Australia

Jumping Jack's back to paint Brisbane yellow and black

Having been challenged on and off the field like never before in 2020, Richmond spearhead Jack Riewoldt is ready to be the main man up forward again in Friday night's qualifying final against the Brisbane Lions as the Tigers chase back-to-back flags for the first time since 1973-74.

After helping him fight through a testing patch of poor form early in 2020 that saw his future questioned externally, Richmond are relying once again on Riewoldt to deliver with Tom Lynch failing to overcome a hamstring injury in time to play.

Dancing up a storm: Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin.

Dancing up a storm: Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin.Credit:Getty Images

The gregarious 31-year-old, who was Richmond's leading goalkicker for nine consecutive seasons before Lynch claimed the award last season, led the Tigers to a premiership in 2017 as the solo key forward before adding another flag to his collection with Lynch by his side in 2019.

He starred in last year's grand final kicking five goals after busting the game open with three majors in the second quarter, just reward for holding the Tigers' forward-line together in the 10 years before Lynch arrived.

However Riewoldt's confidence was temporarily shaken midway through 2020 when he kicked just six goals in the first eight games after the season restart and his impact dropped.

All of a sudden he was away from his young family in the Gold Coast hub and under form pressure for the first time in a decade. And he couldn't ignore the reality that he needed to lift.

"It's one of the first times I have really been challenged for a length of time for not playing as well as I would like," Riewoldt said.

"I think my form reflected a little bit of how we were going and we weren't playing as well as we would have liked. I accept responsibility for that.

"It's a little bit of the chicken and the egg: do you wait for the side to play well before you play well or do you start playing well and make the side play well?"

Riewoldt wasn't alone in his struggles with Lynch also battling to find his rhythm after an excellent opening season at his new club where he played every match and kicked 63 goals.

Entering the round 10 clash against the Brisbane Lions they had kicked a combined tally of 22 goals for the season and any notion they had time to wait had disappeared.

"[We] probably found ourselves in a little bit of a rut really of just not playing the way we wanted to play," Riewoldt said.

Jack Riewoldt.

Jack Riewoldt.Credit:Getty Images

The Tigers vice-captain conceded he began searching for form as a result and that wasn't the answer.

It was only when he returned to basics that he regained the flow that has made him a three-time All-Australian and triple winner of the Coleman Medal.

"It's pretty simple for me, grab a bag and jump on a coaches back. That repetition gets you back into the position of playing your best footy," Riewoldt said.

As did bouncing theories off his premiership teammate about how they could both overcome their malaise with Lynch becoming more overtly aggressive while Riewoldt rediscovered his fanatical leap at the ball.

They combined to kick seven goals against the Lions in round 10 and their seasons rebooted.

"It's always great when you have got someone else to help you work through that," Riewoldt said.

As he heads into his 12th final with All-Australian defender Harris Andrews as his likely opponent he knows the spotlight will fall, as it has before, on his shoulders.

Mabior Chol, playing in his first final, is likely to fill Lynch's role while Josh Caddy will need to bring his usual rambunctious energy to the match but it's testament to the Tigers' depth that such names can step into the void alongside a player as experienced and successful as Riewoldt.

So with confidence restored Riewoldt is more than happy to lead the way having kicked at least one goal in each of his past 14 matches and kicking six in the final two rounds to draw level with Lynch at the top of the Tigers' goalkicking table with 28 apiece.

"I feel like I have found some form. I feel like I am fit and excited about my role again and have really enjoyed playing," Riewoldt said.

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