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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.

2014 Home and Away

Round 1
Fri, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
COL 46 vs FRE 116 Report Stats
Sat, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
GWS 99 vs SYD 67 Report Report Stats
GCF 87 vs RIC 69 Report Stats
Sun, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
CAR 87 vs PTA 120 Report Stats
Thu, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE 119 vs ADE 81 Report Stats
Fri, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
NTH 60 vs ESS 99 Report Stats
Sat, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
HAW 139 vs BRI 91 Stats
STK 68 vs MEL 51 Report Stats
Sun, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
WCE 134 vs WBU 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Thu, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC 98 vs CAR 86 Report Stats
Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
ESS 86 vs HAW 90 Report Stats
Sat, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
STK 95 vs GWS 88 Stats
PTA 127 vs ADE 73 Report Stats
FRE 87 vs GCF 39 Report Stats
SYD 69 vs COL 89 Report Stats
Sun, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 68 vs GEE 93 Stats
MEL 30 vs WCE 123 Report Stats
WBU 54 vs NTH 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
HAW 137 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
Sat, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
WBU 100 vs RIC 98 Report Stats
ADE 71 vs SYD 134 Report Stats
GCF 114 vs BRI 61 Stats
WCE 83 vs STK 58 Report Stats
COL 76 vs GEE 87 Report Stats
Sun, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS 79 vs MEL 47 Report Stats
NTH 97 vs PTA 90 Report Stats
ESS 138 vs CAR 57 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 72 vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 58 vs MEL 81 Report Stats
PTA 159 vs BRI 46 Report Stats
GWS 83 vs WBU 110 Report Stats
GEE 107 vs WCE 32 Report Stats
GCF 49 vs HAW 148 Report Stats
Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD 48 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
STK 50 vs ADE 136 Report Stats
FRE 113 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Thu, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 63 vs RIC 106 Report Stats
Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 93 vs NTH 58 Report Stats
SYD 92 vs FRE 75 Report Stats
WCE 56 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
ESS 65 vs STK 81 Report Stats
Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE 137 vs GWS 72 Report Stats
MEL 78 vs GCF 86 Report Stats
WBU 91 vs CAR 119 Report Stats
Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 83 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
STK 79 vs BRI 82 Report Stats
FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
GCF 134 vs GWS 94 Report Stats
CAR 92 vs WCE 89 Report Stats
MEL 38 vs SYD 69 Report Stats
Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
WBU 83 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
RIC 52 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
PTA 107 vs GEE 67 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 70 vs COL 104 Report Stats
Sat, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 175 vs STK 30 Report Stats
GWS 97 vs PTA 132 Report Stats
ADE 67 vs MEL 70 Report Stats
BRI 44 vs SYD 123 Stats
ESS 73 vs WBU 65 Report Stats
Sun, 04 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 77 vs GCF 120 Report Stats
GEE 81 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
WCE 54 vs FRE 73 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 107 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
PTA 94 vs FRE 76 Report Stats
BRI 57 vs ESS 65 Report Stats
MEL 83 vs WBU 99 Report Stats
Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
WCE 188 vs GWS 77 Report Stats
Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 69 vs CAR 101 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 76 vs COL 55 Report Stats
Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 64 vs SYD 114 Report Stats
Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 74 vs MEL 91 Report Stats
NTH 125 vs BRI 38 Report Stats
FRE 96 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 87 vs GCF 125 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 111 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
GWS 41 vs RIC 154 Report Stats
COL 109 vs WCE 101 Report Stats
PTA 100 vs HAW 86 Report Stats
Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
GCF 119 vs WBU 74 Report Stats
CAR 81 vs ADE 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Thu, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 148 vs GEE 38 Report Stats
Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 54 vs COL 140 Report Stats
Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 75 vs PTA 95 Report Stats
BRI 98 vs CAR 91 Report Stats
ESS 104 vs RIC 54 Report Stats
Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 109 vs GCF 77 Report Stats
WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 107 vs CAR 102 Report Stats
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs WCE 79 Report Stats
PTA 129 vs STK 59 Report Stats
WBU 87 vs BRI 95 Report Stats
GWS 66 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 74 vs SYD 109 Report Stats
FRE 90 vs ADE 50 Report Stats
NTH 116 vs RIC 88 Report Stats
Mon, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 28 vs COL 61 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 85 vs FRE 105 Report Stats
SYD 98 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
WCE 103 vs GCF 100 Report Stats
BRI 80 vs GWS 125 Report Stats
ADE 109 vs NTH 73 Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 133 vs STK 37 Report Stats
COL 98 vs WBU 106 Report Stats
ESS 77 vs MEL 78 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs SYD 62 Report Stats
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 128 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
HAW 115 vs COL 86 Report Stats
GCF 118 vs GEE 78 Report Stats
FRE 105 vs BRI 22 Report Stats
ESS 101 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 100 vs CAR 92 Report Stats
STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
SYD 106 vs GWS 60 Stats
BRI 70 vs NTH 66 Report Stats
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
WBU 91 vs MEL 85 Report Stats
ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 79 vs BRI 54 Stats
GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
SYD 122 vs CAR 51 Report Stats
Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 72 vs MEL 69 Report Stats
WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 1
Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 2
Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 3
Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Finals Round 4
Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL Home and Away
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
View all
 
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