Jake Riccardi’s AFL dream was realised last night when the 20-year-old key forward was selected by Greater Western Sydney Giants with pick 51 in the 2019 NAB AFL National Draft.
It caps off a truly memorable year for the St Bernard’s and Calder Cannons product who followed in the footsteps of Werribee duo Josh Corbett and Michael Barlow in being awarded the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal as the VFL’s most promising young player, and then earning AFL selection.
Riccardi joined Werribee ahead of the 2019 VFL season after graduating from the Calder Cannons’ NAB League program.
With a point to prove after being overlooked multiple times by AFL clubs, Riccardi relished the opportunity to be the focal point in Mark Williams’ side and proceeded to take the VFL by storm, booting 38 goals from 20 games including a bag of six against Coburg and three in tough conditions in Werribee’s semi-final loss to Essendon.
The accolades came thick and fast thereafter, with selection in the VFL Team of the Year at centre half-forward, as well as a state combine invitation.
At Werribee’s Bruce Montgomery Trophy presentation night, he took out the Club’s Best First Year Player and Leading Goal Kicker awards, and finished inside the top 10 in the best and fairest count.
Despite only being at the club for a short time, Werribee senior coach Mark Williams, who was involved with the Giants in their formative years, said Riccardi’s footprint at Avalon Airport Oval will be everlasting and his tale an inspiration for all.
“I met Jake one year ago at pre-season training. Tallish, a good jump, great hands, with a long straight kick and a wonderful smile,” Williams said.
“What I didn't know at the time was how driven he was to become something great. Early days, and then weekly, Jake turned up first at training , stretched, warmed up and then hit the track for shots on goals, by himself.
“It warmed my heart. He is a terrific teammate who wants to listen and learn. All the coaches admired his attention to improvement, while his specific work with Nick Daffy [Forwards Coach] helped hone his leading patterns and connections with his teammates.
“We at Werribee are very proud of how he progressed and look forward to him leading hard for a pass from ‘Cogs’ [Stephen Coniglio], ‘Cal’ [Callan Ward] or Josh [Kelly]. I know ‘Jezza’ [Jeremy Cameron] will show him the ropes and the GWS Giants will love watching him kick many goals for years to come. Good Luck Jake, you will inspire every current and each new player that chooses to play at the Werribee Football Club.”