Wangaratta's Joe Richards. Picture: @jimmy_wilt Instagram

COUNTRY football star Joe Richards has completed a meteoric rise from the Ovens and Murray League to the AFL after being drafted by Collingwood on Tuesday night. 

The 23-year-old had never spoken to an AFL club until a few months ago, before attracting interest from nearly 10 teams ahead of the 2022 NAB AFL Draft.

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Richards established himself as one of the premier players in the powerhouse country football league this year, winning a third best and fairest for the Wangaratta Magpies after helping them win a second premiership. 

The teacher's aide at Wangaratta District Specialist School was overlooked after playing for the Murray Bushrangers in the NAB League in 2017 and explored a move to the VFL in 2020 before the season was closed down. 

After selecting West Australian midfielder Ed Allan last night and Glenelg defender Jakob Ryan at pick No.28, the Magpies have taken another punt on a mature-age prospect, following the success of Josh Carmichael and Ash Johnson this year, selecting Richards with pick No.48. 

Collingwood recruiting boss Derek Hine said his team went to watch Richards play six times across 2022, including the three-point Grand Final win over Yarrawonga at Lavington the day after the Toyota AFL Grand Final. 

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"He's one who really needs an opportunity. His form would suggest he's ready to take that opportunity," Hine told reporters on Tuesday night.

"He plays the way that we play. He's instinctive in transition, he's dual-sided both by hand and by foot. 

"The Grand Final was the one which really ticked the box for us. He's a player tagged week in, week out. When the game was in the balance in the last quarter he just took it apart. That was enough for me. We bring him in with a level of confidence."


Former key defender Ben Reid, who played 152 games for the Magpies including the 2010 premiership win, coached Richards at Wangaratta this year and kept reminding Hine of the bolter from the bush, even calling the veteran talent spotter in the hours after that premiership.

Hine believes the midfielder-forward can play a variety of roles at AFL level, potentially even at half-back with young gun Nick Daicos expected to transition into a full-time midfielder as soon as next year.

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"He has got the game for the MCG, that's for sure, because of his speed and his lateral movement. We potentially see him playing that high back role because he's instinctive in transition. He's already accustomed to the one v one stuff," Hine said.

"Initially, we know what he can do in the midfield and as a high forward and I think he will really transition into that high back role really quickly. We really do snap out of there quite quickly which allows us to give Nick a little bit more midfield time."