A Leader In More Than Name

What are your lasting memories of Trent Cotchin?

Is it him standing on the dais with Damien Hardwick, hoisting any of the three premiership cups the Tigers won from 2017-20?

Is it the way he threw his body into contests to change the complexion of games? The 2019 Preliminary Final against Geelong is one instance, where he brought down Rhys Stanley to open the third quarter and set the tone for his club’s come-from-behind win. The other would be the contest against Dylan Shiel in the 2017 Prelim, that saw many call for his suspension… mainly because he was harder at the footy and they hated that!

But for me, the enduring image of Cotchin comes from a moment away from the field, as he wandered the then-empty Richmond change rooms. The players had all moved on, as had the coaching and support staff. All that was left was Trent Cotchin.

And he went around picking up the rubbish and debris from the rooms so that the cleaners’ jobs were not made more difficult. Just about every other player in the league would have left the room dirty to go about whatever came next for them – that was someone else’ job, wasn’t it?

But not Trent Cotchin.

He did the dirty work so someone else didn’t have to, and in a way, it was a metaphor for his tenure as the captain of the Richmond Football Club, their most successful on-field leader in their proud history.

It’s amazing to think that just a year before this moment, there were serious concerns about the capacity of Cotchin to lead this club. After a loss to Collingwood in 2016, David King openly questioned whether Cotchin was the right man to captain the Tigers.

“I honestly reckon if a Luke Hodge, and forget him as a player and what he does on the field, if a Luke Hodge played for Richmond they’d win three or four more games a year,” 


“This has been a constant source of frustration, they need a leader who can organise, not do it, just organise. They don’t need an inspirational leader, they need an organiser and until they get that it will not change.”

Hmmmm… but it did change, and I reckon Kingy would like that one back. Not to whack King – I genuinely enjoy his coverage, and when you’re put on the spot in the wake of a loss, such as the one Richmond had just suffered at the hands of Collingwood, you call what you see at the time. And at that time, he obviously had no idea what was about to occur to this Richmond team.

Also chiming in was serial pest, Kane Cornes, who labelled the Richmond modfielders as “kick chasers”.

“I think, to be brutally honest, their best midfielders chase kicks. And they get a lot of the ball in the back half. I’m talking [Trent] Cotchin, [Dustin] Martin and [Brandon] Ellis.” 

You knew he was gonna get it wrong when he started the criticism with “I think”… because he clearly rarely does that.

Within 12 months of the stinging criticism, Cotchin was being hailed as one of the league’s great leaders. Opening himself up, being vulnerable in front of the group he was leading, and making them all a part of his leadership journey, Cotchin changed the way captaincy looked in the league.

Yes, there were great leaders who were full of bravado. Hodge was mentioned, but players like Michael Voss, Jonathon Brown, Wayne Carey before “the incident” led with a confidence and brashness that made them seem invincible. They were towers of strength, with unshakeable confidence in their own abilities.

Cotchin went the opposite way. He showed his teammates who he really was, insecurities and all. He dropped the mask and laid himself bare.

And from.then on, his teammates had his back.

As we approach Trent Cotchin’300th game, there are those will will continue to tell you he is a dirty player

They offer up the hit on Shiel as their primary example – the legal hit on Shiel that helped propel the Tigers into the Grand Final and onto their first flag in 37 years… yeah, such a shameful display! I’m sure Richmond supporters will side with you on that one! They’ll tell you that he was underhanded, a “sniper,” and a cheap shot artist, but ask them whether they would have had him leading their team into battle every week.

The answer, invariably, is yes.

When we talk about the Richmond premierships in years to come, I won’t blame you if your mind immediately gravitates to the exploits of Dustin Martin. It’s hard to relive the glory of those years without picturing the powerhouse mid destroying teams en route to three Norm Smith Medals. However, when I remember those wins, being detached from the euphoria of Tiger fans, I remember how the club got there and where they came from.

I remember the biting criticism of the captain and his leadership.

I remember his openness and vulnerability, on show for each of his teammates to see

I remember his on-field desperation and the moments that mattered in games that were crucial to the Tigers even gaining a Grand Final berth.

And I remember the humble, gracious captain of the Richmond Football Club that placed no one else above him and truly embraced the “whole of club” ethos not just on the park, but off it, as well.

Of all he has achieved in footy. It is incredible thay it is the lasting image of a Cotchin cleaning up after his team that I will remember when all is said and done.

Talking a big game is one thing. Acting on that talk for two hours on the field is another, but to live it… to genuinely care for the club and those around you by embracing the fact you’re not above anyone else… that is the mark of a great leader.

That is the mark of Trent Cotchin.

Have a great 300th.


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