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The long haul

Date

It has taken years for this Bomber turned Sydney Swan to achieve overnight success.

Ted Richards in action for the Swans.

Ted Richards in action for the Swans. Photo: Getty Images

IT'S June 2010. Ted Richards' footy career is over and he is moving to Sweden. Nothing is more certain in the ever-active mind of the Essendon-turned-Sydney player as he drives between Sydney and Canberra for yet another match in the reserves.

Out of contract, Richards has looked into enrolling at a university in Stockholm. With a commerce degree already, he can do his master's there. He has lodgings sorted with his banker brother, Jake. The only thing he doesn't have is an airline ticket.

It's August 2012. Ted Richards is in the car when his phone rings. It's his mum, Joanna, calling to say he has made his first All-Australian squad. Richards tells her she must be mistaken. She tells him she has cross-checked and confirmed.

This is the culmination of 11 seasons of AFL, and a late blossoming that flies in the face of modern football convention.

"I'm sure most other guys in the squad haven't got their first nomination at age 29," Richards told The Sunday Age. "It was a massive thrill considering my name has never been mentioned in anything like that before."

Adam Goodes remembers the Ted Richards who arrived at the Swans, weeks after the club won an historic premiership in 2005.

"His confidence was shot," Goodes recalled of the man who this year happened to be nominated into Sydney's hallowed leadership group.

"He played from the start of that year, but it was almost like he was waiting to get tapped on the shoulder to get dropped because of his form, because that's what always happened at Essendon."

Between 2002 and 2005 the most consecutive games Richards played for the Bombers was seven. And they were his last seven.

Then, Essendon pulled off what many football insiders of the day considered a coup: gaining the No. 19 and 51 draft picks for a player with a nickname of "Super Ted" that at times seemed more ironic than complimentary.

Seven years later, Richards is diplomatic when asked about the factors that saw him reject the two-year deal Essendon tabled to leave a city, and club, that was in his blood. "I just knew I had to leave. The future wasn't there," he says between sips of English breakfast tea. "I think it ended up working well for both parties."

Essendon picked up Courtenay Dempsey and Sam Lonergan with those No. 19 and 51 picks. Illustrating just how strong his ties to Essendon were then is the fact they are stronger now. Jobe Watson, whom Richards has known since they attended the same primary school, remains one of his closest mates. For years their mums walked together in Sandringham every morning.

David Hille and ex-Bombers Mark Bolton and Chris Heffernan are in the same category. All have been annual overseas travelling companions.

Though not exactly a holiday talking point between old friends, Richards has now played three times as many finals as Watson (12 v 4). In his first three seasons with the Swans, he missed just two games and played in six finals, including a brilliant performance in Sydney's losing grand final side of 2006.

But things got shaky for him again in 2009, after he missed the last two months of the season with injury and then, in early 2010, reverted to the Ted of old who was in and (mostly) out of the team.

The retirement of Sydney's defensive rock, Craig Bolton, now looks to be the sliding doors moment pivotal in reviving Richards' career. After Bolton played his last match, in round five 2010, coach Paul Roos promoted Richards from the reserves for the first time in a month.

And while he was dropped for another six weeks subsequently (at that point Sweden looked more realistic than another match in the seniors), by season's end Richards had returned to play 10 games straight, won the best clubman award and a one-year deal.

In the pre-season of 2011, under new head coach John Longmire and the tutelage of a new defensive coach, Stuart Dew, the first Sydney mentor Richards mentions when asked about his greatest football influences, the backman says he was reprogrammed. "He was a massive help to me last year," Richards says of Dew. "He just kept things really simple for me. He gave me two or three things to focus in on — maybe I did overcomplicate things."

Now Richards, who gained a two-year deal for last year's effort, has topped his 2011 season with an outstanding 2012. One very relevant performance includes keeping Lance Franklin to his only goalless game of the year, in round five.

Asked why he thinks it has taken so long for it to all come together, Richards stares at his teapot and takes a deep, audible breath. In the long pause he looks to be racking his brain for the meaning of life.

"About two years ago I started to think about what I wanted to be as a footballer," he says. "I compared myself to other key defenders in the comp, looking at what they do and looking at what I do.

"Previously, I don't know, I'd always been hard on myself, but I'd never thought of it from that angle."

Maybe Richards hadn't even pictured himself in the same league as those star defenders, but in that transformative off-season two years ago he studied, and tried to replicate, everything about them. Matthew Scarlett and Darren Glass weighed roughly four kilos more than him. So he put on roughly four kilos.

"With the best full backs in the comp, it's not just a matter of constantly spoiling the ball," Richards says, explaining some other focuses.

"When it's one-on-one they still go for marks and back themselves. That's something I wanted to do too."

A Xavier College alumnus brought up in Melbourne's bayside suburbs, Richards might have enjoyed a privileged upbringing, but as a footballer no one would deny he has arrived the hard way. He has also done it his way. This is, after all, a character that once arrived at a Swans' post-season celebration shirtless, with his torso and face covered in elaborate body paint, when no fancy dress code was stipulated (it was his tribute to indie musician Gotye).

Richards, as Sydney captain Goodes puts it, is his "own man". A mixture of brain and sometimes the hare-brained. An academic who works one day a week at Citibank in equities and completing his master's in finance, as well as a self-confessed Robert Murphy wannabe who channels his creative vibes into writing the loose, sometimes obtuse, Richards Report for the Swans' website.

Study has been Richards' constant: "It's not so much when footy's going well that you need it. When footy's going well the car can break down and you'll see the positive in it," he chuckles. "It's when footy's not going well that it's great to have another part to your life."

Tellingly, Sydney is now the city where Richards thinks he'll settle, though it's with great reluctance he declares himself a resident of Tamarama, the beachside eastern suburb otherwise known as 'Glamarama'.

"It gives the impression that I've got a kick-arse apartment, shovelling money, going, 'How good is this?' "

The reality, Richards insists, is "I'm in a shit apartment in a great spot".

He is more forthcoming about another truth: "It's the best thing I've ever done, coming here."

First time All-Australian tomorrow night or not, Richards is the AFL's 2012 poster boy for persistence.

For another year, at least, Sweden can wait.

FROM LITTLE TED, TO BIG TED RICHARDS BY THE NUMBERS

Born: 11/1/83 Recruited: Xavier College/Sandringham U18
Drafted: pick 27, 2000 draft (Essendon). Traded for picks 19 and 51 of 2005 draft (to Sydney).
2002: debut for Essendon (33 games in four seasons, 1 final)
2006: debut for Sydney (146 games in seven seasons, 11 finals)
Mid-2010: out of contract and thinks career is over. Plans move to Sweden but later wins best clubman award and one-year deal.
2011: Career best season, wins fresh two-year deal.
Pre-season 2012: nominated into Sydney's leadership group.
August 2012: first All Australian nomination, age 29.

2012 season highlights
- No.1 in competition for intercept marks. Second for intercept possessions. (home and away)
- No.3 for spoils, recording only two fewer than Josh Gibson.
- Averaging a career-high 3.3 intercept marks a game this year. Matthew Scarlett recorded a career-high 2.2
per game in 2005.
- No.1 at Sydney for marks. No.3 at Sydney for rebound 50s.

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC ($1.29)vs NTH ($3.60) 19:50ES
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE ($2.50)vs ADE ($1.53) 13:05SS
BRI ($4.50)vs WBU ($1.20) 13:45G
PTA vs FRE 15:50Adelaide Oval
HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($17.00) 16:40MCG
SYD ($1.04)vs GCF ($11.00) 19:20SCG
WCE ($1.04)vs STK ($11.00) 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL ($3.20)vs GWS ($1.36) 13:10ES
COL ($1.28)vs ESS ($3.70) 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 21 17 4 0 125.10 68
West Coast Eagles 21 15 5 1 143.00 62
Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
Sydney Swans 21 15 6 0 124.11 60
Richmond 21 14 7 0 121.39 56
Western Bulldogs 21 14 7 0 116.76 56
Adelaide Crows 20 13 7 0 119.10 54
North Melbourne 21 13 8 0 109.08 52
View all
 

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