ED RICHARDS, a relative of the late Collingwood legend Lou, has surged into top-20 draft calculations after a brilliant second half of the season.
The attacking and quick medium defender missed out on Vic Metro selection for this year's NAB AFL Under-18 Championships after a knee injury interrupted his preparation for the carnival.
But Richards, who is the grandson of Magpies great Ron Richards, whose brother was premiership skipper Lou, has hit back since then to show his wares ahead of November's national draft playing for TAC Cup side Oakleigh Chargers and Carey Grammar at school level.
His combination of cut-through pace, meaningful run and carry, and a classy left boot has seen his stocks rise, with some clubs viewing him as a top-20 player. Richards will attend the NAB AFL Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium next month.
"It was disappointing that he hurt his knee in effectively the first five minutes of round one against Sandringham, and that hampered his ability to push for Vic Metro selection. Given his form now he would have been strongly considered for a Metro berth had he been ready," Oakleigh talent manager Craig Notman said.
"He took that disappointment on the chin, played some really good school football and has gone from strength to strength with us. He attacks the ball at ground level and in the air really hard, he's got speed and uses the ball really well. He has that attacking nous to him, and is able to push forward and kick a goal.
"We've predominantly played him down back, but he's gone through the midfield and acquitted himself really well, and at times he's also had a role in a forward capacity."
The 18-year-old is a good size for a half-back at 184cm and 77kg, and has shown a balance in his game in recent weeks to be able to close down opponents while also offering drive for his side out of the backline.
Ron Richards played 147 games for Collingwood between 1947-56, while Lou played 250 games for the club, including captaining their 1953 triumph.
The Magpies have no priority over the next Richards to enter the system despite the strong family link, and will find it difficult to bring him to the club unless they take him with their first pick (No.6 overall) which is unlikely.
The Pies' next pick is No.36 – the first selection of the third round they garnered from the Brisbane Lions last year as part of the Jack Frost trade – by which time Richards may be off the board.
"He's got a real competitive aspect to him which gives him a great combination. There's been interest in him right from his practice match form with us, which was really good," he said.
"There's been some strong interest there and it's continually built from the start of the year. I think he's come in a long, long way in draft calculations at this point with conversations we're having."