Few players have been able to immortalise themselves in AFL folklore before their retirement but according to former Richmond champion Matthew Richardson, 300-game Tiger Jack Riewoldt has done just that.
On Friday night against the Brisbane Lions, Riewoldt will become just the fourth player in the Tigers’ history to reach the elusive club milestone behind Kevin Bartlett, Jack Dyer and Francis Bourke.
Despite the success Riewoldt has faced in the latter part of his career, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the confident personality from Hobart.
Richardson, who was in the twilight of his career when Riewoldt joined the Tigers with pick No. 13 in the 2006 draft, can recall the moment the boy with the “rockstar hairdo” walked through the doors at Tigerland.
“His reputation preceded him and being from Tasmania myself I had taken an interest in him through the pathways,” Richardson told aflplayers.com.au ahead of Riewoldt’s milestone.
“He was known for being a good player, taking hangers and having a confident personality.
“That’s what I expected from him and that’s exactly what we got at the club.”
It didn’t take long for Riewoldt to establish himself as a regular in Richmond’s forward line-up.
After eight games in his first season, including five of the final six, Riewoldt became the Tigers’ next big thing.
Knowing Richardson’s career was coming to an end, the two worked closely in the forward line, hoping to establish the next generation.
“Jack was always a reasonably equipped player from the start,” Richardson said.
“He was highly talented and always had a strong footy IQ… I hope I taught him some good habits, but I’m sure there were some bad ones in there too,” he joked.
As Riewoldt built his goal-kicking capabilities and football resume, the external perception differed from that of inside the club.
For fans viewing Richmond games, Riewoldt was a fiery and passionate footballer but one who couldn’t always control his temperament.
Whilst that perception has changed, most notably since Riewoldt took on the Richmond vice-captaincy role in 2017, Richardson believes he was unfairly maligned during the early parts of his career.
“There were times where people took the things he said and did the wrong way, especially being a key forward at a high-profile club,” Richardson said.
“But, he’s a high-achiever and everything he does is to get the best out of himself and the team around him.”
Richardson said it was evident the pressure Riewoldt put on himself and the expectations he had around how he wanted to play, particularly in the seasons where winning was few and far between for the Tigers.
Since Richardson retired in 2009 after 282 games in the yellow and black, he’s watched on as a passionate supporter and media figure, admiring the growth of Riewoldt as a player and leader.
“He’s become one of the modern-day great team players,” Richardson said.
So, it’s no surprise Riewoldt’s 2017 season and Tigers’ resurgence stands out in the mind of Richardson.
In what was a coming-of-age year for the Tigers, Riewoldt kicked 54 goals and spearheaded a uniquely-structured forward-line of electric talent.
Often competing against two or three key defenders, Riewoldt led the charge of Richmond’s trade mark forward pressure and helped support the growth of three-time premiership players Jason Castagna and Daniel Rioli.
“If you look at the energy he carries onto the field and the passion he has – he wears his heart on his sleeve – you know he’s the ultimate team player,” Richardson said.
“He’s become the heart and soul player of the Richmond Football Club and that energy is infectious throughout the group.”
Richardson will be watching on with his role with the Channel 7 commentary team, immensely proud as Riewoldt etches himself into Richmond folklore.
“300 games is an incredible achievement and a credit to his unbelievable durability,” he said.
“He’s a confident, passionate pest but deserves everything that comes with this milestone.”