Richmond has signed 213cm college basketballer Mate Colina as a Category B rookie, making him the tallest player on an AFL list.
Colina, 21, grew up in Melbourne but has spent the past two years playing division-one basketball for the University of Hawaii.
He also represented Australia at the U17 FIBA World Championships in 2016 and was a member of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) as part of its basketball program.
The big man is the cousin of emerging defender, Noah Balta and has a close relationship with ruckman, Ivan Soldo and ruck coach, Ivan Maric through family bonds that span generations.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Colina told Richmond Media from Hawaii.
“I couldn’t be prouder to be with such a prestigious Club that has such a rich history and culture. I think it is a Club that in the long run would help me become a better person as well, and a leader.”
Colina said it was the close connections he has with Balta, Maric and Soldo that drew him towards Richmond, particularly Balta, who he lived just three doors down from in Melbourne.
The pair also attended the same school and were football teammates at both the Essendon Doutta Stars and Calder Cannons as juniors.
“Noah is like a brother to me who has immense character and is like a best mate that you couldn’t ask for,” he said.
“Having him at the Club, it’s pretty awesome.”
Colina, who has elite aerobic capacity to match his giant frame has drawn inspiration from both Soldo and close friend, former Australia U17 and AIS teammate, Tom Fullarton, who recently debuted for the Brisbane Lions.
“I think definitely because Soldo did the transition it is a big thing (to draw inspiration from),” he said.
“I also look at the stars as well like (Brodie) Grundy with his groundwork around the ball and big Max Gawn.
“Tom Lynch as well. I think he does a great job at finding the ball and taking it at its highest point.”
Colina believes he has the capability to play a variety of positions.
“I think I will have the ability to both follow the ball in the ruck or be forward, and really provide a presence that can mark the ball,” he said.
The 21-year-old recently spent time in Melbourne training with Shane Edwards, under the watchful eye of Richmond General Manager- Football Talent, Blair Hartley, and Senior Club Advisor, Neil Balme.
“It was a really cool experience just to see how professional ‘Shedda’ was, and just to recap and see how important it is to live a professional lifestyle,” Colina said.
The Category B Rookie will next join his Richmond teammates following the conclusion of his upcoming basketball season with the University of Hawaii. The season spans from November to March.
“Right now, I’m laser-focused on my journey and studies, and following my dreams with basketball and what I am passionate in, but down the line I will take it all as it comes,” he said.
“I will come back down to the Club during my summer break which will allow me to immerse myself in an elite professional environment.”
Hartley said the Club was thrilled to sign Colina as a Category B rookie.
“We see a lot of transferrable skills in Mate and as a Club are greatly excited by what he might be able to achieve,” he said.
“Mate is already a highly-professional and diligent athlete, so we feel he is well placed to take on the challenge of becoming an AFL player.
“We look forward to having Mate at the Club again in 2021 and training as part of our program.”