Season and player review: Richmond (Part 1)

Jill and Sophie Fitzsimons have given each Richmond senior mens player a review for season 2020, starting today from Nick Vlastuin (Number 1) to Jason Castagna (Number 11) leading up to the finals.




1. Nick Vlastuin




A pivotal moment in my rise to becoming a hardcore Richmond fan was when I was invited to run out with the team in 2017 in our game against West Coast. I was in Grade 6. Nick Vlastuin was one of the many Tiger players who made this day so special. A memory engraved in my mind is when Vlastuin made the effort to turn around and hand me a piece of the banner, something that still holds a special place in my memory box to this day. He was so incredibly thoughtful and kind, and showed that he is someone who is aware of how special running out with the team is for the kids.



2. Dylan Grimes




One of our post-COVID dreams is to travel to Dylan’s Macedon winery. We don’t need to see him – we’d just like to go and have a walk around, have a coffee and purchase a few bottles of wine to share with all of the Tigers in our life. We’re huge Dylan fans. He’s been a vital leader this year –  articulate, thoughtful and HE HAS NOT PUT UP WITH ANY BS. Taking on the abusive cowards who threatened his family via Instagram was brave and drew an important line in the sand for members of the public who think that social media gives them licence to threaten, abuse or deride others without consequence. Well, guess what keyboard cowards with antisocial tendencies? You took him on and the law won. While others complained about the appalling behaviour of some fans, Dylan did something about it. The schadenfreude was fantastic, as was the relief that something would and could be done about the unchecked and damaging behaviour of some fans. Honestly, it’s just footy and COVID-19 has wreaked untold carnage on everyone – be kind and loving; it’s all that makes sense.


Dylan’s refusal to have his reputation tarnished by a media and public hellbent on painting Richmond players as cheats and thugs was also a brave and defining act.  As Othello says, our reputations are ‘the longest-living and truest part[s] of [ourselves].’ Such an important truth.


And once again, Dylan has been a total boss in defence and rightly earned his selection in the All Australian Top 40. Coming to terms with Rance’s knee injury in 2019, as well as his retirement just before all the Christmas parties kicked off, was incredibly tough on everyone. It was such a shock and so deflating, but Dylan, Balta, Short, Broad and Vlastuin just got on with it. His Round 14 hamstring injury against West Coast was truly frightening, mainly because ghost hammies from the 2011-16 seasons’ past  loom large in every Tigers’ psyche and imagination. Thankfully, we were able to manage this one locally (and in a relatively short period of time) because in Season 2020 there would be no jetting off to Germany to see Hans-Wilhelm Muller Wohlfahrt for a rigorous series of injections of calf blood extract.



3. Dion Prestia




Richmond posted brief footage of Prestia and Cotchin at training yesterday looking completely magnificent. Given it was a freezing, wet day in Melbourne (even snowing in Ballarat) the images of him looking fit and full of possibilities in sunny Queensland gave Tiger fans real heart. Prestia and Nankervis’ syndesmosis injuries in Round 5 against Melbourne were low moments, especially when Prestia sat on the bench crying – a moment of unbridled pathos. Furious text messages and crying sad face emojis were sent between family members desperate to know if he’d be okay or if we were looking at a Rancey-like season-ending injury. Memories of injuries to Matthew Richardson, Nathan Brown, Mark Coghlan, David Rodan and Marc Dragicevic are stark reminders of the terrible impact cruel fate can wreak on a club and even though we did it without Rance in 2019, the question of if we could do it without Prestia, our 2019 B&F, made the whole lockdown situation that little bit harder to bear.



4. Dustin Martin




When Richo retired I thought we’d never see a player who’d light up Tiger fans up the way he could. He was just so exciting to watch and inspired unbelievable passion in the yellow and black faithful. But I was wrong. Dusty’s re-signing at the end of the 2017 seemed to ‘set things right’. Gone was the chaos and uncertainty of the past and we welcomed in a new dawn. Dusty has had another great season and deserved his place in the All Australian team. He seemed to be carrying some kind of injury at the start of the season but got better and better as the season wore on. He’s also led the way in proving the critics wrong. Apparently we’d lost our hunger and drive at the start of the season and that’s why we were beaten by the Saints and Hawks. Turns out they were wrong. As Tommy Hafey once said, ‘Nothin’ more tigerish than a bloody tiger, a wounded tiger’. Don’t forget that everyone.


We’re all hoping Dusty will cut loose again in the finals series. He’s even started tackling other players, something we’ve never really seen before. His ‘don’t argues’ are back as a potent force and his kicking for goal and ability to find space in traffic has been amazing. My favourite game was his game against the Western Bulldogs. He was a total jet. Matches against the Dogs are always difficult because my husband barracks for the Dogs. Luckily we completely ran over the top of them but I remained gracious to ensure there was no bad karma down the line.


Sophie’s been wearing a Dusty-inspired number 4 face mask just to let everyone know she’s a Tiger, while doing her bit to give COVID-19 ‘the don’t argue’.



5. Jack Ross




Like Kamdyn McIntosh (KMac), Jack’s hair looked better this year. He started off with a mullet (which didn’t suit him) but thankfully Nick Vlastuin took the clippers to the Queensland hub to ensure he and the blood brothers stayed tight and looked fresh.


Jack had a good season without being a stand out. His best is probably yet to come and I worry he may be one of the unlucky ones given there are so many quality players vying for a spot in the team. He doesn’t kick goals, which I think makes him vulnerable, even though he’s a great extractor and link player. He was given Brandon Ellis’ number 5 when Brando set sail for Gold Coast, which surprised me because I thought number 27 was a pretty edgy number, but number 5 definitely sounds more elite and given he missed out on the VFL and AFL GFs, he needed something to make him feel the Tigers really rated him. Nice one, Tigers.



6. Pat Naish




Pat only played one game this year. He played in our losing game against GWS but would have learned plenty. I know the Tigers really rate him and other clubs have been sniffing around enquiring about his availability. Pat changed to the number 6 this year following Shaun Grigg’s retirement so it’s nice that he’ll be wearing his dad’s old number. There’s been talk that Pat is frustrated that he’s not getting a game but his time will come if he follows the examples of other Tigers who have done the work and been patient.



7. Liam Baker




Following the Tigers on Instagram and other social media has definitely  given me an insight into the different personalities around the club, particularly, Liam Baker. He’s very good at answering the questions fans ask on Instagram, and usually answers them with a lot of humour involved.


Liam Baker, or ‘Bakes’ has to be one of my favourites of the 22 to watch. He has been a great addition to our team and vital to our success and he is only 22 and 5’8″ (172cm)!



8. Jack Riewoldt




Jack Riewoldt has always been, and probably always will be, my favourite player. I’ve met him several times, and each time has been better than the last.


Jack was the first Tigers player I met. My older sister, Lucy, won a competition which meant that two Richmond players, Jack and Nathan Foley, visited our small primary school, St John’s, Clifton Hill. We still have the photo on our fridge, and the photo will probably stay on my laptop homescreen all the way up to the day my laptop decides to stop working.


Another one of my favourite moments with Jack was in the Brisbane rooms. It was right after the game in 2017, where we had just beaten Brisbane at the Gabba. He had a 10 minute conversation with my friend and I, which really highlighted his kindness to me given his family and friends were waiting for him behind us.



9. Trent Cotchin




I think Cotch has to be up there with being one of the best captains in the comp. His determination and fight for the ball is something I look forward to watching every time the Tigers are playing. Although it might be controversial, one of the highlights of the 2018 season for me was actually after the 2018 prelim. Cotchin led the team off the ground showing real sportsmanship by  telling the Collingwood players that they ‘deserved it’ and ‘should make the most of finals week’.  Although this night certainly still haunts me, I’ll always remember hearing about this from the media. It’s a real representation of what the club is about and how the game is about more than just football.



10. Shane Edwards




Shane Edward’s return to the team in Round 18 against Adelaide was genuinely exciting. He’s always been one of my favourite players; he is so slick and creative. His lightning fast handball which ended in a goal to Jake Aarts filled me with an extra bit of confidence that maybe we could match it with the likes of Port and St Kilda who overpowered us earlier in the year. We’ve been getting smashed in the centre clearances, so Edwards’ return is important.



11 Jason Castagna




Our small world continues to have its coincidences, Jason Castagna being, surprise, another player who mum and I have crossed paths with in our ordinary lives. We love the Darebin Parklands, and on one of our many iso walks throughout the week, Jason drove past us, adding a lot of joy to our boring day.




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