2023 Queensland Football Hall of Fame – Andrew Martyn

Listen closely to Andrew Martyn say New Zealand. It’s ‘New Zuland’. Just like the multitude of people from across the Tasman Sea and for very good reason. The former Windsor-Zillmere/Aspley and CCC star and Joe Grant Medallist is a Kiwi. He was born in Lower Hutt in the Wellington region of NZ.

But that’s where it ends. Definitely. He moved to Brisbane with his family at seven months after they decided NZ was ‘too cold’ and is as Australian as you get. If you were to pick one word to identify his takeaway from football, it would be good old Aussie ‘mateship’.

He learned from his mates, he played for his mates, and many years later he still cherishes his mates and their memories. It’s not a totally uncommon phenomenon, but the depth and strength of his mateship is. A footballer’s footballer if ever there was one.

He’s what Aussies term “a good bloke” who at 17 survived a shocking personal setback but, with the help of family, football, and friends, emerged to become one of the modern greats of the game in Queensland.

The middle child to Ross and Geraldine Martyn, after brother Brent and before sister Leigh, Martyn began his football journey at age six at Aspley State School. He’d kick the footy with his mates until one day his Mum suggested he might like to check out the nearby Aspley Hornets. So, the boys walked through the bush to begin a life-time love affair with what at the time was known to the Kiwi import as ‘aerial ping-pong’.                                                                                 

He played at Aspley for eight years, and was always among the standouts in his age-group. Big and strong, he won “a few” best and fairest awards and premierships, without being so self-indulgent to offer details, and represented Queensland Primary Schools in 1977 in Darwin alongside Scott McIvor,  Michael Gibson, Craig Potter, Trevor Spencer to name a few.

He was also a top-flight young cricketer. He opened the batting and opened the bowling, as was the norm with the best players, and played representative cricket. But he was always a football man first and foremost.

At Under 14s level he was ‘poached’ from Aspley by the neighbouring Zillmere Eagles, where he was introduced to the Brittain family. Wayne and Craig Brittain, themselves Queensland Football Hall of Famers, would become a profound influence on his life, especially during times when his own father, who worked in the import/export business, was living in Papua New Guinea.

In 1982 he played for Queensland in the Teal Cup Under-17 carnival in Brisbane and won an Under-19 premiership with Zillmere against Sandgate coached by Wayne Brittain, when they were down ‘something like 60-6 at quarter-time’, but soon after was devastated when his older brother’s life was cut short in a motorcycle accident.

Unashamedly, Martyn confessed he “went a bit haywire” and admitted “it was a really hard one to get over”, and noted the valuable support of Wayne Brittain, who was such an influential figure among so many good young players at Zillmere in those times.

In 1983 he broke into the Zillmere side under Barry Grinter and Robbie Amos to begin an amazing career that would stretch to about 330 senior games, first as a thickset 95kg 185cm centre half back, and later a premiership-winning centre half forward.

He played 13 years at Zillmere, and at 21 was a member of the very first Brisbane Bears ‘local’ squad ahead of the birth of the Queensland AFL club in 1987. He did what he was asked but admits in hindsight he didn’t have the burning drive, and never got himself fit enough.

He was content to play with his mates at Zillmere, and was a key figure in the 1987-88-89 grand finals against Southport in a period of enormous rivalry between the Brisbane-based blue-collar Eagles and the high-rolling Sharks from the Gold Coast.

In 1987 a wild brawl erupted before the first bounce. Rival coaches Wayne Brittain and Norm Dare traded barbs post-game about who started what, but no doubt Southport won the football by 23 points as Southport ruckman Gary Dempsey, an AFL champion at Footscray and North Melbourne, won the Grant Medal and his first career flag in his last game.

In 1988 Zillmere went 15-1 through the home-and-away season to finish minor premiers, a game ahead of Southport. After a week off Zillmere were beaten by Southport by 11 points in the qualifying final and had to get over Wilston-Grange in the preliminary final. They did that by 84 points.

In the grand final at Windsor Park it was all Martyn after a Wayne Brittain masterstroke. “I’d always played at centre half back and for whatever reason Wayne decided to stir the pot a bit and said to me ‘you’re going to play centre half forward’,” he recalled.

Taking to his new role as if he’d played there his entire life, the big #11 marked everything in sight and beat a string of opponents to lead the Eagles to a 32-point win. A unanimous winner of the Grant Medal, he shared the moment with the Brittain family – all three of them. In addition to the key role of mastercoach Wayne and captain and runaway Grogan Medallist Craig, the third Brittain, Michael, was another on-field star.

Season 1988 was the first time Martyn had played with Cam Buchanan. They finished 1-2 in the club best and fairest as Buchanan he launched a career that would see him become a Grogan Medallist, fellow Hall of Famer, and later, Martyn’s brother-in-law, after Martyn married Susan Buchanan in 1994.

Sadly, for the later-to-be in-laws, the Zillmere v Southport decider in 1989 didn’t end well. With the grand final returning to the Gabba for the first time since 1981, Southport prevailed  by 35 points as Zillmere contemplated the reality of a pending merger with near-neighbours Sandgate.

In 1990 Martyn moved to Cairns with the Brittain brothers, sharing in another flag with Centrals, winning the club best and fairest, and representing Queensland at the Australian Country Championships, where he won All Australian selection. In 1991 he returned to Brisbane to play with the ‘new’ North Brisbane, who wore red and blue and played as the Eagles after the Zillmere-Sandgate merger.

In 1992 Martyn reversed the tables on Buchanan to win the North Brisbane best and fairest and in 1995 coached by good mate Craig Brittain he farewelled QAFL football with a five-point grand final win over Morningside at the Gabba highlighted by a stunning performance from Danny Dickfos, who pipped Buchanan for the medal.

Martyn had also played for Queensland in 1989-90, most notably at a carnival in Tasmania under Tom Hafey. Among his teammates were not just one soon-to-be brother-in-law but two. The other was Sherwood/Morningside star Alister Gaw, who, like Martyn, was dating a Buchanan and later, after marrying Leanne joined the family.

At 30 Martyn was done with the Eagles. But not football. He went back to where it all began at Aspley. He played 1996-97 with the Hornets for a best and fairest in his first season ‘home’ and two grand final losses which were very hard to take.

In 1998 he found time for “a few reserves games with the Eagles” but he had other priorities. Like first-born daughter Olivia and a newly-formed plumbing business – A.R.M Plumbing Pty Ltd

But once a footballer who loved playing with his mates, always a footballer who loved playing with his mates. So when ex-Zillmere hard man David Martin, then coaching at Aspley, invited him back in 2001 he couldn’t resist. They lost the grand final that year to Coolangatta, but in 2002 Martyn finally made the perfect exit after a grand final win over Coolangatta.

It was time. Second-daughter Laura had arrived in 1999 before son Will was born in 2001. Soon, Martyn had a new football focus. He was involved with Will’s side at Aspley from Under-8s to Under-15s but insisted, “I didn’t want to be one of those pushy parents but I did a bit of coaching and helped out where I could. I loved being involved”.

Will was a junior star. A member of the Lions Academy from 13 and a State representative at Under-12-15-17 level, he played in the 2018 AFL All-Star Game at the MCG on Grand Final Day. In 2019 he captained the Lions Academy side in the NAB League, was a member of a 26-player national Under-18 squad that played VFL side Casey, and represented the Allies at the Under-18 Carnival.

He later played two NEAFL games with Aspley before going back to the Lions and playing in the club’s NEAFL grand final win over Southport under coach Mitch Hahn, and was drafted by Richmond with pick #44 in the 2019 National Draft.

It was a life-time dream, but timing was poor. He arrived on the AFL scene as Covid turned the competition upside down. After minimal football at VFL level in 2020 he made his AFL debut in Round 4 2021 against Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval with teammate Rhyan Mansell .

It was an unforgettable game. Quicker than quick and a tough start for anyone as Robbie Gray kicked a late winner for the home side after the Tigers had led in time-on. He also played Round 10 (as the unused sub) and Round 23, but missed out in 2022 and was unfortunately delisted.

There were many well-informed judges who say he hadn’t got a fair shake at the Tigers and suggest he’s too good not to play a lot more at the elite level. He returned ‘home’ to play with Wilston-Grange in 2023, effectively to recapture his love for football. Like his old man, he loves playing football with his mates, but he’s got a burning ambition to succeed at the top level too. After an outstanding 2023 campaign with the Gorillas is primed to launch AFL bid #2 in 2024.

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