Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has praised Sydney Stack's road to redemption and believes the 21-year-old is still only scratching the surface of his potential.
Stack spent time in a Perth prison during the off-season after breaking Western Australia's strict COVID-19 laws.
It followed on from copping a 10-match suspension last year for breaking the AFL's COVID-19 bubble on the Gold Coast during a night out that ended up with him fighting outside a strip club.
Those two incidents heavily impacted Stack's 2021 campaign, with the versatile speedster only earning a senior recall in round 17.
After three solid games, Stack produced his finest match of the season in Sunday's four-point loss to Fremantle in Perth, tallying 25 disposals and two score assists.
Stack looms as a key player for Richmond for years to come, but Hardwick knows there are still off-field distractions the talented youngster must keep on top of.
"We stuck by him as a footy club, and Sydney worked incredibly hard and had to earn the trust of the group again - not only from our players, but our coaching group as well," Hardwick said.
"He's been head down, backside up. It's a great sign for him. But the challenge is certainly there moving forward for Sydney.
"He's an incredible football player, there's no doubt about it.
"I've been really impressed with his ability to learn and grow from an off-field perspective, which we think is going to hold him in good stead moving forward.
"He's only scratching the surface of his career. There's no doubt he can play the game, and we'll continue to invest in him both on and off the field."
Richmond's sixth loss from their past seven games has left them nursing an 8-11 record with just three rounds remaining.
Despite the worrying freefall, the Tigers are only one win adrift of the eighth-placed Dockers, meaning finals are still a chance.
The successful return of Dion Prestia from a hamstring injury was also a positive to come out of the loss to Fremantle, but the Tigers will need to beat a rejuvenated North Melbourne this week if they are to keep their finals hopes alive.
Australian Associated Press