OVERLOOKING Richmond’s victorious huddle in the changerooms on Sunday evening is a photo of another successful night 19 rounds ago.
The Tigers had dismantled Carlton to the tune of 43 points in the season opener at the MCG and debutants Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy, Toby Nankervis and Dan Butler were singing the club song in all its powerade-soaked glory.
For Prestia, it’s a reminder of how far he and Richmond have come this season.
“The first game was pretty special for us. I was just happy to get a win,” Prestia says.
“The position we’re in at the moment is unbelievable. No one really thought we’d be here at this time of year. Hopefully we can keep building for finals.”
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While Richmond has been reticent to use the “f” word this season, Sunday’s 29-point win over Hawthorn has all but secured the Tigers a spot in the top eight — indeed, in the top four.
After six fruitless seasons at the Gold Coast Suns, it will be Prestia’s first tilt at September action since being drafted into the AFL system at the end of 2010.
“We’ve still got a couple of games to go, but it’s looking like it will be my first finals series, which is great,” Prestia says.
“We play Geelong next week so that’s a big game to set up that top four. We keep showing up every week. We’ve done it all year except for probably two games.”
Prestia’s life has changed remarkably in 2017.
Not only has he been reunited with best mate Josh Caddy, but gone from playing in front of half-sold crowds on the Gold Coast to sold out crowds at the MCG.
There’s no anonymity being a Tiger – especially when the yellow and black are winning.
“Richmond is probably the biggest club in Melbourne so it is a different experience,” he reflects.
“It’s a different world on and off the field. Winning is different as well.
“We didn’t really have any success or finals up on the Gold Coast so this is another world for me.”
Despite this, Prestia hasn’t completely freed himself of the Suns.
Instead, he’s brought an element of his old club to his new club, creating a link between his identity at the Suns and Richmond.
And it all comes down to his “run with” roles – selfless jobs that have given Prestia a new lease on life in the backhalf of the season.
“It was just a role I did up on the Gold Coast a couple of times,” Prestia says.
“It’s when we need to negate someone rather than tag them and I was happy to do it.
“I did it against Dayne Zorko a couple of weeks ago which was good. I had Tommy Mitchell today, which was a bit harder.”
The role has brought out the best in Prestia’s footy, exploiting his elite running capacity.
While Mitchell finished Sunday’s match with 35 touches, only nine were kicks. Prestia, conversely, racked up 31 touches — 17 of which were kicks — as well as two goals.
“I like going to players and working on them defensively and be able to get forward and use my running ability,” Prestia says.
“It’s a little challenge for me and that’s why it feels like it works.”
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick was full of admiration for Prestia in what was arguably his best performance to date for the club.
“Dion missed last week and comes back in this week and looks really impressive, comes in and does a really good job on Mitchell,” Hardwick said.
“Mitchell is always going to find the ball. He’s incredible at doing that. It probably limited his effectiveness a little bit and I thought Dion was pretty solid for us as well.”
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