In the 17th of a Bingle Recruitment Zone special series, featuring 20 highlights from Richmond’s trade/draft history during the off-season, we examine Trent Cotchin’s exciting evolution at Tigerland.
At the end of the 2007 season, Richmond was denied the customary reward provided to each club finishing last on the league ladder.
That reward was first pick in the National Draft – the competition’s recruiting system, which had been in place since 1986.
The Tigers had finished wooden-spooners in ’07, with just three wins and a draw from their 22 matches. But it was Carlton who qualified for that year’s first draft selection, under the league’s priority pick ruling operational at the time.
Clubs with fewer than 16.5 premiership points, in both the previous season, and the current season, were given a priority pick at the start of the draft.
The Blues, by virtue of the fact they finished with just 14 points (three wins and a draw) in 2006, and 16 points (four wins) in 2007, received a priority pick, even though they finished one rung above Richmond on the ladder that season.
That made it another anxious period for Richmond’s Recruiting Manager, Francis Jackson, who was particularly keen on the Tigers taking Trent Cotchin, a talented teenage midfielder, who’d been starring for TAC Cup team, the Northern Knights, as well as his school side at PEGS (Penleigh and Essendon Grammar).
Cotchin also had captained Vic Metro at the under-16 championships in 2006, and been a key member of the Vic Metro line-up in the 2007 under-18 championships.
The overwhelming consensus among the league’s talent scouts was that either Cotchin, or his tall Northern Knights’ teammate and close friend, Matthew Kreuzer, would be the first pick in the AFL’s ’07 National Draft.
Jackson also liked what Kreuzer, a mobile ruckman, had to offer in terms of his football ability, but it was Cotchin, who had most appeal to Richmond.
The Tigers had been keeping a close eye on Cotchin for a couple of years, and rated him an outstanding prospect.
Cotchin had, in fact, trained with Richmond during January that year, as part of the AIS/AFL Academy program, fuelling the Tigers’ desire to secure his services.
Even though he had suffered a broken ankle playing with Northern Knights in the TAC Cup finals, and subsequently missed most of draft camp testing while on crutches, it didn’t deter Richmond in the slightest.
What did concern the Tigers, though, was that it was Carlton who had first claim on Cotchin, given the priority pick ruling.
The Blues were very interested in the gifted, young on-baller, but they also liked Kreuzer.
After considerable deliberation, Carlton committed to taking Kreuzer at No. 1, paving the way for Richmond to (most happily) snare Cotchin with the second pick overall in the 2007 National Draft.
Seven years on, it’s proven to be a huge drafting success story for the Tigers . . .
Cotchin has three Jack Dyer Medals to his credit (the youngest-ever Richmond player to accomplish this feat), an equal runner-up placing in the Brownlow Medal, an All-Australian ‘blazer’, he’s won the AFL Coaches Association’s Player of the Year award the same season, and has captained the Club for the past two years.
But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Cotchin in his AFL journey at Tigerland. He had to work exceptionally hard to overcome injury problems at the outset of his league career.
His initial pre-season was sorely interrupted, due to an inflamed Achilles, and he had to wait until Round 8, 2008, before making his senior league debut – against reigning premier Geelong on a cold, wet May Saturday at the MCG.
Cotchin’s impact was immediate. He joined that elite group of players, who scored a goal with their first kick in senior league ranks, added another before the game was over, and was one of the Tigers’ best in their 30-point loss.
A nagging ankle injury proceeded to hamper Cotchin’s progress over the next couple of years, although, at the same time, it also served to highlight his maturity and professionalism.
He was forced to stick to a strict modified training program, but worked diligently to eventually return to full fitness.
In season 2010, Cotchin turned the glimpses of gold he’d displayed during his first couple of years into something more substantial, finishing seventh in the Club’s Best and Fairest award.
The following year, Cotchin, on the back of his first full pre-season, took out his inaugural Jack Dyer Medal, and polled 15 votes in the Brownlow Medal.
Then, in 2012, he took his game to an elite level, adding a second Jack Dyer Medal to his footballing CV, winning the prestigious AFL Coaches Association’s Player of the Year award, gaining All-Australian selection, and finishing equal second in the Brownlow Medal.
Such was Cotchin’s impact, and impressive form in season 2012, several football critics publicly pondered whether he was (or would become) the best player at Tigerland since Club ‘Immortal’, Kevin Bartlett.
Respected ‘Age’ football writer, Jake Niall, wrote: “Cotchin is comparable to (Chris) Judd at around the same age and his range of talents — ball-winning, evasion, balance, skills on both sides — are similar to Gary Ablett's. He is en route to becoming the most accomplished player to have represented Richmond since the great Kevin Bartlett.”
At the end of 2012, Cotchin was appointed Richmond’s captain, following Chris Newman’s decision to step down from the role.
In the two seasons since, he’s developed into a fine skipper for the Tigers, leading them to back-to-back finals campaigns.
On-field, Cotchin has continued to generate plenty of drive for his team, too.
He won his third Jack Dyer Medal in 2014 and polled 18 votes in the Brownlow Medal – the fourth consecutive year he’d finished with 15 votes or more in the game’s most prestigious individual award, which is a record achievement by a Richmond player.
Cotchin turns 25 at the start of next season, so is only just starting to come into his prime as a league player.It’s reasonable to assume that his best playing days are still ahead of him . . .