Each year, there are some incredible stories as we enter the most exciting week of the year, with unlikely youngsters announcing themselves on the big stage, and players who have overcome injury heartbreak.
AFLPlayers.com.au highlight the most intriguing stories ahead of Richmond vs. the GWS Giants this Saturday afternoon.
Sam Reid’s journey to 90 senior games has been long and winding. The 29-year-old was drafted in 2008 to the Western Bulldogs where he played 10 games across four seasons before joining the Giants as an uncontracted player in 2011. Serious injuries threatened to derail his career with Reid retiring at the end of 2013. The much-loved figure continued his work with GWS as a development coach and captain of their NEAFL side before being placed on the Giants’ rookie list ahead of the 2016 season. The defender has been able to get his body right since returning to the side and has played 65 games since 2016.
Co-captain of the Giants since arriving at the club as one of the first members of their list, Phil Davis has been part of the journey. The key defender has overcome significant injuries throughout the course of his career, including a serious kidney injury in 2014. In the absence of co-captain Callan Ward, Davis has stepped up this year to become an integral cog in the Giants’ defence and an important on-field leader of the young side.
One of the inaugural members of the Giants’ first team, Adam Kennedy has been an important part of the Giants’ side since their inception. After missing the 2016 and 2017 finals campaigns through injury, Kennedy played in his first finals series in 2018 after recovering from an ACL injury late in the year. But, a heart-scare earlier this season threatened to derail his 2019 campaign. The hard-running defender returned to the field in Round 21 after missing three weeks and a win on Saturday would cap off a challenging season for the 26-year-old.
The last pick in the 2012 Draft for the GWS Giants, Zac Williams has made a name for himself as a hard-running small defender. Williams, who hails from Narrandera in southern NSW, was the Giants’ first Academy product to reach 100 AFL games for the club – a feat he achieved in their semi-final win over Brisbane. After battling a serious achilles injury in 2018 which limited him to just two games, Williams returned this season to become of the Giants’ most important line-breakers.
An unbelievable story. Pickett has come from the clouds to become just the sixth person in VFL/AFL history debut in a Grand Final. Even more remarkable, he’ll do so after being selected by the Tigers in the mid-season draft after plying his trade with South Fremantle in the WAFL. Pickett, who spent time in jail in his teenage years, is one of incredible persistence with the 27-year-old having to fight his way onto an AFL list. Comes into the Richmond team after winning best on ground in last week’s VFL Grand Final.
Lynch is Richmond’s proven matchwinner and one of many who took the game away from the Giants in a matter of moments. The key forward booted five goals against Geelong in a sensational performance that stamped him as the difference maker. After coming to Richmond with question marks over his durability (not talent), Lynch has proven the naysayers wrong by playing every game this season and becoming a clear focal point in the Tigers’ forward line.
Bolton is one of the most purely talented players on Richmond’s list and that unique skillset was coupled with consistency through 2019. Bolton has energy and spark and a certain x-factor that gives him the ability to fly high and take big pack marks or kick tremendous goals. The 20-year-old has become an important member of the Richmond team that relies on its small forwards and wingmen to spread hard from the contest and outwork other teams.
Has improved dramatically this season and benefited from the injury to Toby Nankervis to play 13 games so far in 2019. But even when Nankervis returned from injury, Soldo kept his spot as the Tigers decided to alter their team structure and go with two ruckmen for the finals series. Missed selection in the 2017 VFL Grand Final, with cousin Ivan Maric playing instead, so will be eager to make his opportunity on the big stage count.