Sport Vlastuin rides waves toward third AFL flag

08:50  23 october  2020
08:50  23 october  2020 Source:   aap.com.au

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  Vlastuin rides waves toward third AFL flag © AAP

Richmond's Nick Vlastuin literally laughs off questions about his All-Australian snub.

The dual-premiership defender has produced another outstanding AFL season, blotted by a few controversies of varying sizes, and was selected in the initial squad of 40.

He was ultimately overlooked for the representative honour in favour of Brad Sheppard (West Coast), Luke Ryan (Fremantle), Darcy Byrne-Jones (Port Adelaide) and Nick Haynes (Greater Western Sydney).

Dustin Martin was the only Tigers players selected as an All-Australian in 2020.

"It would've been nice but it is what it is," Vlastuin told AAP before Saturday night's grand final against Geelong.

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"Our back six is very strong, I'd probably rather that over the All-Australian back six, maybe just because I know them and it's fun to play with them.

"But I don't care ... I made the squad at least, so I can't complain about that."

Vlastuin is expected to feature prominently again in the Tigers' Jack Dyer Medal, having finished fourth last year.

The 160-game backman has been an ever-reliable member of an evolving defensive group that has covered the loss of five-time All-Australian Alex Rance - after just one game in 2019 - so well that they have since won one flag and earned a shot at another.

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But it hasn't been smooth sailing.

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"We've been up against it all year with the injuries, all the stuff going on off-field and just being away from home for 100 days," Vlastuin said at Richmond's dormitory-style KDV Sport hub on the Gold Coast.

"Already it's a huge achievement but we've got one more game to go for that extra cream on the year."

The "off-field stuff" includes the infamous protocol breaches by Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones, and has often revolved around Vlastuin.

The 26-year-old was central in the Mabior Chol groping incident, ignited a staging debate and was involved in an online dispute about whether he got a hand on a shot at goal.

Vlastuin often sticks a board under his arm for a surf to get away from it all and has found solace in his teammates.

"We just talk about it... You're never alone," he said.

"We've got a really tight-knit group so you can always find someone who's going through the same thing."

Vlastuin has come through it all with a smile.

He's relaxed heading into the historic Gabba grand final as he and 13 Richmond teammates aim for their third premiership medals.

Vlastuin is desperate to beat Geelong for fellow defender Noah Balta, the emerging star of the group, who is the only Tigers player in the best 22 yet to win a flag.

"It would be a pretty cool thing to have under your belt ... and you want to win it for blokes who haven't won it before," Vlastuin said.

"It was Shorty (Jayden Short) and Bakes' (Liam Baker) turn last year. Balta was there last year and missed out."

Richmond Tigers celebrate their AFL third premiership since 2017 .
Richmond Tigers celebrated their third premiership in four years on the Gold Coast after winning the AFL grand final against the Geelong Cats in BrisbaneSeveral bleary-eyed players looked worse for wear on Sunday after a sleepless night of celebrations following their 31 point win against the Geelong Cats at the Gabba in Brisbane.

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