RED-FACED recruiters probably had some explaining to do in recent days.
With key forwards so difficult to unearth, Giant-of-the-moment Jake Riccardi's impressive first two games – his coach Leon Cameron called them "pretty goddamn good" – have captured the imagination.
He plucked 10 marks and kicked two goals against flag fancy West Coast on debut, then backed that up with nine grabs and four majors at Fremantle's expense last Saturday evening.
The year's most obvious NAB AFL Rising Star nomination followed.
Riccardi has grinned his way through every interview since, seemingly barely believing his luck. He had a similar reaction when he arrived for day one of training at Greater Western Sydney last year after being the No.51 draft pick.
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"I didn't expect anything like this so far, but it's been good to get that little bit of recognition," Riccardi told AFL.com.au this week.
"I'm just trying to keep it as normal as I can in a bit of an abnormal situation."
This is a 20-year-old kid who has rocketed from 170cm-or-so in his mid-teens to an imposing 195cm, and from a midfielder/half-back into the Giants' point of difference in attack.
Where Jeremy Cameron is known for taking more marks on the lead than anyone else in the competition, Riccardi's ability to launch for grabs is proving a complementary feature.
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Funnily enough, his marking was a weak point until recent years.
Riccardi's NAB League club, Calder Cannons, didn't cotton onto him until after his under-17 season, but then every AFL team overlooked him the next two years.
He was going OK – and growing at a rapid rate – but not well enough to pique any great interest.
Riccardi graduated from the Cannons and signed with VFL side Werribee, where he played a couple of games in 2018, but wasn't even a lock for the Tigers' round one team a week out from last season.
Ex-Richmond midfielder Nick Daffy had just come on board to look after Werribee's forwards, under 2004 Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams.
"Everyone was telling me we had no forward line at Werribee," Daffy said.
"We had two key forwards, and no one was giving me much confidence they were going to take it and run with it."
Daffy became Riccardi's closest confidante and helped change the perception about him in AFL circles; the pair still speak regularly before and after games.
It seems nonsensical now that Riccardi wasn't one of the 13 footballers selected in last year's NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.
North Melbourne came closest to taking a punt, but opted instead for Lachie Hosie, who was lighting up the SANFL.
Daffy's advice afterwards was simple: "We've come a long way with you since the start of pre-season and I really want to finish this off."
Riccardi moved on quickly. He had kicked 13 goals in eight games at that stage, including three in the last match before the mid-season draft, but there were two knocks on him.
The first was he drifted in and out of matches. The other was whether he could be the commanding on-field presence his physical assets suggested he was capable of.
Daffy sometimes wondered whether Riccardi was "too nice". Riccardi dispelled those doubts by season's end, finishing with 38 goals from 20 outings and being crowned the VFL's most promising young player.
There were big statistical games – four goals against Frankston, then six versus Coburg – but more notable was the confidence he was playing with late in the season, including in the finals.
The Kangaroos, Magpies, Power, Demons, Bombers, Hawks, Suns, Cats and Giants all interviewed Riccardi last year.
GWS's recruiting team – Jason McCartney, Adrian Caruso and Emma Quayle – met with him just once, in mid-September at an Essendon café, careful not to give away how keen they were.
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They were very keen. So keen they traded into the draft to score Riccardi, sending a future third-round pick (acquired from North Melbourne for Aiden Bonar) to Collingwood for pick No.51 and a 2020 fourth-round selection.
"Honestly, I never thought I was a real sniff up until last year, when it did happen," Riccardi said.
"I wasn't really thinking before that, 'I hope I don't get drafted and down the track I'll get better', but now, looking back, it was probably one of the best things that happened."
Riccardi joins the parade of Werribee AFL graduates, including Ben Brown, Dale Morris, Michael Barlow, Ben Hudson, James Podsiadly, Sam Collins and Josh Corbett. He is genuinely proud his name will permanently be on the Tigers' honour board.
Daffy thinks Riccardi's story was one everyone needed in these difficult, COVID-19 times Australia is dealing with.
Even Riccardi's namesake (but not relative), former Geelong champion Peter Riccardi, has been caught up in it all.
"One of his sons messaged me after the game, on Instagram, to say, 'My dad said 'Well done''," Riccardi laughed.
"It was funny after all those years I used to get called his son, and after using his name to get into interleague and stuff."