Image Credit: Keri Megelus/News Corp Australia
POSITION: Small Forward/Midfielder
DRAFT ANALYSIS: “Maurice Rioli Jnr is a speedy small forward who not only kicks goals from all angles, but also tackles with intent.” – Michael Alvaro
The Rioli name has long been one synonymous with success in the footballing landscape, and Maurice Jnr is the latest member of his famous family to be taking strides towards the bigtime. The son of former Richmond and South Fremantle great, Maurice and cousin of current Richmond forward, Daniel has all the familiar traits you would come to expect given his pedigree; with tenacious tackling, freakish goal sense, and eye-catching speed among his greatest assets. He also followed in the footsteps of Cyril Rioli in moving from the Tiwi Islands to board at Scotch College, though he has not been able to get on the park at school or for the Oakleigh Chargers in 2020. The small forward/midfielder did manage to impress at senior level for St Mary’s though, helping his NTFL side make the 2019/20 Grand Final.
- Defensive pressure
- Goal sense
- Sustained impact/consistency
As has been touched on and is somewhat expected, Rioli is a lightning-quick small forward who impacts with heavy defensive pressure, and goal sense which seems second nature to him. His impressive preseason 20-metre sprint time of 2.98 seconds is repeatedly showcased on-field, as he hunts the opposition down and then applies inescapable tackles. Boasting that tenacity and hunger on the defensive end is such an important trait for his position, and one which may prove difficult to hone for other small types. It may also see him fit perfectly into the Richmond system, with the Tigers’ small fleet of forwards all required to work hard both ways.
On the ball, Rioli is the type of player to pop up with moments of magic; able to shark clean possession and boot goals from improbable positions. His smarts at ground level allow him to win the ball, with his agility then setting him free, and a natural finishing acumen ensuring he takes full toll on the opposition inside forward 50. A particular moment from the latest NTFL finals series springs to mind; where Rioli instinctually basketball bounced a loose ball to himself as an opponent looked to gather, before snapping home a goal off one step.
The popular notion of ‘get a Rioli, get a premiership’ lives true to this day, and could well be carried on with Maurice Jnr given his big game performances. The aforementioned finals moment occurred during St Mary’s semi final win over eventual premier, Nightcliff, in a game where he booted four goals to help the Saints book their Grand Final ticket. His finals campaign as a whole was spectacular, and those kinds of special moments at senior level would have Richmond staff and fans alike very keen to see what the youngster can do.
They may have to taper their expectations though, with Rioli more of a long-term prospect at this stage. While able to run through midfield at times, his size at 173cm and a lack of consistent, four-quarter output should see him favour the small forward role at AFL level. He could be a type to inject some energy at the centre bounces from time to time and has a solid running capacity, but has all the traits to suit permanent forward status. He is hardly a massive accumulator, but definitely an impact player who can win games with glimpses of brilliance.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 40+
Rioli finds himself in the unique position of having father-son and Next Generation Academy (NGA) ties to three different AFL clubs. His father played 118 games for Richmond and 168 for South Fremantle, making him eligible to be taken under the father-son rule by either the Tigers or Fremantle. He could have also nominated Essendon as his club of choice given the Bombers’ rights to their Tiwi Islands NGA zone. But Rioli, who is close to his cousin Daniel, has made it clear that Richmond would be his destination of choice. Given his lack of competition against high-end talent of his age-group, Rioli is a difficult prospect to place. As tends to be the case with many father-son selections, he could slide a touch and be snapped up in the 40-plus range. Though, his raw talent and impressive athletic profile may see a club look to hold the Tigers accountable earlier on.