also because his ultimate call will also be based on his view regarding the club’s future.
North, like St Kilda and Carlton, are currently paying well below 100 per cent of the salary cap. That, along with the new pay deal that will inject more than $2 million into each club’s total player payments this year, has opened up the aggressive recruiting blitz.
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