Loyal Lion excited by the promise of on-field riches
BRISBANE Lions star Daniel Rich's loyalty is matched by his patience.
The skilful defender is the sole surviving member of the Brisbane Lions' most recent finals appearance - in his first season of AFL in 2009 when also crowned the Rising Star.
A top-10 draft pick from Western Australia 12 months earlier, Rich admitted there had been an expectation more finals would come in the years to follow.
While it didn't pan out that way, Rich wasn't about to give in to temptation and seek greener pastures.
"Naturally, when you're from another state you get offers ... That's part of the game these days," the 28-year-old said.
"But I'm quite a loyal person.
"I've had opportunities, (but) even through those tough times I was pretty adamant we would come out the other side.
"Hopefully (I can) look back on those tough times and they will make the better times that bit sweeter.
"That's the plan. I just want to be on board as long as I can."
After a crushing win over reigning premiers West Coast in the opening round, all signs are pointing towards Rich being able to break that drought in the near future.
"That's what we all play for," he said. "No matter where you are as a footy club that's always in the back of your mind, especially when it comes to finals time; you think, 'I'd much rather be out there playing than wrapping it up for another year'.
"At the same time, we understand what we have to focus on ... the process of getting there."
Coach Chris Fagan and football boss David Noble set the foundations when they arrived at the Lions at the end of 2016, changing the culture off the field, and improving the play on it. The list is heeding standards every step of the way.
"The young guys know how to have a good time and have a laugh, but also know when to knuckle down and get to work," Rich said.
"There's a lot of young guys who are probably a bit more mature than what their age might suggest."
Personally, Rich has never been more at peace during his career at the top level.
Settling in as a calming influence down back, long gone is the pressure for him to be a superstar midfielder who racks up big numbers.
"I'm probably loving footy more than I ever have, to be honest, life's good," he said.
"There's a lot of different things that affect the way you act, your demeanour, the way you play, the way you come across.
"I think that's been quite a big part of that change in a way; the stuff that the footy club has brought in, away from the field.
"I'm really enjoying my footy. I just want to be part of where we are going."
The immediate future has the Lions on the road to play North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium tomorrow, aiming for back-to-back wins.
The Roos are coming off a shocking loss to Fremantle.
"I think it was a bit of an aberration," Rich said. "They're a good team. They play a good tough brand of footy
"No doubt they will be coming out pretty fired up. We've got to be ready for that."