By VINCE RUGARI
HE'S an AFL recruiter's dream - a tall, strong, skilful 15-year-old with a background in basketball and rugby league and a family history of sporting excellence.
Griffith's Nathan Richards now has the world at his feet after earning selection in the NSW state team for the forthcoming AFL Under 15 Championships.
The son of current Swans forward and ex-Yenda Blueheelers legend Trevor, the lanky and likeable teenager was a standout for Riverina South West at last week's NSW Combined High Schools AFL carnival in Wagga.
Richards' ruckwork and ability at ground level wowed selectors, putting him in the frame to take on some of the game's best young players at next month's national titles.
"I'd say he was the dominant big man in the competition just with his rucking, at centre bounces and around the ground," Riverina South West coach Pat Edmunds said.
"He tapped to his on-ballers really well but also wasn't afraid to smash it forward when he needed to.
"But the most pleasing thing about him is his work was never done - he tackled really well, threw his weight around.
"I made him captain for our playoff game and he probably showed the best leadership qualities out of all the boys during the week.
"He's ready for the next level, no doubt."
Richards plays for Griffith in the South West Junior Football League but his ability has seen him regularly play up an age division for the Swans in the RFL.
His under 17s coach Damien Scott believes there is no telling what heights the multi-talented youngster could one day reach.
"He put a massive pre-season in for a young fella, training with the seniors, and it's paying dividends," Scott said.
"He's just gone up a level, which is what he needed to do - if you don't challenge him he tends to cruise, because he can at under 15s level.
"It probably hasn't hit him yet but once he gets there and rubs shoulders with those faces in AFL football, and plays against those true footy states, it'll start sinking in.
"If you said to them 'I've got a kid here who's 15 years old, 6'4", he's played rugby league, basketball and made the state side for Aussie rules'... you'd have to think it would bring up a red flag somewhere.
"I don't think he's a kid that will leave any stone unturned, to be honest."
Riverina South West finished the preliminary round of the NSW CHS carnival with three wins and one loss - equal with three other sides, although percentage saw them run fourth overall.
Richards was joined by four other Griffith juniors in the squad - Angus Coldwell, Sam Foley, Jacob Conlan and Jack Rowston.
"They're all talented," Edmunds said.
"Wade High is pumping out some great footballers and they were amongst some of our better players.
"The pleasing thing is Jack Rowston and Sam Foley both have next year (in the carnival) as well and both have big futures."