In the 15th of a Bingle Recruitment Zone special series, featuring 20 highlights from Richmond’s trade/draft history during the off-season, we look at Brett Deledio’s development from No. 1 draft pick to Tiger star.

Following the summer of 2003-04, Brett Deledio had reached a fork in his promising sporting road . . .

Deledio had played – and starred – for the Victorian team that won the under-17 national championships.

The then 16-year-old had opened the bowling for Victoria and caused problems for opposing batsmen with his lively pace and clever swing.

In the final, against a New South Wales team containing an up-and-coming young batsman by the name of David Warner (yes, the same one now opening the batting for Australia), Deledio showed he could handle the bat a bit himself, scoring a superb 85, as the Vics took out the title.

It’s not too far of a stretch to say that had Deledio turned left down that sporting road, instead of right, he could well have found himself in Dubai right now, competing for Australia in the Test series against Pakistan.

Indeed, the late David Hookes, who was coach of the Victorian Bushrangers when Deledio was flourishing as a junior cricketer, invited him to join the state team.

Deledio, however, declined, choosing to go down the path of pursuing an AFL career. 

He immediately had AFL club talent scouts drooling over the prospect of drafting him.

The Kyabram teenager possessed an extremely impressive football skills-set.  He was beautifully- balanced, lightning fast, a superb kick, strong overhead, had a clever football brain, and could be used to great effect in a variety of on-field positions.

In short, he pretty much had it all, so it was no wonder he was being so highly touted, as the 2004 AFL National Draft loomed.

Richmond was in the box seat to secure Deledio’s services – its reward for having finished last in the ’04 season.

There was a bumper draft crop that year, including the likes of Jarryd Roughead, Ryan Griffin, Lance Franklin and Jordan Lewis.

The Tigers, however, were delighted to read Brett Deledio’s name out, with the prized No. 1 selection in the 2004 National Draft – none more so than their senior coach, at the time, Terry Wallace.

Here’s Wallace’s brief summation of Deledio following his drafting . . .

“Quick and highly-skilled, Brett can play anywhere from half-back through the middle to half-forward.  He is a genuine goalkicker, who has the ability to influence games.”

Deledio lived up to his glowing reputation, playing all 22 games in his 2005 debut season and winning the AFL’s Rising Star award.

It was a fine start to a league career that’s since gone from strength to strength . . .

Initially, Deledio was used in the Richmond line-up through the midfield and up forward, before subsequently establishing himself as one of the leading rebound defenders in the competition. 

He shone across half-back, generating considerable drive for the Tiger team through his damaging run-and-carry.

Back-to-back Jack Dyer Medals in 2008-09, were just reward for Deledio’s excellent work across half-back.

He followed that up with a third placing in the Best and Fairest count the following season (2010), and was runner-up in 2011.

Along the way, Deledio became the youngest player in Richmond’s history to achieve the 150-game milestone, and he accomplished the feat quicker than any other Tiger, too.

In 2012, Deledio made an excellent return to the midfield, winning All-Australian selection for the first time, after being named three times previously in the extended squad for AA selection, and again finishing runner-up in the Jack Dyer Medal.

Deledio was appointed Richmond’s vice-captain at the end of 2012, with Trent Cotchin taking over as the Tigers’ skipper.

He produced some outstanding performances throughout the 2013 season, although probably not quite as consistent as in previous years, to finish fourth in the Jack Dyer Medal.

The now valuable Tiger veteran entered unchartered territory in 2014 . . .

After playing 197 of a possible 201 games since making his AFL debut in the 2005 opening round, and being regarded as the most durable performer in the competition, Deledio was stricken with a nagging Achilles injury early in the season.

He missed four games and then, when he returned, was still restricted in his movements.

To Deledio’s great credit, however, he managed to work his way through the injury problem, and go on to play top-class football for the Tigers during the second half of season 2014.

And, it was another change of on-field role that was to be the catalyst for Deledio’s dazzling form.

Deledio used his extensive range of football skills, and vast experience, to full advantage for the team, as a permanent half-forward.  

From Round 12 onwards, Deledio averaged just under 26 disposals, 9.4 contested possessions, and he kicked 17 goals – many of them real team-lifting ones, at crucial times for the Tigers, as they boldly charged towards the finals.

The boost that Deledio provided the forward line, with his pace, aerial ability, ball-getting prowess and football ‘smarts’, was a significant part of Richmond’s resurrection.

It’s yet another reason why Richmond was fortunate to claim him with that first pick in the 2004 National Draft . . .