One game away from making history

He might be the pride of the Clare Valley, but none are more proud of young Adelaide Crow Riley Knight than his parents, Rob and Mandy.

The 22-year-old, hard running forward will line up on the hallowed turf of the MCG this Saturday for Adelaide’s first grand final appearance in 19 years.

Knight was just three years old the last time the Crows took the premiership back home to West Lakes.

Taken with pick number 46 in the third round of the 2013 National Draft, Knight’s selection came as somewhat of a shock, having only spoken to Adelaide once in the lead up.

In his debut season with the Crows, Knight impressed in his 11 games and was tipped to pick up where he left off the following year.

However a serious ankle injury limited him to just one senior appearance.

Coming back with a point to prove this year, Knight has established himself as a vital part in a Crows side that has been the league benchmark all season long.

Now he is just one game away from writing his name into Adelaide’s history books.

Riley’s mum Mandy, a counsellor at Clare High School, said she was “so proud” of how far he has come in both his playing career and his maturity off the field.

“He has had a really challenging two years and he was a bit devastated by injuries to both ankles unfortunately,” she said. 

“Definitely last year was super challenging because it kept him out for such a long time.

“We are just so proud of his persistence, there was certainly a couple of very dark times with the ankle injuries last year where he was like ‘man, this is just never going to get better’, but he persisted and he kept working.”

Riley’s father Rob, principal of Playford International, said he was proud to see his son make it to the big stage after playing almost a full season of senior football. 

“Riley’s missed almost two years of football at this level with ongoing ankle injuries so it has been fantastic that he has managed almost a full season. 

“He has worked so hard to overcome these injuries and in some ways, this struggle has probably strengthened him as a person. 

“He has a very specific role to play in the team and he’s added a few more elements to his game this year.  He’s still got a lot of development at this level ahead of him to go but it’s great to see him playing consistent footy once again.”

Eight years ago, Knight achieved what is to date one of the highlights of his career when the South Clare Junior Colts stormed home to win the grand final, coached by his father Rob.

The Demons repeated that feat last week when the Senior Colts claimed the premiership at Riverton in what could be a sign of things to come.

Mandy said it was almost like coming full circle.

“On Sunday, our Senior Colts won at Riverton, but eight years prior to that Riley won a Junior Colts premiership with Rob as coach, and in that eight years he has gone from winning a Junior Colts premiership at Riverton to now playing in an AFL Grand Final,” she said.

“I looked around at these kids and I was like ‘boys it is possible, you just have to work really hard, talent only gets you so far’.

“It was one of those moments and it was a bit surreal actually.”

There will be a big cohort of Riley Knight fans travelling over to Melbourne to watch the grand final, with his family driving over on Thursday night in time to watch the parade on Friday.

Sixteen of Riley’s family and friends will be in the stand at the MCG on Saturday hoping to cheer their boy over the line.

This story Clare’s Crow takes flight first appeared on Northern Argus.