The next Rioli

There are few players in the upcoming AFL Drafts with as much talent as 18-year-old Northern Territorian William Rioli.

The dangerous small forward rarely wastes opportunities in front of goal and has the rare ability to convert from all angles inside the forward fifty. He reads the ball off the pack superbly, can banana or snap the ball across his body with ease and is more than capable from a set shot.

Despite fitness concerns, Rioli’s forward pressure cannot be questioned with his second and third efforts a feature of his game. He possesses vacuum-like clean hands when the ball is at ground level and footy nous of the highest level.

If the drafts were based on talent alone, Rioli would be a certainty to be selected, however it is not as simple as that.

It has been well-documented that the greatest concern AFL recruiters have on him are his weight and fitness issues. The small forward stands at 176cm and a stocky 85kg and his weight issues have limited his ability to run through the midfield, forcing him to be mainly a stay at home forward.

An improved endurance base will help transform him from exclusively a small forward to a half forward flanker that can work up the ground and have stints in the midfield. However, Rioli understands that this is an area he needs to continue to work hard on if he is going to become an AFL footballer.

“There are definitely a few aspects of my game that need improving.

“My weight is something that has hindered me over the last few seasons and it is something I am working very hard on to get my body in the right shape”

The Clontarf College student has terrific football bloodlines with the Rioli name being synonymous with Territory football. He is the nephew of the late great Richmond champion Maurice Rioli, the cousin of current Hawthorn star Cyril and cousin of former Essendon player Dean.

A host of other relatives have also made their mark with WAFL club South Fremantle and in the NTFL. His father William Sr was drafted by Hawthorn in 1990 and forged a successful career in the NTFL after returning to Darwin.

Just like much of his family before him, Rioli plays in the Northern Territory Football League for St Marys. His performances during last season made the football community stand up and take notice. He finished second on the NTFL Leading Goal-kicker table with 54 goals in 18 matches including eight goals in his first game of the season against Darwin Buffaloes. His efforts were rewarded with selection in the ABC NTFL Team of the Year and NT News Team of the Year.

He saved his best performance for the big stage with five classy goals in his side’s premiership win over Tiwi Bombers, earning him the Chaney Medal for best afield.

The draft hopeful has had to overcome adversity in the form of a mystery illness that forced him into a coma for nine days in 2012.

“It only felt like a blink of an eye but when I woke up the doctors told me I was in a coma for nine days.

“I tried to get up and walk but I fell on the ground so I had to learn to walk and run again” Said Rioli, 18, about the terrifying ordeal.

In what was a sign of resilience and strong character, Rioli rebounded from this setback to play a starring role in his state’s division two win in the 2012 NAB AFL U18 Championships.

He backed up the carnival with a number of solid performances in this season’s championships. He averaged over 12 disposals, three tackles and a team-high six goal assists in what was a struggling Territory side.

In between his commitments with the Northern Territory side, Rioli played colts and reserves football for WAFL club South Fremantle. In three reserves games for the Bulldogs he kicked 10.3 and was pushing for senior selection with five goals already to his name before injuring himself during the third quarter of his last reserves game.

After the U18 Championships he returned to Western Australia to play eight games in the colts for a return of 27.5.

“I enjoyed my time in Perth and enjoyed the footy season. The school treated me well and South Fremantle are a good club.”

He recently attended the SA State Combine with a number of other AFL draft hopefuls. He was consistent in most areas of the testing and recorded a score in the 10s for the dreaded beep test.

“It was good to meet some new people at the testing. I got to know another draft hopeful in Baydon Ngalkin really well.

“I am kind of happy with how I tested but I was hoping to do a bit better.”

Despite some setbacks as a footballer, Rioli’s freakish capabilities and ability to turn a game on its head should be enough to entice an AFL club to take the punt on him.

“Getting drafted would mean everything to me. I’d be over the moon. I’m not too sure about my draft chances but hopefully my name gets called.”

Twitter – @JClark182

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Thanks JC for a comprehensive overview of another great Rioli. Do you know what clubs in particular are sniffing around?


  2. Jackson Clark says

    I’ve heard Port Adelaide could be keen but I guess you have to try identify clubs that need a goal sneak.

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