Veteran Phil Davis has backed youngster Jake Riccardi to break back into the senior side and become an integral player for the Giants, but has stated “we’re trying to make Jake Riccardi the best player for the next ten years, not for the next ten minutes”.
The 21-year-old has played six games at senior level, spending considerable time in the VFL this season and dominating at both ends of the ground for GWS.
When trialled down in defence during round three of the VFL, he dominated the airways against Southport and showcased his elite aerobic capacity with a 41 disposal, 19 mark game. His performance included eight rebound 50s and three inside 50s as he worked up the ground from half-back.
The 51st pick in the 2019 draft out of Werribee, Riccardi earned a call up to the the senior side after his VFL game to fill the void left in defence with injuries to Nick Haynes, Lachie Keeffe and Davis.
He struggled to make an impact defensively, but was promising with the ball. Riccardi went at 88 per cent with his 17 disposals in the Giants’ narrow loss to the Tigers at Marvel Stadium. He played consecutive games against West Coast and Brisbane, but was then dropped after the bye and moved back to the forward line for the the Giants Reserves.
The defensive struggles were to be expected at such an early stage of his learning, and Davis has called for patience with young players around the league who are stuck in a similar position to Riccardi.
“To me it highlights an important facet [of football] that I think gets missed at AFL and that is – he’s young,” Davis said on Tuesday.
“I think we get so impatient that everyone should be playing AFL and everyone that [has] had a good game in the VFL should be playing AFL.
“At the end of the day there are only 22 spots, and I think for Jake he showed so many great glimpses last year then this year he showed some great glimpses. He got dropped, played very, very well in the VFL but at the end of the day we’re trying to make Jake Riccardi the best player for the next ten years, not for the next ten minutes. I think that’s where we’ve got to be very clear with what’s best [for him].”
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Riccardi was dropped for the North Melbourne clash and returned to his natural position as a forward.
He kicked eight goals against Aspley that weekend to press his claims for an immediate recall. That recall didn’t come, despite GWS drawing with North in an ugly game.
“There’s no doubt – you kick eight goals, you probably deserve the right to play AFL football”, Davis admitted.
“However, are there other parts of his game he needs to improve and those are the aspects that we need from him better than what we’ve got.
“That’s where the balance is, and we can easily get frustrated looking at who’s dominating in the VFL or the second tier competition, but it’s all about being translatable and you’ve got to make sure your game translates well to AFL.
“Jake’s working really, really hard on that and I’m sure when he gets his opportunity he’ll be far better placed now than he was earlier this year – and even last year.”
Davis expanded further on what exactly Riccardi needed to work on.
With Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Finlayson – who kicked five goals on the weekend – performing well at AFL level, the young gun needs to add forward pressure and second efforts to his game in order for the Giants to play him up forward while they persevere with a resting ruckman as well.
“If you look at all young key forwards around the competition it’s generally two things [he needs to work on]: it’s your ability to win your own ball which is a huge challenge for anyone – he’s only 21 or 22.
“You’re playing against grown men every week, his contested marking is very good but he needs to keep working on his recovery, and making sure he puts that forward pressure on and add those elements.
“Because we all know he’s a great mark, he’s a great kick [and] he’s got a humongous work rate so he’s got some absolute cornerstones of a very good player.
“It’s just adding those other elements that will make him a well-rounded and more polished footballer.”
Riccardi kicked two goals on the weekend in a loss to his former VFL club Werribee.
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