Jake Riccardi kicked nine goals in his five games in 2020 for the GWS Giants.
This left many scratching their heads as to why the then 20-year-old had been looked over in the 2017 and 2018 national drafts.
Riccardi wasn’t drafted whilst playing for the Calder Cannons in 2017 and 2018, but his year at Werribee in the VFL during 2019 was finally enough for a club to recognise his ability.
He wasn’t sure if his name would ever be called out at a national draft, but when the Giants used pick 51 in the 2019 draft, he knew the wait was worth it.
“I think for someone like me coming into the system late, I was 18, 19 not knowing if I would ever get drafted, or be a part on an AFL club. When it all happened, it did make the wait all worth it,” Riccardi told The Inner Sanctum.
At Werribee, Riccardi kicked 38 goals in his 20 games and went on to be awarded the Fothergill–Round–Mitchell Medal for the VFL’s most promising young player.
Riccardi admits that after his performance in 2019, if he hadn’t been drafted his chances may have slimmed in future drafts.
“I never really thought about too much, but I guess looking back on it now had I missed out being drafted after having the year that I had, obviously I would have had a less chance as the years went on and I got older,” he said.
“If it hadn’t happened then, then there wasn’t much more than I could possibly done to get drafted.”
Riccardi has made his small stint in 2020 a memorable one amongst what was already a talented bunch of key forwards.
Such forwards including Jeremy Finlayson, Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Cameron.
Rather than the four being in competition for a selection in the best 22 each week, Riccardi said that they all supported him during his debut.
It was his first game in particular that he had the support of Himmelberg, who provided coaching throughout the match.
“I always was told some real encouragement (by Himmelberg), and I felt so comfortable out there,” he said.
“My first game, Hims was always helping me, talking to me and just letting me know the situation of the game and how I was going.”
He too had similar to say about Finlayson when he had the opportunity to play alongside him.
“Jeremy Finlayson too when we played together, always gave that good encouragement,” he said.
“I think that that kind of connection we had was really important which made me more comfortable out there.”
With the departure of Cameron during the 2020 trade period, a spot has opened up in the forward line that many will assume Riccardi will slide himself into.
But for him, it’s prioritising the team’s success in 2021 that is most important, and not replacing someone’s position.
“It’s still early days in the preseason, as a forward line just working together to get the best out of each other and what’s going to be best for the team,” he said.
“There hasn’t been much talk about taking someone’s position, we’re all just working hard and get us all prime for the first practise match.
“That’s probably the most important thing; to be ready for the team.”
Approaching 2021, Riccardi hopes that the work he has put into his preseason will be what gets him the team selection when the time comes around.
Riccardi being someone who takes things a day at the time, is looking at getting the best out of himself each day, worrying about game day on game day.
“I just want to play as much as I can and play good footy,” he said.
“I’m not going to worry too much about outcome, just the moment, things are a bit early.
“I’m happy with the position I’m in and wherever that takes me it takes me.
“I’m just taking it week by week and making sure that I get the most out of myself, and right now that’s training and eventually when games roll around, it’ll be about the performance.
“At the moment it’s about working hard with the team, getting those things right that we want to get success in 2021.”