The bloke who helped get the Rioli football dynasty started won’t be at Optus Stadium on Friday night to watch the latest chapter unfold when Maurice junior and Daniel Rioli play for Richmond against West Coast’s Willie.
Richard Woodgate is a Dockers fan. But he will be watching with interest as another piece of history is written for one of football’s most storied families with teenager Maurice junior picked to play his third AFL game for the team his father won a Norm Smith Medal representing in the 1982 VFL grand final.
Maurice Senior’s equally revered South Fremantle teammate Stephen Michael on Thursday labelled the gifted centreman, who had won Simpson Medals in the 1980 and 1981 WAFL grand finals, the second best player he ever played with or against behind only Claremont’s Graham Moss who won a Brownlow Medal playing for Essendon.
In the early 1970s, when he was still playing at Kojonup, a teenage Michael had watched a youngster playing for South Fremantle who he reckoned looked a bit chubby for WAFL football but had “unbelievable” speed, ball handling and could “kick a bloody drop kick like you wouldn’t believe”. That youngster’s name was Sebastian (Sibby) Rioli.
Sebastian had been spotted playing for St Marys in the 1971-72 NTFL season by Woodgate, who had played for South Fremantle and been a key recruiter for the Bulldogs team that had come from last in 1969 to win the 1970 premiership under Hassa Mann.
He had been transferred to Darwin in a post for the Auditor General’s office, became involved with the St Marys Football Club has Treasurer and watched as Rioli played a starring role in a one point win in the grand final over Darwin Buffaloes.
The winning point that day was kicked by Xavier Clarke Senior, the father of AFL players Xavier and Raphael.
“I was sitting there talking to Billy Roe (former East Perth player and the father of East Perth and South Fremantle star Willie Roe) and Billy pointed to Sibby and said how would you like him playing at South. I said Oh yeah.”
“Sibby came down and later Maurice came down and Benny Vigona came down and Basil Campbell came down.”
“I was struck by Sebastian’s speed, his kicking and his ability to get the ball. He was lightning fast over a short distance. He could get the ball and he did a lot with it. Like the Riolis now the ball skills were magnificent.
Not only that, Sebastian was a really excellent man. A great man in my opinion. In one way or another he, in my opinion, had a great influence over all of the others.”
Michael labelled the Rioli clan a “core of great people you will never meet again” and their star will not only shine at AFL level in Perth this weekend. Ben Rioli will play for South Fremantle against Claremont in the WAFL.