Tigers forward Tom Lynch is right at home in Richmond. Picture: Michael Klein
Tigers forward Tom Lynch is right at home in Richmond. Picture: Michael Klein

What does Lynch think of Lloyd criticism?

TOM Lynch feels a bit like he is living in reverse.

He's just 26, has captained a club and is closing in on 150 games.

And the Tiger's foot is to the floor in his new life on one of Melbourne's busiest thoroughfares after a hectic 2018 in football gridlock.

When the young gun first landed at the Gold Coast at the end of 2010, fresh from high school and having only had the real prospect of playing AFL at his feet for less than six months, he'd hit the ground running.

He'd been dubbed a "Nick Riewoldt clone" - the blonde mop atop his 196cm frame, since boosted to 199cm - but with the club still yet to play its debut game, Lynch was green.

With nerves, and in experience, too, like many of his teammates.

Now a Tiger, he feels lucky to have a "genius" in his midst - a tall forward named Riewoldt, but this one being Jack - and plans to spend plenty of time with his L-plates on.

"He's just been amazing since I've got here," Lynch lauds.

Tigers forward Tom Lynch has made Richmond his home. Picture: Michael Klein
Tigers forward Tom Lynch has made Richmond his home. Picture: Michael Klein

"It's the first time I've really got an older player to learn a lot off and things like that.

"Even when I was a first-year player, there wasn't a lot of key forwards at Gold Coast. Charlie Dixon was a couple of years older than me, but he was a first-year AFL player as well, so we had to learn together.

"I've done it a little bit in reverse, in a sense."

He's also moved to the back seat.

Having led the Suns for two seasons - sharing the wheel with Steven May - Lynch now wanders into the theatrette at Richmond without the weight of leadership responsibility.

He simply takes his spot and takes it in, which he admitted was a welcome change.

"It's actually been nice at Richmond not being captain, and not having any leadership things," he says.

Lynch with Tigers teammate Dustin Martin. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Lynch with Tigers teammate Dustin Martin. Picture. Phil Hillyard

"It was an honour to captain Gold Coast, and I'm forever grateful for that. But on day one of preseason, I could sit there and didn't have to say anything in meetings and I was the one that had to learn it and understand the game plan.

"That was really good … just to be one of the boys again."

Recent weeks have reminded Lynch exactly what he walked into - one of the biggest clubs in town, in the most highly-scrutinised football market.

A quiet few weeks drew a withering assessment from some of the game's greats, including Essendon great Matthew Lloyd, who labelled the Tiger "a liability" at ground level and defensively.

Lynch heard it. He knew it had come in the middle of a difficult patch.

Tom Lynch flies for a high mark in his Tigers debut against Carlton in Round 1. Picture: Getty Images
Tom Lynch flies for a high mark in his Tigers debut against Carlton in Round 1. Picture: Getty Images

"When I decided to come to Melbourne, I knew it was one of the things that would be heightened down here compared to Gold Coast," he says.

"If you don't perform to the level people expect, you're going to hear about it, which is fine.

"(Lloyd) is a champion of the game, 900-something goals he's kicked … he's obviously got his opinion.

"But if you look at goal output over those three weeks, I'd only kicked one goal, so he was just saying if I'm not kicking goals, then the defensive forwards are putting on more pressure than I do.

"The internal pressure is really low … (coach Damien Hardwick) was saying 'we love you, we love the way you're playing … obviously you can play better than what you are', which I believe as well.

"I know that I've had a bit of a lean run there which is fair enough. Lloydy's a champion of the game and he knows his footy."

Tom Lynch is eager to learn as much as he can from Jack Riewoldt. Picture: Sarah Matray
Tom Lynch is eager to learn as much as he can from Jack Riewoldt. Picture: Sarah Matray

Hardwick and forwards coach Andrew McQualter were the first stops for Lynch as he looked to drag himself back.

He needed a plan, and developed one in conjunction with the duo which culminated in a two-goal performance against the Dockers last Sunday.

He was back to himself.

"They said I was probably getting caught not moving as much," Lynch explains.

"I went in (against Fremantle) with a clear plan of what I needed to improve on, which was great by them. They didn't need me to be doing everything.

"It was just a couple of little points that they needed me to work on, and I felt so much better. I played more of what my game sort of looks like."

This wasn't always "the plan" for the tall kid from the Peninsula.

He'd grown up playing for Sorrento Sharks, winning "five or six" flags along the way, but it wasn't until the dying stages of the TAC Cup season that Lynch - who now studies business - realised his uni plot might not be in his immediate future.

"I loved playing footy, and I think every kid wants to play AFL, but … going into Year 12, I never really thought I'd get drafted, to be honest," he says.

"It wasn't until finals, really, where I thought I was probably going to. I got into my (construction management) course in Geelong. It was pretty good to say 'nah, I'm not going to come'."

Tom Lynch is grateful for his time at Gold Coast. Picture: George Salpigtidis
Tom Lynch is grateful for his time at Gold Coast. Picture: George Salpigtidis

A Collingwood supporter as a kid, Lynch had been to the MCG a bit, but had only played there 10 times in his 131 games before moving to Punt Road.

Of its eight games this season, Richmond has drawn a crowd of more than 70,000 on three occasions - by far the biggest numbers Lynch has ever experienced.

It's not lost on him.

"Before the Melbourne game we were doing the team review and they put up a photo of last year. I was sitting in front of Jack and he was hitting me over the head and saying 'this is the best game of the year'," Lynch says.

"And Dreamtime, as well. I'm now playing and I can understand why.

"I used to go to the 'G when I could, but when I decided to leave Gold Coast, coming back to Melbourne, I weighed up different clubs and playing in those big games was pretty exciting.

"The highlight so far has been the Melbourne game - that pre-game on Anzac Eve.

"I walked out there and was like 'wow' - it was amazing. We obviously won the game and I was handing out the balls with Jack and he was like 'how good's playing at the 'G. It's unbelievable."

TOM LYNCH ON …

 LEAVING GOLD   COAST 

"I'll be forever grateful to them - they gave me my first shot at AFL

"I went to Stewart Dew's house to tell him … he could understand where I was coming from. I said to him 'I think the club's in the best position it's been since I've been here', so it was just my time to go, I thought."

THE SCRUTINY/BLAIRGOWRIE FENCE-HOPPING

"It was an interesting six months. It was (bigger than we thought). Especially when I went in for surgery - it intensified then.

"Going to a footy state I thought the media scrutiny would be pretty intense, but I figured it couldn't be much worse than last year, can it? Even though I wasn't even living down here. Fingers crossed … at the moment it hasn't been."

LIVING IN RICHMOND

"I didn't realise how many fans are actually in Richmond. Most of the time it's 'great work, keep going'. There's a lot of yelling out of cars and stuff. I drive in every morning and see the 'G in the background, which is pretty surreal."

Tom Lynch’s dog Gryff and girlfriend Olivia.
Tom Lynch’s dog Gryff and girlfriend Olivia.

HIS DOG, GRYFF

"We got him this time last year … He rips up a few pillows - we don't have a massive backyard. He's gone from the nice walks along the beach every morning to the cold winter mornings in Melbourne.

GIRLFRIEND OLIVIA

"We met on the Gold Coast. She was more than happy to move down with me, which was great. She's been a great support moving down with me and is loving Melbourne."

WATCHING FOOTY

"If you lose, you sort of don't want to watch too much footy. But there's a fair few players that I've played with over the journey that if they're on I might watch them. We've got Jaeger O'Meara this week … but I wouldn't say I'm a footy head."

DIMMA & BALMEY

"They have so much care. As soon as I got here, (Hardwick) has been so great for me. He does a lot of little things that a lot of people wouldn't know about. Even players … helping players out that no one would know about."