Richmond young gun living the dream at Tigerland

SEN - Wed, 17th Jul 2019 - 0 Comments

Shai Bolton may still be getting used to lining up in the centre square with some of the best players in the competition, but the Richmond young gun loves being in the thick of the action.

A dangerous small forward that won both the Mark of the Year and the Goal of the Year in the VFL in 2018, Bolton has been thrust into the Tigers' star-studded midfield this season – and he's grabbed that opportunity with both hands.

Bolton gathered 26 touches and kicked two goals in Richmond's huge win against Gold Coast in Round 16, before finishing with a career-best 29 disposals (at 76 per cent efficiency), six marks, three intercept possessions and one major in last week's victory against GWS.

His excellent form was recognised with the Round 17 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination.

"I'm really enjoying my footy at Richmond, us boys have a really good connection. I love playing at Richmond," Bolton told SEN.com.au.

"You're pinching yourself when you're looking at all these big-time players like Dusty (Dustin Martin) and Cotchy (Trent Cotchin) and you're playing in the middle of the ground with them.

"It's great to have them there because you learn from them every day; they've been in the system for 10 years or so.

"Seeing how they win the ball and all that, you just learn so much from them."

Knowing coach Damien Hardwick wanted to play him in the midfield, Bolton spent much of the summer working hard on "getting a bigger tank".

"I went back home and worked with a personal trainer," said Bolton, who signed a one-year contract last October.

"I did the training program that Richmond gave me, but I also did some extra training, just so I could come back as fit as possible for pre-season."

Bolton is one of six indigenous players on Richmond's list (along with Shane Edwards, Dan Rioli, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith, Sydney Stack and Marlion Pickett) and is loving life alongside his "brothers".

"It's a good feeling to have all the brothers out here, we're all pretty close together, we have a pretty close connection," Bolton explained.

After playing for the North Mandurah Junior Football Club in Western Australia, Bolton entered the RIO Tinto AFL Flying Boomerangs Indigenous Program in 2013. He then played underage football with WAFL club South Fremantle before being selected by Richmond with pick 29 in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft.

Bolton is Richmond's third Rising Star nominee this season, joining Liam Baker (Round 10) and Sydney Stack (Round 11).