It’s been 10 years since Richmond made an extremely astute recruiting move, trading in robust ruckman Ivan Maric from the Adelaide Crows. Not only did Maric go on to provide the Tigers with top value on-field he was a powerful driver of the cultural change within the playing group that led to the Club’s three recent premierships. And he remains an important presence at Tigerland today as a player development manager/ruck coach/’part-time recruiting officer’. Tony Greenberg reflects on the proud Yellow and Black journey of big ‘Ivvy’ . . .
Throughout the second season of Damien Hardwick’s coaching reign at Richmond (in 2011), it became apparent that the Club’s ruck stocks were in need of a decent dose of experience.
The retirement of veteran big man Troy Simmonds the previous year, had placed Richmond’s rucking responsibility squarely on the shoulders of unproven young pair Angus Graham and Andrew Browne, along with some back-up from a then 21-year-old Ty Vickery.
It was proving to be a mighty tough task for the inexperienced Tiger ‘talls’ to handle, so Richmond subsequently embarked on a search for a big man who’d been in the AFL system for a while and had the necessary attributes to make a significant contribution as the team’s No. 1 ruckman.
Enter Ivan Maric . . .
The 200cm, 102kg ruckman had originally been selected at pick 40 in the 2004 AFL National Draft by Adelaide.
He’d made his senior league debut with the Crows in 2006 and slowly, but surely, progressed, taking over as their No. 1 ruckman by 2009.
But the arrival at Adelaide ruckman Sam Jacobs at the end of 2010 resulted in Maric spending most of the 2011 season at SANFL level.
Richmond knew he had the ability, the strength of character, and a burning desire to succeed. And, after managing just 77 games in seven seasons with Adelaide, Maric was craving more opportunity to showcase his ruck skills.
He was the perfect fit for the Tigers, who ended up exchanging its second-round draft pick (No. 37 overall) for Maric during the AFL’s 2011 trade period.
From the moment he landed at Punt Road, Maric endeared himself to teammates, coaches and the Tiger Army alike.
“I’m really excited about pre-season . . . I just want to come in and have an impact straight away and be pretty vocal, which I’m quite comfortable at doing,” he said.
“I want to be a leader on the track and drag others along and maybe set some new standards as well, on the training track and in the weights room.
“I really enjoy training hard and being a leader on the track and mentoring young kids . . .
“When I play my best footy, and when I enjoy playing footy the most, is when I’m aggressive. That’s why I loved playing the game as a kid,” he said.
“I want to be aggressive – really aggressive – at the ball . . . I want people to hate playing against me because of that.”
Maric also revealed why he was so keen to join Richmond . . .
“It’s just the transformation with Damien Hardwick, and the effect he had on the playing group,” he said.
“Not only did he make them a lot more competitive and consistent, but just the way they celebrated and played as a team and for each other, was really attractive for me to watch.
“And, then, after meeting with Damien at the end of the year, it made everything really clear about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to play for.”
The Tiger Army know a cult figure when they see one, so it was hardly surprising that Maric quickly became a fan favourite at his new football home.
Apart from his strongly-built frame, warrior-like approach and on-field aggression, there was that famous flowing mullet which added to Maric’s instant appeal to Yellow and Black barrackers.
Maric had a major impact in his debut season with Richmond in 2012.
He played 21 games, averaged nearly 16 disposals per match, was ranked No. 3 in the entire competition for total hit-outs, No. 2 at the Club for total contested marks, No. 5 for tackles, and No. 6 for centre clearances.
And, he was rewarded for his fine first-up season at Tigerland, with third placing in the Jack Dyer Medal.
At the end of that year, Maric was voted into the Club’s playing leadership group, such was the instant respect he’d gained from his new teammates. In 2015-16, he served the Tigers with distinction as co vice-captain.
Maric thrived on the opportunity presented to him by Richmond, earning a reputation as one of the competition’s best ruckmen.
On-field, Maric was fiercely determined, competitive, and gallant, striving to do whatever he could to help lift the Tigers to victory.
Off-field, he was intelligent, measured, and totally straightforward in the way he went about his business at the Club.
Unfortunately, Maric struggled with a back injury during the 2016 season and was overtaken as the team’s No. 1 ruckman by Shaun Hampson.
Maric couldn’t regain his place in Richmond’s senior side during the first half of 2017, and in June announced he would retire from AFL football at the end of that season.
Typical of the man, though, he wanted to play out the 2017 season with the Tigers’ VFL team.
His last game at Richmond was in the narrow VFL grand final loss to Port Melbourne.
Although Maric missed out on being a member of the Tigers’ drought-breaking 2017 AFL premiership team, the role he’d played in that glorious triumph was not forgotten when the Club celebrated on Jack Dyer Medal night two days later.
Premiership defender David Astbury paid a glowing tribute to Maric, which perfectly summed up the significant influence he had exerted throughout his time at Tigerland . . .
“He represented the Richmond Football Club with pride, with passion, and stood up for the values of the football club as they aligned with his,” Astbury said.
“Ivan took our leadership and culture personally, and to a new level.
“He had an undeniable ability to make the simple, the fundamental, seem inspirational.
“The little things, the things that were commonly overlooked, or seen as irrelevant, they really mattered to him. And, from this, a culture was born – a culture driven by him . . .
“The result of Saturday (Grand Final victory) is the fruit of the measures and standards that he put in place.
“He’s been demanding and assertive, as well as caring and understanding.
“How he strikes this balance is a testament to who he is . . .
“He has been a remarkable role model to all the youth that have set foot in at Punt Road.”