TY Vickery was a mocked and maligned figure at Richmond — some of it perhaps deserved, some not.
But a parting gift to the Tigers could help his sins be forgiven.
Vickery skipped Punt Rd for Waverley on a two-year deal at the end of 2016, playing just six games at Hawthorn, before retiring yesterday with a year to run on his contract.
The Tigers received pick No.29 as compensation for the forward’s departure and used that to draft a raw kid from South Fremantle.
At just 18, Shai Bolton represents the future at Richmond, while Vickery is the faded shadow of a past Tiger fans would rather forget.
As much as the likes of Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy and Jack Graham helped Richmond break a 37-year premiership drought with the 2017 Grand Final win over Adelaide, mention the name Shai Bolton and the hearts of the Tiger faithful begin to race.
It’s not so much for what he has done so far — six AFL games, the same as Vickery in 2017 — but the flashes of the remarkable he has shown.
Premiership player David King has the highest of praise for Bolton, calling him the prototype for the modern game.
“He’s the way the game’s going,” King said.
“A gifted small forward that puts on enormous pressure who can mark overhead and generate turnovers with his defensive speed.
“I think when you’re assessing the generations, what’s actually required right now with football, he’s the prototype of what you’re looking for — if not probably two or three inches taller would be ideal, but certainly he doesn’t lack for anything because of his lack of size.”
Bolton passes the eye test.
You only have to ask Sydney after the youngster tore them to shreds in the first half of their Round 13 clash at the MCG.
Bolton was the No.1 ranked player on the ground at the main break, with 56 SuperCoach points and a pair of highlight reel goals.
One of those had a Tiger legend named Kevin Bartlett written all over it.
Bolton — one of the quickest players in the game — burst into the forward 50 and scragged the pill from a marking contest at full speed, streaked away from his chasers, took a bounce and then calmly slotted it through on the right boot.
— AFL (@AFL) June 17, 2017
He’s obviously a long way from achieving the greatness of KB, but it is those flashes that have Tiger fans excited.
The twist is, he inherited the No.29 — made famous by Bartlett across 403 games — from the departed Vickery.
Superstar teammate Dustin Martin has taken Bolton under his wing, the pair sharing agents in Ralph Carr.
With Daniel Rioli already solidified in the Tigers’ best 18, his mate Bolton is not far behind.
And they are set to form a pressure-packed small forward pairing, with Bolton averaging 27.9 forward half pressure points per game, above the AFL average, according to Champion Data.
King says he will be staggered if a fully-fit Bolton isn’t in the Tigers’ Round 1 side in 2018.
“He’s got more talent than some of those premiership small forwards from 2017, there’s no doubt about that,” King said.
“If I were a (Jason) Castagna, or a (Dan) Butler, or a (Jacob) Townsend, I’d be a bit nervous about what this guy can do and where he’s likely to go in his next 40-50 games, but that’s the beauty of a good football club.
“I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a 20 game player next year.”
Bolton has served his apprenticeship in the VFL, playing 14 games and booting 23 goals, including a five-goal, 11-score involvement mammoth against Werribee in Round 13 that yielded 132 SuperCoach points from his 16 disposals (11 contested). He kicked two goals in three of the Tigers four VFL finals.
The Tigers basically gave up pick No.6 (became pick No.7 Jack Scrimshaw), Vickery and a well past his prime Brett Deledio for the remarkable haul of Caddy, Nankervis, Prestia, Graham and Bolton at the end of 2016.
That last name might just turn out to be the best of the lot.