It’s barely weeks since Jacob Townsend was wondering what his AFL future looked like. Playing a premiership decider at the Melbourne Cricket Ground wasn’t in the picture.
But the boy from Leeton is on the verge of fulfilling a dream, carried along on the crest of the wave that is Richmond’s run to the AFL grand final.
“The buzz has been good,” Townsend told The Daily Advertiser on Thursday.
“So far it’s felt like a normal week, we haven’t done anything different, but it’ll pick up tomorrow with the captain’s run and the grand final parade. I’m sure it’ll sink in then, riding in the cars.”
“It’s been a big couple of months, it’s a fairly different path to be taking to the one I thought I was on.”
Townsend has played four AFL games this season, two of them finals, including last week’s preliminary final against his old club, Greater Western Sydney, in front of more than 94,000 (mostly Richmond) fans.
“The ‘Tiger Army’ it’s a big part, it really helps playing in front of that crowd,” he said. “The first final (against Geelong)… I thought that was really loud. Then the prelim, the whole crowd was us, our fans… it was the loudest cheer and roar I’ve ever heard.”
Townsend said the club encouraged players to embrace the win and the week ahead but remain focusssed on the main goal.
Dustin Martin’s Brownlow Medal win only heightened the excitement at Richmond.
“He’s a freak of a player, Dusty. He’s had an outstanding year. He deserves that Brownlow,” Townsend said.
Townsend’s move to Tigerland two years ago wasn’t as smooth as he might’ve hoped, playing just four AFL games in 2016.
“Then I didn’t play a game until round 22 (this year) so I wasn’t sure what the case was,” he said. “I’m not contracted beyond this year so I thought my career was done there.”
When an opportunity presented in round 22, Townsend took it with a hunger created by years of hard work and the ability of someone doing the hard yards away from the spotlight, in a best-and-fairest winning season for the Tigers’ VFL side.
“We got Josh Caddy and (Dion) Prestia so I knew it was going to be hard to get spots in the side so I just focussed on going out in the VFL and playing my best footy,” he said.
“I wasn't focussed on AFL, it was just playing my best footy I can so if a chance came up, I’d be the first one picked. I was fortunate to get my chance.”
The tough midfielder got his chance up forward.
He made the most of it, with six goals in his first game. And five a week later against St Kilda.
“It’s obviously a good feeling to kick goals but my job is just to compete, be that key forward target, and put that forward line pressure on,” Townsend said.
Suddenly, he was central to Richmond’s bid for their first flag since 1980, and the support has been overwhelming as the Tigers then overpowered both Geelong and the Giants.
“There’s been a fair few text messages and facebook messages, especially the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“I’ve always enjoyed the support I get from the people at home.”
Now Townsend and the Tigers could be the icing on a cake of drought-breaking celebrations in Leeton.
“Obviously we (Leeton-Whitton) won the premiership for the first time in 39 years,” Townsend said. “I’ve copped a few messages so I’m sure the boys partied hard and the town’s been up and about.
“Also, the old Leeton Phantoms won the (Southern Inland) rugby as well, so it’s been a big few weeks for the town.”