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Big call, and hey Prestia, it's the right one

Damian Barrett  April 19, 2017 10:05 PM

AFL 2017 Round 02 - Richmond v Collingwood

Dion Prestia made the right call in choosing Richmond over Hawthorn

DION Prestia saw it coming when no-one else did. 

In late July last year, he quietly chose Richmond over Hawthorn as his new football home. 

It was a decision that he would not confirm publicly for another five weeks, but one that elicited surprise from many in the football industry. 

In the very week he made his decision, round 18 2016, Richmond was belted by Hawthorn by 70 points at the MCG. 

The Tigers were in the middle of a nine-game season-ending stretch that yielded just two wins; the Hawks to that stage of 2016 had lost just three matches, sat atop the AFL ladder and were perfectly positioned for a fourth consecutive premiership.

Hawthorn was taken aback. Rejection didn't happen to it. The acquisitions of Shaun Burgoyne, Brian Lake, Josh Gibson, James Frawley, Jack Gunston, even David Hale and Ben McEvoy, had led the club to believe it could not lose when pitching for talent.

However, the Hawks moved on quickly and normal programming was restored when Jaeger O'Meara and Tom Mitchell accepted overtures. The cost was higher than normal, though, and saw the Hawks' first pick in last year's draft coming at No.88, and also saw it relinquishing first- and second-round picks in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft.

Prestia, having spent countless hours analysing the demographics and skill sets of the two clubs' lists, was confident he had chosen wisely in his post-Gold Coast life.

What he liked most when contrasting the Tigers' list with the Hawks' was the opportunity to work with Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin in the midfield. Alex Rance in the backline and Jack Riewoldt in the forward line appealed, too, in a way that trumped the Hawthorn sell.

Richmond rewarded Prestia very nicely for his decision with a five-year contract worth more than $3.5 million. For pick six in last year's national draft and a future second-round pick, the Tigers got Prestia and the 2016 No.24 pick.

North Melbourne and St Kilda also had meaningful discussions about Prestia, but the player himself, from early in 2016, had determined it was Hawthorn versus Richmond.

Many questions were raised when Richmond secured him, and given the new Prestia contract is just four games old, the jury remains out on all aspects.

This column queried the hefty wage being given to Prestia.

Dion Prestia celebrates his first win with the Tigers after round one. Picture: AFL Photos

 

Matthew Lloyd said on AFL.com.au's Access All Areas program when assessing Richmond's 2016 season: "(Tigers) ... don't bring in any more recycled players and I'll go a step further – don't bring in Dion Prestia. 

"Instead of paying someone $600,000 and giving away pick six in the draft, actually take a kid that you pay minimum wage who you hope will be better than Dion Prestia." 

Kane Cornes on Fox Footy: "To target Prestia now, it is not the right call, they're not in the premiership window."

Scott Lucas on SEN: "The issue is from a list management and crystal balling [perspective]. If next year is going to be a rebuild, what does Prestia do? Does he help you win two extra games? Do you want that?

"Or would you rather keep your picks and have another couple of kids (in this year's draft) that are in their prime in three or four years?

"They really should be looking over the next two or three years to acquire as many top-20 picks as they can, however that has to happen."

Prestia gets his Tigers guernsey from Richmond legend Francis Bourke. Picture: AFL Photos


There is a long way to go in season 2017 and in football terms, an eternity is still to run on Prestia's Richmond contract and Hawthorn's deal with Alastair Clarkson.

But the Tigers are 4-0, the Hawks 0-4. Prestia saw it coming.

Prestia, who will play his 100th AFL match against Melbourne on Monday night, has already emerged as crucial to the Tigers' set up with his hardness at every contest. There are smoother movers in the competition, and he can butcher the odd disposal, but he's averaging 23 of them a game (10 of those contested), along with an average five tackles and average 315m gained.

Prestia is a smart, level-headed 24-year-old who is wired to never get ahead of himself, but in the past month, and particularly the past fortnight, he would have been excused had he nodded knowingly to himself in a mirror, content that the opening rounds of 2017 was evidence he made the right call.

So too, Damien Hardwick.

Twitter: @barrettdamian

Listen to this week's AFL Exchange podcast

• Should the Hawks trade Jack Gunston, and what could they get for him?