Dynamic midfielder, Dustin Martin took some time this week to speak to participants of the Korin Gamadji Institute’s (KGI) REAL Program.

Martin spoke candidly to the group about his journey growing up, and the challenges he faced as a young man trying to break into the AFL ranks.

Leaving school early, Martin, who lived in NSW, did a number of labouring jobs including bricklaying and building to support himself.

He played AFL from an early age, but it wasn’t until he received a call from the Sydney Swans, who interested in recruiting him, that he realised he had an opportunity to pursue elite football.

Too young to be recruited at the time, a 17-year-old Martin was selected to play with Bendigo Pioneers in the U18 competition.

He moved away from his own family and lived with a team-mate’s family, while he did electrical work three days a week to support himself.

After a successful year playing football for Bendigo Pioneers, representing the Vic Country team in the U18 championships, and making the U18 All Australian side, Martin was drafted by Richmond at pick number three in the 2009 national draft.

“The participants of the REAL Program are at an age that will see them face different situations that will require mature decisions as they become young adults,” said KGI Director Belinda Duarte.

“Dustin’s story sends a powerful message to the young participants, that life isn’t always rosy, and there will be bumps in the road to achieving your goals,” she said.

“Hopefully when the REAL Program participants are faced with challenges, they can remember how others have overcome them in the past.”

The Richmond Emerging Aboriginal Leadership Program is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 13-16 years. The program aims to develop leadership, confidence and provide personal and career pathway opportunities.