After a rollercoaster of a draft day and an early career, Ted Richards became one of the most reliable defenders in the AFL.
The Sydney Swans premiership star reflects on his journey and what he’s up to now in this three-part series.
Like most players, Richards remembers his draft day vividly.
Unlike most players, it went a little differently than expected as he was all but set to join North Melbourne before a late twist.
“Greg Miller, who was then general manager of North Melbourne, came round to Mum and Dad’s house and dropped off a polo and a hat,” Richards told The Inner Sanctum.
“He said, ‘we’re gonna pick you tomorrow and when we do, if you can put on the hat and polo as quick as you can, that would be appreciated because we’ve got a new sponsor.’
“I was ecstatic, because one; I was getting drafted and two; I was staying in Victoria.
“And then Essendon read my name out, and I was even more excited because it was the club I’d grown up supporting.”
For Richards, it meant learning his craft under legendary coach Kevin Sheedy.
Unfortunately, while the two got along okay, when the weekend came along, Richards said he was never Sheedy’s favourite person.
“Sheeds and I had a funny relationship,” Richards said.
“While we got along well enough, I don’t think he actually rated me as a footballer.
“I used to tell people we’d get along Monday to Thursday, then when the team came out on Thursday night, we’d disagree over whether I should be in it or not.
“As much as I’m grateful to Sheeds because he recruited me, and I had five years at Essendon and had made a lot of friends, I knew I had to move.”
Ted struggled to lock down a place at Essendon, playing 33 games over five years.
By the middle of 2005, he was looking for a fresh start.
Salvation was found in the Harbor City at the Sydney Swans, though he wasn’t 100 percent sure about leaving Victoria at first.
“I was 22 at the time and I won’t lie, I loved the idea of staying in my comfort zone,” he said.
“It wasn’t until the end of the season that I flew up to Sydney to meet the Swans, that I realised one: what a great club it is and two: the benefits that come with a fresh start not just at a new club but also a new city.”
Once he arrived at the Swans, Richards felt reinvigorated and went from being in and out at the Bombers, to playing off on Grand Final day for the Swans.
But the day didn’t end well. Not only did Sydney lose to West Coast, but Richards was knocked unconscious in the final quarter.
“Injuries are never good, especially a concussion,” he said.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about them and yeah, any concussion’s not great but it did happen.”
Head injuries are often never far from the public consciousness, but thankfully, Richards said he has not had any post-concussion symptoms since the injury or the one sustained a decade later in 2016.
“I’ve been very lucky that I’ve never had any recurring symptoms from concussion,” he said.
In 2009, Richards suffered a serious injury of another kind against Carlton.
Playing on Brendan Fevola, Richards broke five ribs and punctured a lung in a contest, ending his season prematurely.
Richards explained his mindset at that point, and his frustration over his season being cut short.
“At the time I was more frustrated that that was how I finished the season off, and what frustrated me was, I didn’t play a good game that game,” he said.
“So I was finishing my season off on a poor note.
“But I knew I was incredibly lucky, because I rarely missed games with injury, and we play a contact sport and things like that happen from time to time, so I accepted that.”
Richards said the following year, 2010, was dangerously close to being his last.
And in fact, he was resigned to footy “giving up on him.”
“I was out of contract at the end of 2010, and I thought there was a chance that I wasn’t going to receive another contract,” he said.
“So I had plans to move to Sweden, if footy didn’t work out.
“I was so resigned to that, that I’d booked in to study at the Stockholm School of Economics, and I’d started to do a personal training course so I could work while I was studying there.
“But I was certainly still all in on football.”
So how did fate intervene, and ensure Ted’s football career didn’t end just yet?
That story began in unfortunate circumstances but led to Ted’s seemingly overnight rise to be the best in the game at centre-half back.