Richmond has signed a 213cm basketballer from the University of Hawaii as a rookie after secret training sessions in Melbourne.
Mate Colina, a 21-year-old who grew up in Melbourne, will be the tallest player on an AFL list, 2cm taller than 211cm Collingwood big man Mason Cox.
Colina has spent the past two years playing division-one basketball for the University of Hawaii, and Richmond hopes he can emulate premiership ruckman Ivan Soldo, who also started his career as a category B rookie.
Soldo is the cousin of Richmond cult hero and club ruck coach Ivan Maric, who has a close relationship with Colina through family bonds that span generations.
Colina is also the cousin of emerging Richmond defender Noah Balta, who has established himself as a rising star this season.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Colina said about joining the Tigers.
“I think I will have the ability to both follow the ball in the ruck or be forward and really provide a presence that can mark the ball,” he said.
Colina isn’t new to footy, choosing basketball over AFL in 2015 after playing in a losing junior grand final with his cousin.
He recently spent time in Melbourne training with dual premiership star Shane Edward before he travelled north to join the Richmond Queensland hub.
Richmond talent manager Blair Hartley said Colina could blossom when he joins the AFL squad next March after finishing his final year in Hawaii.
“We see a lot of transferable skills in Mate, and as a club we’re excited by what he might be able to achieve,” he said.
“Mate is already a highly professional and diligent athlete, so we feel he is well placed to take on the challenge of becoming an AFL player.
“We look forward to when he is next at the club and seeing more of him, this time training with our entire squad.”
Colina will next join his Richmond teammates following the conclusion of his upcoming basketball season with the University of Hawaii. The season spans from November to March.