When it was Richmond’s turn to select their fifth player at the 2014 National Draft, they were thrilled a 197cm, 104kg 18-year-old named Reece McKenzie was available.

As it turns out, it wasn’t only his football potential that pleased the Tigers. 

For a short period of time at least, McKenzie almost pursued a career in basketball, such was his promise in that sport as a junior. 

It was the decision to dedicate everything to football that led Richmond scouts (and numerous other clubs) to track his progress more closely during the 2014 season. 

The result was a 35-goal season for the Northern Knights in just 10 appearances, and a 16-goal performance while playing for his school, Marcellin College. 

When his name was read out on draft night, McKenzie’s decision was validated. 

“Juggling basketball and footy was pretty hectic as a kid.  With basketball, you can get into the trap of playing for a lot of teams, and doing four to five training sessions a week, and playing up to two games,” McKenzie told Roar Vision. 

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“Being such an avid sportsman, you just want to play basketball and football, and try to juggle them. 

“As a kid, it’s a bit easier because it’s not as hard on your body, but as you get older, it gets harder and harder.

“Eventually, it got to the stage where football was the sport I wanted to pursue.” 

There were only a handful of players taken after McKenzie at the National Draft. 

That made the wait excruciating, but the feeling even better when the moment came. 

“It’s probably my best life achievement to date.  It was something that I’d worked hard for.   Based on the interviews, I thought my chances were reasonable,” he said. 

“I was at my friend’s house.  He’s a keen Richmond supporter, and so are a lot of my friends.  Once I had my name read out everyone went crazy, and I was very emotional.  It was a great feeling. 

“Coming to a club like Richmond has been an honour.  I’ve been pretty awestruck by it.  I’ve loved every day here.” 

Like his fellow new draftees, McKenzie has wasted no time putting his head down on the training track, to get himself in the best possible shape physically. 

And, he’s enlisted the help of some of the Tigers’ star players. 

“I think running is the key one for me.  Being a big guy, in today’s football, getting up the ground is a key part of the game,” he said. 

“That’s been my number one goal to improve.  I try to do as many extras as I can to improve it. 

“I’m just chipping away at it, every day, to get it better. 

“I’ve worked with Jack (Riewoldt) quite a bit.  He’s very knowledgeable – he knows the game. 

“He’s a smart player, a great coach, and a great teacher. 

“The older boys have been very welcoming.  It’s hard at times with the age gap, but they really do make an effort to talk to you. 

“Hats off to them.  They don’t have to it, but they make an effort, and I really respect that.”