Main content

Tiger Rising Star has last laugh after 'stitch up'

Jason Castagna is the round 19 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee - ${keywords}
Jason Castagna is the round 19 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee

THIS time there is nothing to complain about, or at least for Dan Butler to mischievously do so on Jason Castagna's behalf.

Castagna's breakout AFL performance – a four-goal haul in round four – ignited talk in the Castagna-Butler household of a potential NAB AFL Rising Star nomination. How much talk, only the Tiger tyros will ever know. 

But Butler saw an opportunity after Essendon defender and 2016 No.1 overall pick Andy McGrath's 28 disposals pipped Castagna for the gong that April week.

He went to the effort of manipulating his mobile phone contacts to text himself, appearing to be an aggrieved Castagna bemoaning being overlooked. That message then made its way to Facebook, much to their Richmond teammates' amusement.

Castagna had the last laugh on Monday, joining Butler as a NAB AFL Rising Star nominee for his 16 disposals, three goals, nine score involvements and five marks inside 50 in the Tigers' 35-point win over Gold Coast on Saturday. 

"It was a pretty good stitch up," Castagna told AFL.com.au

"He might have said something to me like, 'You might be a chance this week', but there were a couple of others who played pretty well that week – 28 touches is pretty handy."

The Castagna-Butler comedy act has played out popularly in the public this year, most notably in the elongated table tennis competition that left the former with 'D.B' initialled on his rear.

Somewhat lost in the humour is the 21-year-olds' impressive rise to prominence after respective struggles since both lobbed at Punt Road in 2014. They started pre-season reasonably believing they could be rivals for the same spot. 

Castagna has started each of his three AFL seasons on the rookie list and been elevated every time, but five matches across his first two seasons – in a variety of roles from defence to the wing and up forward – left him vulnerable going into 2017. 

Instead, the Northern Knights and Warrandyte Bloods product forced his way into senior calculations for round one as a defensive forward and hasn't missed a match.

 

"It's probably recognising what my strengths were and playing to them a bit more. You can always look at your weaknesses and work at them," he said. 

"Being on the rookie list at the start of each year gave me a bit of motivation to want to play well and get the call-up. But I've really loved playing footy at Richmond and haven't seen it as a tough journey." 

Richmond's top-four status owes plenty to a remodelled small-ball forward line with Castagna, Butler and Daniel Rioli as the fixtures. Shai Bolton and Tyson Stengle have come along for the ride at different stages. 

Castagna leads the trio for goals with 23 ahead of Butler (20) and Rioli (18), while Butler's 58 tackles is slightly more than Castagna's 56 and Rioli's 53. 

Castagna, whose father Carlos played for Fitzroy's under-19s in the 1980s, is convinced the Tigers' forward structure will hold up in the finals cauldron.

"It's pretty exciting coming to the pointy end of the season, trying to keep up this brand of footy we're playing," he said. 

"We'll keep doing what we're doing. The main thing for us is just that pressure to help the boys further up the field, but hopefully we can kick some goals, too."

NAB AFL Rising Star hub: news, nominees and past winners

How does the Rising Star Award work and who is eligible?