The AFL’s Opening Round is under way, and there’ll be a North Shore connection to the on-field action at Carrara on Saturday afternoon as Sam Naismith wears the yellow and black of Richmond for the first time.

Originally hailing from Gunnedah in Northern NSW, Jon Hayres spotted Naismith and brought him down to North Shore in 2012; and Naismith lived with the Hayres family until he was drafted by the Swans. A tall ruckman with a big leap, it was clear to everyone at Gore Hill that he was an exceptional talent.

Naismith had his moments at the Swans. He lined up for the Swans in the 2016 Grand Final against the Western Bulldogs, and by winning the opening hit-out was first to touch the ball in that Grand Final. There was to be no premiership medal for Naismith as the Bulldogs took the honours that day, but Naismith played a strong game for the Swans that day.

Sadly for him, opportunities were limited and injuries were to hold him back. He played 30 AFL games for the Swans, as well as several at NEAFL level; but as his injury run got worse, he was eventually cut by the Swans.

But Richmond would throw him a lifeline, and in last season’s trade period he was signed up by the Tigers. And after a long off-season of injury rehab, he’s right to go. Fully fit and firing, the Tigers have recognised his ability, selecting him for the Opening Round clash.

He’s faced plenty of adversity along the way, and at times it appeared his AFL career was over. But big Sam has a big heart, and plenty of persistence. And his perseverance has been rewarded with an Opening Round selection at his second AFL club.

Congratulations Sam. We look forward to seeing that North Shore spirit and tenacity in a big season to come at Richmond.