Cyril Rioli

Cyril Rioli (born 14 July 1989) is a former professional Australian rules footballer who played for the Hawthorn Football Club in the Australian Football League. Rioli was a member of four premierships teams and the Norm Smith Medallist from the 2015 AFL Grand Final.

Cyril Rioli
Rioli playing for Hawthorn in April 2017
Personal information
Full name Cyril Rioli
Nickname(s) Junior, Junior Boy.
Date of birth (1989-07-14) 14 July 1989
Place of birth Darwin, Australia
Original team(s) St Mary's (Darwin), NTFL
Draft No. 12, 2007 national draft
Debut Round 1, 2008, Hawthorn
vs. Melbourne, at Melbourne Cricket Ground
Height 177 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Weight 80 kg (176 lb)
Position(s) Half forward flank
Club information
Current club Hawthorn
Number 33
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
2008–2018 Hawthorn 189 (275)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 2018.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables,

Primarily a forward pocket, Rioli also spent time in the midfield, although injuries limited his ability to spend long periods in the midfield. Never a high possession player, Rioli made the most from few opportunities. He was well known for his ability to bring his teammates into the game.

Early life and junior football

Family background

Born to Cyril Jr. and Kathy in 1989, Rioli comes from a bloodline of talented footballers. His father Cyril Jr. was a champion footballer in the Northern Territory and the brother of the late Richmond Norm Smith Medallist Maurice Rioli. Cyril Jr. played for Northern Territory Football League club St Mary's, where he won 12 premiership medallions and the 1995–96 Nichols Medal as the league's best and fairest player. His mother Kathy is the sister of Essendon two-time premiership player and 1993 Norm Smith Medallist Michael Long. Another former footballer, Dean Rioli, is his cousin. After the 2015 season his nephew Daniel was drafted to the Richmond Football Club.[1][2]

Northern Territory lifestyle

He spent the first eight years of his life in the Tiwi Islands before moving with his family to Darwin in the Northern Territory,[3][4] playing his younger years at St Mary's.[1]

Football scholarship

Rioli moved to Melbourne in 2004 as a 14-year-old, where he attended and boarded at Scotch College for four years while playing for the school's football team. The move came about after a decade-long relationship between the school and Indigenous communities of the Northern Territory. Dr. Rob Smith, a teacher at Scotch College, had expanded the school's four-week exchange program for talented Indigenous footballers into a full scholarship program, following numerous tours of the Tiwi Islands and specifically, Bathurst Island. Rioli was the first selected into the program. He originally made the trip alongside his cousin Steven, after just three days in Melbourne the two re-packed their bags with the intention of returning home. In an effort to retain the boys, Smith phoned Michael Long, who came out to the school with Derek Kickett and Sibby Rioli, another uncle. Long said he knew Cyril was making a life-defining choice at just 14; "That was the big moment, whether he'd tough it out or go". Steven returned home and Cyril persisted in Melbourne.[3][5][6] Nicknamed "Junior" or "Junior Boy", he shone in his final season with Scotch College, despite suffering injuries throughout the season; including a broken collarbone and a severely damaged ankle.[1][7] He developed somewhat of a cult following while playing for the school, following a video clip of his highlights being uploaded to YouTube. He has since stated that he believes the early move to school in Melbourne made the transition a lot easier.[8]

Rioli was also a standout performer in the 2007 AFL national under 18 championships, becoming the only Northern Territorian to earn All-Australian honours,[9] following a seven-goal performance in a match against Queensland.[7] He was tipped to go high in the national draft, from anywhere between five and twenty-five.[7] In this final year of junior football, he was one of five players, including Trent Cotchin, to be chronicled in the book The Draft: Inside the AFL's Search for Talent, by The Age journalist Emma Quayle.[6][10]

Despite Rioli's speed, evasiveness and flashy tricks, the scouts at the AFL's draft camp were still to be convinced of his dedication, with his skin folds being described as "less than brilliant" and his commitment to AFL still being questionable.[7] Prior to the draft, Rioli said "I have had a few clubs call me, and it's just confusing. I love playing footy, and I think I am pretty good at it, but it doesn't really matter where (I go in the draft)." He reportedly spoke to both the Kangaroos and the Adelaide Crows,[7] before eventually being drafted by the Hawthorn Football Club in the 2007 AFL Draft. The Hawks used their first-round draft pick and the number 12 pick overall to claim Rioli.[11] Kangaroos President James Bradshaw later claimed that they had Cyril almost signed, sealed and delivered, but Hawthorn had the higher pick. The Kangaroos had pick 13.

AFL career (2008–2018)

Just four days after being drafted by the Hawks, Rioli was ordered to urgently organise a passport so he could attend the club's trek of the Kokoda Track.[12] He covered 90% of his first pre-season schedule for the club; a very high volume of work for a first-year player according to the head fitness coach Andrew Russell. Russell said, "Nobody that I worked with in the last four years at Hawthorn did that much in their first pre-season."[13]

Rioli made his AFL debut in Hawthorn's defeat of the Melbourne Football Club at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in round one 2008. He built a reputation around his ability to chase and pressure the opposition as they attempted to rebound from the forward line. In round six, he was nominated for the AFL Rising Star Award, after his display against Richmond, in which he received a nomination for Goal of the Year.[9] Rioli appeared in every game in his debut season, including an inspirational performance in Hawthorn's defeat of Geelong in the 2008 AFL Grand Final.[3] His impact on the game was described as instrumental as Hawthorn defeated Geelong,[14] in the club's first premiership since 1991. Rioli assisted in a couple of first quarter goals and kicked two goals for himself in the final, achieving a total of 10 possessions in the game. After the game Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said, "We knew Cyril was a beauty, but you just never anticipate that they're going to play every game of the season and be able to play in a grand final." With nothing but praise for Rioli, Clarkson also made mention of his achievements in 2008, "He's got a premiership medal now, but he's been in contention for mark of the year, goal of the year and the rising star and he's been very, very consistent. He's a 15-possession, five-tackle a game player with a goal or two – he's been a sensational acquisition to our club.

Rioli finished second overall in the 2008 AFL Rising Star Award, the award was won by Fremantle's Rhys Palmer with 44 votes, ahead of Rioli on 37.[15]

In February 2009, Rioli was selected for the Indigenous All-Stars that played a pre-season match against the Adelaide Football Club.[16] Following his successful debut season and promising start to his second, he was compared to Gary Ablett Jr., who also began his career as a small forward with the potential to become a "dominant, match-winning midfielder". This was due to the "sublime skills" he displays, and his "ability to make something out of nothing with vision and an instinct for the game." Former footballer and journalist Garry Lyon said in an article for The Age, that when Rioli is ready to take on a greater workload in the midfield, will be determined by his physical and aerobic capacity. Rioli's greatest challenge in the coming 12 months being to incorporate the "gut" running into his game that the likes of Ablett, Chris Judd, Lenny Hayes and Brett Kirk have mastered.[17][18]

In May, journalist Mike Sheahan proclaimed that Rioli's exploits on the field were being overlooked. He said while Hawthorn as a club was being analysed and dissected, Rioli wasn't getting the recognition he deserved. According to Champion Data, only captain Sam Mitchell had been more effective for Hawthorn at this time in the year.[18] Following 36 consecutive games after being drafted, Rioli tore his hamstring in round 11 2009 against the Sydney Swans. Missing his first regular season match in round 12, he spent a month on the sidelines before returning against North Melbourne in round 15. The Hawks were defeated in all three games he missed.[3][19] His return was described as a "big boost" for Hawthorn's last-ditch bid to revive its season, after many commentators said the club was suffering a "premiership hangover".[19] Following his return, it was announced that Rioli had re-signed with Hawthorn for a further three years.[14] Hawthorn eventually faltered in the final round of the home and away season, losing to Essendon by 17 points. Thus, failing to qualify for the finals.[20] Rioli's season was however, still seen as impressive. In the AFL website's end of year review, it was predicted that he will be considered an elite AFL player in the coming years.[21]

Approaching the end of the 2009 season, Rioli bought his first apartment and declared his allegiance to spending his whole career with Hawthorn, he also revealed his intentions to help bring more players down from the Northern Territory; "That's the real goal for me, to get more kids drafted from the Northern Territory."[3] After Hawthorn's demise in 2009, Rioli gave his support to a project which aims to teach Indigenous people in remote areas about the damage drugs and alcohol can do to the brain. An image of him is used in flip charts developed by the Menzies School of Health Research as an example of a person with a healthy brain. Sheree Cairney, the lead researcher at Menzies School, says there is a lack of knowledge in remote communities about how to treat drug and alcohol addiction, with the problem being "very, very widespread."[22] At the end of 2009, he was awarded the AFL Coaches Association award for Best Young Player, covering his first two years in football.[23] He also received the Phil Manassa Medal (Goal of the Year award) for his round seven effort against Essendon,[24] and came second in the Peter Crimmins Medal behind the club's captain Sam Mitchell.[25] When Rioli kicked the goal of the year, commentator Bruce McAvaney described him as a "delicious young footballer" and the description "delicious" has become strongly associated with both Rioli and McAvaney.

In 2014 Rioli had hamstring issues and missed most of the season, he was a surprise selection for the Grand Final, his ability to act as a decoy helped his teammates kick a winning score.

In 2015 Rioli was part of the Hawthorn three-peat and capped of the year with a Norm Smith Medal.

In 2017 he started the season slowly, then injured his right PCL while leaping for a mark against the Brisbane Lions in Launceston and that ended his season.

2018 would be his last season, he had an interrupted pre-season as Cyril asked for and was given leave to visit family in the Northern Territory, his father had been very ill. He returned to Melbourne and played the opening game. He was injured during a round 4 match against Melbourne , a Melbourne player clipped his leg and as a result injured his left PCL. Cyril again asked for and was given leave to visit family in the Northern Territory, while there his took time to consider his future.

On the 4 July 2018, Rioli announced his retirement from football effective immediately and that he would be moving back to Darwin to be with his family.[26]

Personal life

Rioli married his childhood sweetheart, Shannyn Ah Sam, on 19 October 2014 at the George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens.[27]


 G  Goals  B  Behinds  K  Kicks  H  Handballs  D  Disposals  M  Marks  T  Tackles
Season Team No. Games G B K H D M T G B K H D M T
Totals Averages (per game)
2008 Hawthorn 3325241920014534598871.
2009 Hawthorn 3319212116812929774891.
2010 Hawthorn 3320271020314334681981.40.510.
2011 Hawthorn 3319291619011730778931.50.810.
2012 Hawthorn 33233922218142360771211.
2013 Hawthorn 331519141368922551631.
2014 Hawthorn 33122081127218449451.
2015 Hawthorn 332442232341343681031041.819.85.615.34.34.3
2016 Hawthorn 3321471319692288771282.
2017 Hawthorn 3375756318721220.
2018 Hawthorn 334222316394100.
Career 1892751551736111028467138601.

Honours and achievements

Brownlow Medal votes
Season Votes
2008 2
2009 2
2010 6
2011 7
2012 6
2013 5
2014 1
2015 7
2016 8
2017 0
Total 44




  1. Grey Morris. "'Junior Boy' bloodlines worth more than $1m". Northern Territory News. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  2. Jenny McAsey (27 September 2008). "Family tradition pressure for Cyril Rioli". The Australian. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  3. Glenn McFarlane. "Junior Boy on a man's mission". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  4. David Rood (1 June 2009). "Siren sounds for Tiwi Islands' 'father of football'". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  5. Rob Smith, Corrie Perkin. "Ten years of cross cultural experience". Scotch College. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  6. Emma Quayle. "Raw talent". The Age. Real Footy. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  7. Jon Ralph. "Rioli graduates from knocks". Herald Sun. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  8. Luke Holmesby. "Junior's journey from Darwin to the 'G". Australian Football League. Hawthorn Football Club. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  9. "Cyril Rioli rings up Rising Star nomination". Herald Sun. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  10. "Draft – Inside the AFL's search for talent". Allen & Unwin. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  11. Jake Niall (27 May 2009). "What Is Rioli Worth?". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  12. Jenny McAsey (29 September 2008). "Rioli's long trek from home ends in glory on MCG dais". The Australian. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  13. Catherine Murphy. "Rioli's success to motivate new arrivals". Australian Football League. Hawthorn Football Club. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  14. Luke Holmesby. "Rioli, Ellis re-sign with Hawks". Australian Football League. Archived from the original on 16 July 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  15. "Docker Rhys Palmer wins 2008 Rising Star award". Perth Now. 2 September 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  16. Katrina Gill. "Squads: Qantas Indigenous All-Stars v Adelaide". Australian Football League. Archived from the original on 13 March 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  17. Garry Lyon (29 April 2009). "Rioli can be another Ablett". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  18. Mike Sheahan. "Quietly, Cyril Rioli's life of the party". Herald Sun. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  19. Jon Ralph. "Hawthorn's hopes hinge on Cyril Rioli return". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  20. Mic Cullen. "Season over as Hawks fall by 17 points". Australian Football League. Hawthorn Football Club. Archived from the original on 15 October 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  21. Luke Holmesby. "End of season report: Hawthorn". Australian Football League. Archived from the original on 18 September 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  22. "Hawthorn's Rioli joins anti-drugs campaign". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  23. "Coaches agree Ablett the AFL's best". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  24. "Burton, Rioli win mark and goal of the year". Australian Football League. Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
  25. "Hawthorn captain Sam Mitchell wins Peter Crimmins Medal for second time". Fox Sports. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  26. McClure, Sam (4 July 2018). "Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli retires from AFL football at age 28". The Age. Archived from the original on 4 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  27. Vangopoulos, Katina (19 October 2014). "Happy Hawk Cyril Rioli ties the knot in Darwin". Herald Sun. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  28. "AFL Tables - Cyril Rioli - Stats - Statistics". Retrieved 3 August 2016.

Further reading

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