“This is who I am”

Inside the secret secret sessions that propelled Richmond to a premiership. An excerpt from “Yellow & Black: A Season with Richmond”…

One coach throws a footy at his feet. Another pushes a tackling bag into his path. Brandon Ellis hits the bag, charges at the Sherrin, scoops it lightly and handballs it back.

Again he charges, and again the swinging heavy sack hits him, and the blond back flank makes a sound like gas escaping a pressurised tank –ish! – with every contact. Ish! Ish!

“Nice, Brando!” yells Damien Hardwick, supervising the drill. “Spend time over the ball. Good, good, good. Yes!”

Ellis has spoken before of his need to be first in line for this particular drill. For the 23-year-old cog in the Richmond defence, it has become an almost superstitious part of improving his contested game – to do better at fielding all those pivoting, twisting ground balls that bobble around in the backline like leather chaos. Ellis never leaves a session at Punt Road without making sure he has done the drill 10 times because, he says, defence is like “life and death”, and the drill offers perfect preparation for that crucible – a kind of trained clarity.

But in truth something else is responsible for his newly found calmness. It happened six months ago, on the pre-season training camp in Mooloolaba. The club was trialling a new cultural exercise called The Triple H Sessions and it meant that a single player would stand in front of his teammates and share three personal tales: one each of a Hero, Hardship and Highlight…


Photograph by Darrian Traynor