Jack to the Future: AFL’s Riewoldt talks about his building course

Resident TIV BD and blogger Aaron Lord chats to Richmond Superstar Jack Riewoldt about planning his future as a qualified carpenter.

To describe Jack Riewoldt is an unexpected privilege – an honour for which I am neither worthy nor truly capable of. He is the surprise party you never expected. The holiday your Missus plans for you in secret. The bonus you find in your bank account at Christmas. To describe Jack Riewoldt is to do him an injustice, for the real Jack Riewoldt is a breath of fresh air.

We live in a cynical world that is fast to judge and even faster to condemn. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of AFL Football. For a player, the industry can be uncompromisingly fickle. A player’s best friend one day can be his worst enemy the next. A dream can fast become a cruel nightmare – and Jack Riewoldt knows it better than anyone.

But I have a message for the ill-informed, self-fulfilling armchair critics of the Richmond superstar – back off Jack Riewoldt. You simply mock a good man who you will never understand, and now it’s time to set a few things straight.

Jack Riewoldt was always destined for success. Although less inclined to admit it, he was probably always destined for a certain element of controversy also. A young man with a quick wit, sharp tongue and a ridiculous amount of natural talent, Riewoldt entered the AFL world like Lenny Kravitz walking into Madison Square Garden. And it most certainly did not go unnoticed.

“I was probably misunderstood, particularly early on in my career,” Riewoldt says.

“The only forum where people could judge me was the three hours they saw on TV on game day, which clearly wasn’t the real me,” he adds.

In an industry obsessed by political correctness however, and one that is seemingly determined to suppress anyone with a personality let alone an opinion, Riewoldt’s early career in the AFL was met with a level of public scrutiny and unwarranted criticism like no other.

Occasionally, and by his own admission, Riewoldt brought this criticism upon himself, however more often than not the judgment was premature, unfair and most importantly simply inaccurate.

It matters not however, in a landscape that favours robotic professionals over colourful characters, and it is something that Riewoldt has grappled with and has had to adjust to ever since.

Things have changed considerably for the circumspect forward however, and there is now a balance and maturity to Riewoldt that is as genuine as it is refreshing.

“I’ve really developed and matured as a person over the last 12 months,” he says.

“Prior to this Cert IV building course at TIV I never really had anything outside of footy to channel a lot of my energy and it probably sent me a little crazy when I sit back and seriously reflect on it,” Riewoldt adds.

But while the path to stardom for Riewoldt has been as turbulent as it has spectacular, his record speaks for itself, and you can’t help but get the feeling that if Riewoldt could indeed go back in time, to be privy to the events that he would or wouldn’t change would be nothing short of fascinating.

Collective success in the form of Premierships and consistent finals appearances with the Tigers has to this point eluded Riewoldt, but that should not diminish the reality of how great a player he is, and has been, nor should it dilute the individual accolades he has accumulated along the way.

Twice a Coleman medallist (AFL leading goal-kicker), six time Michael Roach medallist (Richmond leading goal-kicker) twice All-Australian and a Best and Fairest winner in 2010, like it or not Riewoldt commands the respect of others who are spoken of in much higher regard than himself.

It is only when you really step back and consider this notion that you begin to understand and appreciate how grounded and likeable a person Riewoldt is.

For many, the criticism and scrutiny that Riewoldt has endured would be enough to end a man’s career – it sure as hell would have ended mine – but for a competitor like Riewoldt it has only inspired him to become even better and to strive even harder for the collective success that he is so desperate to be a part of.

Like many of his teammates at Tigerland, Riewoldt also places enormous importance on life after football – itself an admirable concept given his experience, status in the game and undisputed position in the financial pecking order at Richmond.

It is perhaps for these reasons that make Riewoldt’s humility and down to earth personality such an endearing part of his character. He is an extremely deep thinker – a true scholar of the game – and has a depth and intelligence about him that has never truly received the respect it deserves.

“Over the last eight months I’ve developed a strong passion for the building course at TIV, and I really enjoy the mathematical and intellectual side of the industry,” Riewoldt says.

If you probe a little deeper you find a loyal man with a heart of gold who has genuine love and affection for his footy club and his teammates.

“To be honest this course has really improved the relationships I have with the younger players at the footy club,” he says.

“We’ve got a really good synergy within the group at TIV.”

“We can relate our team building skills from football to those in the course, which has been a great accelerator for the entire group throughout the program,” Riewoldt adds.

They are profound words from a man whose selflessness has not necessarily been considered his greatest asset over time. But Riewoldt has absolutely nothing to prove – certainly not to me – and his sincerity is clearly palpable.

Perhaps most satisfying are his responses when asked about his teammates – most notably, fellow TIV Building Course Ambassador — Sam Lloyd.

“I’ve always had a very high opinion of Sam as a player,” Riewoldt says smiling.

“He (Lloyd) has just taken his game to the next level through hard work and professionalism. It’s a tribute to Sam the way he has got himself up to have a real impact at AFL level.”

The acknowledgements don’t stop there either, as Riewoldt goes on to explain what has impressed him most about his studies at TIV.

“I can’t speak highly enough about our trainer Bill Spencer,” he says proudly.

“He’s not only been an outstanding teacher for us, but a great mate who genuinely cares, and the boys are really grateful for that,” Riewoldt adds.

It’s humbling to see a man of Riewoldt’s profile speak so affectionately about the people who surround him. To misunderstand him is to deprive oneself of one of the genuine characters and superstars of the modern game. I feel sorry for those who mock what they don’t understand.

What Jack Riewoldt does after football is perhaps the most intriguing part of this story. Now in his 10th AFL season boasting 196 games and 472 goals, he has earned the right – in football circles anyway – to do whatever he desires.

Somehow however, you get the impression that the next chapter in Riewoldt’s life will eclipse everything even he has achieved on the football field. Whether or not he remains in football, only time will tell, but some birds quite simply aren’t meant to be caged, and the colour of Riewoldt’s feathers are just a hell of a lot brighter than most.

“There is always the desire to stay involved in the game once you finish,” Riewoldt says candidly.

“I still love the philosophy of the game, and I’ve been taught by some amazing people along the journey, but I’ve still got a few years left from a playing perspective and therefore a bit of time to make that decision.”

Take all the time you need Jack – it’s a privilege that I for one, am certain you have earned.

Author: Aaron Lord

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