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Home » » AFL Draft 2017: Ed Richards the ‘bright ranga’ surging into first-round contention

AFL Draft 2017: Ed Richards the ‘bright ranga’ surging into first-round contention

THE Richards surname is arguably the most synonymous at Collingwood.

And few are prouder of his family’s black and white legacy than draft bolter — and mad Magpies fan — Ed Richards.
Ron Richards, Ed’s grandfather, was quintessentially Collingwood.
Ron, the grandson of 179-game Pie Charlie Pannam, grew up in Collingwood then went on to become Magpie royalty. He played in the club’s 1953 premiership then served the club as a coach, match committee chairman and director. Overall, he was involved in more than 1300 matches involving various Collingwood teams.
But for Ed, Ron was simply grandpa.
“He always used to come watch my games. He was a bit of a role model for me,” Ed tells foxfooty.com.au.
The late Lou Richards, Ed’s great uncle, is fondly remembered as a pioneer of footy media and entertainment. But his influence at Collingwood is just as influential, as his record — 1953 Collingwood premiership captain and three-time club leading goalkicker — can attest to.
“Lou had a great life, didn’t he?” Ed reflects.
“He influenced a lot of people, as was shown at his funeral with 1000s of people there to send him on his way.

THE Richards surname is arguably the most synonymous at Collingwood.

And few are prouder of his family’s black and white legacy than draft bolter — and mad Magpies fan — Ed Richards.
Ron Richards, Ed’s grandfather, was quintessentially Collingwood.
Ron, the grandson of 179-game Pie Charlie Pannam, grew up in Collingwood then went on to become Magpie royalty. He played in the club’s 1953 premiership then served the club as a coach, match committee chairman and director. Overall, he was involved in more than 1300 matches involving various Collingwood teams.
But for Ed, Ron was simply grandpa.
“He always used to come watch my games. He was a bit of a role model for me,” Ed tells foxfooty.com.au.
The late Lou Richards, Ed’s great uncle, is fondly remembered as a pioneer of footy media and entertainment. But his influence at Collingwood is just as influential, as his record — 1953 Collingwood premiership captain and three-time club leading goalkicker — can attest to.
“Lou had a great life, didn’t he?” Ed reflects.
“He influenced a lot of people, as was shown at his funeral with 1000s of people there to send him on his way.
“I wouldn’t say I had a whole lot to do with him, but he’s part of the Richards name. He’s the one driving that whole hype.”
As expected, Richards had little choice when choosing which AFL team to support.
“Yeah definitely,” Richards says with a great big smile when asked if he is a Pies supporter. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I used to love Daisy Thomas and, for a bit there, Heritier Lumumba when he was Harry O’Brien — he was actually my favourite player running off half-back.”
Richards could view his predicament — a famously-named Under 18s prospect that has the potential to be taken as early as the first round of this year’s national draft — as a daunting burden.
Instead, the laid-back Carey Grammar student embraces the hype with pride and a no-fuss confidence.
“I’m proud to have a really famous name at Collingwood, being such a prominent club in the AFL,” he says.
Until 12 months ago, an AFL career wasn’t front of mind for Richards.
Yes he loved representing his school in APS footy — he was determined to change Carey’s “winning culture”, or lack thereof — but a gruelling AFL draft combine campaign 12 months later wasn’t a top priority.
“This time last year I was on holidays somewhere. I definitely wasn’t thinking about an AFL career,” Richards says.
“I was more just thinking about getting an invite to Oakleigh and working from there.
“I knew I was probably good enough. I was always undersized through Under 15s and through bottom-age year, so I never really got looked at.
“But I’ve had a massive growth spurt over the last year.”
And not only has he surged up the height ladder in the Richards’ kitchen, he’s rapidly risen up several draft boards as the 2017 season has progressed.
It all began with a starring role in an Under 17s Oakleigh Chargers trial game at Warrawee Park late last year.
Richards only played one half, but he caught the eye of Oakleigh’s talent staff, who promptly offered the promising defender a spot on the club’s Under 18s list.
“It was a wet day, bucketing down, so it was a pretty sloppy game. But I was pretty clean in that first half,” Richards remembers.
Chargers talent manager Craig Notman says Richards was one of two standouts that game.
“It was a filthy wet night, which wasn’t a great night to try and pick talent out. But after five minutes, I think we’d seen enough in all honesty,” Notman told foxfooty.com.au.
“He stood out, well and truly, with what he did in a short space of time. We didn’t need to see anymore because from that brief glimpse we knew he had made considerable improvements from what we’d seen previously and he was a kid that could fit in to TAC Cup footy quite comfortably from there.”
A promising pre-season then led to selection in the Chargers’ opening round TAC Cup clash against the Sandringham Dragons at Ikon Park.
But just when Richards’ journey to the AFL draft had genuinely kick-started, he was dealt an early setback within the opening stages of the Round 1 clash, suffering a pinched meniscus to his left knee.
“I didn’t last long. I reckon it was around eight or nine minutes before I was sidelined for the rest of the game,” Richards says.
He would miss the next three TAC Cup rounds and a Vic Metro trial game. Had he have impressed in the latter game, he would’ve pushed for Under 18s national championships selection.
The setback had the potential to be an untimely turn-off for Richards.
But instead of getting bitter, he got better.
“It was frustrating in the sense that you couldn’t play any football because you’re just doing rehab and mobility and everything like that,” Richards says.
“With Oakleigh finishing on top and school having a solid season, I think my success has come off the back of the team success.”
Richards compares his playing style and role to GWS defender Heath Shaw, who also likes to run and carry the footy, take kick-outs and feels confident when defending deep.
It’s that Shaw-like drive and dependability down back that has seen Richards bolt into top-20 draft calculations over recent months.
“I can understand the hype, having had a relatively good back-end to the season,” Richards laughs.
“My mates are probably the ones who get more hyped about it than me. But at the same time, to have that publicity isn’t a bad thing.”
Notman has been mightily impressed by Richards’ ability to constantly improve throughout 2017.
“He’s a quality kid, a quality trainer that just wants to get the best out of himself and it’s a credit to him to where he’s been able to get himself,” Notman says.
Another Richards trait that makes him stand out on a football field is his fiery mop of red hair.
As to which side of the family those red locks come from, though, he’s at a loss.
“I don’t know, Mum doesn’t know, Dad doesn’t know — it just sort of happened,” Richards laughs.
“Mum’s brown, Dad’s brown, my sister’s blonde and I’m just the bright ranga.”
A “bright ranga” with an even brighter footy future.
ED RICHARDS
Clubs: Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro
Position: Medium defender
Size: 184cm, 77kg
Draft Range: 15-30

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