RICHMOND livewire midfielder Shai Bolton attributes his rise in form to his decision to hire a personal trainer over summer.
The round 17 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee has played a career-high 10 games this season, gradually making the move from the forward line to the midfield as the year has progressed.
Bolton was at his sparkling best in the wet on Sunday against Greater Western Sydney, finishing with 29 disposals (coincidentally also his jumper number), four clearances and a goal.
It’s the 20-year-old’s third year at the club after being selected with pick 29 (that number again) in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft.
He is the Tigers’ third Rising Star nomination, following the back-to-back nods given to Liam Baker and Sydney Stack in rounds 10 and 11. Only North Melbourne (four) has had more.
“The coaching staff and ‘Dimma’ (coach Damien Hardwick) told me I needed to work on my fitness and defence to get into the senior side,” Bolton told AFL.com.au.
“I went back home (Perth) and got a personal trainer to help me out. I worked on [the fitness side there] and then when I got back to pre-season, I focused on my defensive skills and tackling.
“That’s the main thing I wanted to work on to try and get in the senior side.” – Shai Bolton
Bolton has looked more assured playing in the midfield, his slight frame not proving to be an issue when lining up at centre bounces.
“At the start of the season I was playing VFL in the midfield, and I wanted to learn my craft there,” Bolton said.
“Being around the ball more helps me perform more and I just play my best footy in the midfield.”
The debut of teammate Derek Eggmolesse-Smith two weeks ago has meant the team has been fielding five indigenous players.
“It’s great, we have me, Daniel (Rioli), Derek, Sydney (Stack) and Shane Edwards. It’s a great honour and a great club to play for, with a lot of indigenous boys coming in,” Bolton said.
“Derek’s also worked really hard and he deserved to have a game. It’s great to see five indigenous boys playing together, we’re all pretty close, so it’s good.”
Bolton signed a one-year contract in October last year but is not concerned about his deal running out at the end of the season.
“At the moment, I’m not really worried about contract talks, I just want to play football and enjoy playing at Richmond,” he said.
“I love being part of Richmond. We have a great connection, all of us boys, and it’s a great club to be at.”
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And the Rising Star nomination?
“It’s a great honour. I just want to say thanks to Richmond for giving me the opportunity to play. I’ve been in the system for three years and I’m happy I’ve finally got one,” Bolton said.