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Is the 2018 Coleman medal the best of Riewoldt’s career?

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31st August, 2018
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At the conclusion of the 2018 AFL home-and-away season Jack Riewoldt has three Coleman medals to his name.

His 65-goal tally saw him claim the award ahead of North Melbourne’s Ben Brown, who led the race for most of the year, and Geelong’s Tom Hawkins, who was at his damaging best at the back end of the season.

Had Riewoldt not kicked a total of 21 goals across the last four games of the season, it’s probably fair to say he wouldn’t have added to his two previous leading goal-kicker awards he claimed in 2010 (78 goals) and 2012 (65 goals).

But while the other two are equally impressive feats, the question of whether the third Coleman medal of his career is the best yet must be asked.

While in hindsight it sounds like a strange argument to make, Riewoldt’s third Coleman comes at a time where fans across the competition are perceiving the 29-year-old differently.

Several years ago, when he claimed his first medal, Riewoldt was often described as a selfish footballer, not in terms of the talent he brought to the field but in terms of the body language he often displayed when the going got tough.

But as Richmond’s game style has changed in the past two seasons we have seen a different side to Riewoldt many would not have envisaged existed.

Former Sydney and Melbourne coach Paul Roos went as far as describing Riewoldt as the “most selfless player in the competition” earlier this year.

Jack Riewoldt Richmond Tigers Grand Final AFL 2017

(Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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“His transformation has been extraordinary,” Roos told Fox Footy. “He’s gone from being a guy that we didn’t question his ability but the body language, to the most selfless player in the competition.

“There is no question; he is the most selfless player in the competition.”

Riewoldt backed that call up shortly afterwards when he revealed he had taken a pay cut in his new contract. With many tipping Tom Lynch to arrive at the club in the off-season, it was the sort of move that had to be made for the Tigers to enjoy further success.

“No, I took a pay cut. I definitely took a pay cut,” he told Fox Footy.

“So I had another year on my contract, next year, so it’s basically a restructuring, really. So next year’s wiped and it’s a three-year contract.

“No, I am on less money next year than I am on this year.”

His off-field attitude has translated onto the field as well, with Riewoldt making an impact in several key areas. While he has kicked 65 goals of his own in 2018, Riewoldt has provided 19 goal assists for teammates, the third most at the Tigers.

In that category he trails only Shaun Edwards (29) and Dustin Martin (22), and with that duo spending more time in the middle of ground they are often tasked with getting the ball deep into the forward line.

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AFL Grand Final Richmond Tigers 2017

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

During Damien Hardwick’s tenure Riewoldt has often acted as the lone tall forward, in particular during the last two seasons, and that task in itself has presented a major challenge to the cousin of St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt, which he has taken to with both hands.

Being the only tall forward could become frustrating for Riewoldt as high balls into attack could easily be dealt with by opposition defenders, but on a weekly basis we see Richmond’s number eight crash packs and create contests that allows Richmond’s mosquito fleet to flourish.

His performance in that aspect of the game can be seen by Riewoldt’s 51 one-percenters for the year – the seventh-ranked player at the Tigers, but the highest of any forward.

If Riewoldt had not changed his mannerisms on the ground, the Richmond Football Club may well have not won the premiership in 2017, let alone be dreaming of back-to-back celebrations in 2018.

Jack Riewoldt has changed the way he has represented the selflessness in the Tigers playing group, and his 2018 Coleman is simply a reward for the transformation he has undertaken.

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