Unheralded for much of his 15 year career, Shane Edwards is set to make a rare step into the spotlight as he prepares to don the famed yellow and black for the 300th time.
The Tigers’ stalwart will become just the fifth player in the club’s 114 year V/AFL history to reach the milestone, joining teammate Jack Riewoldt and club legends Kevin Bartlett, Francis Bourke and Jack Dyer in the illustrious group.
A player with sharp vision that is backed by selfless conviction, the man known as ‘Shedda’ has come to win the hearts of many.
Whether it be from a dagger-like handball meeting a seemingly non-existent target, or witnessing the sheer will to impose himself on a contest play out, Edwards’ actions on field have earned him a high level of respect throughout the football world.
Beyond the white line, the 33-year-old has endeared himself to teammates, coaches and fans that have benefited from his action inspired and thoughful leadership.
In part, making a connection to Edwards from the stands is owed to the way in which he has grown before our eyes. Here, a significant physical transformation is outweighed only by the manner in which the Arrente man has utilised his Indigenous heritage as a platform for mentorship and support.
Two-time premiership teammate Brandon Ellis offers this accurate assessment.
“Off the field, ‘Shedda’ is an unbelievable human, so humble and caring. On the field, he’s a beast of a competitor and his footy smarts are just levels above anyone else,” he told The Inner Sanctum.
Though this description gives clear insight into the regard with which he is held, it is simply one shade on what is otherwise a football masterpiece.
To paint the full picture, we have asked those that have seen this journey play out, to give their insights into the makeup of Edwards; the player, leader and person.
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“He only played 10 games for us in 2006, but gee he was a beautiful player.
“He was just a little baby, there was no meat on his bones, but he was a beautiful runner. That’s what impressed us in our under 17 program at North.
“He could carry the ball and he had good endurance. There was something about him and as a coach you go ‘hello, I might give this guy an opportunity.’
“He didn’t look out of place at all, even as a young boy. He adapted quickly in the SANFL back then and I played him on the wing.
“The thing I loved about him, was under pressure he made the right decisions and I just thought ‘wow, this kid’s beyond his years as a young man.’
“He’s established himself as one of the great Richmond players and watching from afar, I couldn’t be any prouder of the young lad. I’m so proud of him to get that 300. I’m proud to be the senior coach that gave him his first opportunity, because there’s something we saw straight away.
“It’s been a wonderful career and he’s a beautiful young man, so he deserves everything that comes his way.”
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“When I arrived at the footy club, the club had traded away their first round draft picks, high end picks so first and second round, for about six years.
“The thing that we spoke about was ‘let’s develop our own’, so the supporter base can see these kids, high end talent, play their first game, game 50, game 100 and hopefully they go on to become stars of the footy club.
“First couple of years, as you well know, were a dismal failure. We just didn’t have the recruiters in place. The club was broke, we basically didn’t have a full time recruiter. Other clubs had like two in Perth on the payroll. We didn’t even have one based in Melbourne.
“We got Francis Jackson to come on full time, and his first draft in control of selection was Jack Riewoldt and Shane Edwards, the two 300 game boys – not a bad start.
“I always had faith that he [Edwards] was going to be good player, but his biggest issue in those first 18 months, he was that little. He would’ve fair dinkum been 63 kilos ringing wet.Embed from Getty Images
“I think that was a bit frustrating for him in those initial stages, but that’s the nature of the game. It always takes you two or three years to really find your footing and really get yourself established.
“We played him, but he got pushed off the ball a little bit. You knew that would come once his body developed, and we had to get games into him.
“Shane had undeniable talent, undeniable hand-eye co-ordination. Elite in the fact that he was an endurance beast and he had elite speed as well. Most players have got one or the other. He had both, which is a really good starting point.
“The thing that I used to love the most was actually when I left [coaching] and I went back into commentary. The commentators would call a piece of play and he wouldn’t even get mentioned.
“I would sit there as the special comments and say, ‘did anyone see Edwards? Can we just have a look at the replay and Shane Edwards’ ability to get in, flick the ball sideways where nobody was expecting it to go.’
“He has uncanny ability to read the play and set up other players. You would have loved to play alongside him.
“He makes everyone a better player, because he does things with his sight in heavy traffic that other blokes just can’t do.”
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“Shane was probably the first person recognised as a leader that I’d ever experienced that didn’t come across as the natural leader.
“That was the first time, probably only on reflection, that I’ve figured out that a leader’s not always the one out the front. You’ve got to have your own way of doing it and he did that.
“He was the first one that ever made me second guess what leadership is, and it’s about authenticity. He’s not a ‘rant and raver’, he’s not a get up and speak in front of people [type of person], but he had the relationships down pat.
“He knew what his sort of leadership was.
“He’s got interpersonal skills that transfer from off field into the on field side of things. You’ll see after every goal, he’s talking to Maurice Rioli, he’s talking to Shai Bolton, all of the young blokes. He’s teaching and coaching.
“That’s leadership. It’s getting energy out of your own game and helping someone else.Embed from Getty Images
“He brings his teammates into the game well, sometimes too well when blokes aren’t ready for him. After a bit of time, players get used to how quick he can feed the ball off and bring them into the game.
“He’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen of anyone in football, still to this day. The most creative handballer I’ve seen.
“That’s his clear weapon of choice and still to this day, I reckon he’s underrated, especially externally.
“Everyone loves him.”
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“Shane was a very well respected individual within. I saw him as a pup come through to turn into someone who grew into a leadership role.
“From just a skinny little kid, who was just trying to find his way and get a game with a huge work rate and appetite to try and play well, to caring about not just himself, but others and bringing them into the game.
“He was just sort of coming into that as I left. I reckon he probably took it to another level after I left. I think he felt comfortable in the amount of games that he’d played and in terms of where he stood within the Richmond Football Club.
“That takes time for all young players when they’re coming through.Embed from Getty Images
“I also watched him learn about his culture, his history and his past from his whole family and his Indigenous heritage.
“I’ve got no doubt that all of the young Indigenous boys, and the reason they’ve been so successful, is because of his mentorship. No different to Shaun Burgoyne down at Hawthorn when he was there with the young boys, Adam Goodes up at the Swans.
“There’s been numerous amounts of players that have taken guys under their wing, but Shane has certainly done that.
“He doesn’t just do it with the Indigenous boys, he’s been a great mentor for a lot of young fellas just coming to the club.
“He’s certainly one that shows a huge amount of care for others and makes sure he’s thinking of others before himself a lot of the time.
“A very selfless footballer and teammate. Someone that you really loved playing with.”
‘That 20 minutes of football was just the catalyst’: Lifelong Richmond man Joel Bowden examines Edwards’ place in Tiger folklore
“In 2017 in the grand final, Shaun Grigg went into the ruck and as a Richmond fan and supporter, I watched with my heart in my mouth thinking ‘what the hell is going to happen here?’
“Shane Edwards proceeded to get four of the next five clearances and Richmond propelled themselves to a first premiership in 37 years.
“Dustin Martin was clearly best on ground and voted accordingly, but that period of time, when Nankervis was on the bench and Shaun Grigg went into the ruck, propelled Shane Edwards in my view, and potentially many others, into excellence. And he did it on the biggest stage at the biggest point in time.
“That 20 minutes of football was just the catalyst to what I think is that period of over achieving and winning three premierships in four years.Embed from Getty Images
“He’s been unassuming and that’s the bit of his nature that I recall. He’s been a little bit understated. But in a champion team, he’s been a champion. He hasn’t been a champion in a team that’s not done well, he’s been a champion in a champion team.
“He’s part of the great era of the Richmond Football Club in the modern age. They did something miraculous and he’s part of it.
“He’s built a career and he’s going to play 300 games which is phenomenal. He’s played quality football now for 15 years.”
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