Richmond national recruiting manager Matthew Clarke has provided an interesting insight into the development of exciting young small forward Maurice Rioli Jnr at the game’s highest level this year.
Rioli, recruited by Richmond from Northern Territory club St Mary’s as a father-son selection in the 2020 AFL national draft, made significant strides throughout his 2021 debut season.
The son of Tiger great Maurice Rioli showcased his manic defensive pressure and goal sense at VFL level, before being rewarded with a late-season call-up to the senior side.
He debuted in the Round 21 clash with North Melbourne at the MCG and displayed some encouraging signs of his considerable ability, kicking a goal and applying plenty of pressure to opposition defenders.
Rioli also kicked a goal the following week against Greater Western Sydney at Marvel Stadium.
“He has exceeded expectations, I think,” Clarke said on the AFL.com.au ‘Road to the Draft’ podcast.
“We knew that he was going to take some time given the lack of continuity in his training history.
“It’s all well and good to be playing games, but when you’re not getting good continuity in the week-to-week training schedule, it’s always going to be a bit tough . . .
“But one thing about MJ, and credit to him . . . he always put in the effort, whether it was his schoolwork (at Scotch College) or training, fitness and conditioning.
“If you had a program there for him, he did his absolute best. He never pulled up short.
“And then, to play a couple of games at the end of the year was just fantastic.”