Congrats Nick Riewoldt – 250 Games

20 Jun

Nick Riewoldt

A Number 1 draft pick who not only met but exceeded expectations beyond any Saints fan’s wildest dreams.

Nick Riewoldt came to the Saints in the 2000 draft, but would have to sit on the sidelines with an injury before making his mark on the game. And make his mark he did, taking more than most.

One of my very first memories of Riewoldt is back at a St.Kilda Family Day, where he and fellow draftee Justin Koschitzke stood tall and somewhat alone, as fans hassled Robert Harvey, Andrew Thompson and Nathan Burke for autographs, leaving Riewoldt and Koschitzke to themselves. How odd the pair looked, standing heads above the crowd together, awkward and unassuming. How things would change.

It didn’t take long for Nick to become one of the games’ biggest stars. His white blonde hair stood out for one, but it was his sheer will and determination that had him a cut above the rest. He had an unbelievable work rate, an unstoppable engine and would work tirelessly for his teammates. His biggest asset, next to his outstanding marking ability. I couldn’t help but be excited about this kid’s talent. It was beyond anything I had ever witnessed. I remember watching him at training and being in complete awe of his ability to outrun and outlast those around him. He simply didn’t stop. He was the ultimate professional.

Nick’s desire and thirst for the contest has been second to none, he has always been a class above. He has been unreal and incredible to watch, and that’s before I even start on his amazing marking ability. If the ball is in the air, and Nick is within any close vicinity, you can almost guarantee he’ll take a spectacular grab. He doesn’t even have to be in the vicinity, I’ve watched him on countless occasions run that extra 30 metres just to meet the footy. He has an astounding desire for the footy, and above all, a hunger to win.

2004 was a breakout year for Riewoldt, taking a record breaking 256 marks and being named as the league’s Most Valuable Player. ‘Roo’ was named captain the following year and I remember only too well his first game as Captain, which unfortunately for Nick, didn’t end well. I still get frustrated today when people label Nick a sook, due to the state he had been in on the bench after receiving ‘treatment’ from the Scott brothers shortly after his injury. What many didn’t understand was the sheer disappointment for Nick who had anticipated not only his first game but his first year as Captain, it had all been taken away so suddenly, and was without question devastating.

It’s hard to describe the star Nick Riewoldt has been not only for the St.Kilda Football Club but across the AFL. If anything, his stats at least speak for themselves. He has won the Saints Best and Fairest 5 times, been named All Australian 4 times, has been voted the Most Valuable Player and has finished as the Saints’ Leading Goal Kicker on two occasions. Impressive to say the least.

To really establish yourself in the elite category, you need to be able to step up in the big games. Enter Nick Riewoldt. A Preliminary Final against the Dogs in 2009 immediately springs to mind. He performed like a true Captain, playing his absolute heart out throughout the match and eventually sealing victory with a toe poke to secure a Grand Final berth. He also stood up in a Semi against the Pies, I recall my envious Collingwood supporting friend who had been completely taken aback by Roo’s ability to dominate and devastate his opponents. It has been nothing short of an honour to watch a player of Nick’s caliber in the red, white and black and it’s something I won’t take for granted.

Nowadays you will see players being rotated to match up on Riewoldt throughout games, because not one player can run with him for an entire match. He has been double and triple-teamed but often to no avail. Because Nick has a ‘never-say-die’ attitude that makes him quite unlike any other player.

Roo has had his fair share of injuries over the years, but he continues to will himself over the line. I have no doubt that they will ultimately cut his career short, but until then Nick will continue to do what he does best, and that’s get the best out of himself. He has had an outstanding career and I feel privileged as a St.Kilda supporter to have watched him closely over the years. If I can give anyone a tip, it’s to get to a game and watch Riewoldt play live, he’s nothing short of inspiring and a terrific leader on the ground. He’s definitely up there with the best I’ve seen. From winning finals off his own boot to taking that breathtaking grab, Riewoldt is the full package. I salute him in the lead up to his 250th game and hope the boys can help him celebrate in style.

Now, 13 years on since Nick came to the club, if you attend a Saints Family Day, try to spot the tall blonde. The youngsters sporting the #12 might just be as close as you can get.

He is a champion of the game, a fantastic leader, and a true Saint. Congratulations on 250 games.

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