Main content

Tigers' Mr Anonymous steps out of the shadows

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 03: David Astbury of the Tigers in action during the 2017 AFL round 11 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Richmond Tigers at Etihad Stadium on June 03, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
David Astbury was in outstanding form against North Melbourne
I was good at defending, but wasn't as good as I could be at winning the ball back, and I think I've addressed that
David Astbury

RICHMOND'S most anonymous star allowed himself some credit, if only briefly, after playing a pivotal role on Saturday night in the Tigers disposing of the Kangaroos.

David Astbury had just added dangerous North Melbourne forward Jarrad Waite to his list of scalps, holding the Roo to 12 disposals and 1.3 while burning him for 20 possessions the other way.

On this night, Astbury was Richmond's main man in defence, rather than star backman Alex Rance, who was also excellent in curbing Ben Brown after the Kangaroo's strong start.

But even with the spotlight finally shining on Astbury – Channel Seven grabbed the 195cm defender post-match, too – his close mate Rance was still there to jokingly whisper sweet nothings to him.

Waite is not the first big task coach Damien Hardwick has entrusted him with. Astbury typically mans the opposition's No.1 forward, with Josh Kennedy, Jesse Hogan, Taylor Walker and Joe Daniher among his assignments this year.

"To be honest, (Rance) is a remarkable player and he can do anything," Astbury told AFL.com.au.

"We work in tandem. I'm really, really lucky I get to play with a player of his calibre and sometimes the shoe's on the other foot, where he relies on me to play his best footy.

"But we have a great working relationship and a great off-field relationship as well, so I just consider myself lucky."

Luck wasn't always in Astbury's favour. Only 41 games in six seasons to the end of 2015, including 24 in the previous five, owed plenty to a wretched injury run, and he finished that year in the VFL.

There was a run-in with a stingray that left him with a foot issue, and he spent extended time out with a dislocated knee. Astbury, 26, has sustained most football injuries you can think of: thumb, hamstring, ankle, quad.

He never commanded the fever-pitch level of interest his out-of-contract teammate Dustin Martin is right now, but had his own big decision to make at the end of 2015.

The Brisbane Lions were on another mature-age recruiting hunt and Astbury was in their sights. The North Ballarat junior's interest was piqued, but he chose to remain at Tigerland, knowing he would miss playing every other week at the MCG.

"I was 24 years of age and thought I was ready to play (regular) senior footy," he said.

"At the end of the day, it was my decision to stay at Richmond, and I'm really proud of that decision and I worked through a lot of deficiencies in my game.

"I was good at defending, but wasn't as good as I could be at winning the ball back, and I think I've addressed that.

"It has been a journey, and at different stages the game hasn't been kind to me with injuries and what not, but my body feels in tip-top shape. I'm in a state now where I'm really proud of the way I went about it and actually wouldn't change a thing."

Astbury played a career-high 19 games last year and all 11 matches this season, and has become one of the first picked for Hardwick's blossoming side.

"He's had a great year – he had a great year last year as well," Hardwick said.

"He missed two years of footy, really, but he's a player that was drafted the same year as Dustin and he's starting to come into his own, so he's been really important."

Astbury is buoyant about Richmond's chances of not only making the finals in 2017, but even winning its first post-season match since an 11-point victory over Carlton 16 years ago.

He is loving football again and the results are there for everyone to see.