Daniel Rioli looms as an AFL grand-final X-factor for Richmond after a career-best performance in their win over Greater Western Sydney.
The electrifying youngster kicked four goals as the Tigers stormed to a 36-point victory in Saturday’s preliminary final at the MCG.
Aged just 20 and playing in his first finals campaign, Rioli could have been forgiven for being overawed by the heaving 94,000-strong crowd.
But the great-nephew of late Richmond great Maurice and nephew of Hawthorn star Cyril lived up to the family name, leading the Tigers’ scoring and also racking up eight inside-50s and six tackles.
With the Giants taking the game up to the Tigers, Rioli booted brilliant goals either side of halftime to put his side back in front and kick-start a game-changing third-quarter resurgence.
Both Maurice (1982) and Cyril Rioli (2015) earned Norm Smith medals for their show-stopping grand-final performances.
And the youngest Rioli looks every bit as capable of emulating their feats when Richmond face minor premiers Adelaide in the grand final.
“He played a terrific game tonight,” Tigers defender Dylan Grimes said.
“One thing that gets rated really highly internally is the pressure he puts on the opposition defenders.
“I really feel like he’s been building something over the last few weeks and it was only a matter of time before he got that reward, and it was incredible to see him get that tonight.”
Richmond’s mosquito fleet of Rioli, Dan Butler and Jason Castagna has played a huge role in getting the Tigers to their first grand final since 1982.
Skipper Trent Cotchin said the trio’s ability to complement spearhead Jack Riewoldt was a vital part of their game plan.
“That’s the thing I love most about our forward group,” Cotchin said.
“Jack didn’t have his best night from a goalkicking point of view but the contest he creates gives Daniel and the other smalls opportunities.
“It’s critical to the way we play.”