In a recent interview on the AFL.com.au ‘Road to the Draft’ podcast, Richmond national recruiting manager Matthew Clarke revealed the back story to the Club’s recruitment five years ago of Shai Bolton, who is now a dual premiership Tiger and one of the competition’s most exciting young players. Here is how it unfolded . . .
“It was a really good team effort from the guys (talent scouts) that are still with us now.
We’d moved our early pick out, which I think was seven at the time, to bring in Dion Prestia (from Gold Coast), who was a real need, being a 23-year-old centre bounce mid.
A really influential recruiter on the ground in Perth, Sammy Cousens, who’s been with us a long time, rated Shai’s talent really highly.
Shai missed his 2015 year with a back injury . . . so he was a little bit off Broadway in a sense.
Then he came into 2016 and played some really strong footy for South Freo. He’d kick goals as a forward, but also played some really good footy on a wing.
Shai played a game at Punt Road . . . in the futures game the year earlier, at the backend of the year, and did some things there which really stuck in the minds of a few of our guys. In particular, our coach brings that game up all the time and what he saw from Shai.
He was always going to take a little bit longer . . . He played 13 or 14 VFL games in his first year and pretty similar the second.
He was a really quiet young fella, didn’t say a lot . . . doesn’t say a lot now. But his talent was unquestionable, and it was just about how well we thought he would settle and what type of club would be able to help him do that.
The old proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is a really apt one for Shai. The work that he’s done, the support from his mum, some really good relationships he’s built within the footy club through the football department and a couple of key coaches, have been super for Shai.
There is a lot more left in him, so I think he can go a long way.”