October 26, 2023

Keeping ‘Dusty’, fearing ‘Dimma’, and how Riewoldt got even with his biggest critic

By Jon Pierik
October 27, 2023 — 5.39am
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Retired Richmond superstar Jack Riewoldt has opened up on the role he and his teammates played in convincing Dustin Martin to ignore a $10 million overture from North Melbourne and commit his future to Punt Road.

In an expansive interview with this masthead only weeks after Riewoldt ended his illustrious 347-game AFL career before his next career step was revealed − a job with the Tasmanian AFL expansion club − Riewoldt has also explained the motivation behind his decision to remain a one-club player and provided an insight into how recovering drug addict Ben Cousins was welcomed into the Tiger fold.

Riewoldt and Martin are two of the central figures in Richmond’s modern premiership era, a period that delivered three flags in four seasons including the club’s drought-breaking 2017 flag.

Money man: Jack Riewoldt did all he could to keep Dustin Martin at Punt Rd.Credit: Getty Images

Martin committed his long-time future to Richmond on the eve of that season’s finals series. North Melbourne had offered him a whopping $10 million.

Riewoldt said he and teammates including Shaun Grigg played a persuasive role in convincing Martin to stay. Riewoldt started a series of phone calls between Martin’s manager Ralph Carr and celebrity agent Max Markson assessing the financial benefits and value of Martin in a Richmond guernsey compared with the Kangaroos. Martin has never explained why he stayed.

“Myself and Shaun Grigg sat down, and we were like ‘I could only imagine the amount of money Dusty had put in front of him, and how life changing that would have been’,” Riewoldt recalled.

“But there are also a whole host of other things that we knew he [Martin] valued as well – the relationship side of things.

“I wouldn’t say it [our involvement] was pivotal or anything like that, but it made people see the commercial value in him, but the true value lay in his relationships and who he is as a person. We were willing to do everything we could to keep him.”

Riewoldt had West Coast champion and 2005 Brownlow medallist Cousins as a Richmond teammate for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.


But the recovering drug addict was only recruited by the Tigers, then coached by Terry Wallace, with the support of the players.

Days gone by: Ben Cousins and jack Riewoldt remain in contact, having spent two seasons together at Punt Rd.Credit: Justin McManus

“From a personal point of view, from the guys that played with him, to have had a little bit of an impact to help get his life back on track, has been fulfilling. So much so that when we go to Perth, we see him all the time with his family,” Riewoldt said.

“It was a bizarre set of circumstances [when Richmond were weighing up bringing him in]. The jungle drums were beating that he was either going to go to St Kilda and Richmond. Then we were told no. Then the senior players pushed fairly hard to say yes, and, all of a sudden, he was at the football club.

“We lived a bit of a circus, which was what followed him, for a couple of years there, but his value and investing in the group was amazing, especially for the younger players.”

Riewoldt left the AFL arena in round 22, completing a full circle from when he was drafted by Richmond with pick No. 13 in the 2006 national draft as an excitable, talented but raw young lad who left his beloved Hobart to begin a new life in Melbourne.

It’s been some ride, Riewoldt calling it quits as the second-most capped Tiger, with 347 games to his name along with three flags, his place in Punt Rd forever etched in history. Riewoldt is about to release his memoir, The Bright Side. He said the book had given him a chance to review his life through a new prism.

Glory days: Jack Riewoldt celebrates the Tigers’ 2017 premiership, and joins The Killers in their performance of Mr Brightside on stage at the MCG.Credit: Justin McManus; Wayne Ludbey; Supplied

Young cub

Riewoldt arrived at Punt Road during the Terry Wallace era (2005-09). The facilities were poor – among other issues, wheelie bins were used as ice baths, there was outdated audio equipment, and the walls needed a paint – while the training oval flooded in one pocket under heavy rain, and could not be used in summer because of cricket.


“You become a product of your environment really, when you walk into an AFL club for the first time, you don’t know what you don’t know. When you see the facilities, you are happy to be there and think this is what it must be like. When you start to hear stories about other clubs and new facilities, doing certain things, coaches, it then starts to dawn on you other things that maybe we are behind the eight-ball a little bit, which is probably where we were for that first period of time. Then we moved into a new facility around 2011. That was probably a catalyst of change,” he said.

Under Wallace, the Tigers conjured game plans to beat more fancied opponents but, according to Riewoldt, struggled to generate their own reliable style, prompting Riewoldt to wonder how Wallace lasted as long as he did.

“We adjusted a lot to the opposition, which was one of Terry’s great strengths, the ability to analyse and then try and effect the way to beat sides. But when you look at the way the game is coached these days, clubs have systems, and they back their systems in,” he said.

“I didn’t really know much about Terry or him coaching prior to getting to Richmond, but he was a really great – I want to say [he was a] salesman, but I don’t want to say salesman. He actually made you believe in the story, and believe in the way we were going to do things. Which is why when it worked, it really worked for us.”

Wallace did not wish to comment when approached by this masthead.

‘Fearing’ Hardwick

Damien Hardwick was appointed Richmond coach ahead of the 2010 AFL season.

Riewoldt admits the change of coach left him with a sense of dread.

A strong pre-season with players completing a variety of on-and-off field tasks at Wye River set the scene for what was to come.

Tough guy: Jack Riewoldt said his thought was fear when Damien Hardwick was unveiled as Richmond coach in 2009.Credit: Sebastian Costanzo

“I think the first time I found out that ‘Dimma’ was going to coach me, I sort of felt there was an element of fear, in the structure of the group, that we were going to have this hardened thug that was going to come and coach us,” Riewoldt recalled.

“Change brings on a whole range of emotions. Some people embrace it, some people look at it and fear change. I was probably in the fearing mould of that. It was good to change it up.”

Brutal feedback

The Tigers turned to cultural change agent Gerard Murphy in 2014 to help players provide honest and open 360-degree feedback to each other – and staff – but Riewoldt was no fan.

Jack Riewoldt ‘The Bright Side’ is out on November 1 through Simon & Schuster. RRP $49.99

“It’s a great example of how it’s not a one-size fits all in the AFL environment. You look at the way players are treated, and also list demographics, what’s the best thing for that group at the time. For us, unfortunately, [Murphy’s program] wasn’t the best for us at that time,” Riewoldt said.

″⁣It didn’t end well for us, but how quickly the narrative shifted when we had a different thinking process brought in, one that was harnessed by our group really quickly. We reaped the rewards pretty quickly after getting that right. That’s not to say [Murphy’s program] isn’t the right model for other people going forward.”

The players’ feedback to each other varied, from the positives to Riewoldt even being told to stop wearing old Nike gear, and to use the new BLK apparel like his teammates.

“It can be unrelenting, but it can also be quite nitpicky for some things,” Riewoldt said. “People look to fill silence with things. It’s not my position to tell other people how to live their lives because I have an ideal in my head, but there are things that happen in people’s lives that we have no understanding of, or have no knowledge of, and we don’t how that could trigger, or why people do things a certain way. That’s why the next model we went down was about that information sharing, so we got to know each other a little bit better.”

The process also involved staff receiving blunt feedback, and one hard-working and helpful employee left in tears.

“That was probably the catalyst for us to say: ‘Is this really the best thing for us going forward, and do we really feel good about ourselves doing it?’ The answer was no to both of those questions,” Riewoldt said.

Murphy had been praised for the work he did in fortifying Geelong’s leadership group before the 2007 premiership. Murphy, through his employer, Performance by Design, was contacted for comment.

Contract capers

With Riewoldt off contract in 2013, and with a new agent, Liam Pickering, Fremantle offered Riewoldt a deal of almost $1 million a season. The Brisbane Lions also came knocking. The Lions returned in 2016, along with Essendon, Riewoldt taking a call from then Bombers coach John Worsfold while he was shopping at Myer at Southland.

But Riewoldt said loyalty was always a driving force.

“People always want to be loved and be wanted as well. There is that aspect of it as well, but in my internal fabric, I really value loyalty. It would have been near-on impossible for me to leave, and then go and face Richmond again,” Riewoldt said.

“I think the only way it could have happened was if I was 27 in five years time and a Tasmanian team came in and that was a realistic chance. But I am not in that position, so I don’t have to make that decision, thankfully.”

Prank calls

Carlton great turned expert commentator Marc Maclure once labelled Riewoldt a prima donna, prompting an angry Riewoldt to source Maclure’s number and have friends prank him through private-number calls. Watching Maclure on a live Fox Footy broadcast, and knowing his mobile phone was on the table, Riewoldt even called Maclure through a private number.

“Sometimes it’s water off a duck’s back, sometimes there is a chance to get even. I got even, I probably got ahead, to be honest,” Riewoldt said.

“We used to prank call him when he was on air, me, Brett Deledio and Shaun Grigg. We would sit around and have dinner, and he would be on Friday night footy. We would just sit there pranking him all night. You could see him touching his phone, then turning it on silent.

“I have spoken with ‘Sellers’ about that. He finds it quite funny, but I probably wouldn’t do it again.”

Hardwick’s departure

Hardwick quit as coach after the Tigers lost their annual Dreamtime at the G game against Richmond in 2023. Hardwick delivered a withering spray, unusual for him, but Riewoldt sensed the three-time premiership coach wasn’t himself during the pre-season camp in Apollo Bay, when a results-driven, rather than process-driven approach was used. (Hardwick had long used tales of climbing mountains to inspire his players.)

“In hindsight it was probably a red flag, but it certainly heightened your attention,” Riewoldt said. “It’s not to say it was a catalyst for anything, but when you are so used to something, when there is difference and change, you go: ‘That’s interesting.’

“Even after the Gold Coast game [the Tigers lost to the Gold Coast Suns at Marvel Stadium], there was a sense of vulnerability where he spoke about not knowing the answers. That’s not a cry for help, but it was a really honest, vulnerable conversation for a senior coach to admit that. It was a bit of a roller-coaster, and ultimately that’s probably why Dimma said, ‘That’s it for me at Richmond.’ He saw the best version of Richmond going forward not involving him.”

Any interest in coaching?

“No – it’s a fickle, fickle job,” Riewoldt said.

Jack Riewoldt ‘The Bright Side’ is out on November 1 through Simon & Schuster, RRP $49.99

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Jon Pierik is a sports journalist at The Age. He covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.Connect via Twitter or email.


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