Richmond Indigenous player development manager Joel Garner and forward Rhyan Mansell. Picture: Richmond FC

A TRIP to Tasmania quickly turned south for Rhyan Mansell and Joel Garner.

"I'd been talking up my golf game a fair bit and Joel came down and beat me with my own clubs," Mansell says.

"I showed Joel around home, and he showed me up on the golf course."

Home for Mansell is Launceston.

But it proved to be no home advantage.

"He got so angry," Garner laughs. "We were in the same car (on the way home). He stopped talking to me. There was a period of 30 minutes that we were not mates and it was on. It was an odd feeling."

Mansell bristles.

"He got lucky."

But Garner has the final reply.

"Don't know how you get lucky across 18 holes of golf!"

Richmond forward Rhyan Mansell and Indigenous player development manager Joel Garner. Picture: Richmond FC


IT IS the Wednesday afternoon before Dreamtime at the 'G.

Mansell and Garner exchange barbs and laughs in the Jack Dyer Stand, as Richmond's main session for the week winds up on Punt Road Oval.

A concussion has ruled Mansell out of the showpiece match of Sir Doug Nicholls Round, while Garner – Richmond's Indigenous player development manager – is slated to play in the VFL curtain-raiser.

"When I was younger I used to always come over with my pop and dad, brothers, cousins, uncle," Mansell recalls.

"We'd come over to watch the Dreamtime game. The times we get to wear the Dreamtime guernsey is a real honour for us. We're not just playing for ourselves, but for our family and mob back home."

Richmond Indigenous player development manager Joel Garner and forward Rhyan Mansell with's Sarah Olle. Picture: Richmond FC

Garner – who played four games for Port Adelaide in 2019 – agrees.

"I feel like it's a really good recognition of those who've come before us," he says.

"Sir Doug was a huge trailblazer and not just in footy. Footy was a small part of his life. He was a pastor and governor of South Australia. There are some key things he did to help the lives of indigenous people across Australia."

Sir Doug Nicholls Round is special to Mansell and Garner in more ways than one.


It's not only a chance to celebrate their shared indigenous culture, but also reflect on the genesis of their friendship.

"I reckon we met each other at Dreamtime," Mansell says, before querying.

"2022 or 2023?"

"2022," Garner replies.

"Yup, 2022," Mansell continues.

"I remember seeing Joel walking around the club and I was like, 'The big fella looks familiar'.

Tom Rockliff and Joel Garner celebrate during Port Adelaide's clash against Gold Coast in round nine, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

"I remember thinking he played for Port Adelaide and I was like, 'Why's this bloke here?' Better not be taking my spot'.

"That was the first time I met Joel, at Dreamtime. And we've been pretty close ever since."


THERE is barely a year splitting Garner and Mansell in age.

But that hasn't stopped the latter looking up to the former.

Indeed, Mansell says he's constantly drawing inspiration from Garner – even when it comes to his future vocation.

"I just feel like the experience I've had – missing a few drafts, coming in a bit later on – I could help young players, particularly young Indigenous players, as soon as they get in the system," he explains.

"I sort of look up to Joel in that area."

Rhyan Mansell in action during the R10 match between Richmond and Brisbane at the Gabba on May 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Mansell's football story is one of persistence and – as the multiple stitches on his bottom lip suggest – toughness.

Overlooked in his draft year, he moved from the Apple Isle to Adelaide, where he won a flag with Woodville-West Torrens in 2020.

Richmond took notice and selected him the following pre-season.

"It's a great story," Garner smiles. 

"Having experienced being outside the game and then coming into the game is a great platform to do this sort of PDM work.

"It gives a good perspective to young players coming through, particularly young Indigenous players. You can take a lot from his story, one of perseverance. Going forward, post-footy, there's definitely room for this fella in that space."

While Garner's story of getting drafted straight onto an AFL list is more conventional, he's also had to navigate the ups and downs of footy.

A talented junior footballer and the first Indigenous prefect at Scotch College, draft night back in 2017 didn't pan out as expected.

Joel Garner, of Vic Metro, poses for a photo on June 30, 2017. Picture: AFL Photos

"He was meant to go pretty early, but ended up sliding down and going late," Mansell exclaims.

"They let me know every day about that, don't you worry," Garner says.

Mansell's humility comes to the fore.

"At least he got his name called out on draft night," he says.  

"I never got that."


GARNER and Mansell's travels have also taken them to the Tiwi Islands.

It's where Daniel and Maurice Rioli, as Mansell puts it, "walk around like kings".

Jade Gresham, Michael Long, Daniel Rioli and Joel Garner pose during a Dreamtime at the 'G media op at the MCG on May 20, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

"Everyone is really tight knit and the connection is wonderful," he says. "The water, the beaches, the people. It's really relaxing and calming.

"You can see why Daniel and Maurice love to get back up to their homeland. That's where they feel their best. It gives you energy, just sitting there and relaxing."

Garner's mind flicks back there, too.

"That was a pretty cool time, chewing the fat in the back of the trooper," he says.

"On the beach, having a fish, it was pretty grouse."

Jayden Davey and Rhyan Mansell pose for a photo during a Sir Doug Nicholls Round media opportunity on May 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Whether in Tasmania or Tiwi, Mansell and Garner seem to have a natural affinity.

Just don't mention the Mowbray Golf Club.

"With his own clubs as well," Garner pokes Mansell, with a wide grin.