33 reasons why we love the Hawthorn champion

Some players are simply bigger than the game.

They are the ones that are universally adored by everyone; the ones that can do anything.

Just like Hawthorn champion Cyril Rioli.

The four-time premiership forward announced his immediate retirement on Thursday morning after 189 games in brown and gold.

1. Never has a player needed so few touches to have such an enormous impact.

2. The stats that didn’t count. The deft tap on or paddle along the ground.

3. The chase down tackles that turned a game on its head.

4. The creation of defensive pressure for small forwards. Did it even exist before him?

5. The adoration from Bruce McAvaney that allowed “delicious” and “special” to become part of the footy vernacular.

6. The premierships. Not one, not two, but all four of them.

7. The Norm Smith in the 2015 decider. What a performance.

8. The three All-Australian guernseys that cemented his place as one of the best small forwards of all-time.

9. All of those goals on that delicious left foot.

10. All of those marks he soared from nowhere, hovered in the air and plucked the ball.

And every time he hit the ground after a mark and played on.

11. His ability to collect the ball at full pace with opponents on his hammer, gather and goal or hit the target.

12. That phenomenal lateral movement.

13. His humble nature, despite being so freakishly talented.

Cyril Rioli at a clinic in Broome.
Cyril Rioli at a clinic in Broome.

14. The impact he has had on the Northern Territory and on young indigenous players in the AFL.

15. The impact he has on other young indigenous people who have followed a similar path to the once he once pursued when he left Darwin for Scotch College.

16. The instant impact he had in his debut season. He played every game after being drafted at Pick 12, as Hawthorn went on to upset Geelong in the 2008 premiership, finishing runner-up in the Rising Star award while winning Hawthorn’s best first-year player award.

Just another goal in another final for Cyril Rioli.
Just another goal in another final for Cyril Rioli.

17. While Hawthorn endured a premiership hangover in 2009, Rioli did not, finishing second behind Sam Mitchell in the best and fairest.

18. Months after a serious hamstring threatened to end his season, Rioli returned on Grand Final day in 2014, helping to lift the Hawks over Sydney. It added another layer to his story.

19. After playing another key role in Hawthorn’s third premiership in a row, Rioli finished second in the Peter Crimmins Medal for the second time in 2015.

20. Rioli’s 2016 campaign cemented his status as one of the best small forwards of all time. A fourth premiership, third All-Australian and a career-high 47 goals. He did it all that year.

Cyril Rioli and Bradley Hill after a game in 2016.
Cyril Rioli and Bradley Hill after a game in 2016.

21. The combination of Cyril and Buddy in the same forward line. It was pure magic.

22. His involvement in Hawthorn’s forward setup alongside Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo. Pressure. So much pressure.

23. That holding the ball tackle that won a crucial free kick in the 2008 grand final. Game changing moment.

24. That soccer goal out of thin air against Fremantle in 2010.

25. That zigzag goal against Essendon in 2009. Ridiculous.

26. That hanger against Geelong in his debut season, in front of a packed house at the MCG. We all knew what was to come.

Hawthorn's Cyril Rioli weaves his way through the traffic against West Coast.
Hawthorn’s Cyril Rioli weaves his way through the traffic against West Coast.

27. That huge hover over the top of Heath Shaw against Collingwood in 2012.

28. That soccer goal against Fremantle in 2012. Special.

29. The unrivalled level of adoration rival players had for him. Everyone loved Cyril.

30. The pure joy of watching him go about his business.

31. The legacy he leaves and the legacy he continued to grow for the Rioli and Long names.

32. All the times Clarko praised the magic of Rioli.

33. The low key exit from the game, that was classic Cyril. No farewell tour. No big press conference.

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