Since winning a best and fairest at Brisbane in 2010, Michael Rischitelli has endured the highs and lows of switching clubs, new coaches, indifferent seasons and fatherhood.
The 29-year-old crossed towns from the Lions at the end of his best season in 2010 before injuries and a subsequent tailing off of form restricted him to just 25 games throughout 2012 and 2013.
Rischitelli’s on-field output increased in 2014 – a career-best 34 disposals in the final match of the season was a highlight – but the midfielder says he’s not entirely sure why his fortunes changed.
“I just try to prepare the best I can and in the past my routine has worked,” Rischitelli explains.
“It’s not going to work all the time but I believe you need to have the routine that gives you the best chance of playing good footy – and more often than not, it tends to work out. When things aren’t going too well, I try to stick it out. I don’t really like changing things too much.”
Following his return to form, the 178-gamer has backed up a solid pre-season by playing the bulk of the club’s practice matches, including a 21-disposal effort in the Suns’ first pre-season game.
On the eve of his 12th AFL season, Rischitelli is confident the injury woes are behind him.
“I’ve done every session, which always helps and gives me a bit of confidence that I can play out the year.
“Personally, I just want to contribute. I’ll try to have a real impact and hopefully the team can get everyone on the park for the whole year too.”
“The place has definitely changed; the physicality of the guys and their maturity took a lot of work but it’s good to see how it’s all turning out” – Michael Rischitelli
The former Lion was part of the inaugural Suns line-up in 2011 and was one of the better performers in a side that won only three games for the year. But while his personal performances were encouraging, Rischitelli says his early days at Gold Coast weren’t easy.
“The Lions had just lost the Grand Final when I got there in 2004. It didn’t go too great after that but experience is a big thing at a footy club, so going from the experienced Lions to not having much at the Gold Coast was a challenge to begin with.
“The place has definitely changed; the physicality of the guys and their maturity took a lot of work but it’s good to see how it’s all turning out.”
Away from the field, there’s plenty keeping Rischitelli busy.
He and wife Jo are currently raising their first child, 21-month-old Kai, and there’s another baby on the way. But the Rischitellis’ connection with babies doesn’t end there; last year Jo teamed up with Cat Solomon – partner of former Essendon and Fremantle player Dean Solomon – to launch Kennylies, an online business that sells practical, simple and stylish gifts for babies and mums.
Though not formally part of the business, Rischitelli supports Kennylies wherever he can.
“If they need me to be in the photo, I’m always happy to help out,” Rischitelli laughs.
“But it hasn’t happened just yet. I give them a hand here and there by moving stuff but the girls pretty much do it all themselves.”
“Early on they wanted to open up a store but because we hadn’t tried it, we thought about going online first. Down the track there might be a store we can open, but we’ll get the training wheels out to start with and see how it goes online. It’s gone really well so far.”
While Kennylies is still in its infancy, the Suns may be ready to take their training wheels off.
Earlier this year, Rischitelli’s teammate Jarrod Harbrow said, “We’re here to make the finals and give the top four a really good shake up. Everything we’re doing on and off the field right now is leaning towards a maiden finals berth.”
Rischitelli agrees, highlighting the influence new coach Rodney Eade has had at the club so far.
“’Rocket’ has just come in with clear messages, an open mind and he’s a fresh face around the club,” Rischitelli explains.
“The boys are happy with his approach and the direction we want to go, so it’s been all positive from our end. We’re still on the right track, I believe. Hopefully this will be the year it all clicks.”