Richert ready to go one better

Updated: March 4, 2016
North Geelong's Steve Richert at training last month. Picture: AL PACKER
North Geelong's Steve Richert at training last month. Picture: AL PACKER

North Geelong’s Steve Richert at training last month. Picture: AL PACKER

FOR both team and individual, the post-mortem following any humiliating grand final defeat can be confronting.

In fact, very few within the four walls of a football club are immune from criticism.

Tough questions are inescapable. Home truths often scathing.

This is how it should be.

And like it or lump it, such honest critiques come with the territory in a team sport.

Without such, football teams and individuals don’t learn; they fail to grow.

Stable clubs with excellent culture and strong ethos embrace such challenges head on.

On the other side of the ledger – in challenging times – weaker clubs, with shallower individuals, play the blame game like a couple of weary baseliners would exchange blows in a marathon rally in tennis.

The difference being, in the footy microcosm, by the time a point has been finally won or lost, the damage has been done.

Bad habits more often than not remain, dodgy practices are usually ignored, and, consequently, opportunities of ultimate success vanish.

Finger pointing and corner cutting are the feeble pillars of such establishments.

At various times, throughout the past two preseasons, there is little doubt the North Geelong Football Club, and the individuals within the establishment, would have faced numerous confrontations – on many levels – associated with both these dynamics.

After upsetting GDFL powerhouse Bell Post Hill, in 2013, to secure North Geelong’s first piece of silverware in over the decade, the Magpies have since gone on to be shamed by the Panthers in both the 2014 and 2015 deciders.

And the final margins don’t read well if you are a North Geelong devotee.

If the club wasn’t humbled enough by a 54-point smashing in 2014, then it most definitely was, when the brunt of mortification was beset upon the Magpies after they copped another mauling, this time an 85-point drubbing, again at the hands of a rampaging Bell Post Hill in 2015.

Key defender Steve Richert admits a football club – at times – is a testing environment to be in after one bad grand final loss, let alone two.

“It has been pretty tough,” Richert told K rock

“To lose the first one against Bell Post Hill in the way we did, and then follow up with a worse performance against them again last year was not good; it was deflating to be honest.

“If you look at the margin it looks as if we didn’t learn anything from the previous year.

“You wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that.

“When you lose so badly a second time everyone at the footy club needs to be held responsible.”

Richert, who remarkably enters a fifteenth year in the GDFL in 2016 after being thrust into senior football at Corio in the early 2000’s as a baby-faced 15 year-old by then coach Ricky O’toole, is adamant the Magpies have learnt from their wrongdoings in the past two years, and have already put in programs and strategies to ensure they give themselves the best opportunity to go one step further this season.

“It’s simple really; we need to get bigger, stronger and fitter to match it with Bell Post Hill,” Richert said

‘’It’s hard to say whether we cut corners last year in this regard, but what is certain, it was like boys playing against men in the granny against Bell Post, so we need to work harder to even get near them.

“The difference between the two teams from the first bounce was so noticeable.

“Bell Post’s big bodies around the ball; they slaughtered us all over the ground. They literally pulled our pants down.

“We can’t just sit back and do nothing about it. We are clear on where we need to get better.

“The focus this pre-season is to definitely work on all aspects of our fitness.”

Richert is arguably one who has felt the emotional torment of both grand final debacles probably more than any other individual at North Geelong.

After seven fruitless, yet enjoyable, years with the Roos, where Richert toiled without any finals action with older brother Gary, the 29 year-old was eventually enticed away from Anakie reserve by the lure of greater team success.

With close to 200 games under his belt, which included a stint with St Marys in the GFL, there was always bound to be a multiple of suitors for regular the GDFL interleague representative still in the prime of his career.

Coupled with the fact that quality key defenders don’t grow on trees, it was no surprise that reigning premier was one of those who came knocking on Richert’s door to gain his services.

On the back of the Magpies breakthrough flag, and buoyed by path the North Geelong was undertaking to repeat the dose in 2014, the decision should have been a logical one for Richert.

But according to Richert the decision to move from Anakie to Osborne Park wasn’t as clear cut as it seems.

“After Anakie I was really close to going to Bell Post Hill,” Richert revealed.

“For about a week the decision to go to either North Geelong or Bell Post Hill was on a knife’s edge.

“To be honest it was a split decision between the two clubs in the end.”

Richert says if it wasn’t for the sweet-talking abilities of 2013 premiership hero Luke Parker he could have quite easily been running around in the Panthers strip in 2014.

“I was just about to have a meeting with Bell Post Hill coach Brent Grgic,” Richert said.

“But I was working with Luke Parker at the time, and he had just played in the flag with North Geelong, and he was pretty much hounding me and telling me how good it was down there.

“So in the end I chose the Magpies over Bell Post Hill.”

Considering what has transpired over the last two years, and the fact that he could quite possibly be a two-time premiership player, Richert has absolutely no regrets about his decision to move to North Geelong.”

“Regardless of what has happened, I have loved playing for North Geelong,” Richert said.

“Sure, a flag would have been great, but this is a great club, with great people.”

With Richert heading towards the twilight of his career, and obviously frustrated that the shift from the struggling Roos to the emerging Magpies has still not yielded a flag, he doesn’t plan to put the cue in the rack anytime soon.

“The chance to win one (premiership) has definitely not worked out the way I would have liked,” Richert said.

“Initially when I went to Anakie it was on the promise of playing finals football with them – and all the players they had – but nothing ever eventuated.

“At Anakie I didn’t play finals for seven years, so I had had enough.

“So when North Geelong asked me to come across I was rapt to get here to play finals again – and that has been the case.

“Sure we have been smashed in both grand finals but we have had two pretty good years.

“We are still very young and we are not about to give up anytime soon.”

After five grand final losses (three at Corio and now two at North Geelong) Richert does acknowledge that with each loss comes some self-doubt.

But he believes each loss has made him even more desperate to achieve his dream.

“It’s only natural you start to question yourself and whether it will happen,” Richert said.

“All I’ve ever wanted, and all I have ever said to people I have come across, is that I just want to win one.

“I won’t be happy until I get that bloody ugly tattoo on my ankle.”

Twitter: @heath_buck




















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