JACK Martin had his alarm set for bright and early.
He had been planning to stream the final hours of the 2019 Telstra AFL Trade Period alongside his partner from a cruise ship in Nice, on the south coast of France.
The pair were enjoying what was supposed to be a relaxing European holiday. But those few anxious and agonising hours that morning were anything but relaxing.
Martin had officially requested a trade away from Gold Coast in late August. He had then nominated Carlton as his preferred destination in early September.
More than a month of haggling between the two parties in order to organise a trade had come to a head, with no conclusion in sight. Martin woke that October morning feeling positive about his chances of a move, but that optimism soon began to fade.
"We'd wake up every morning and there would be an hour left to go," Martin told AFL.com.au from the club's pre-season training camp in Mooloolaba.
"We only watched the last day, so we were up nice and early that morning, but it was the quickest hour of my life. It literally went down to the last five minutes and I just kept thinking, 'it's not going to happen … it's not going to happen'.
"In the end, I got a call from my manager and he told me it wasn't going to happen. He told me we were going to have to go down a new avenue. We hung in there and we were in constant dialogue with my manager before we arrived back in Australia."
Talks between Carlton and Gold Coast had reached an impasse, with a seemingly inevitable deal coming unstuck in the final hours of that fateful evening.
It meant the wait for Martin grew longer. In fact, there were 95 gruelling days between the classy forward requesting a trade away from the Suns and ultimately finding a new home at the Blues via the third pick in the pre-season draft.
A lot happened in those 95 days; from the Suns threatening to re-draft Martin with the first pick of the pre-season draft, to the Demons putting their hat in the ring to potentially take the promising 25-year-old with the second selection.
The constant speculation made the process all the more nerve-racking for the skilful and versatile Martin, who had long been coveted by the Blues.
"It was a stressful period, as you can imagine," Martin said.
“I’ve actually got a few greys coming through on the beard now. I don’t know if they’re from those few months or not.
"I think myself, my family and my partner knew it was going to be a long process. It wasn't just going to happen overnight. All along, we were pretty confident it was going to get done. But we just didn't expect for it to take that long.
"It's definitely worth the wait, walking through those doors. I've loved every moment of it so far and I wouldn't take it back. I'm just really enjoying my time here to be honest."
Martin gave seven years of his career to Gold Coast after he was recruited to the club as an underage prospect in the 'mini-draft' of 2012. He then played 97 AFL games for the Suns during his six seasons in the senior system.
Having finished top-three in the club's best and fairest in successive years in 2016 and 2017, plying his trade in a number of different positions in every area of the field, Martin had set himself the goal of reaching his 100-game milestone last season.
However, a calf injury late in the year, combined with a stint in the NEAFL, forced him to miss six of the last seven matches and meant his dream didn't materialise. It remains the only slight regret he still harbours from his time at Metricon Stadium.
"It was disappointing," Martin said.
"I pushed to get back into the team to play 100 games, which was my aim. But it was very disappointing. That's just the way footy goes sometimes.
"I had a lot of injuries and I played up a bit, but we've all been there. They're all experiences that make me who I am today. I would never take that back."
Martin perhaps played his best football at Gold Coast as a half-forward, where he was able to demonstrate both his class with the footy, and his physicality and attack on the contest without it. But he also spent periods both in the middle and across half-back.
"He has helped our training go to another level."— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) January 16, 2020
Things are looking good for Jack Martin, who is proving to be an excitement machine on the track... ??#BoundByBlue
While the Blues believe he will split his time rather evenly between forward and midfield, they're confident he will have an impact regardless of where he lines up come round one.
"He's only slight in his body type, but he's aggressive and he's obviously quite skilful," Carlton's midfield coach John Barker said of Martin.
"There are not many knocks on him, because he's such a good operator.
"I've got no doubt he'll spend some time in the midfield. How that pans out will be determined over the next four to six weeks through more match simulation.
"At the moment, he's spending the bulk of his time in the forward line and pinch-hitting through the midfield. The percentages and how much that changes depend on how we go over the next six weeks."
But while Martin is relishing his time in a range of different positions at Ikon Park, there's one thing he's still unsure of – exactly how he arrived at the club.
"'I'm still confused," he laughed.
"There's the pre-season draft, there's the rookie draft, there's the national draft, then there's the supplemental selection period. By the end of it all, I was asking how I even ended up here.
"It was stressful, but we got through it and we got to where we wanted to get to in the end. There is a sense of relief, happiness and joy."
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