Baldi’s remarkable VFL debut

Liam Durkin

THOSE who thought Marlion Pickett making his debut in the 2019 AFL Grand Final was the most unique way to play a first senior game might be surprised to know a local player has probably topped him.

Moe footballer Riley Baldi made what is surely the most bizarre debut in VFL, and possibly football, history last Saturday, when he was literally plucked from the crowd to pull on the boots.

Baldi, a Casey Demons listed player, had not been named in the initial starting line-up, and as his home club had the bye, he made the trip down to Punt Road Oval to watch the Demons take on Richmond.

Casey had already released their emergency players back to their home club, and as Baldi explained, all appeared to be going to plan until moments before the opening bounce.

“I rocked up 15 minutes before the game and the boys were warming up and the skipper ran over to me and asked if I could play because a player had gone down,” he said.

“I’m number 56 but I wore number 40… they didn’t have a jumper for me.

“They would have played short if I wasn’t there.”

Baldi replaced Melbourne player Jay Lockhart at the 11th hour, and in a scene usually reserved for country football, was given a spare pair of boots and socks to join the team.

Despite having absolutely no time to prepare, Baldi was able to get through the game as Casey cruised to a comfortable 13.18 (96) to 5.7 (37) victory.

The man known as Eagle started on the wing and was given time at both ends of the ground, playing half forward and back.

“It was a good win by 10 goals. Richmond are the reigning premiers in the VFL so it was a very good win,” he said.

“I found the game was high speed and very good skills considering it was raining for most of it.”

Some prominent players who took to the field for Casey included Ben Brown, Neville Jetta, Majak Daw and Sam Weideman, while Josh Caddy, Sydney Stack and Maurice Rioli Junior played for Richmond.

A sizeable crowd made its way to Punt Road Oval

as the match progressed, stopping by on their way to the MCG for the AFL match between Melbourne and Richmond..

With the AFL Demons currently undefeated, Baldi said there was a lot of positive energy coming out of the Casey camp.

“It’s a pretty good vibe, the AFL team is going good and that just seems to translate through to the VFL as well,” he said.

Moving forward, the 20 year old said he still has ambitions of getting drafted, and would see what unfolds down the track.

“I just want to play the highest standard I can,” he said.

“Whether that’s VFL or otherwise I’m happy to come back and play for Moe and see what we can do this year.”

While Baldi himself can see the funny side of his Steven Bradbury-like debut, the amount of work that has surely gone on behind the scenes to get to him playing at VFL senior level serves as a good lesson.

They say you never forget your first game, and it’s fair to say Baldi won’t be forgetting his in a hurry.