They say fortune favours the brave.
And no one was braver than Richmond during last year’s exchange period.
The Tigers made a series of bold, yet calculated moves during the trade window and it has catapulted the club to its first preliminary final in 16 years.
While the decision to let go of star veteran Brett Deledio was, at the time, a controversial one, it has put Damien Hardwick’s team in a fantastic position.
And not just for this season. While the Tigers are on the verge of a drought-breaking premiership victory, the rewards from the Deledio deal are also set to boost the club going forward.
According to AFL greats, such a defining decision deserves praise.
“Not so long ago, legend had it that Richmond couldn’t win a game against an Auskick team without Brett Deledio,” AFL great Garry Lyon told SEN Breakfast.
“He was their ultimate talisman and every time he was unavailable we were bombarded with stats of their win-loss record with or without him.
“He was an integral part of their big five. Life without him at Punt Road was not to be contemplated. Then, in a flurry of post-season activity, he was gone.
“What were the Tigers left with? A first and a third-round pick in this year’s draft and a vacancy in their midfield-forward line, a vacancy that has hungrily and obsessively been jumped on by the likes of Butler, Castagna, Graham, Lambert, Rioli and Townsend.”
THE TRADE TABLE
IT ALL started with Ty Vickery’s free agency move to Hawthorn.
The second-round pick Richmond received in compensation left the Tigers with four top 30 draft picks and put them in an ideal position to acquire some talent in return.
With midfield depth, a mid-forward and a ruckman on the club’s ‘wanted list’, they got to work.
They moved their first-round pick for talented Gold Coast midfielder Dion Prestia, also receiving Pick 26 from the Suns as part of the deal. The quality on-baller they wanted was in the bag, as was another draft pick that would prove pivotal to acquiring their next target.
That second-round selection was almost immediately shifted to Geelong in exchange for Josh Caddy, the mid-forward who would give Richmond on-ball depth and another inside 50 target.
Richmond knew what it was getting in Prestia and Caddy, two players who had experience under their belts and had already displayed their quality at rival clubs.
Its third target was more of a mystery.
The Tigers moved Pick 45 for Toby Nankervis, a young 199cm ruckman who had managed only 12 games in a talented Sydney side. However, from pre-season alone, his talent was clear.
Nankervis has ultimately played 22 out of a possible 23 games for Richmond this season, with an injury to Shaun Hampson further highlighting his importance to the side.
In hindsight, his recruitment looks one of the trade period’s shrewdest moves and has helped the Tigers get to where they are now.
Then there was the Deledio trade.
It takes guts to move a player with more than 200 games under his belt at the one side. But, in the knowledge of Deledio’s injury history and age profile, that’s what the Tigers did.
And they will shortly reap the benefits.
Richmond got two valuable 2017 draft picks in exchange for Deledio, who has managed only five games for the Giants throughout the entire season as he battled calf injuries.
It ensured the club didn’t compromise its future in a trade period where Richmond discarded a total of five draft picks in order to secure Prestia, Caddy and Nankervis.
RICHMOND went to the draft with three picks spread across the second, third and fifth rounds.
At Pick 29, the Tigers recruited West Australian speedster Shai Bolton. At Pick 53, they took South Australian midfielder and Larke Medal winner Jack Graham.
Both have already had an impact at senior level this season.
The club used its final selection, Pick 72, on defender Ryan Garthwaite. They also picked up Tyson Stengle in the rookie draft, another player who has made his senior debut.
If the Tigers had already earned an A+ grading at the trade table, their draft night made things look a whole lot better.
STILL TO COME
AND it’s not over yet.
Incredibly, having seen Richmond’s 2016 trade window take the Tigers from strength to strength this year, it arguably leaves them with an even better hand come the next exchange period.
The Tigers are yet to unwrap the returns of the Deledio trade and will subsequently have two first-round picks to play with — currently Picks 15 (from Deledio) and 16 (their own).
It puts them in the market for that second dangerous forward they have long desired to complement Jack Riewoldt inside 50, be it someone like Josh Schache or Jake Stringer.
They don’t have a second-round pick due to the Prestia trade, but they do have a pair of third rounders (currently Picks 50 and 52) courtesy of the Deledio move.