Player Watch #25: Toby Nankervis

DontArgue4

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Toby Nankervis doesn’t like the spotlight but his past and present teammates reveal the real ‘Nank’


IT’S the Toby Nankervis shuffle ... and it happens after every Richmond win.

Just seconds after the Tigers belt out another stirring rendition of the theme song, Nankervis is invariably the first player to exit the circle, shuffling past the backslappers and the awaiting media, seeking the sanctuary of the players-only section of the changerooms.

It’s there that he feels most ease. Without the glare of the football world on him, with the teammates who trust and admire him.

“He doesn’t hang around,” one insider observed this week when talking about Richmond’s first premiership ruckman since the combative Mark Lee and whom legendary coach Mick Malthouse insists is the club’s most important player in pursuit of back-to-back flags.

Heaven help you, if you get in his way, either there, or in the heat of battle. Just ask BT.

‘Roaming Brian’ Taylor found that out to his detriment after a game against St Kilda this year, when Nankervis brushed him off with his own version of the ‘Don’t Argue’ and shot off a death stare that Julie Bishop would have been happy with.

It was the awkward footy TV moment of the year and those who know him best say that it was “classic Nank”.

The 24-year-old loves the game with passion, but he hates the searing off-field spotlight that it brings even more.

“I couldn’t stop laughing,” former Swans teammate Ted Richards said of his BT moment. “Toby likes to keep to himself, and that’s fair enough.”

His former North Launceston coach and now Brisbane Lions development coach Zane Littlejohn said the humorous aside with Taylor wasn’t Nankervis being rude, it was more about him wanting to maintain that low-key approach that the kid from George Town on the Tamar River has always carried with him.

Nankervis is arguably as important as any of the 88 players who will represent the four preliminary final clubs this weekend - for the role he plays.

But he remains somewhat of an enigma to all but his teammates and close friends. That’s because he doesn’t feel the need to tell his story. His football does it for him.

“He doesn’t care about that sort of stuff (the media),” former teammate and now ruck coach Ivan Maric said of Nankervis.

“When BT tried to interview him, he just wasn’t ready for it. He doesn’t want the spotlight on him. He cares about the team and doesn’t want to talk about himself.”

In an age of social media oversharing and where some players clamber like moths to the spotlight, the quietly-spoken yet fiercely determined Nankervis couldn’t think of anything worse.

Yes, he has an Instagram account, but he has played more AFL games (58) than he has posts (30).

Funnily enough, a parody account - Nank_memes - which is run by Richmond devotees, has almost as many followers as the man himself.

Many of those following the mock account include some of his former Sydney teammates, who still have affection for the ruckman who managed only 12 games with the club after being drafted in 2013.

He was an emergency for the Swans in the 2016 Grand Final, but was promised a greater opportunity at Punt Rd.

“Half the Sydney boys follow it,” Richards said of the account.

Ask anyone about Nankervis - he politely declined to take part in this story - and they will instantly refer to the difference between the man and the footballer.

Off the field, he prefers to keep an intensely low profile, mixing with his teammates, and spending time with his family - father Kingsley, mother, Sharon and brother, Corey, who moved to Melbourne when he was traded from Sydney.

He is a member of Brunswick Bowling Club, and loves nothing better than getting out on the rink in the off-season with teammates such as Anthony Miles, Reece Conca and Sam Lloyd

In keeping with his industrious nature, he is an apprentice carpenter, spending his day off each week plying what he hopes will be his future trade.

He uses words only sparingly, even the field, but that changes when he gets a few drinks in him and he has built a reputation of being the life of any ‘Mad Monday’ party.

“Away from the field he’s pretty quiet but as soon as you get some beers into him he pipes up a fair bit. But he’s awesome, a legend,” teammate Nick Vlastuin said.

Richards agrees: “I would say he was always one of the best performers on Mad Monday, he was always fantastic entertainment when he had a few drinks. He’s a great bloke and he loves being a part of the team.”

On the field, Nankervis is as hard as granite, resilient (he has missed two games in his two seasons at Richmond), and ferocious in the contest - even at training sometimes. He thrives on shouldering most of the ruck burden.

Vlastuin sensed that from the first training camp the ruckman went on as a Tiger in early 2017, not long after he opted to leave the Swans.

.“On the field you don’t want to get tackled by him because he’s an absolute beast and tackles to hurt,” Vlastuin told the Herald Sun.

“I remember his first training (session) up at Maroochydore when we first got him. He lined ‘Cotch’ (captain Trent Cotchin) up and just speared him. Everyone was like, ‘F---, do we go in and back up Cotch, or do we whack Nank or what?’”

It was on that same trip that Maric - not dissimilar in his own desire to keep a low profile, and with the same combative nature that made him a Tigers’ cult figure too - realised the bargain the Tigers had claimed in him.

“I could tell immediately that he had a competitive streak,” Maric said.

“Up at Maroochydore, there was a fair bit of pushing and shoving. It was hard and physical. I loved it, and I know he did too. The mutual respect just grew.”

White line fever is at the forefront of everyone’s assessment of Nankervis.

“I think it is an important quality (to have some mongrel),” Maric said.

“Where does that come from? Does it come from your family background, or your experiences, or maybe both?

“I know Toby’s parents are very hard-working people. Then, there was the pain of not being selected for a number of years at Sydney.

“All of that probably added up to the way he plays the game. He’s got that bit of mongrel and it helps.”

In Konrad Marshall’s book, Yellow and Black, it details a moment during a Round 5 game last year when general manager of football and former Tigers’ hard man Neil Balme was taken by one of Nankervis’ crunching pieces of play, saying: ‘Gee, he goes this boy.”

Vlastuin added: “When he does lay someone out, it does lift the whole team. He does give away a few free kicks but we don’t mind that because he’s putting up a contest every time.”

Littlejohn coached Toby and his brother Corey, and noted they were quiet off the field, but had “white line fever” on the ground.

“I just remember one game we played against South Launceston, it was absolutely bucketing down with rain. It wasn’t a big man’s day, but I remember Toby grabbing the game by the scuff of the neck, which was pretty amazing for a young man,” said Littlejohn

“It’s funny, he has that white line fever, but as soon he crosses the white line again, he goes back to being the quiet Tasmanian again.”
Lmao he lined the captain up and nailed him in his first training session hahahahhaa ******* love him
 

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Rayzorwire

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Grundy has been the best ruck going around for the last couple of seasons, but in a final there's no man you'd rather have fighting for you than our big Tank.

I'm a very firm believer that one of the major reasons we've turned our fortunes around over the last two seasons has been the addition of genuinely tough and aggressive players. Caddy, Prestia, Broad, Castagna, and none more than Nank. We walk taller and never get bullied off the ball like we had to suffer watching for decades. We have no soft players now, every man has lifted to emulate our fiercest warriors.

It makes us old Tigers swell with pride, win lose or draw, we're a very tough, physical football team that does enormous credit to the historical legacy of the club every time they step out.

Can't wait to watch the big Tank flatten and mince Pies tonight.
 

scarecrow2k1

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He reminds me of Ivan Maric- many of the same strengths without the age and injury issues.

His efforts are great, and he's probably a touch more skilled as well and reliable with the footy.

Hopefully that comparison isn't the limit though- with Ivan we basically were pencilled in for a loss in the ruck against the AFL's monster ruckman- and with Nank coming off second in the hitouts to Kruezer last night, I wonder how he'll go against Sandilands, Goldstein, NicNat and Mumford.
Just bumping my comment from Nank's first game with us-still so true.

Not sure where it leaves us. Better ruckmen are still so rare. Having said that, we lose the hit outs in so many games.
 

velona

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I think he at least broke even and maybe even shaded Grundy in the second half and it brought us into the game.

Got absolutely towelled up in the first half though.


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ForeverHardcore

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That performance will burn in him over pre season. Stats wise it was a normal nank game 25ish hitouts and 16 disposals which doesn’t sound bad at all. unfortunately though He’s never been a hit out merchant and grundys disposals were more meaningful along with the hit outs. In his defence only Gawn can stop Grundy. No ruck besides maybe martin can go with him around the ground.
Back in nank. He’s a proud bloke and player and will improve over summer. Walk taller with him in the side
 
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Said it in the autopsy thread but might as well put it in here.
Love Nank and his effort, absolutely no question marks there.

But...Grundy was clearly the champ on the day and made some critical hit outs to advantage.
For one reason or another Nank didn’t react to the situation with stoppages. All night the boundary umps were throwing it in short. Weather it was the ruckman standing too far back or not I’m unsure. But Nank would too often get caught behind Grundy who would then palm it boundary side every time to unchecked midfielders.
This isn’t entirely Nanks fault as our midfielders really should’ve read the trends and positioned themselves on the boundary side instead of leaving 2 pies free to win the clearances. Maybe they were protecting the corridor but we basically conceded clearances all night by letting Collingwood do this far too often.

The club needs proper support for Nank and I’d be open to getting Preuss from the Roos. He looked a likely type before Goldy made his way back into the side in 2017.
 

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Tomnat Tigers

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Taken 19 marks in total for the season which isn't good enough which only 2 of those have been contested which is ******* no where near good enough. Factor that in with him being one of the worst tap rucks in the comp and he is massive problem for us. Hard to win clearances when you're constantly losing the ruck battle.
 

mauricerioli

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I want to know who has told him to handball 30cm to a stationary target in congestion. That campaigner can piss right off.
A few of our players did that against the Dogs.
Nank did it once about 20 metres out from goal, could have easily snapped it on his left but handballed it to a stationary Castagna.
 

Grrr

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I would like to see Chol get challenged and made to play n.1 ruck at VFL. He is allowed to float in and out of play, take a grab or two and kick a couple of goals each week. Not a natural enough footballer to play key forward, so the only spot for him is the ruck. Has all the attribute, 200cm, big leap, very agile at ground level, a good tackler and very good skills. He should be the player threatening Nank's spot but he is allowed to coast at VFL because Soldo is such a dominant VFL ruckman. VFL is about development not necessarily winning games. The most frustrating player on the list.
 

Tigerish09

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Thought Nank battled hard on Saturday night and was one of very few who seemed to care. Watched Soldo and Chol carefully on Sunday, neither are ready in my opinion, Soldo is closer but doesn't do much around the ground and needs to get to more contests.
 
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