For Daniel Rioli, finals are like fishing with crocodiles around

Daniel Rioli likens playing finals to fishing on Melville Island. You know crocodiles are around, but you go out anyway and try to put the crocs out of your mind.

But the thought of the crocs, like the heaving MCG crowds and the finals fuss, do tend to sharpen your concentration.

The adrenalin made Rioli feel alive on Saturday. He booted four goals and was unperturbed by the moment. With his family history in finals it is perhaps unsurprising: his uncles Maurice Rioli and Michael Long and cousin Cyril Rioli have all won Norm Smith medals, so maybe there is something in the idea of fishing in Tiwi waters that prepares you for pressure.

"You go out there and you just think about catching fish not crocs. It's good seeing the crocs out there as well. Some of them are pretty big, but you don't really think about it. You do see them but you try not to think about it, you are out there catching fish, not crocs," Rioli said.

"It's like footy, especially when you are getting on a boat about to go fishing and you are thinking about crocodiles in the water, but taking it to footy, it is like going out, doing a warm-up before it and you look at the crowd and then you go out there and put everything out of your mind and just play footy."

Rioli has found it easier to put all other thoughts out of his head when he plays this year. He plays the game by feel, not thought. He moves a certain way because the game pulls him in that direction. He plays on intuition now, not instruction.

"I have played footy since I was a kid. Maurice played it, Cyril played it, Dean, Willie, it's always been part of the family," he said.

"My first year you are thinking all the time about where you are going to set up, but you have experienced players down there like Jack Riewoldt telling you what to do. In my second year I am playing by instinct now, playing my role for the team, but not thinking too much, I just play.

"It's more fun. I love it. As a group we have discussed that you go out there and play your own brand of footy and it has worked."

While the family heritage would suggest a fondness for finals, Rioli admits to feeling the expectation to perform ahead of the GWS game. He was goalless before that in finals.

After four goals against GWS he has now kicked the most goals in a final of any of the Riolis.

"Against Geelong I spoke to the boys and said I have not kicked a goal in a final yet ... playing against GWS last week kicking four goals is pretty handy. It's a bonus, especially in front of that crowd - it was just unbelievable.

"Cyril doing it and Maurice doing it in a final - I get asked a lot about finals and grand finals and I get my chance this week. But like I said [about fishing], when I go out there I put all that out of my head and just go out there and play my own brand of footy."

He will speak to Cyril this week. His cousin is on a road trip in the Northern Territory and is not sure if he will be home to drop around for dinner as normal, but if not they'll speak on the phone.

He still looks up to Cyril - or Junior - and seeks his advice. He also digs out his highlight reels and watches them for inspiration. He tries to pick up a move or a tap-on or some other bit of play he can bring to his game.

Rioli found himself doing the same thing watching Charlie Cameron and Eddie Betts on Friday night. They are opponents but he can't help but be drawn to the way they play.

"I watch some highlights and try to get some ideas from it, I flick on Junior's highlights and try to get some tips there, but I will definitely go see him or talk to him on the phone this week to get some tips because he has played in grand finals and been there and done that.

"He will tell me to treat every game like it's your last, I reckon. I remember speaking to him before the Geelong game, he said it'd be a tough game, you have got to run hard and play your own brand of footy, don't change it."

The Riolis have all played that way, played their brand. It works. Maybe it's the fishing.

The story For Daniel Rioli, finals are like fishing with crocodiles around first appeared on The Age.

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