Townsend grabs his chance at AFL level

Timing your run perfectly.


It’s working for Richmond, who finished the home-and-away season with rollicking wins over Fremantle and St Kilda, broke a 16-year finals duck with triumphs over Geelong and GWS and are now just one win away from a first premiership in 37 years.

On an individual level, Jacob Townsend looks to have got the timing nailed too.

As the 2017 campaign ticked into mid-August without him having added to a tally of 32 senior games spread over six seasons with the Giants and the Tigers, Townsend feared the end was near, especially as he was about to come out of contract.

It’s not as though he was playing poorly, as proved when he won the JJ Liston Trophy as the VFL’s best and fairest player.

It’s just that Townsend couldn’t find a way into a senior team enjoying solid form and a blessed run on the injury front.

Then Josh Caddy went down with a hamstring injury in round 21.

All of a sudden, Richmond needed someone to fill Caddy’s role as a medium-sized marking option in attack to support Jack Riewoldt.

They turned to the 187cm Townsend, who had spent plenty of time playing forward in his junior days but whose meagre goals tally at the time read just four from 32 AFL matches.

It proved to be a master-stroke.

Hauls of six and five majors against the Dockers and the Saints ensured that Townsend held his spot for the finals even when Caddy was fit to return.

And even though his scoreboard return has not been nearly as pronounced in the finals, Townsend has had an impact as a defensive forward – a role he could well be asked to reprise against Adelaide’s Jake Lever on Saturday.

“The defensive forward’s role is a tough one,” Townsend told AAP.

“You can’t just go out there and not get the ball.

“You have to make your opponent accountable.

“The focus is to go to him first as a starting point and then when the ball comes into the forward line to try and play your natural game.”

Another focus for Townsend has been not to pile the pressure on himself when he finally broke back into the senior team.

“Pretty much my whole AFL career I’ve been sort of the last one picked and the first one out,” he said.

“When I found out I was playing against Freo I didn’t really think about it as an AFL game.

“I just went out there and almost pretended I was playing in the VFL and tried to continue that form.”