Emerging young ruck Riley Bowman says playing against AFL-quality ruckmen in Saturday’s VFL qualifying final loss was a great learning experience.

The 19-year-old, who signed with Essendon VFL midway through the season, was up against Richmond’s senior-listed Toby Nankervis, Mabior Chol and Callum Coleman-Jones, but more than held his own with 26 hitouts and three clearances.

“I was pretty happy with three quarters of my game, and then died off a bit in the last quarter but as my first final against those ruckmen, I was pretty happy with how I went,” Bowman said.

“It’s obviously a confidence booster - all of them have played AFL before, (particularly) Nankervis who is their main ruck, so I’ll just take that (learning) into next week and keep building.” 

Essendon was all over the minor premier early, booting nine goals to four in the first half and looking like they were on track to book a preliminary-final appearance.


After three quarters of great effort and a high work-rate, the young Bombers unfortunately conceded six unanswered goals to give Richmond a sniff and ultimately the win.

Having played in both home-and-away matches against the Tigers this season, recording a game-high 42 hitouts against them in round 20, Bowman was expecting it to be another close contest.

“Against Richmond it’s always a higher-intensity game, so we just had to bring a four-quarter (effort) which we probably lacked in the last quarter.

“I definitely noticed a step up from the regular season.”

Riley Bowman contests a ruck duel with Toby Nankervis. (Photo: Ben Johnstone)

The former Sandringham Dragon has flourished in his role as No.1 ruck since the VFL Bombers lost senior-listed Don Sam Draper to an ACL injury in round five. 

And Bowman admits the missing tall has been nothing but supportive throughout the season.

“He’s obviously played a lot of VFL footy throughout the last couple of years, so he’s been really great for me in giving me feedback constantly,” Bowman said of Draper.

“He’s helping me improve my game. I can’t thank him enough.”

Bowman also thanked his captain Aaron Heppell, for what he’s done for him since signing. 

“(Heppell) has been great too. He’s had a really good year and has helped me in my own game as well.

“He welcomed me with open arms when I joined halfway through the year, and he’s been unreal so far.”

Bowman will go through the week as normal as he prepares for this Sunday’s semi-final against Werribee. 

The first bounce will be at 2:10pm at Adcon Stadium (Port Melbourne) and will be televised on Channel 7. 

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