Alumni Fans

Flying Soldo

Richmond big man Ivan Soldo failed to make the Tigers’ VFL Grand Final side in 2017. Now the former category B rookie is set to play a key role in Richmond’s ruck setup in this year’s AFL Grand Final against the GWS Giants and his cousin and ruck coach Ivan Maric told that he’s ready to take his opportunity. 

Ivan was fit to play in the 2017 VFL Grand Final for Richmond, but he didn’t get picked.

I took his spot instead and I still carry guilt about it.

It was the final game of my career at the Tigers and looking back at it I should have faked an injury or something to allow my cousin to play.

It was really hard to have that conversation with him and try to keep his spirits up.

At the time that was really hard for him and it took him a while to overcome that setback.

But I think it’s a great lesson for a lot of people: if you try to be positive and focus on improving and building your game and investing in the team, things will work out for you.

Now Ivan is getting prepared for an AFL Grand Final against the GWS Giants and I couldn’t be happier and prouder of what he’s achieved.

It was not an easy road that’s for sure.

Coming from a soccer and basketball background, Ivan hardly played football when he was growing up.

He made the move down from Canberra when he was in his late teenage years and had never even played a game of footy up until 2014.

I had a hand in bringing him to the club, but when he joined Richmond in the 2015 Rookie Draft, it was pretty clear he had a lot of work to do to understand the basics of the game.

He had to brush up not only his football skills but different life skills as well, moving out of home and living with a host family presented its challenges.

Those experiences really helped him deal with the setbacks that have popped up along the journey.

To his credit, Ivan has worked hard on improving the fundamentals of his game.

He had to do all of this work without any guarantee of anything from Richmond. He lost a lot of weight and got much fitter.

He needed to understand the game better, but also learn how to kick properly over short distances and where to position his hands in marking contests.

Really basic stuff that a guy who grew up playing a different sport needed to focus on.

It’s not just because he’s tall that he’s playing. He deserves his spot, so I’m really happy for him.

The whole extended family have been such a good support for him and his parents, Mum Slavica and Dad Nevrenko were crucial for him off the field as well when he first moved down to Melbourne to live with a host family.

Nev has had a moustache for as long as I can remember, so I guess there’s no surprise that Ivan has followed suit with his own furry upper lip.

Being Croatian, we have a really large family and we both have plenty of cousins.

We probably won’t be able to get enough tickets to cover everyone, but most of the family will be there to support him on Saturday.

In my role as ruck coach, I want to make sure I give all of our ruckmen, Toby (Nankervis), Mabior (Chol) and Noah (Balta) the right opportunity to evolve and grow.

I try to keep the care consistent with all the players, so I don’t want to show favourtism to Ivan just because he’s family.

But I’ve really enjoyed seeing him happy and achieving what he has.

I’m super proud of him and can’t wait to see him play in the Grand Final on Saturday.