With three premierships and 156 games under his belt, 26-year-old Cyril Rioli has conquered the AFL world more than most.
But that hasn’t made him any less motivated to enter into the realm of greatness once more in season 2015.
The Hawks will feature in a fourth consecutive Grand Final against West Coast at the MCG on Saturday. If all goes to plan, and with Rioli at the forefront of the Hawks attack, they could pull off one of the more remarkable team efforts in footy history.
“After that anthem goes, you have a little run but you feel like you can’t run at all because you’re that nervous.” – Cyril Rioli
Alastair Clarkson’s men are in the running to become just the fifth club in AFL history to win three consecutive premierships.
“The three-peat has been mentioned, but we just try and stick to the Hawthorn way and we’re just like every other team and take it week-to-week,” Rioli said.
With the lively forward attempting his fourth premiership in eight years in the AFL system, Rioli couldn’t have timed his run any better to be part of the Hawks’ 2014 success.
After playing one VFL game in three months due to a hamstring tear, he was in a race for selection on Grand Final day. Hawthorn backed in their superstar, with Rioli collecting nine disposals and six contested possessions before being subbed when the game was beyond doubt in the last quarter.
But this season is a different story. Rioli seems to have finally got over the injuries that have plagued his career thus far, playing 20 of a possible 22 matches in the home and away season.
“Last year was pretty stressful. I probably pulled the pin at some stage last year, but to be here now and playing finals is such a great feeling.
“I felt I’ve been a lot happier and just playing a lot more football. When you’re playing more football, you have a lot more chance of kicking more goals.”
If the Hawks can go all the way in 2015, Rioli will draw level with the likes of club legends Leigh Matthews, John Platten and Jason Dunstall on four Grand Final wins.
But even with so much finals experience, Rioli will still be anxious.
“There’s no better place than the MCG, running out in front of 80 to 90,000 fans. After that anthem goes, you have a little run but you feel like you can’t run at all because you’re that nervous.
“But as you come into the huddle and Hodgey gives us a little talk, you just focus on your role and what you need to do for the team, that’s probably the main thing.”