Cyril Rioli was one of five nominees for the AFL Players’ Association Madden Medal, an award that recognises more than on-field performances, with off-field achievements, personal development and community spirit also taken into account.
If you caught any glimpse of Cyril Rioli over his career, you would’ve found yourself marvelling over his high-flying marks, impossible goals and bruising tackles on countless occasions.
The Hawthorn forward was one of the best to play the game, having won a Norm Smith Medal, making the All-Australian team three times and what undoubtedly is the most important accolade in his football career — winning four premierships.
After 11 years in the brown and gold, Rioli hung up the boots last year and returned to Darwin to spend more time with his family.
This is classic Cyril, according to premiership teammate Shaun Burgoyne.
The Hawthorn forward is always putting other people first, no matter whether it’d be on the field or off it.
“His respect levels from his teammates only went higher each week because he never really worried about goals or marks or anything like that,” Burgoyne told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“He wanted to do the team things, which was pressure and tackling. In this day and age of footy, pressure and tackling is one of the things you have to have as a player and that was his main goal.
“The marking just came second but he just did it so consistently.”
Rioli may stand out on the field, but off the field, he never really spoke much, letting his actions take over.
Despite the notoriety that came with being a high draft pick, hailing from a famous football family, and achieving just about every achievement possible, nothing changed the quiet and shy Rioli.
“He was super humble as a person,” Burgoyne said. “I think in the footy atmosphere or bubble, players can easily get ahead of themselves and become quite cocky once they start achieving things. But for me, Cyril’s greatest attribute as a person is how humble he is.
“Whether it’d be meeting people on the street or talking about his footy accolades, he never self promotes. He never wanted to be the centre of attention anywhere.”
Up north in Rioli’s homeland, children everywhere have the number 33 plastered firmly on their jumpers.
According to Burgoyne, every child wants to play like Rioli, mimicking those freakish marks and goals that characterised the Hawthorn superstar.
“I think whenever you go anywhere, everyone asks where Cyril is. You go on the footy field and kids just jump all over him because they want to be near him,” Burgoyne said.
“When you do go to schools and do clinics and you go and speak to kids, you can see that they really take in what he has to say.
“He’s connected with a lot of different kids on a lot of different levels.”
Countless measures have been taken to get kids involved in Australian Rules, but many children have done so on the back of one player.
Rioli not only inspired his teammates, who got a “front row seat” to his actions every week, but he also inspired a whole generation of Indigenous children.
Now that’s classic Cyril.
ON FIELD ACHIEVEMENTS
- 189 AFL Games
- 275 AFL Goals
- 4 x AFL Premiership Player (2008, 2013, 2014, 2015)
- 3 x All-Australian Squad Member (2012, 2015, 2016)
- Norm Smith Medal (2015)
- AFL Rising Star Nominee (2008)
- AFL Goal of the Year (2009)
- AFLCA Best Young Player (2009)
- Diploma — Project Management
- Cert IV in Education and Mentoring
- Cert 3 in Education (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander)
- Ambassador for Menzies School of Health Research