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Bernie Vince: From casual to elite

Ahead of his 200th game on Saturday night against the Adelaide Crows, Bernie Vince’s old friend and former teammate, Mark Ricciuto, reflects exclusively to on a young midfielder who went from ‘too casual’ to elite.

When Bernie Vince first came to the football club, he clearly had something about him that was very likable — both on and off the field.

He had great skills and a real knack for playing footy, and off the field he was like me in that he enjoyed having a bit of fun and grew up in the country and had a similar upbringing. He’s great company, and so are his family. His old man is just an older version of him, so it was always a family affair.

My mum and dad were heavily involved in the parents’ group at the Crows. When I finished up, Bernie’s parents, Tim and Serena, took over that mantle. Tim was always around after the game having a beer and marshalling the troops which really instilled a family and country vibe at the club.

He came down when he was 20 after playing at Woodville-West Torrens for a little while which is different to how most players start out. He was probably a little bit too casual, so myself and Simon Goodwin approached him at the end of 2007 and basically told him that we needed to get more out of him.

We needed him to be fitter, and Simon took him under his wing one off-season, and he had a brilliant year straight after. He got fit at that point and realised how good he could be. Looking back, he’s had his ups and downs but he’s been a super player.

I’d say he’s had those interesting moments because he wasn’t aware initially of what was required at the top level.

A lot of players from the country haven’t been exposed to elite training standards, so his casual demeanour meant that he just assumed it was going to happen, rather than making it happen.

Under the guidance of his now coach, he became an elite player.

Those two have always been close because they’re very similar characters. ‘Goody’ understands where Bernie has come from and what he’s made of which is why he’s played such good footy at Melbourne.

A lot of people were very annoyed when the Crows traded him to the Demons, and I guess the reasoning behind that because the Crows didn’t have any early picks for a couple of years.

Bernie had a bit of value and was probably someone who could force an opposition team to give a little bit up to get him, but they looked at it as purely a football trade to move him on and get in a second-round pick.

However, they didn’t consider the cultural ramifications and the fact that he was one of the most-loved players at the club.

Bernie and his family were shattered when he was forced to leave, but he was quite professional once he was told that he had to move on, and Melbourne put a solid long-term deal in front of him.

If you asked people at the Melbourne Football Club, I’m sure they’d say that he’s been a vital cog in their whole rebuild, from when they were struggling to now as they push for the eight.

They needed to add some depth to that midfield group and Bernie’s experience and skill level fit the bill perfectly. His best and fairest record while being there speaks for itself.

If you look at it all now, Matt Crouch was the player the Crows drafted with the pick and he is playing some great football at the moment, and will be a good player for eight to 10 years. Both teams can say they got something out of it.

This weekend, he’ll be really well-received by the Adelaide supporters, even though he usually tries to ruffle everyone’s feathers when he plays the Crows.

A couple of years ago he tagged Patrick Dangerfield out of the game with some borderline tagging tactics, which all of the great stoppers do. He won’t be coming over here to lose or make friends on the field.

There’ll be a huge contingent coming down from the Yorke Peninsula, and Tim Vince may break the record for the most tickets purchased for a game.

He might actually hold the record anyway for one event up in the Gold Coast when he grabbed about 70 tickets off the club.

I’m sure he’ll try and make the Crows pay for it which will be even funnier to witness. He always says he’s a struggling farmer but he’s had about five good years in a row and he’s just a typical whinging farmer.

Off the field, we’re still linked to one another due to our business venture.

Bernie and I bought the Hackney Hotel a number of years ago in conjunction with Peter Hurley who is a very experienced and well-known publican in Adelaide, and Nathan Van Berlo as well. Bernie knows his stuff when it comes to pubs because he’s spent a fair bit of time in there, so he’s worked out what to do and what not to do.

His business brain is pretty impressive also — he has a real estate business in Melbourne — so we’ll look to do a bit of a development at the Hackney Hotel site to build a commercial complex.

While I’m thrilled that he has made it to 200 games, and happy to say I’ve helped him along on his journey, I take very, very small credit in his development — that’s just what leaders at footy clubs do — you identify players who you can get more out of.

He was an easy one to motivate, and he should get the credit for doing all of the work.

When you get older and your career is coming to an end, you get enjoyment out of seeing the younger players thrive and develop, and seeing them grow as people.

Bernie has come down from the country and now he’s a 200-game player and a dual best and fairest winner. He’s also about to get married later this year. Tex is organising the bucks which has trouble written all over it, but that’s another story.

He’s a ripping bloke from a fantastic family and I wish him all the best.