Dustin Martin's 'bikie' father Shane was surrounded by family in Auckland as he watched his son take out the 2017 Brownlow Medal.

Shane, who was deported from Australia last year over his alleged links to the Rebels motorcycle club he was once president of, grinned as his son's name was read out.

He then broke down in tears as Dustin thanked him in an emotional acceptance speech, saying: 'To dad, I know it is tough for you not being here this week, but I know how much you love me and I love you very much.'

The imposing man, covered in tattoos like his AFL star son, was joined by wife Adriana and stepdaughters Emma, 17, and Alana, 15, in New Zealand.

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'I was trying to hold back the tears... it's pretty hard, but very special moment,' Shane told the Herald Sun moments after Dustin's win.

'It's pretty emotional. I thought he wasn't going to win it, it wasn't a rollover but he got there.

'He held his head pretty high and he was proud of everyone that was involved in his journey of football.'

Dustin, 26, took out the prestigious Brownlow Medal with a record 36 votes during Richmond's grand final run.

The 26-year-old midfielder was the hot favourite since defending champion Patrick Dangerfield was suspended after round 19, making him ineligible.

He was named the winner after the vote count at Crown Palladium in Melbourne on Monday night, days before Saturday's Richmond vs Adelaide Grand Final.

Winning the coveted AFL best and fairest medal marks a stunning turnaround from footy bad boy to Australia's best player on a contending team.

It wasn't an easy road to the top for the heavily-tattooed Tigers superstar since he dropped out of school in Year 9.

From accusations he threatened to stab a woman with a chopstick, to his father's alleged bikie links, he saw more than his share of controversy during a tumultuous career.

Martin didn't shy away from his upbringing, thanking his alleged Rebels bikie father Shane Martin who was deported to New Zealand last year.

'Mum and dad, you have always supported me with my footy and I couldn't have got mere without you both. I'm so grateful for everything you have done for me,' he said in his acceptance speech.

'To dad, I know it is tough for you not being here this week, but I know how much you love me and I love you very much. I look forward to coming over in a couple of weeks and celebrating.'

Interviewed on stage by Bruce McAvaney, Martin described the bond between the pair as a 'special father and son relationship'.

'He means the world to me. I'm sure everyone's old man is the same. He obviously has supported me and we have a special relationship and I'm sure he is watching in Auckland. Hi dad,' he said.

'Luckily we are in the grand final this week because I don't think I would be able to handle the celebrations with him tonight.

'I'm sure he is going mad somewhere. But we are going away in a couple of weeks, so it should be a bit of fun.'

Martin also had kind words for his mother, brothers, and extended family who he expected to see cheering him on at the Grand Final.

'I was like any young kid, loved his footy. Mum and dad introduced me to Auskick when I was five or six and I loved footy ever since then. I'm really happy to be living my dream now,' he said.

'It's awesome. My mum, my Nan, aunty and uncle and three or four little cousins come along. My brother is flying back from Spain this week to watch the [Grand Final], so I appreciate their support.'

Martin recounted how he moved to Sydney after quitting school, working 12-hour days as a forklift driver in Campbelltown in the city's south-west, yearning for a 'normal life' at his father's transport business.

'I think I was about 14, 14 and a half. I just wasn't a fan of school. Probably should have stayed in school because I worked a heap of s**tty jobs after that. But, yeah, here I am today,' he said.

'[Dad] said if I wasn't at school he was going to work me hard so I was getting to work six in the morning and leaving at six at night and absolutely hated it.'

After missing his mates and growing a 'bit sick of' sitting on a forklift all day, Martin moved back to his hometown of Castlemaine, Victoria, in 2007.
'I missed my friends and just wanted to move home, so dad teed up a job for me with one of his mates,' he said.

'I just played seniors for Castlemaine and was lucky enough to get a couple of games in the TAC cup when I was 17 and then had a full year of under 18s in the TAC cup with the Bendigo Pioneers.'

Two stellar seasons in local leagues later, he was drafted to the Tigers at pick number three in 2009 and quickly made a name for himself as a future champion.

But a series of on and off-field incidents threatened to derail his career.

He was suspended by his club for two weeks in 2012 when he and former teammate Daniel Connors took sleeping pills the night before training. They never made it to the compulsory session.

He again made headlines the following year when he crossed his wrists and made a jailhouse solute after kicking a goal during an elimination final.

Tigers president at the time Gary March said he and the club were not happy with their star midfielder.

Martin, who copped a $2,000 suspended fine, later told Richmond the solute was a message to a friend in jail.

He was again in the spotlight in 2015 after giving Collingwood fans a two-finger salute as he celebrated a goal, but it was incident just weeks later that posed the biggest threat to his career.

Martin was accused of threatening to stab a woman in the face with chopsticks before slamming his hand into a wall above her head at Melbourne's Mr Miyagi restaurant.

An intoxicated Martin dined at the Chapel Street eatery after attending Stereosonic music festival.

He was asked to quiet down by a nearby female diner when he grew 'loud and offensive.'
'He reacted extremely angrily, very very agitated, began swearing at me, standing over me physically, it was extremely intimidating,' the woman, a Channel 7 producer known as 'Tracey,' told Seven News at the time.

'[He] physically stood over me, held a chopstick above my head and threatened to stab me in the face with a chopstick.'

Footage captured by a patron and appearing to show an aggressive Martin being escorted out of the restaurant later surfaced.

He was officially cleared of making threats to kill in 2016 after a police investigation.

Martin declared on the Brownlow stage he had put this 'bad boy' past behind him after his father and manager Ralph Carr set him straight.

'I was just a young bloke who liked to play up every now and then and I'm sure Ralph and my old man were sick of it and the club too, probably, so they sat me down and told me to pull my head in or they won't help me anymore,' he said.

'Ever since then I think I've pulled my head in a little bit.'

Martin is the sixth Richmond player to win the Brownlow, eight seasons after he was the third overall pick in the 2009 AFL draft.

The Brownlow Medal is the AFL's night of nights where the finest player through the regular season is crowned the sport's best and fairest.

The evening tracks the votes of each game of every round through the season as selected by the three on-field umpires in each match.

Best player on ground is awarded three points with two and one votes given to the next two best players, then added up on Brownlow night.