RICHMOND yesterday kick-started season 2012 with a bang, securing its star Brett Deledio until the end of 2017.
Virtually a Tiger now for his entire playing career, the dual club champion put pen to paper on the eve of the eagerly awaited Richmond-Carlton MCG opener on Thursday in a deal worth between $2.5 million and $3 million.
"I'm rapt to have signed up,'' said Deledio yesterday. ''It really was the deal I was looking for, and it pretty much makes me a Tiger for life now. It just shows the faith I have in the club and the direction we're heading under Dimma [Damien Hardwick], and I'm just really looking forward to hopefully creating something special.
"We're starting to build a good group, and hopefully we can get the success that I think the club deserves."
Deledio is understood to have pushed, with manager Anthony McConville, for a five-year deal despite speculation earlier this year he needed to be convinced of the club's finals potential and could put off negotiations until the end of the year.
The signing comes less than a fortnight after Richmond extended coach Hardwick's contract until the end of 2014 and just days after Essendon announced it had come to terms with its young gun forward Michael Hurley for five years. Both players had been linked with Greater Western Sydney but neither had received firm offers despite coming out of contract at the end of 2012.
Richmond's football boss, Craig Cameron, last night refused to discuss financial details of Deledio's contract except to say he could have commanded significantly more on the open market.
He extolled Deledio's growing leadership traits and said: ''Brett is held in the highest regard among the playing group, is one of our strongest leaders and has a record that speaks for itself. His commitment is a clear indication of his belief in the direction the club is heading.''
Deledio, who struggled with injury over the pre-season but appeared injury-free in Richmond's last practice game against the Giants, has played 92 games in a row and in the final round of 2011 became the fastest player in the Tigers' history to reach 150 games. The club's No. 1 draft pick in 2004, he finished second in last year's Jack Dyer Medal, third the previous season and won it in 2008 and 2009.
Deledio is expected to move into the midfield this season having held down an attacking role across the half-back line in recent years.
Deledio, who turns 25 next month, has missed only four games since his debut.
Nonetheless the club is understood to have put him through physical and medical testing before putting the recommendation of a five-year contract to the Tigers' board.