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Indigenous Richmond stars win coach's praise after thrilling win over Sydney

Jarred Cross -

Excited by his first win as Richmond head coach and snapping a zero-and-three start to 2024, Adam Yze has heralded some of the club's young Indigenous stars as “the future of our footy club”. 

Following their five point upset over Sydney on Sunday afternoon, Yze credited forward-half defensive efforts from Maurice Rioli jr and Rhyan Mansell’s performance in contributing to the win. 

The Tigers effectively disturbed the Swans' usually elite ball use with manic pressure to get their season going on Easter Sunday at the MCG. 

The hosts got the jump on many people’s premiership fancies after Shai Bolton cut through traffic in the middle of the ground and found Mansell 35 metres from goal, via Liam Baker, for first points.

Bolton, who was busy and looked as dangerous as previous weeks and delivered against Sydney, collected 25 touches and two goals. 

After being ruled out late with a back issue against Port last weekend, Rioli was among the standouts as Richmond dismantled the Swans towards their first loss of the year. 

He and Mansell had six tackles apiece in the Tigers’ forward line. 

The pair were crucial in a desperate final term, and in wrestling back possession after Sydney worked to within a kick of the lead minutes into the quarter from 15 points down at the last break. 

Bolton settled the Tigers with his second, with Mansell's involvement, to push the margin back out to 10 after absorbing a big scare.

“Maurice Rioli's chase-down (tackle) in the last quarter, the pressure Seth Campbell is putting on with Rhyan Mansell in the forward line; that's that's the future of our footy club,” Yze said post-match.

“For them to be able to do that in those moments, against a quality team in Sydney, we're really proud of.”

Their youngest Rioli had a big influence in the contest with 17 touches. 

Yze put his faith in the 21-year-old to grow into a key piece of their fortunes, after “really missing” his defensive intensity against the Power. 

“We know the talent that he's got. The poor kid, he works really hard and he can let himself down with the ball at times, but that's just the nature of the way that he plays. It's high energy, high intensity, high pressure.

“We’ve just got to get him to take a breath when he gets the ball. So he'll still have those moments but what we need is what he brings off the ball. He's so diligent in our team defence. We're forever highlighting his role within our team defence, let alone what's happening around with his pressure. So we love what he can bring in.

“It was good for him to show what he can do (on Sunday) and we'll just keep working with him.”

Yze was also bullish on the future of Pasifika newcomer and rugby league convert Mykelti Lefau after having an influence in his second game of AFL football. 

Lefau kicked two and had an impact far greater than his three touches on the stats sheet before being subbed out of the contest. 

“His contest...air and ground, he's  a terrific pressure player for his size,” Yze said.

“We're really happy with the way that he performed today. So (his) second game of AFL footy and it's exciting.”

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