The moment Cyril became the man
IN terms of influencing the game from within his small pocket of the ground, Cyril "Junior" Rioli might just be the best there ever was.
If you doubt that, then revisit the third quarter of the 2008 Grand Final when the 19-year-old from the Tiwi Islands took on two of Geelong's best contested ball players in Max Rooke and Corey Enright.
Appropriately it was on the MCC members' wing, where the greats from Alex Jesaulenko to Robbie Flower have created their own magic over the journey.
Rioli first encountered Enright, a player who wouldn't be out of place in a revised AFL Team of the Century, but reputations meant nothing to Cyril.
He stripped the ball from Enright's grasp before crawling along the MCG grass to become involved with a mean son of a gun in Rooke.
Rising from the ground, Rioli threw himself at Rooke before laying one of those tackles that would become the stuff of legend.
A free kick to Hawthorn resulted, but the mental and physical victory was far greater with the Hawks only six points up with seven minutes to go in the Premiership quarter.
Rioli, taken with Pick 12 in the 2007 national draft, was as good in his 2008 debut season as he was in his 2012, 2015 and 2016 All Australian seasons, or in 2009 when he ran second in his club best and fairest (as he did in 2015).
And now he's gone, an incongruous thought to many who fail to grasp why a 28-year-old would walk away from an arena where he still had so much to offer.
It should be remembered he was first enticed to Melbourne on a cultural scholarship by Scotch College in 2004, meaning he's lived 15 years away from the home he so passionately loves.
We should celebrate having had "Junior Boy" for 189 games, man of the magical in so many ways, whether it be the screamer, the goal of the year contender or just applying pressure like no other small forward has quite been able to surpass.
Oh, how much easier AFL small defenders must rest tonight.
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