Set to stay at Hawthorn: Cyril Rioli. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoEXCLUSIVE
Cyril Rioli was contracted until the end of next year, and had not bothered to think beyond then. But that’s only because he is so nonchalant. When Hawthorn contacted his manager recently and offered a three-year extension, Rioli didn’t waste time trying to come up with reasons not to sign it. His club feels like his home. It is where he will be until the end of 2017, at least.
”It wasn’t a big deal for me, I was pretty happy to get it done,” he said. ”I want to stick around here for as long as I can. I love everything about Hawthorn. Now I just want to start paying them back a bit.”
Things do get to Rioli, every now and then, that is. He felt nervous in the days leading up to Hawthorn’s game against Geelong last week, as anxious as he had been since he played his first game 5½ years ago. He knew his hamstring would not burst and was certain the rest of his body would hold together.
There was a time when Rioli almost didn’t mind straining a hamstring: it meant a three- or four-week break from the pressures that came with playing and reviewing every match, hoping and trying to do every little thing better.
But nine weeks was a long time. ”It was a bit different this time,” he said. ”I think that’s why I was so nervous. It got to the stage where I’d been out five weeks and I started to think, this is dragging on. For the last two weeks I was itching to play, but the boys were playing well and that helped, because I knew I could take my time and make sure I got it right.
”But it was a long time. I started to really miss playing. I was a bit worried I’d go out there on Saturday and not get a kick, not get my hands on the ball, but it worked out pretty well. Once I got that first touch out of the way I felt pretty good. I felt like I was back there, like I was part of it all again.”
Rioli suspects his hamstrings haven’t bothered him for the last time. But he knows they are getting stronger all the time, given all the work he does on them, and believes he can get better at identifying the split second before they go, as opposed to the split second when they do let him down.
When he got injured, late in round five, he had spent a lot of time in the midfield and was stretching to soccer the ball off the ground. When he watched the vision later, he knew straight away what he should have done. ”I should have just taken it over the boundary line, made sure it went out, but that wasn’t the way I was thinking at the time,” he said.
”It’s so hard for me to change the way that I play. But at the same time I look at that and think, it cost me nine games and I didn’t really like it all that much. So there’s a few little things that I can have a think about and change.”
One of them is where he plays. The ”Rioli – midfielder or forward?” debate has always been around him. He likes playing in the midfield and loves how combative centre bounces are, but he is much happier in the forward line. It’s where he thinks he will spend the next few weeks, and most of his career from here.
”I think the hamstrings will always be around a little bit. It’s just something I have to deal with, but hopefully it will happen less and less,” he said. ”It was frustrating when it happened this year because of all the work I’d done. I’d been feeling pretty confident it wouldn’t happen again, but it did, so I just have to keep working on it.
”I’m feeling pretty good about all the work I’ve done on my legs, and I’m still doing it, all these exercises where you get that burning sensation and know you’re making yourself stronger. So that helps me a fair bit and I think spending more time forward should help as well.
”I still feel like I do most of my good stuff forward and I’m happy to play down there and chase and tackle and do all that. The midfield’s all right, I like getting in there and mixing it up, but I probably won’t be in there for too long from now. I’m pretty happy forward. I think that’s where I belong. For now, it’s where I should be.”
Rioli returned to the Hawthorn side having dealt with some other, entirely different nerves. He had planned to propose to Shannyn, his girlfriend since they met as 13-year-olds in Darwin, during his mid-season break, but his hamstring meant his time off came earlier than anticipated.
He spent a week at home after he was hurt, after a quick trip to the jewellery shop where he knew exactly what to get. ”She’d looked at it every time we walked past there. Every single time. So I was pretty sure I knew which one to get. But it was funny, because when I asked she started crying and put the ring on her finger, but she never actually said ‘yes’.
”We spoke about it a week later, and that’s when she finally said yes. It’s been a long time coming, but it was the right time. It was the right time for us and even knowing I’m going to be a 10-year player here, that makes me a feel a bit older, a bit more settled. I’m pretty happy right now. Everything’s working out pretty well.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.