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Anatomy of a debut — Ivan Soldo

Richmond’s Ivan Soldo made history last weekend in his debut against the Western Bulldogs, finishing with 42 hit-outs, the most ever by a player in their first game. He shared the experience with

I will never forget Saturday night. It was two and a half hours of my life I will always treasure.

I’m flat about the loss to the Dogs, but I’m happy with how I dealt with the situation. I didn’t get too nervous, I just enjoyed the game. It was tough that’s for sure, I ran out of legs in the last quarter.

In the lead up the game I knew it was either going to be me or my cousin Ivan Maric. I was sitting there eating my lunch on Thursday and I saw Ivan and asked him, ‘have you heard? Do you think you are going to play?’ And he said ‘I don’t think so.’

I went to grab some more lunch and then ‘Dimma’ announced it to the group in the players’ recreation area. I was halfway through my second plate, and someone took it off me and everyone jumped on me. Immediately I turned to the boys and joked, ‘I haven’t played yet, anything can happen.’

Personally, I felt like I was ready. I didn’t feel anything different, I know everyone wants to play AFL but personally I just wanted to enjoy it. With the game still two days away, I just wanted to relax and keep my routine as normal as possible.


My routine was in full swing on Friday night, although I had to change up a bit as it was a night game on Saturday. I went to bed a little later and woke up later in the day so I didn’t have so much time to kill and I could just relax before the game. I usually go for a walk to the café on my street when I’m playing VFL, so I did exactly that, I just wanted to treat it like any other game.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon and I was presented with my jumper by Ivan, a special moment for me and my family. Leading into the match I had a hunch Ivan was going to present me with the jumper, it felt special to me and also him because we are close cousins and now teammates.

He’s helped me a lot alongside Brendan Lade and Shaun Hampson along the way. Ivan’s still got to focus on his own career, but he’s always willing to help anyone else out. I would say he’s my go-to mentor because of the close connection we have. He’s someone I would go to anytime, anywhere.

My parents, sister and brother, who travelled down from Canberra along with my host family were in the rooms when I was presented with my jumper, along with my aunty, Ivan’s mum. Looking at my family they were all just so happy for me. Having my host family there as well was special because they’ve had a big influence on my life.

Honestly, it felt like they all had to be there when it was happening.

Running out onto the ground, I felt like a gladiator in the Coliseum, a warrior in battle. The atmosphere with the roof closed was amazing. Once the first siren sounded, everything just happened. I didn’t overthink everything and just started playing footy. Being in the first bounce you can do your thing straight away, you don’t have to wait to come off the bench, it just eased any nerves that I did have.

My first disposal was a kick on the wing after I had taken a mark, having earlier missed the chance for my first touch after I was spoiled in the goal square. But I wasn’t out there to chase them, I knew if I ran to the right spots I was going to get the rewards. I wasn’t concerned with grabbing the ball straight away, I just wanted to play the game and if the ball came to me, it came to me.

In truth, I wish I had of got more of the ball but I’m all about blocking, tackling and helping teammates. I feel like that’s an important role and that the big ball users break them up.


I don’t like to wear too much on my shoulders but I feel I could possibly have done more. Despite winning the hit-outs, I feel flat from the fact that I didn’t get more purchase on them.

Now with my debut behind me, I haven’t set myself any goals for the remainder of the year, it is something I have never done because I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment.

When it comes to my professionalism I always try to do everything right and not slack off. I’m a pretty straight arrow when it comes to my footy.

I just enjoy every day at the club, every game, every challenge and every training session.

Whether I’m playing or training I try my best no matter what it is. I’ll enjoy it while I can because footy isn’t forever.

I enjoy it more than anything.