One of the feel good stories to come out of the second night of the AFL draft is Joe Richards, a school teacher from Wangaratta who on draft night had his AFL dream became a reality.
Richards teaches at a special needs school down in Wangaratta during the week while playing for the town’s football team, the Magpies, on the weekend.
Speaking to the media post draft, Collingwood general manager of list management Derek Hine said Richards will fit in well at the club.
“We actually rate him a little bit higher than that, but I think Port had an interest and Geelong certainly had an interest in him,” Hine said.
“We were hopeful that we could get him through to 48 and we were able to do that.
“He’s a player, as they said on the telecast, that really needs an opportunity and his form would suggest that he’s able to take that opportunity.
“He’s a mature age player, he plays the way that we play. He’s instinctive in transition and he’s dual sided both by hand and by foot.
“He really deserves an opportunity so we’ll see how he goes.”
Richards’ coach at Wangaratta was none other than Collingwood premiership player Ben Reid.
Hine said Reid was in his ear about getting Richards to the AIA Centre in 2023.
“He [Ben Reid] was driving me mad, I drove up for the grand final and probably watched him three times throughout the year and went to the Grand Final,” Hine said.
“They’d won by five points and Reidy texts me after the game, it would have been about 8:30 at night and he said what did you think and I said just give me a call a little bit later on in the week.”
Despite Reid’s persistent badgering that night, it was the Grand Final which helped punch Richards’ ticket to Collingwood.
“The Grand Final was the one that really ticked the box for us not so much in the way that he’s a player that’s heavily tagged week in, week out and when the game is in the balance in the last quarter he just took it apart and that was enough for me,” Hine said.
“All we can do is provide the opportunity and I’m really confident that Joe is going to come at it and see where he goes. “
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The Ovens & Murray Football League has grown to become more then just as a local competition, with several ex-AFL players including Sam Murray, Anthony Miles and Callum Moore coming through.
“The O&M now they’ve got a lot of mature age AFL players, Reidy and these types of guys, they’re still going around and playing really good footy,” Hine said.
He’s [Richards] got the game for the MCG that’s for sure just with his speed and lateral movement.”
Looking to 2023, Collingwood sees Richards playing in the backline with his skill set able to work in real nicely with the team’s backline.
It would then allow the Magpies more flexibility with moving some of their elite ball users to other parts of the ground.
“Talking to the coaches and the way that Joey plays that we potentially see him playing that high back role,” Hine said.
“He’s actually instinctive in transition, he just does it naturally.
“He’s accustomed to the one v one stuff, so initially we know what he can do in the midfield and we know what he can do at high forward and I think he’ll transition into that high back really quickly.
“We really do snap out of there quite quickly which allows us, the theory is to allow Nick to have a little bit more midfield time and hopefully move from there.”
The Magpies were able to facilitate a pick trade on top of their two picks on Tuseday night, having moved a second round pick to Carlton which allowed them to bring in more picks for 2023.
“We were really mindful that next year we had one future first and a future fourth. We just didn’t want to go into next year with such a gap, we put ourselves in a position where we can hit the trades, free agency and so on but you can’t do that if we don’t have any picks,” Hine said.
“We just wanted to make sure that we put a bit of meat on the bones so to speak.”
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