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'I love the responsibility': Toby sets the tone

John Salvado, AAP  September 26, 2017 2:05 PM

AFL 2017 Training - Richmond 140917

Ex-Swan Toby Nankervis is set to play a crucial role for the Tigers on Saturday

JUST one year since they got together and already the union of Richmond and ruckman Toby Nankervis is shaping as a marriage made in footballing heaven.

After being narrowly overlooked for a spot in Sydney's Grand Final team last year, Nankervis was open to a change of scenery.

It wasn't that the Swans' coaching staff didn't rate him, rather that they had a glut of ruckmen, headed by big Sam Naismith.

Ex-Crow Kurt Tippett continues to divide opinion among the footballing cognoscenti, but his huge-money contract meant he wasn't going anywhere.

Callum Sinclair's versatility as a ruckman and a marking key forward also appealed to the Swans.

So it was Nankervis - who had only racked up 12 senior games in three years at Sydney - who moved on.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick liked what he saw in the raw-boned Tasmanian and the Tigers were able to get the trade done for the bargain-basement price of pick No.45 in the draft.

With last year's first-choice ruckman Shaun Hampson missing almost all of 2017 with a serious back injury, Nankervis slotted straight into the No.1 role at Tigerland.

Promoted rookie Ivan Soldo provided support in seven games midway through the season, but the 23-year-old Nankervis has been largely required to go it alone.

"That's when I play my best footy, around the ball and in the ruck," Nankervis said.

"I love that responsibility, fulfilling my role for the team, which is what I try and do every week.

"I want to put in a big contest in the ruck and then get after it on the ground.

"It's pretty simple for me."

Come Saturday's Grand Final and the 199cm Nankervis will be asked to again go one-out against Adelaide's Sam Jacobs.

"He's an elite tap ruckman but he's also good around the ground," Nankervis said.

"He can take a good mark, he can go forward and kick a goal and his follow-up work is pretty awesome as well.

"He's got so many strings to his bow."

Much has been made this year of Richmond's unconventional attack, which includes a host of fleet-footed smaller players and just the one key marking option in Jack Riewoldt.

But the Tigers' ruck set-up is similarly unusual when Nankervis needs a rest.

Utility Shaun Grigg, all 190cm of him, is the back-up option, while even shorter players such as Josh Caddy and Jacob Townsend have also been required to contest ball-ups and throw-ins.

"Grigga is a very smart footballer so he knows his way around what to do," Nankervis said.

"All he has to do is make a contest and give me a spell for five minutes."