Cyril Rioli has marked himself as one of the AFL’s most exciting players, providing Hawthorn with the lively small forward option it has long sought to complete its attacking setup. Rioli boasts a footballing pedigree that few can match, being the nephew of Norm Smith Medallists Maurice Rioli and Michael Long. But Junior as he is known has gone about carving out his own reputation through a string of outstanding underage, and now senior, performances. Originally from Darwin club St Marys, Rioli moved to Melbourne to complete his schooling at Scotch College, helping the school to an APS title in 2006.
An AIS-AFL Academy graduate, Rioli represented the Northern Territory at Under 16 and 18 level, gaining selection in the All Australian team at the 2007 NAB AFL Under 18 Championships. A seven goal performance in the closing game against Queensland displayed all of Rioli’s qualities – uncanny goal sense, evasive abilities and a knack for getting to the fall of the ball. Drafted by Hawthorn with pick 12 of the 2007 NAB AFL National Draft, the Tiwi Islands native played every game for the Hawks in his first year in what was a fairytale debut season. Runner-up in the NAB AFL Rising Star and Hawthorn’s Best First Year Player, Rioli’s defensive pressure and eye for goal were major factors in the Hawks’ Grand Final win over Geelong.
He picked up where he left off in 2009, putting in a number of stellar performances in the early rounds. In Round 7, Rioli produced the Goal of The Year with a typically breathtaking effort against Essendon, one of many he produced through the season. Rioli finished Runner-Up in Hawthorn’s Best and Fairest and was named the winner of the AFLPA’s Best Young Player Award. Rioli was instrumental in Hawthorn’s 2013 Grand Final victory, his noted forward pressure being key in the win for the Hawks.
Cyril commenced season 2014 in an electrifying fashion, however two separate hamstring injuries derailed his season. Rioli’s importance to the powerful Hawthorn team was shown when he was bought back for the Grand Final after missing 11 games in the lead up. Once again he did not disappoint with his forward pressure being pivotal to Hawthorn’s win, and Cyril’s third premiership. Rioli took his game to another level in 2015, which by any measurement was his best for the Hawks. Kicked 42 goals, including a career-best six against Geelong in round 20. He was No. 1 for goal assists (28) and third for tackles (104). Back to full fitness, Rioli missed just two games – he was sidelined for 13 matches the year before – and his new-found durability allowed him to play some great burst football through the midfield. Rioli’s last two weeks of the season were sublime, with key goals in the preliminary final and then a best-on-ground performance in the Grand Final.
Away from football, Rioli is an active supporter of Aboriginal projects including Aboriginal health and well being and careers in sport.