There was never any doubt, was there?
Ignoring the Bruce McAvaney overtones in that question for a moment, Sunday’s game against Melbourne proved to an even greater degree just how great a player Nick Riewoldt is.
So often you hear about players responding to adversity, either personal or professional, by their performance on the football field. If you could pick one player to defy the odds, to respond in style, the St Kilda captain would just about be at the top of that list.
It’s safe to say the start of 2015 has been the most difficult of times for Riewoldt. However, the manner in which he has responded has been brimming of the class he has so often shown in the last 15 years on the footy field.
Sunday evening was a throwback to the Riewoldt of old. Opposed against one of the form defenders in the competition, Riewoldt made Tom McDonald look positively second-rate. Keeping in mind he spent the entire last quarter hobbling on his historically troublesome left knee, it was one of his finest performances given the circumstances.
Since then, all the punditry surrounding the game has revolved around one of two things. Evidently, those last 41 seconds leading to the Leigh Montagna goal have dominated the airwaves, while the performance of one Jesse Hogan up forward had Melbourne and footy supporters alike ready to understandably wax lyrical about a star being born.
However, while one Saints veteran got all the acclaim for winning the game, there was another who was willing himself and the team over the line, just as he has done on countless occasions.
While one future key forward star was showing us all what he is capable of, there was another established star for the other team who brought back memories of just how good he was, and still is.
All this in a week where even the footy world would’ve understood if he had a difficult four quarters keeping his head in the game.
If there’s one bloke who won’t complain about what’s effecting him and will just get the job done, the Saints skipper is the man for the occasion. The way he goes about his business has prompted critics, and he may not be everyone’s favourite footballer – but he’s never let the fact he wears his heart on his sleeve deter him.
It’s a testament to the man himself that there hasn’t been a great deal of talk about his performance: after all, it’s not the first time Riewoldt has emphatically responded to adversity. Yet while he’s battled injury and form in the past, these circumstances would be a whole lot more taxing.
It didn’t matter though. As he’s done so often, and as has seemingly become expected of him now, Riewoldt willed himself and his teammates over the line at a time when football could’ve understandably been rendered insignificant.
Last week, the game lost a champion in Chris Judd. It’s easy to get lost in the hysteria of it all – to let the game take a back step to celebrate a man who has accomplished everything.
Yet given the circumstances of it all, Riewoldt’s performance has gone without the recognition it deserves. Alongside cousin Jack, ‘Saint Nick’ implored everyone during the week to fight like his late sister, Madeleine.
Come game day, Riewoldt customarily ran himself ragged to finish with 17 disposals, 10 marks and four goals, and there couldn’t have been a more fitting conclusion to the game. Providing an option on the wing, the siren blasting throughout Etihad Stadium, a jubilant Riewoldt extending his arms upwards with the words ‘fight like Maddie’ etched into his boots.
‘Roo’ fought, alright.
I think it’s safe to say Maddie would be proud.