WESTERN Bulldogs great Luke Darcy says exciting draftee Ed Richards is just what the club needs after the retirements of defensive playmakers Robert Murphy and Matthew Boyd.
In just his second game in the red, white and blue, Richards had a day out in the round three victory over Essendon, giving the Bulldogs the defensive drive they'd been sorely missing this season.
The 18-year-old's mop of fiery, red hair was just as eye-catching as his bold decision making, smart ball use and dash from defence against the Bombers.
Taken with pick 16 in last year's NAB AFL Draft, Richards only came into top-20 calculations after a dominate end to the 2017 TAC Cup season for the Northern Knights.
"It was an incredible second game by Ed, it was just brilliant to see," Darcy, who captained the Dogs and played 226 games for the club, told AFL.com.au.
"He was a bit of a late developer at junior level, and he has started to come into own in the last 12 months, so you think the rate of improvement in him is going to be enormous.
"He's got great speed, composure and a really good decision maker, so it's great to see such top talent coming through to replace Bob and 'Boydy'."
With former Docker Hayden Crozier nursing a knee injury and premiership defender Shane Biggs battling indifferent form this season, the Dogs' match committee gave Richards a start at half-back despite not featuring in the JLT Community Series.
Speaking after his 17 disposals and five tackles against the Bombers, Richards said he's beginning to find his feet at senior level after an anxious debut against West Coast in round two.
"I was very nervous in my first game, but I thought in this game I've just got to go out there and play footy, stick to my strengths and (my form) will follow," Richards said.
"I did that well, we did that as team well, we did that brilliantly today."
Darcy believes Richards, the grandson of Collingwood legend Ron Richards and grand-nephew of AFL icon Lou Richards, couldn't have a better mentor in Luke Beveridge.
The 2016 premiership coach is a huge believer in having his best ball users launching off half-back, and the recruitment of Richards and Crozier has allowed Norm Smith medallist Jason Johannisen to play further up the ground.
"I think 'Bevo' really changed how the half-back role was played when the Bulldogs won the flag in 2016, when he really loaded up the talent and ball-winning ability back there with Robert Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Jason Johannisen," Darcy said.
"I think he's tweaked that slightly this year, but it's really important to have talented, rebounding defenders who can set-up play, and I think the Dogs have got one tailor made in young Ed Richards.
"The way he played last week was really exciting."