“I think ultimately that’s where Marlion separates himself from maybe Jack Ross or Kamdyn McIntosh if you’re just discussing those three,” Richmond assistant and VFL coach Craig McRae told SEN on Friday when asked if flexibility helped Pickett’s cause.
“He can play half-back, he did that in the VFL and did that when he was over in Perth, and he can also play forward and wing and mid, whereas the other guys are a little bit more restricted to just one or two positions.”
Ross and McIntosh were both pulled from Richmond’s VFL grand final on Sunday due to the six-day break and also the fact that uncertainty surrounded Nathan Broad’s availability due to a concussion.
But in a cruel twist of fate for those two, with Broad being cleared to play, they ended up being penalised for their absence in that game as Pickett starred to win the Norm Goss Medal for best afield in the thrilling three-point win over Williamstown at Princes Park.
McRae agreed that the Tigers match committee probably wouldn’t have debuted a player in a similar situation if he was much younger.
“We knew that when we got him over he’s 27, he’s not a developing player, he’s developing in his knowledge of being a Richmond man and game plan, which he continues to improve every week,” McRae said of father-of-four Pickett who spent some time in jail in his teenage years.
“But he’s 27, he’s got a lot of life experience, he’s got a huge amount of resilience as a guy and he’s an elite runner so all that came into it, I think. We don’t see him as a first-year player, if you like, he’s got a lot of experience in big games as well.
“Coaching him for the last five weeks, he’s just getting better and better within our Richmond system. The big thing that stood out for me, and my two bobs’ worth in match committee, was that any time there was a big moment needed in the last three games in the finals, he has been the one that started it.
“If you recall [him] going back with the flight against Essendon in the qualifying final, just big moments, and he kicks the goal. So that’s been a constant with Marlion in his time at Richmond.”
As for McIntosh and Ross, who were not only denied a shot at an AFL premiership but also had their VFL grand final dreams crushed, McRae said coach Damien Hardwick’s chat with the pair was one of the most difficult things he had to do.
“One – the excitement of telling someone they’re playing their first game, but then you have to tell the other guys they’re not playing. That’s really heartbreaking for a coach so we’ll rally behind those two guys and do the best we can to support them,” McRae said.
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.