FIRST-YEAR Richmond midfielder Jack Graham has been tipped to play an important role in the Tigers' finals campaign after overcoming a serious ankle injury and making the most of his late-season debut.
Alongside Jacob Townsend, Graham shapes as a fairytale story for the Tigers this September after impressive performances in rounds 22 and 23 that should be enough to secure his finals spot.
It has been a rapid rise for the 19-year-old, who spent the first three months of the season on the long-term injury list recovering from a fractured ankle and the next nine weeks in the VFL.
Graham said he didn't expect to find himself in line to play finals with the Tigers this season, and he was proud of the way he had bounced back in the second half of the season.
"I'm just thrilled to be playing in the AFL," Graham told AFL.com.au.
"I've had a pretty rough year with injury, so I'm pretty proud of myself to get the body right and maybe be a chance to play a final.
"I obviously don't know what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks, but I'll get my body right and put my hand up to play in that opening final.
"I can't wait … it'll be a proud moment."
After being named as a senior emergency in rounds 20 and 21, Graham played the final two home and away matches as a hard-tackling midfielder, making a seamless transition to the top level.
In a team that bases its game-plan around defensive pressure and forcing turnovers, he has been a natural fit in the midfield, laying 18 tackles in two games.
"Pressure is in everyone's game. We've focused on tackling, pressure, forcing them to stuff it up and then we'll swoop," Graham said.
"The whole year as a team our focus has been our pressure and you see that lift in finals."
As one of eight Tigers who faced St Kilda in round 23 without finals experience, Graham said he would speak to captain Trent Cotchin to get a sense of what to expect.
His under-18s coach with South Australia, Brenton Phillips, expected the big-bodied onballer draw on his strengths in finals, encouraging the Tigers to "throw him in there and let him go".
"He likes contested ball and he's not afraid to get in and mix it up with anybody," Phillips told AFL.com.au.
"His ability to tackle strongly at AFL level, and to come in and do it straight away, it shows he enjoys that environment.
"It's exactly the way he plays – contested footy, high pressure, competitive, at the contest all the time. He does everything you like to see from your midfielders."