Hype is snowballing over the form of young Werribee key forward Jake Riccardi in the Victorian Football League.
The exciting 19-year-old traces his strong season back to the lengthy pre-season he undertook when it became apparent he was not in the frame for selection at last year’s AFL National Draft.
The Calder Cannons graduate narrowed his focus to what he could do in his first full season for Werribee – he played two games as a 23rd man for Werribee last year – rather than worrying about his non-selection on draft night.
“In terms of the draft, I didn’t expect much, so I was pretty quick to move on from it all and get the pre-season under way,” he said.
“It’s probably a good thing thinking back at it because I didn’t have too much to think about the draft and I just kind of went about my footy and kept trying to improve every week at training.
“I just thought I’d give myself the best chance to be playing for Werribee every week and that was my main goal at the end of last year.”
Riccardi has blossomed into Werribee’s top key forward prospect.
He is making waves in the VFL, occupying second spot on the league’s goalkickers list with 35 goals.
The strength of Riccardi’s game is his marking – be it sticking the hands out in front on his powerful leads or flying in a pack situation.
He has a great eye for goal with a fairly accurate return of 35.26 this season.
That is the flashy part of Riccardi’s game, which excites the Werribee fans and brings the attention, but he is working hard to be the full package. “The coaches want me to keep flying for marks, bringing the ball to ground – that’s their main focus for me and what they want me to do,” Riccardi said.
“It’s important remembering to bring that defensive mindset as well as attacking.
“It’s not the old school where you stand in the square and lead out, you have to push up to the wing, run back and run forward, so there’s a lot of running involved.
“It is actually enjoyable because you work hard for your possessions and you earn every one.”
Riccardi is relishing the chance to work in a Werribee forward line that is one of the most potent in the VFL.
Werribee averages 90 points per game and a teenage Riccardi is the linchpin.
“For a forward line that hadn’t played much together [before this season], we’ve come together pretty quickly and we were in sync with each other pretty early,” Riccardi said.
Riccardi credits the forward line synergy to the guidance of seasoned campaigners Matt Munro and Timm House.
Riccardi has achieved incredible consistency for a key forward in his debut VFL season. Only once has Riccardi been held goalless. “That’s something I wanted to get out of my year, just having that consistency in my games,” he said.
“You don’t have to be the star every week, it’s not about that, it’s about playing your role and doing what is asked of you and that’s the big mentality at Werribee.”
Riccardi did that in Saturday’s 25-point win over Box Hill Hawks, finishing with 15 disposals, eight marks and a goal.
Riccardi says Werribee senior coach Mark Williams and assistant coach Nick Daffy have been huge for his development since his arrival at Werribee.
He also credits his football-loving dad for his influence over his career.
For the record, Riccardi’s dad’s name is Tony, not former Geelong wingman Peter Riccardi. “It’d be good to put that one to bed right here, right now, that I’m not Peter Riccardi’s son and I’d like to apologise to him for all the times that I’ve been mentioned as his son” he said with a laugh.
“My dad’s name is Tony and he’ll be happy that he’s known as my dad instead of Peter.”