A great mate of mine once owned a racehorse named “Ready To Explode.”
A group one winner and place getter in the Victorian Derby, the horse had a quiet start to his career before flourishing as a four-year old, becoming a household name in racing and winning close to a million dollars in prizemoney.
Nick Vlastuin is the human version of “Ready To Explode.”
Drafted by Richmond with their first pick (selection nine overall) in the 2012 National draft, Vlastuin quickly became a regular with the Tigers, spending the majority of his first four seasons deep in defense, often with the unenviable task of quelling the influence of the opposition’s most dangerous small forward.
A new season brings new opportunities however, and any football expert or analyst worth their grain of salt will tell you there is a definitive new look and feel about the Tigers in 2017.
The additions of Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy have been significant, and the Richmond midfield now has a fresh look and sharp edge.
Now far less predictable and with much greater depth and potency, there is a roar coming out of Punt Road that we haven’t seen in previous seasons, and Nick Vlastuin is one of the major reasons why.
Despite flying under the radar in the majority of his 82 AFL game career to date, Nick Vlastuin, whether he knows it or not, is now ready to launch.
A natural talent and top ten draft pick from the Northern Knights, he is already highly regarded by his teammates and within the inner sanctum down at Tigerland.
A disciplined team man with exquisite skills and a hard edge, he is in many respects the perfect modern day prototype footballer – a bloke you want with you in the trenches when ambushed, but who can also dance round the enemy with his eyes closed when required.
Vlastuin spent the off-season focusing on developing the aerobic engine required to play through the midfield at AFL level, and with a much stronger running capacity as the by-product, he is now an integral part of a new look midfield that has been dominant in Richmond’s impressive start to the season.
“I played most of my junior footy in the midfield but probably didn’t have the tank to cut it at AFL level, until I improved my aerobic base this year,” Vlastuin says.
“It’s great to be getting an opportunity to play alongside Cotch and Dusty and all the boys we rotate through the middle so hopefully I can just play my role and learn as much as I can from some of the best players in the competition.”
Reserved but friendly, understated yet imposing, Valstuin certainly isn’t the bloke you’ll find on centre stage or craving the spotlight.
He is a natural leader – but more from his definitive actions on and off the field than from the need to verbally rant and rave.
Vlastuin’s leadership and no-nonsense approach to life is perhaps best demonstrated in the Certificate III in Carpentry and Certificate IV in Building and Construction courses he is studying simultaneously at the Trade Institute of Victoria.
He may not yet have the profile of some of his more experienced Tiger teammates, but Vlastuin has the respect from everyone around him, and that is clearly evident during class and when on-site at TIV.
“I always wanted to have a trade behind me when I was growing up,” Vlastuin says.
“The flexibility that TIV offer is just fantastic for all the boys involved.”
“Football is obviously the priority at the moment but we’re all mindful of the need to do something after our careers are done and dusted and TIV is providing a great opportunity for us to do exactly that, Vlastuin adds.
TIV’s Carpentry Manager, Bill Spencer not surprisingly speaks very highly of his young Tiger protégé, and doesn’t need much prompting when asked to highlight Vlastuin’s strong points as a student and more importantly, qualities as a person
“Nick is a quiet achiever,” Spencer says with a smile.
“He’s super competitive, and everything he does, he does with purpose.”
“Nick might not say much at times, but he’s a quality bloke and a highly driven young man, and has the absolute respect of his teammates and peers.
It’s time for “Tigger” to tear it up in 2017.
Author: Aaron Lord