Crio’s Question: Is Riewoldt the AFL’s Number 1 “Mr Irreplaceable”?

by Chris Riordan

Budge has this theory that you could never back St Kilda for the flag until they run down the race on the big Saturday…more specifically, until their big Number 12 leads them on to the ground. Despite a galaxy of All-Australians and the meanest defence in history, without Roo they have no hope.
Is he, therefore, the most irreplaceable player in the comp? Who in the game now or past could rate similarly?


  1. Josh Barnstable says

    Gary Ablett and Chris Judd may be in the bracket of the best players in the competition, but Nick Riewoldt is by far the most important player in the AFL. Without him, the Saints only real forward options are Schneider, Milne and Koschitzke. Although that’s still a potent attack, without Riewoldt in it would make a big difference in games just because of his presence alone.

    Jonathon Brown is another who is irreplaceable, although with the arrival of Brendan Fevola, the Lions can afford Browny missing the odd match through injury.

  2. Damian Watson says

    Tony Lockett throughout his tenure at the Swans (excluding 2002) could possibly fall under that rank. One could argue that was the case throughout his career at St Kilda.

  3. I reckon Footscray would be no good without Barry Hall.

    Hang on a minute. We DID have Barry Hall this week and we WERE no good…

  4. Gigs,
    Lake is the hardest for the Dogs to replace, though Morris was sorely missed yesterday.
    For years, Westy was the man.

  5. Josh Barnstable says

    The Eagles would be pretty lost without Lynch too, his presence would be hard to fill, not just because of his size.

  6. For a few years, Freo were hopeless without Pav. For a few years, Freo were hopeless WITH Pav. But significantly less so.

  7. Pav is irreplaceable but often because (Sandilands aside) the rest were pretty ordinary. The amazing Saints scenario is that they have a really strong list but Roo is so crucial.

  8. How about a legend that still gets the job done, no matter how high he pulls up his footy shorts and besides the fact he hardly says a word to his opponent…
    Presti, is my nomination.
    Don’t all jump at me at once but i really think his ability at his age is pretty darn good.

  9. Josh Barnstable says

    Presti’s performance in 2009 was the feel-good story of the year, and I hope he can have a good final year in 2010, possibly by ending up on the premiership dais?

    But before his career is out, I do want to see him kick another goal and for him to appear on one of the Footy Shows.

  10. Historically, maybe Bob Skilton would be a chance? He won three Brownlow medals in a generally poor side.

  11. Crio,

    Of the clubs with a realistic chance of winning the flag (Richmond and Melbourne, you’re out), Riewoldt is the biggest piece in the puzzle.

    Geelong could win without Ablett, the Bulldogs without Cooney, Collingwood without Toovey, etc.

    The Saints would not win without Riewoldt.

    So, yeah, I reckon your theory is right.

  12. Steve Healy says

    9- again, we see Barnstable use the word dais.

    The Dees are no good without…JURRAH!

  13. Someone commented to me that Riewoldt is more critical to St Kilda than Carey was to North. Incredible, because his support players are arguably better and it was not necessarily a judgement that The Roo was as good as The Duck…

  14. Yeah? I just cannot imagine those North flag teams without Carey. I doubt that one player has ever been so important to a club as the Duck was to North.

    Colossus in every way.

  15. johnharms says


  16. I reckon Selwood is critical to Geelong. Isn’t that the Harms’ theory as well JTH? He is that indefinable influence. But Reiwoldt is probably more important to the Saints and therein lies their problem.

  17. Phil Dimitriadis says

    If Riewoldt goes down the Saints’ structure collapses. J.Brown at Brisbane similar story because midfielders look for them structurally and instinctively.

    Can’t remember the Pies winning a game without Buckley from 1996 to 2001.

  18. Rob Clarkson says


    Yes, he was. But he played three pretty ordinary grand finals. North won two of them without him firing.

    But, having said that, there were many so afternoons when he owned the oval.

  19. Peter Flynn says

    Probably Riewoldt.

    Agree with JTH re Scarlett. He is the distributor and the glue of the backline.

    From the past, probably Peter Hudson and John Coleman. There are others.

    Hawthorn missed the finals in 72-73. Hudson injured his knee just before half-time in Round 1 1972. He had already kicked 8. Hudson arrived to play his next game in a chopper in Aug 1973 and kicked a lazy 8 on one leg and with very little fitness.

  20. Rob,

    Carey kept North in the game in the second quarter of the 1996 grand final. For mine, he was best on ground.

  21. Rob Clarkson says

    That’s an interesting call, Daff.

    For the remainder of his career, Wal and I referred to Glenn Freeborn as ‘Norm’* because of his unsung efforts, generally, during the game and, specifically, in that very quarter.

    The 90s GFs are remembered as being very one-sided, aren’t they. It’s easy to forget just how much strife North were in before half-time.

    *as in, Smith and Medal.

  22. Was Hird similarly important to Essendon? Big match winner.

  23. Damian Watson says

    Gary Ablett in the 1993 season- he had the ability to boot 10-14 goals in losing sides regularly that year and without his presence Geelong would have finished in the bottom two spots on the ladder.

    Would Kelvin Templeton fall under this catergory at the Bulldogs?

  24. Rob,

    Glenn Freeborn did have a ripper. North always had someone who came through in those big games.

    My brother had a fixation with a Swans bolt from the blue in that grand final, Troy Luff, who ran riot at centre half-forward in the second quarter.

    I think Eade told his players to go through Luffy. From memory the Roos had Wayne Schwass or someone undersized on him. Pagan, and for that matter the entire AFL, just didn’t rate Luffy. Eade’s ploy almost won his team the game.

    Every grand final day for the next decade I used to get phone calls from a man claiming to be Troy Luff. The calls from Albury, Anglesea, Florida, Colorado, Portland, Oregon, etc.

    It’s a family thing.

  25. Technical point Daff but isn’t Portland in Oregon?

  26. Rob Clarkson says

    Daff, Luff had great hair, didn’t he, in a Rhys-Jones kind of way. Always looked like the kind of guy who’d be pretty quiet early on at a wedding but would be singing Khe Sahn at the top of his voice by 11:15.

    I watched a dvd of that grand final a few months ago. One thing that jumped off the screen was how patchy and messy the MCG looked.

    1996 wasn’t that long ago, horticulturally speaking. I mean, in terms of the history of grass. It made me laugh to hear Robert Walls express concerns about the surface at Homebush last Saturday.

    I mean, really, do these guys have to play on bowling greens every week?

  27. Richard E. Jones says

    BOBBY Davis in the Pivotonians’ teams of the 50s.

    Grand final day 1953. Geelong beanpole ruckman Bill McMaster gets a broken leg from a Collingwood — let’s call him a ‘vigorous’ — opponent. Magpies win and stop Geelong from achieving three flags in a row.

    Next year early in the ’54 season down at Kardinia Park ‘Geelong Flyer” Bobby runs straight over the top of Thorold Merrett. Result? Broken limb to Thorold.

    Bit of a size difference between Bobby and Merrett, but the hooped No. 4 had it in his head it was Thorold who’d done the deed on McMaster the previous September.

    Turned out to be erroneous but hey, it was a Collingwood bloke in the way. Who would pull up if you had a Magpie ready for the plucking?

  28. Pamela Sherpa says

    The umpires obviously think Riewoldt is important – the Swans players weren’t allowed to breathe on him on Sat night.

    I agree with Daff re Carey- he dominated,influenced and owned games like no one else- and knew how to mark in a pack with 5 players hanging off him !!!.

  29. FYI Luffy is still playing at age 40 with UNSW in the Sydney Football League. I think I saw an article last year which said his ambition was to play long enough until he could play in the same team as his son.

  30. Lucas Garth says

    Harry Collier has the highest win-loss rate of any player of over 250 games so that must count for something. I love watching the 1996 Centenary history of the AFL and seeing Harry talking about Ted Hopkins ‘we would have bumped into him accidentally’ (his Cor-Blimey was pretty good too). No doubt the Pies would have won 1970 with a straight-shooter like Harry in the team.

  31. pauldaffey says

    I like the fact that Luffy forged an AFL career from the unlikely home of … Nelson Bay, NSW.

    I had heard that he’s still playing. Is he still coaching as well? He just loves it.

  32. After tonight’s events, naturally thought of this discussion.

    Although St Kilda managed to ground out a win against the inaccurate Pies tonight, the coming weeks may provide an answer to this Crio’s question.

    Very bittersweet for the Saints.

  33. I was watching from a noisy pub so missed the nuances but the Saints seemed to choke the game effectively…can they win without Roo? I initially dismissed his injury as I have seen him appear immobilised too often and then come back to star. Great player, but I am not a fan.

  34. 32-33 After watching that pitifull, miserable display by my so called team, that couldnt even pull off a win with Roo sidelined and no Kosi,
    i dont think i have ever sworn so much..EVER!
    Even without thier Golden boy they Saints were able to find the goals and it killed me b/c i was sure it was our game when he limped off. Looks like the Saints really dont need Roo afterall.
    Must admit, the glass of water i smashed and a bit of screming in the pillow helped a bit.
    Such is the life of A Collingwood supporter.
    All pain, no stinking glory!

  35. Danielle – the most disappointing thing for Collingwood supporters would have been watching some of their young “guns” NOT putting their heads over the ball; Daisy Thomas (dud), Didak, O’Bree, Sidebottom. I watched in disbelief as all these players shirked issues at critical parts of the game.

  36. I came home from my cricket presentation night to see a scoreline of 41-37 and Sam Fisher getting knocked into the last quarter. Then I heard the commentators say that Riewoldt was gone.

    From that moment on, everything went the Saints’ way.

    I think Ross Lyon owes me a thank you for arriving just in time.

  37. 35- Dips, yes you are right, it was very frustrating but i was proud of Wellingham, Toovey and Sidebottom’s efforts in the packs. Unlike everyone else those three tried to do SOMETHING!
    Our misses infront of goal, inexcusable!
    That wouldn’t have happened if Jack Anthony wasn’t playing, He is our most reliable kick after all.

    36- Gigs, if Ross owes you a thank you then what do I owe you?!

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