JACK’S ROAD TO GLORY
HE IS from some of the finest Tasmanian football stock but Jack Riewoldt was not always destined to play AFL.
Parents Chris and Lesley, inset, said the boy who was to become a Richmond star played soccer in his early school years and even dabbled in boundary umpiring.
And, when he did take up footy, he was “never a standout” — until he hit Grade 10 and joined Clarence and made his senior debut as a 15-year-old.
Riewoldt will realise a dream when he lines up against Adelaide in the AFL Grand Final today.
RICHMOND star Jack Riewoldt might have always been destined to play AFL football but it wasn’t until high school when the wheels really began turning.
As the eldest of three sons to Chris — who played 297 games with Clarence, winning two best and fairests, three premierships, represented Tasmania 18 times and is a member of the AFL Tasmania Hall of Fame — the football bloodlines were always there.
But it was the world game which grabbed Jack’s attention during his early years, until cousin Nick was drafted by St Kilda.
“In a way, he [Jack] probably was destined but he really only dabbled in football when he was in primary school, he was more focused on soccer,” Chris said.
“It wasn’t until he went to St Virgil’s in Grade 7 and that coincided with [cousin] Nick being drafted, that got him a bit more excited about football, so he started playing AFL.
“Even through his high school time, he was a good player but never a standout, he never won a best and fairest at high school or anything like that.
“As soon as he moved from St Virgil’s and decided to play at Clarence, and that was when he was in Year 10, he went ahead in leaps and bounds.
“He ended up playing senior football that year as a 15year-old and I was starting to think then: ‘I reckon you can play a bit here’.”
Before he became a serious draft prospect, Jack also took up umpiring for one season.
“I think he was in Grade 9 when he spent a year up at the umpires association as a boundary umpire. [He] was very good at it,” Chris said.
“He rose through the ranks quite quickly from country reserves to some of the more prominent senior games in the country. At the end of the year, he won the best up and coming umpire, I think they might have thought they had a good umpire coming though.
“But it was probably more about earning a bit of cash.”
Today Jack will fulfil a lifelong ambition when he runs on to the MCG for Richmond in the Grand Final against Adelaide.
Chris and wife Leslie, as well as brothers Harry and Charlie, will cheer him on from the stands, hoping the Tigers can end a 35-year premiership drought.
It will be Chris’ first Grand Final since the replay of the draw between St Kilda and Collingwood in 2010.
“It has been a childhood dream, ever since Jack has wanted to play football and wanted to play AFL, it has been
his goal, to play in an AFL Grand Final,” Chris said.
“You could see from the emotion he showed after the final siren last week, he was almost relieved after 11 years, he has finally achieved what he wanted to do, and that’s to play in a Grand Final.
“Now he needs to go one step further to win one.
“We couldn’t go to the drawn one because it was [Jack’s youngest brother] Charlie’s 18th, we had a big party at home but when they got a draw, I said to Harry we are going.
“We went and, after the game, I turned to Harry and said: ‘ We are never coming back to a Grand Final until Jack plays in one’.”
In the opposite camp today will be the Greenwoods, who have charted Hugh’s rapid rise from basketball prodigy into the football ranks.
Two years ago, Hugh made the bold move to turn his back on an NBL contract with the Perth Wildcats to join the Crows and this afternoon it could end with a premiership medallion.
But regardless of the result, parents Mike and Andree — who is fighting secondary breast cancer — feel privileged to simply have seen their son achieve his dreams.
“Every game is the same for us, it is amazing,” said Mike, who has driven with Andree from Adelaide to Melbourne after last Friday’s preliminary final.
“There has not been one game that has not been special for us, we keep on pinching ourselves. He played in Vegas in front of a record crowd of 18,000 when they won the conference, we thought that was special. You can’t describe it. Even last week Andree and I were sitting there watching our son in Friday night footy.
“For us, we have such massive highs and then unfortunately we have massive lows, so we live this emotional rollercoaster but, if it wasn’t for the highs, you don’t dare think what it would be like.”