Career : 2003
Debut : Round 4, 2003 vs Port Adelaide, aged 34 years, 232 days
Carlton Player No. 1064
Games : 300 (13 at Carlton)
Goals : 16 (0 at Carlton)
Last Game : Round 18, 2003 vs Essendon, aged 34 years, 336 days
Guernsey No. 10
Height : 190 cm (6 ft. 2 in.)
Weight : 101 kg (15 stone, 12 lbs.)
DOB : 31 August, 1968
A rugged full-back in two North Melbourne Premiership teams, Michael ‘Mick’ Martyn was surprisingly recruited by the Blues in 2003 at the age of 34, to bolster the defence of a team desperately short of physical presence. Delisted by the Kangaroos after 287 games, he was given the opportunity to get to 300 with the Blues, and only just made it.
Martyn grew up with a rich football heritage at both Carlton and North Melbourne. His grand-uncle was dual Carlton Premiership player and captain Paddy O'Brien, and his uncle Kevin O'Brien played 9 games for the Blues after making his debut in 1954. Mick’s father Bryan however, chose to join North Melbourne, and became a Shinboner favourite. Nicknamed ‘Skinny,’ Bryan was a hard-hitting, aggressive ruckman who won his club’s Best and Fairest and represented Victoria against Tasmania in 1957.
Like his father, Mick played his junior football at Newport Central, but by the age of 15 he was at Arden Street with North’s Under-19 squad. Big for his age, and with Bryan’s trademark aggression, he developed into a potent forward under his coach Denis Pagan, and won the VFL Under-19 goal-kicking award in 1986 with 98 goals.
In 1988, North coach John Kennedy offered Martyn an opportunity at full-back with the seniors, and the 20 year-old grabbed it. He was awarded the Kangaroos’ Best and Fairest in his second year, then shared the honour again in 1991 with utility Craig Scholl. In 1993, Pagan stepped up to the role of senior coach, and the pair combined for the ultimate glory when North won the 1996 and 1999 Premierships – the latter over Carlton.
By 2000, Martyn was at the veteran stage, but Pagan kept faith with him and he remained on North’s list, even as he became plagued by recurring hamstring and calf strains. Then in 2002, Pagan was sensationally lured to Carlton. The battling Blues were deep in crisis, having finished last on the ladder before being found guilty of rorting AFL salary cap regulations. The draconian penalties that resulted (almost a million dollars in fines, and exclusion from the first two rounds of the national draft for two years) forced Carlton to look for recruits from other clubs, and Martyn fell into the frame.
When Dean Laidley was appointed coach of North Melbourne in the wake of Pagan’s departure, he culled their playing list, with Martyn one of the casualties. However, Pagan soon convinced Carlton’s match committee that the hulking veteran was worth taking a punt on, especially because he was happy to play on a basic contract to reach his ambition of 300 career games. At the time, the Blues desperately needed strength and experience in a defence that was relying on youngsters Luke Livingston and Bret Thornton as its regular key defenders. Therefore, Martyn was picked up by Carlton with the very last selection (number 84) in the draft, and allocated guernsey number 10 – the number worn by Paddy O’Brien in his illustrious 12-year career at Princes Park from 1913 to 1925.
A minor calf strain during the 2003 pre-season delayed Martyn’s debut for his new club, but he was eventually included in the side that met Port Adelaide at Princes Park in round 4 and lost by 30 points. Thereafter, he played all but one of Carlton’s matches right through to round 18, when his 300th career appearance was unfortunately, an anti-climax. Carlton was well-beaten by Essendon at the MCG, and Martyn suffered a thigh muscle strain that brought the curtain down on his fine career.
So - was Martyn’s recruitment a worthwhile exercise? Taking all the circumstances into account, the answer must be yes. While certainly not the player he was at his peak, he gave all he could in every one of his games as a Blue, and took a lot of the pressure off his younger team-mates. His services cost the club very little, while he provided experience and leadership when it was so badly needed.