Kozzy Pickett and Cyril Rioli. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE has something special in Kysaiah Pickett.

Barely 18 months and 21 games into an AFL career that promises so much, Pickett has emerged as a generational talent capable of having a transformative effect in the Demons lineup.

One of the brightest and most exciting players in the game, Pickett is already vindicating Melbourne's decision to trade its way to pick No.12 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft where it selected the accomplished small forward.


Pickett provides a rare mix of toughness, clean skills, elite speed and high-level footy IQ that makes him a threat in any area he's placed. It's a skillset very few AFL players – past or present – have possessed.

But former 319-game great Jordan Lewis perhaps summed it up best when he likened Pickett to his four-time premiership teammate Cyril Rioli, widely recognised as one of the greatest small forwards of his generation.

Indeed, through the season's first seven games, Pickett's best qualities are mirroring those of Rioli's in helping to inspire Melbourne's first 7-0 start to a campaign since 1965. That's a remarkable feat, given he is so early into his AFL career.

But whether it's through his scoreboard impact, his pressure numbers, or the work he's doing when given the chance to run through the midfield, Pickett is replicating – if not bettering – Rioli's best seasons.


Forget about Rioli's own sophomore campaign in 2009, it's more illustrative to compare Pickett's first seven games of this season to Rioli's best seasons – his All-Australian years of 2015 and 2016. That's where a picture of Pickett's true impact can best be painted.

The beauty of Rioli was that he sustained such a level of greatness over a longer period than just these two years. Even still, the two years is a significantly larger sample size than Pickett's first seven games of this season.

But for the 19-year-old Pickett to already be reaching such a gifted standard over a sizeable period, even if that period is barely two months of footy, still bears highlighting and exemplifies exactly the sort of talent Melbourne has at its disposal.


Pickett v Rioli

Kysaiah Pickett

Cyril Rioli




Scoreboard Impact



Score Involvements



Score Assists






The first place to start when measuring the impact of a small forward is, naturally, their scoreboard impact.

Through seven games this season, Pickett has 14 goals and 7.6 score involvements per match. Both have him ranked just outside the top-10 in the League, but both marginally shade Rioli's numbers from 2015 and 2016.


In those two years, Rioli achieved All-Australian status after kicking 42 goals in 2015 – a year in which he also claimed the Norm Smith Medal – and 47 goals in 2016. In the second of those seasons, it was enough to place him 10th in the Coleman Medal.


Rioli narrowly edges ahead for direct score assists, but Pickett has a greater scoreboard impact – a stat that Champion Data has formulated to combine scores from goals, behinds and direct score assists.

It shows that Pickett is directly contributing to 20.1 points per game for Melbourne throughout the season's first seven matches, whereas Rioli contributed to an average of 19 points per game during his peak two years at Hawthorn.

In addition to these stats, Pickett also ranks No.1 in the League for forward-50 groundball gets so far this season and is just one behind the lead for forward-50 tackles. That brings us to the next measure of his impact.


Pickett v Rioli

Kysaiah Pickett

Cyril Rioli




Pressure Acts



Pressure Points



F50 Pressure Acts



F50 Pressure Points



Post-Clearance Tackles



Pickett became renowned at Woodville-West Torrens for his physicality in the forward line and the nightmares his forward pressure would inflict on opposition defenders throughout his time in the SANFL at senior, reserves and under-18s level.

You only need to watch the vision of his lung-busting run, all so he could lay a brutal block for his Eagles teammate in a match in 2019, to know the type of heart and determination he possesses to support his side.

It's a trait he has taken to AFL level, where he has become one of the best pressure players in the game and has helped Melbourne transform its swarming attack into one of the League's most dangerous.

Kysaiah Pickett celebrates a goal against North Melbourne in round seven, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Pickett's 19.6 pressure acts per match stack up well with any forward in the competition and are significantly more than Rioli managed throughout 2015-16, with very few attacking players ahead of him this year.

His pressure points – a stat that Champion Data uses as a weighted sum combining all pressure acts including physical, closing, chasing and corralling – also measures at 43.1 per game and is slightly ahead of what Rioli averaged in 2015-16.

Furthermore, his forward-50 pressure acts and his forward-50 pressure points – in addition to his post-clearance tackles – are all significant more than what Rioli averaged throughout his two peak seasons.

But the supremely talented Pickett isn't just having this type of impact in attack. Like Rioli throughout the Hawthorn star's heyday, the diminutive Melbourne youngster is proving just as effective when rolling through the midfield.


Pickett v Rioli

Kysaiah Pickett

Cyril Rioli




CB Attendance



Team CB Clearance %






Contested Possessions



Kick Rating



Pickett's nimbleness, high-level footy nous and natural ball-winning abilities make him a dangerous clearance threat, which is why Simon Goodwin hasn't been afraid to throw him into centre-bounce situations at important times throughout the year.

Rioli had more centre-bounce attendances throughout his two peak years at Hawthorn, going to an average of 6.6 per match compared to Pickett's 3.7 per game, but the Melbourne player's effectiveness in such situations is still clear.

Melbourne has a 57.7 percent clearance win-rate for the centre bounces in which Pickett attends, ranking the club far beyond Hawthorn's win-rate of 45 percent when Rioli was involved in seasons 2015 and 2016.

Pickett's disposal and contested possession numbers are also slightly better than Rioli's, while his ball use with the footy in his possession is also fractionally ahead of the Hawks champion.

Kysaiah Pickett celebrates during the win over Geelong in round four, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

His kick rating of +5.6 percent – a formula created by Champion Data that measures how good each kick is based on accuracy, the difficulty of the kick and the pressure in which the kick is executed under – edges ahead of Rioli's rating of +4.3 percent.

Of course, when comparing the two, it's important to note that Rioli sustained such numbers over the course of two seasons. Whereas Pickett's numbers, despite being super impressive, are from a significantly smaller sample size of just seven games.

But, regardless, they're still depictive of an emerging superstar on the rise.