After a breakout season of league football in 2011, culminating in Trent Cotchin capturing his inaugural Jack Dyer Medal, the young midfield star took his game to an even higher level in 2012.
Cotchin did it in a manner befitting a player of his all-round class, racking up career-best numbers, maintaining an excellent degree of consistency throughout, and reaching truly breathtaking heights at times, with his vast array of football skills thrilling the Tiger Army.
The 22-year-old managed to play all 22 games, for the second season in-a-row, averaging 27.6 disposals per match. He had 20 disposals or more five times, 25 or more on nine occasions, and 30 or more seven times (four of those coming in the final four home-and-away rounds).
In the Round 16 clash against Gold Coast in Cairns, Cotchin compiled a career-high 38 disposals, and collected the three Brownlow votes, ahead of the gun midfielder he has been compared to – Suns’ skipper Gary Ablett – who received two votes.
Cotchin was ranked No. 1 at the Club for total disposals (with 606), No. 2 for total contested possessions (273), No. 2 for inside-50 entries (116), No. 2 for centre clearances (113), No. 4 for uncontested possessions (328), and he finished fifth on the Tigers’ goalkicking table with 21 goals.
A second successive Jack Dyer Medal was further reward for his overall performance during the season, with Cotchin also adding the AFL Coaches Association’s Player of the Year award, selection in the All-Australian team for the first time, equal-second place in the Brownlow Medal and a number of media awards, to his burgeoning list of football honors.
Such was Cotchin’s impact, and impressive form in season 2012, several football critics publicly pondered whether he was (or would become) the best player at Tigerland since Club ‘Immortal’, Kevin Bartlett.
Respected ‘Age’ football writer, Jake Niall, wrote: “Cotchin is comparable to (Chris) Judd at around the same age and his range of talents – ball-winning, evasion, balance, skills on both sides – are similar to Gary Ablett’s.
“No Richmond player since ‘KB’ has seemed quite as unstoppable and consistent as Cotchin.
“Like most champion on-ballers, Bartlett’s greatness lay in his high possession rate and constancy of output. The same is true of Cotchin, who has Bartlett’s knack for playing forward.
“Of the players who have shone brightest since Bartlett, Matthew Richardson is easily the people’s favorite — the one who gave the fans a reason to keep turning up. But
Cotchin is well-placed to overhaul “Richo”, since he has few obvious weaknesses.
“He kicks either foot, can win the ball in close, marks strongly overhead and has a turn of speed. While not as explosive as Judd or Ablett junior, he still runs 20 metres in under three seconds, the benchmark for “quick” in the contemporary AFL.
“Triple Brownlow Medallist Ian Stewart defined the ability “to stand up in heavy traffic and make a decision” as the difference between very good and “great” players — read midfielders.
“Cotchin passes the Stewart test, having a gift for making the right split-second calls with the ball while under duress.”
Those fortunate enough to witness Cotchin’s Round 20 display against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG, would have left the ground in no doubt of his capacity for achieving football greatness.
Cotchin had 22 kicks, 13 handballs, seven marks, and capped off an exhilarating game with three goals. It was a sublime showcase of his silky skills that sent Yellow and Black barrackers into raptures.
While the football world may lay at his talented feet, for Trent Cotchin, it’s the prospect of team success with the Tigers that drives, and excites, him.
Cotchin made a point of highlighting the camaraderie among the Richmond players in his 2012 Jack Dyer Medal acceptance speech.
“The special thing about our group is how close we are and how much we enjoy being around each other, and I think that’s what is going to take us forward,” he said. “There’s not just talent and performance, but our relationships, on and off the field, is something that’s very special to not only me, but every player within our football club.”
Cotchin then told his teammates: “I love playing with each and every one of you, and training with each and every one of you, and that’s what is so special about this club... it’s just an exciting place to be.
“We are going places, and we are working really hard to make sure we get there sooner, rather than later.”