Main content

Higgins wins Round 18 Rising Star nomination

Best of Higgins Watch the highlights from Jack Higgins' impressive debut season.

GARY Ablett, you owe Jack Higgins a handshake.

Richmond's first-year sensation pinpoints one moment in his rookie season when reality sunk in.

Higgins, the round 18 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee, was playing his ninth match for the Tigers against Ablett's Geelong and they were running alongside each other on the wing.

The 19-year-old picks up the story.

"The ball was down the other end and I did a double-take and was like, 'S---, I'm playing on Gary Ablett, he's a Brownlow medallist, I loved this bloke when I was a kid'," Higgins told

"You know how everyone shakes hands after the game?

"I really wanted to shake his hand and was going to make a special effort to shake his hand, but he already went off by then, so I was a bit cut (annoyed) – but it's all good."

And that's Higgins in a nutshell, complete with the infectious laugh that rounds out most of his sentences.

He's the wide-eyed kid who wanted nothing but to play AFL football and now finds himself part of the reigning premiers' midfield after a brief apprenticeship up forward.

Higgins acknowledges his media training and takes some of it on board, but prefers to offer a healthy dose of the real Jack.

He let out a hearty laugh when, at one stage in this interview, after being asked about the prospect of becoming a premiership player, he suggested they were "taking it one week at a time".

At the same time, Higgins cringes hearing himself speak on the radio or TV – to the point he walks into another room – and avoids watching his matches other than with his coaches.

His semi-regular half-and three-quarter time speeches to teammates have already become the stuff of legends, sealed once cameras caught Dustin Martin walking away in fits of laughter one night.

"I just squirt out words really fast," Higgins said.

"It's a little bit of a joke, but in a way it's not. Like, I wouldn't find it funny if someone just came up to me in the street (and said what I say).

"But because I say it really fast and probably a bit of my character, they find it funny."

Behind Higgins' one-liners and free spirit is a seriously talented footballer hellbent on becoming an on-field star.

He slotted eight goals in his first four games, won a career-high 25 disposals against Adelaide a fortnight ago then backed up with 18 more in Richmond's 54-point thumping of St Kilda on Friday night.

Higgins also had 10 contested possessions, nine score involvements, four clearances and four tackles in a stuff-the-stat-sheet performance.

The next step, he says, is taking on more responsibility with his decision-making on the ground. In other words, kicking the goal instead of dishing a pass off.

Collingwood awaits on Saturday in a contest set to draw more than 90,000 fans.

"I'm loving playing for Richmond and playing at the MCG each week. It's a dream come true, especially playing for one of the biggest clubs in Australia," he said.

"When you dream of it as a kid, you don't think of an empty MCG – you think of it packed and you're playing in a Grand Final or playing on a big occasion, which it is this weekend.

"I pinch myself when I'm playing out there – I wouldn't have my life any other way."

Speaking of life, just how much has it changed, Jack?

"It's definitely changed. It's changed heaps," he said, drowning in laughter.

"I've always loved walking around Chadstone and going to the shops, but people give you that weird look now. I'm being watched.

"Twelve months ago, I was just a kid playing for Oakleigh Chargers playing my role and now it's all a bit different, but I like that sort of stuff. Don't get me wrong, I like it."