Cody Atkinson is the co-editor of HurlingPeopleNow, an excellent sports website that focuses mostly on the AFL and AFLW. A tweet following Nick Riewoldt’s retirement announcement yesterday set his mind racing: sure, there’s only one Nick Riewoldt, but is there only one Nick Riewoldt?
On the 31st of July 2017, on the day of the announcement Nick Riewoldt’s retirement, the official Twitter account of the AFL sent this missive.
The sentiment is noble, and subjectively accurate, at face level. The soon-to-be-former Saint has been a transformational talent for St Kilda, leading them to three Grand Finals, including one that they didn’t lose. He has a fair claim to the mantle of best key position forward so far this century, and to being the best number one draft pick ever. As Ken Sakata showed us a few weeks back, Riewoldt is a truly unique football specimen.
Possibly the closest player to Nick Riewoldt is Jack Watts – a deceptively quick tall blond former number one draft pick who can play around the ground but is best up forward. But comparing Riewoldt to Watts is like comparing the Venus de Milo to the Gummi Venus de Milo.
But what about objectively? How many Nick Riewoldts are there? Let’s find out.
First Stop: Wikipedia
For most famous people, Wikipedia is often the death of uniqueness. For people with names like Joshua Smith, Samuel Reid or Nathan Brown, clear and concise evidence exists that there are more than one of each person.
As far as the name “Riewoldt” is concerned, only two have current Wikipedia pages – Nick and his cousin Jack. However, on Nick Riewoldt’s Wikipedia page there is a clue hidden; one stating that he is of German descent. This is potentially the breaking point of the entire caper.
The next logical step is German Wikipedia, which has several unique articles amongst its archives. Unfortunately, only one further Riewoldt is added to the mix – Otto, a man for which we are sure is not named Nick.
Second Stop: Ancestry.com
Long the haunt of wistful uncles and aunties trying to find out where they are really from, Ancestry.com is a haven of old official government records from across the world. For full access, Ancestry requires you to either sign up for a trial or pay a fee of $29.99 a month, which is basically extortion. Instead, we will (out of protest) only rely on their free records, which provides for any relevant matches but omits more detailed biographical information.
Which is fine; we are just looking for blokes named Nick Riewoldt.
Unlike the fruitless Wikipedia searches of before, there are a plethora of Riewoldt’s in Ancestry’s records, mostly centred in Germany. None are named Nick. Or Nicholas. Or Niko, Nikolas, Nikolaus…Nada.
Excitement levels rise when one match is found, in Texas marriage records, with a “Nicholas F Riewoldt” marrying to “Catherine C Heard”, in McLennan, Texas. However, a quick Google confirmation reveals that this is the AFL playing Nick Riewoldt, and Catherine Heard is the wife of said AFL player.
Stop 3: Social Media
Ancestry does a great job of searching public records of largely dead people, but how about largely alive people? Surely there has to be a few Nick Riewoldts on Facebook?
Turns out there are, but none of them are actually really named Nick Riewoldt. Seventeen results appear for “Nick Riewoldt” on Facebook, but almost all of them appear to be fake accounts. The biggest question here is why would someone create a multitude of fake Nick Riewoldt Facebook profiles, but it isn’t the question at hand unfortunately.
A search of Linkedin, home of the multitasking footy player, also shows up nothing significant. Twitter is more interesting, but only barely so. An ill-fated “Dull Nick Riewoldt” account stands out amongst the eggs and spambots, but only barely so.
Other than Nick Riewoldt, Nick Riewoldt isn’t on on social media.
Stop 4: Trove
For those uninitiated souls, Trove is a literal treasure trove of information relating to Australia and Australians, both in physical and digital forms.
But even according to Trove, there is only one Nick/Nicholas Riewoldt – they guy who lived in a sharehouse with Justin Koschitzke and Leigh Montagna, and failed to collect their $121.40 each in returned bond for a year or so.
Unfortunately, Trove is unable to tell us what portion of the original bond that represents (my guess, considering they lived in Brighton is that it is a mere fraction) or who chased up the eventual collection. Gut feel: it was probably Leigh Montagna. No real reason, he just seems like he’d be on the ball with that.
Stop 5: Random Googling
As a last resort, I set off on a wild search of all possible places, via the magic of Google. FamilySearch.Org provided nothing but a Nell N Riewoldt, White Pages only had four hits for the last name Riewoldt in Australia. The few publicly available, online electoral rolls turn up no signs of Riewoldts, and the incoming passenger records show merely three Riewoldts, with no first name.
Even the German online phone book, entitled DasTelefonbuch or “the telephone book” in English, turns up only 17 mentions of people named “Riewoldt” in Germany. In the US, there are 34, including a “Crickett R Riewoldt”. None are named Nick.
This article started with the intention of making a cheap joke at the expense of those who run the AFL twitter account – an intention that has gone unfulfilled. Riewoldt is a relatively rare name, with origins harking back to northern Germany, according to the internet. The presence of Riewoldts is strongest in Australia and the USA – two countries that accepted a number of post-WWII migrants.
Specifically, Nick Riewoldt’s family emigrated to Australia to work on the Snowy Hydro Scheme – an origin story for many second, third and fourth generation Australians alike. It is a story similar to my own grandparents, who also migrated to Australia post-war, looking for a new place to live.
Even with 24.6 million Australians, and around 7 billion people around the world, the merging of cultures, and naming conventions, has created “one-offs” – unique names and people, pursuing constantly evolving careers. It must have been unfathomable for Nick’s grandfather that two of his grandsons would eventually play professional Australian Football, which wouldn’t have been an available profession when he was growing up, let alone one he would have known about in Germany.
So, the AFL was right, even though I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to be. There is only one Nick Riewoldt.