IT TOOK Ed Richards a little while to understand the significance of his surname at Collingwood. And although he might not continue its famous history in the black and white, he does look set to add another chapter to its lineage at football's top level.
Richards, who shapes as an early pick at this year's NAB AFL Draft, is the grandson of former Pies great Ron Richards, who played 147 games for the Magpies between 1947-56. Ron's brother was Pies premiership skipper Lou Richards, who played 250 games for the club and is a Collingwood legend.
Ed was something of a bolter as the season wore on in 2017, staking his draft claim with some excellent performances for the Oakleigh Chargers in the TAC Cup having missed selection for Vic Metro due to a knee injury around the time the squad was picked.
There are few half-backs in this draft with the kind of weapons Richards has at his disposal – in his sharp left-foot kicking, smart game sense and turn of foot. The 18-year-old packages those traits to be an important player for his side as someone who sets his team up and gets things going.
He can be trusted by foot, he takes his risks with his kicking to get his team into dangerous areas, and he can get out of traffic with a clever sidestep or quick shimmy. He's tough and has no problems with floating back with the flight of the ball, and he has also at times drifted forward and into the midfield for shorter stints to highlight his versatility. Richards' combination of traits suits the modern game.
There isn't too much to worry about with Richards. Perhaps one knock would be that he hasn't been a big ball-winner at under-18 level – he averaged 15 disposals for the Chargers across the season – so won't come into the top level having had that type of experience. Having missed the championships he also didn't get the chance to play against the best prospects his age from around the country, so recruiters might not have that reference point they have for others.
Richards plays in a similar vein to Zac Williams from Greater Western Sydney in his attacking role across half-back, or even like Carlton's Sam Docherty with his run and good disposal.
The crafty and classy defender's finish to the season has seen him rocket into top-20 calculations. Richards is a player whose traits are in vogue.
Quietly determined and confident, Richards plays with a surety that sees him make an impact whenever he has the ball. Tough in the air, hard on the ground and competitive as anyone, Richards has an edge to his game.