Toby Nankervis speaks to media during the 2024 AFL Captain's Day at Marvel Stadium on February 26, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

RICHMOND captain Toby Nankervis is facing a crucial training session on Tuesday in his bid to feature in the opening rounds of the season.

The ruckman is battling a "plantar fasciitis-heel pain" issue, which has only flared in recent weeks after a fairly smooth pre-season.

Should Nankervis not get through, it opens the door for recruit Sam Naismith to play his first game of AFL since round four, 2020, having suffered three knee reconstructions during his time at Sydney.

"I've had a bit of a niggle, I suppose a plantar fasciitis-heel pain sort of thing. I've never had any foot issues before," Nankervis told

"Sort of just managing that now, and I've got a big session tomorrow, and hopefully I can tick that off and pull up well, and push for the early part of the season.

"I'm not sure (on a return date), honestly. I'm just session to session at the moment, but I've managed to do a lot of work over pre-season, and just a little bit slow in the last couple of weeks. Hopefully I can knock over tomorrow and see where we're at.

"I know big Sammy Naismith from Sydney, and he's a great person. He's added so much to our group. It'll mean the world (to him), Sam's had a lot of challenges with his body and also some personal things as well. He's a great person, he's so resilient, the way he shows up to the footy club. He played really well last week, and tomorrow, he gets another opportunity."


This season is the first time Nankervis has been sole captain, having shared the role with Dylan Grimes for the past two years, following triple-premiership skipper Trent Cotchin's decision to step down at the end of 2021.

Last year was tumultuous, after coach Damien Hardwick left the role midway through the season.

"It was an interesting few weeks there. What I will say there, is the leadership of the footy club, Brendon Gale, Tim Livingstone, Blair Hartley, Andrew McQualter, they just seamlessly let us players play," Nankervis said.

"They dealt with all the other stuff. I'm very grateful to the leadership of the footy club, just allowed us to do that.

"I'm really proud of that period as well. I know we didn't make finals, but we still showed up every game, thinking we were a chance to win it, and we gave it our all, a wholehearted effort every game."

Toby Nankervis during Richmond's 2024 official team photo day at Punt Road Oval on February 21, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Richmond does not have a publicly nominated vice-captain or leadership group, but Nankervis has a former Gold Coast captain in Tom Lynch in his corner, as well as a host of senior players.

"Jayden Short, Tom Lynch, Liam Baker, Dion Prestia is another one, Nathan Broad, Nick Vlastuin – that sort of crew, they've really spent a lot of time in and around the leadership groups in the past," Nankervis said.

"We've learned off 'Cotch' (Cotchin) and Jack (Riewoldt) and Dave Astbury, Shane Edwards as well. We're very lucky to have had such great leadership in our younger days, starting out. Hopefully we can do that for the younger boys now.

"It's a bit quieter without Jack. It's funny how footy clubs, you have to move on so quick. They've had great careers and massive impact, but now it's our turn to do for the footy club what they did for us."