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On This Day: Riewoldt takes one of the all-time great marks

Fifteen years ago to the day, Nick Riewoldt took one of the most courageous marks the game has ever seen. Re-living 12 of the greatest Nick Riewoldt moments.

As a young Saints fan growing up in the mid-2000s, there was no shortage of heroes to look up to.

But Nick Riewoldt’s bravery always made him stand apart.

His combination of courage and elegance – particularly in the air – warranted nothing but admiration from the St Kilda faithful, and there was a reason why so many boys and girls had the No. 12 on the backs of their guernseys.

Whenever Saint Nick soared for a mark up forward, the crowd would rise with him, before a chorus of “Roooo” would echo around the ground.

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Such occurrences would be commonplace; Roo after all holds the VFL/AFL record for the most marks ever taken by an individual (2944) and three times took the most marks in a season (2004, 2008, 2009).

But it was on this day in 2004 where his best grab was taken, with the spry 21-year-old’s actions leaving behind a legacy which would ultimately define his 336-game career.

It was a Sunday afternoon against Sydney at the SCG, and the Saints, led by their skipper Lenny Hayes, were undefeated after 10 rounds of footy.

 

Unfortunately, the Swans had the jump on the Saints right from the get-go, with the red, white and black only kicking the four goals to half-time.

A long ball to centre-half forward from Robert Harvey finally sparked some movement for the Saints 11 minutes into the third term, and just a few seconds later, history was to be made.

The footy hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity as Stephen Milne raced forward to meet it.

And as Riewoldt tore 30m down the field at full tilt, no one expected him to compete in the marking contest, let alone hold onto the mark.

Running back with the flight of the ball and with no regard for his safety, Riewoldt launched into the air, cannoning into the pack (with Milne bearing the brunt of the hit) and securing the footy in an iconic chest mark, before somersaulting mid-air and crashing back down to earth.

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It was fortunate that Milne had seen Roo hurtling towards him at the last possible second, with the slightest stutter and subsequent bracing for impact saving him from a potentially ugly incident.

Through all that, somehow, Riewoldt had held onto the Sherrin in a moment which lasted no more than a second.

He barely had enough time to absorb what had just happened as he handballed off to Harvey, who kicked true from long-range.

While the dazed No. 12 may not have soaked up the moment to the fullest, the 36,039 in attendance were left in awe at what had just transpired.

“There is a beauty and a grace in toughness,” Dwayne Russell said during Channel Nine’s match-day commentary.

“One of the glorious parts of our game is the commitment of the player, when he knows anything could happen in a situation like that.  But he just wants it so desperately, he’s prepared to pay to the price.”

Despite his efforts, the Saints went on the lose the game by 36 points, with Riewoldt ending his afternoon with 10 disposals, five marks and a goal.

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That year, Riewoldt clunked an almighty 256 marks from 25 games, finishing the season with an average of over 10 per game.

It may not have been a mark which won a Grand Final like that of Alex Jesaulenko, or even one as high-flying as Nicky Winmar, but it was just as spectacular and surpassed them both in terms of heroism.

The mark epitomised Riewoldt’s career; one built upon bravery and selflessness.

Nick Riewoldt is chaired off the field by cousin Jack Riewoldt and teammate Josh Bruce in his final game.

To this day, the courage required to complete such an act staggers even the most hardened players – let alone passionate fans – and it remains one of the best marks the game has ever seen.

The great Dennis Cometti recognised its significance during the call, saying we will see Riewoldt’s grab “time and time again”.

Fifteen years later, that iconic mark is just as vivid as it was that day at the SCG.

And it will be just as fresh in our minds in another fifteen.