In The Beginning 1885-1907
Formed on February 20th, 1885 at a public meeting at the Royal Hotel, Richmond
adopted an all-blue guernsey paired with a yellow and black striped cap.
Richmond's first VFA match was a defeat to Williamstown. In 1888 Richmond
adopted a yellow and black striped guernsey.
By 1890 clubs were having to fight off poaching attempts by opposition
clubs, betting on matches was big business, and there were allegations
of match-fixing financed by bookmakers. Geelong and Essendon met in defiance
of the VFA, and proposed a two division league. By 1891 professionalism
had entered the game and Richmond's insistence on remaining amateur cost
it a number of players.
1892 saw Richmond introduce a tactical innovation which involved playing
through the center and long kicking. This was a departure from intricate
passing and criss-crossing from flank to flank, the 'short route' as it
was called was attacked by critics. In 1894 Essendon wanted to form a breakaway
league, and the MCC, Geelong and Fitzroy were in favour. A Collingwood
- Richmond merger was proposed but rejected.
Richmond finished last in 1896 for the first time in their history and
at one stage called off a game at half-time believing they couldn't win.
In 1897 the inevitable split happened as Essendon, Geelong, MCC (Melbourne),
Collingwood, South Melbourne and Fitzroy split from the VFA. They invited
Carlton to join them mainly because the Melbourne City Council agreed to
provide a ground (Princess Park). The final choice was between North and
Richmond but the new league chose St Kilda to add geographical balance.
Richmond's poor previous season had cost them dearly.
Richmond struggled in the VFA, particularly against Port Melbourne which
regularly bashed opposition players, in 1900 two Richmond officials were
bashed by Port supporters and crowd violence was common. As a result Richmond
and Port played the first game at which mounted police were on duty. In
1901 Richmond finished second to Port but in 1902 Richmond won their first
flag, surpassing arch-rivals Port Melbourne. The teams had been destined
to finish equal on top of the ladder necessitating a play-off game. Such
a game was eagerly anticipated but failed to eventuate when Port unexepectadly
lost to Williamstown. The VFA realising they were missing out on a huge
pay day resolved that in future there would be a four team finals series.
Richmond were runners up in 1903 after a grand final that was a blood bath
with 8 Richmond players falling victim to North Melbourne's physical approach.
In 1904 Richmond again made the grand final but controversy ensued.
Earlier in the year when Richmond and North had first met, Richmond had
complained that North players had worn illegal spikes in their boots in
earlier games. Richmond had called on umpire Allen to inspect North's boots,
North refused him permission and umpire Allen didn't press the issue. As
a result the Richmond board wrote to the VFA insisting that umpire Allen
not be chosen to officiate the grand final. The VFA appointed Allen, Richmond
refused to play and North were declared premiers by default.
In 1905 Richmond won the premiership despite being the outcasts of the
VFA. During this year Richmond had beaten North Melbourne who had in turn
beaten the umpire. In 1906 they were third, and in 1907 had no friends
in the VFA. Richmond's habit of playing practice matches against VFL clubs
had infuriated the VFA and they issued a ban on such games, which Richmond
defied. The VFA did not act on their threat to expel Richmond knowing that
Richmond would be accepted immediately into the VFL and the VFA would
lose its highest drawing club.
The Early VFL Years 1908-1930
On October 22 1907, Richmond applied to join the VFL, and on October 31st,
Richmond accepted the VFL's invitation. Between 1908 and 1912 the club
endured board room battles before a reform team finally won control of
the club. It had become clear that Richmond had exchanged a place of pre-eminance
in the VFA for one of obscurity in the VFL. With 1919 and the end of World
War I, Richmond gained the services of rover 'Checker' Hughes, and Richmond
made their first grand final losing to Collingwood.
Danny Minogue lead Richmond to premierships in 1920 and 1921; Richmond
had established themselves as a footballing power.
Poor seasons in 1922 and 1923 as the club aged and the hunger waned,
leading to another board room revolution, which saw Percy Page elected
as secretary. 1924 saw Richmond again involved in history books with their
part in the VFL's ridiculous finals series. Richmond made the finals and
beat South Melbourne by 28 points, lost to Fitzroy by 20 points and due
to percentage counting in the finals Richmond then met Essendon having
to win by 39 points. Richmond won by 20 points and Essendon were declared
premiers. The VFL was a laughing stock with the media declaring Richmond
the rightful premiers. Thereafter Richmond lost captain Dan Minogue and
other key players and had many injuries and the new coach Mel Morris was
not a success. He was replaced for the 1927 season by the great Frank 'Checker'
Hughes. The arrival of Hughes and Percy Page's recruiting skills spurred
Richmond to a grand final against Collingwood. A semi-final between the
two had attracted 64,000, but the weather was so adverse that only 34,000
made it to the grand-final. The rain was so heavy that both clubs and most
of the media wanted the game called off, but the VFL insisted. Collingwood
won when their coach Jock McHale instructed his players to play soccer
and not attempt to pick up the ball.
1928 and Richmond were the team to beat despite Collingwood being at
the peak of their powers. Richmond drew 66,000 to their semi-final win
over Carlton and sat back to watch the Collingwood and Melbourne play for
the right to meet Richmond. They played a draw and the replay was held
a week later. By the time the grand-final came around Richmond had been
three weeks without football and lost to Collingwood. More people had seen
Richmond's semi-final than the grand final for the second year in a row.
Collingwood only lost one game in 1929, to Richmond in the semi-final,
Richmond's third grand final loss in a row. 1929 saw Richmond lose 9 players
to rivals and retirements. In 1930 Richmond were unfortunate to run into
Collingwood in the semi-final and lost by 3 points.
The VFL decided to change the finals system to one championed by Richmond's
Percy Page. The previous system meant that the minor premier had a right
to play in the grand final regardless of whether they won a final. The
new system meant that the minor premier had to win its way into the grand
final. This was partly in response to the public disregard for the grand
final which regularly drew smaller crowds than the semi-finals.
Jack Dyer - Captain Blood 1931-1949
1931 saw the recruitment of the 16 year old Jack Dyer who played 6 games as part
of his development. With a fairer final system Richmond went into the 1931
grand final as favourite, but finished runners-up to Geelong. They had
finished runners-up five times in the previous eight seasons. After the
1932 premiership Percy Page and Checker Hughes left Richmond for Melbourne
where they turned the Fushias into the Demons and sacked 13 players. By
1933 Richmond were runners-up again this time to South Melbourne. The 1934
premiership was added to the trophy case and in 1935 Richmond were third.
The loss of the Page-Hughes pairing had seen Richmond's recruiting efforts
fall away badly and a period of decline loomed. In 1936 Richmond were the
highest crowd-drawing team in Australian sport but missed the finals for
the first time since 1927.
1937 saw another semi-final loss. In 1940 Jack Dyer's father Ben, a
committeeman who wanted coach Percy Bentley replaced and his son Jack named
captain, was disposed in an election. Jack Dyer stood out of football for
a brief time before returning to the club. The 1940 Grand Final was against
the Page-Hughes led Melbourne. Richmond lost largely due to Hughes' tactics
when O'Keefe tagged Dyer out of the game, Norm Smith, as opposed to his
normal leading style, played close to fullback Smeaton whose trademark
punch-aways were gathered by specially placed rovers. Hughes also had his
team crowd Kevin O'Neill on to his wrong foot and Melbourne's ruckmen played
wide of Dyer. Percy Bentley was widely criticised for not reacting to Hughes'
tactics, and when he asked for a pay rise from $14 to $15 he was sacked,
Jack Dyer taking over. Bentley had been a good tactician as a coach and
is credited for developing the technique of playing the resting ruckman
as a forward, with the full forward leading out and the ruckman dropping
back to mark long kicks in the square. The loss of Page and Hughes had
been the making of Melbourne, and the loss of Bentley was the making of
Carlton. He coached them for 15 years and served on the committee and as
a selector, when he died in 1982 he was vice-president.
Dyer led Richmond to a semi-final loss in 1941, and in 1942 lost the
grand final. Richmond gained vengeance in the 1943 grand-final when Dyer
assigned Max Oppy to tag the great Dick Reynolds. Oppy and Reynolds were
cousins but Oppy did what he was asked and restricted Reynolds. Richmond
lost to Fitzroy in the 1944 grand final. 1947 saw another semi-final loss.
As Jack Dyer entered his final year as a player in 1949, the Richmond recruiters
new they needed to find a replacement. They boasted that they had found
a good young player at Hastings and that he would be at least the equal
of Dyer. An Essendon committeeman overheard them, and Essendon signed John
Jack Dyer is the heart and soul of Richmond. He played in a very successful
period, through the depression era when sport was one of the few pleasures
available to average folk, through the second World War as a Japanese invasion
threatened. He was regarded as the best big man to ever have played the
game and was as rugged, ferocious and tough as any player before or since.
He was born in Richmond played his junior football there, was playing state
football for Victoria at 17 and served as captain and coach. He was a league
games record holder. He achieved all this despite suffering from gastric
ulcers since he was 16, which led him to frequently vomiting at half time
and before matches. He was plagued by injuries, including back and knee
injuries which could have been career threatening but yet he played on.
He served on the committee and as vice-president, and was a corner stone
of the Save Our Skins campaign in 1990.
The Lean Years 1950-65
The retirement of Jack Dyer as a player had a devastating effect on Richmond.
Jack Dyer's three years as non-playing coach were not a success, even though
he taught his players a revolutionary kicking style, the drop punt, which
he had developed to kick for goal. In time it was to replace the drop kick
and the stab pass. Dyer, after his retirement, was replaced by his assistant,
ex-Collingwood man Alby Pannam who had had success with the reserves. In
1956 Jack Dyer returned to Richmond as vice-president and his great ally
Max Oppy was appointed coach. The Richmond policy was to appoint coaches
on a yearly basis and after Oppy resigned and Richmond appointed ex-player
and successful Bendigo league coach Alan McDonald. McDonald allthough he
didn't lead the team to the finals did well enough for the club to change
its policy and he was appointed for three years.
Club secretary Maurie Fleming had retired in 1955, and president Harry
Dyke retired in 1958 after 18 years. Both men played key roles in Richmond's
success. Fleming came out of retirement to replace Dyke. In 1960 Richmond
faded badly to win the wooden spoon, and inevitably McDonald resigned and
returned to Bendigo. Des Rowe, a six-season captain, was appointed as coach
and Graeme Richmond as coach of the under-19s. In 1961, recognising his
talents, Graeme Richmond was appointed as secretary. The first thing Graeme
Richmond did was to only play players in the under-19s who could hope to
go on to senior football as opposed to the best group of under age players.
Kevin Bartlett won the best and fairest in the fourths, and in 1962 won
the under-19s best and fairest. In 1963 Des Rowe resigned as did president
Maurie Fleming. He was replaced by Ray Dunn a wealthy and talented lawyer
who provided a great deal of direct and indirect investment in the club.
Richmond was seeking to return to its traditional recipe for success.
The Richmond-Dunn combination echoed the Page-Hughes and Dyke-Fleming-Dyer
combinations. Richmond needed a talented coach to complete the team. They
appointed the great Len Smith, older brother of Norm Smith. Smith was rated
by his brother and most other judges as the greatest football mind in history,
and the man widely regarded as the father of modern football. He had had
a significant influence on his brother Norm and on Norm's foster son Ron
Barassi. Ray 'Slug' Jordan, perhaps the best junior coach ever, was appointed
to coach the juniors and a major recruiting drive was launched. There was
an acknowledgement that it would take time for Richmond to adjust to Smith's
style. He refused to play the mark and kick game and insisted on a flowing
run-on type of football. Smith, however, had a heart attack and Jack Titus
and Dick Harris were brought in as assistants.
Ray Dunn and Graeme Richmond orchestrated Richmond's move away from
the Punt Rd oval to the MCG in 1965. The move was a great success. Smith
had loaded the list with six-footers who had pace and could kick, and after
his second heart attack before round 4 in 1965, Jack Titus took over. Titus
pledged to continue with Smith's plans and to consult the master coach
throughout the season. Richmond finished fifth and looked destined to be
entering another successful period. Richmond had to chose a new coach to
replace caretaker Titus. They had been following the progress of a number
of ex-players and narrowed the choice to Ron Branton or Tom Hafey. Hafey
was chosen and he continued the ideas of Len Smith who served on the match
committee. The 17 year old Royce Hart was added to the list and Richmond
were poised for a return to their glory days.
Glory Days 1966-1982
Tom Hafey's first year saw Richmond enter the final round one win from
the top and one loss away from missing the finals. They missed the finals.
Len Smith died in 1967. The VFL introduced the zoning system in this year
which was opposed by Richmond and which would prove, over time, to be a
poor system. Richmond had recruited well up until this point and made the
finals for the first time since 1944. Despite having no players with finals
experience Richmond defeated Geelong in the grand final, and Len Smith's
master plan bore its inevitable reward. In 1968 complacency set in and
Graeme Richmond retired to be replaced by Alan Schwab, allthough he continued
to be an influential figure at the club until his death.
In 1969 Richmond was the most popular team in the league and topped
the attendances for the fourth successive year. Tom Hafey developed Len
Smith's game plan to include long kicking and quick movement of the ball.
The 1969 premiership against Carlton was one of Richmond's finest as they
went in as underdogs. Richmond went on to thrash South Australians Sturt
to win the Australian championship. 1970 was not a success, and in 1971
Bill Barrott was traded for Ian Stewart, and Tony Jewell and John Northey
retired. In 1971 Richmond lost a wet weather preliminary final to St Kilda
when they had been praying for a firm surface. In 1972 Richmond became
the first club to be viewed by a million supporters. The 1972 grand final
loss was largely due to the great play of Carlton's Robert Walls, but the
1973 premiership was sweet revenge. In 1973, the under 17s, under 19s,
reserves and seniors all won premierships to complete a unique record.
Richmond publically attacked the VFL's zoning regulations and embarked
on a recruiting campaign which involved many piracy claims being laid against
Richmond although none of the players involved made any impact. North Melbourne
enticed Slug Jordan away from the club and Ian Wilson became the new president.
Wilson attacked the VFL administration and was censured. Richmond were
making many enemies and when a brawl erupted during the half time break
against Essendon no one was really surprised. Tom Hafey was moved to declare
that it was Richmond against the world and the 1974 premiership brought
great satisfaction. 1975 saw Richmond clear Graham Teasdale, Brian Roberts
and Francis Jackson for John Pitura which in hindsight was probably the
worst trade, by any club, in history. An injury depleted Richmond lost
in the 1975 preliminary final to North and faded to 7th in 1976, a game
and a half from the finals.
Richmond reacted ruthlessly and forced Tom Hafey to resign. There had
long been a suspicion that Hafey although a great coach hadn't achieved
all that he could have and that a new coach could win another premiership.
Barry Richardson, Hafey's assistant was appointed coach. Club secretary
Alan Schwab joined the VFL, and although Patterson took the team to the
finals in his first year, in 1978 they fell back to 7th and he was replaced
by his assistant Tony Jewell. The team finished 8th in 1979 but Jewell
won a premiership in 1980 against the Hafey coached Collingwood. In 1981
the club again faded to sixth and Tony Jewell was under pressure. Francis
Bourke had retired and was available to coach and was highly regarded.
Bourke, the new coach, had an ageing list to work with and Richmond were
unable to recruit replacements because of the restrictions enforced by
zoning. Their strategy was to recruit interstate players but very few made
any real or sustained impact.
The 1982 grand final loss was the end of an era. Great players like Bourke
himself, Sheedy , Hart etc had been retiring and the list was ageing. At
the start of 1983 three ex-captains left the club Raines and Cloke to Collingwood
and Walsh to Essendon. After breaking the VFL games record Kevin Bartlett
retired at the end of 1983. The team had slipped to 10th and Francis Bourke's
disciplined, perfectionist approach was criticised and he accepted the
inevitable and resigned, as did Graeme Richmond who had filled a variety
of roles since his resignation as secretary. Mike Patterson who had a lot
of success as a coach at Norwood was the new coach but he lasted only a
year, as the team finished 7th. The 1984 annual report revealed a loss
of $224,000 of which $130,000 was legal fees. The poaching wars and the
need to recruit high price interstaters to compensate for the inability
to find players in zones was causing financial problems for all the Melbourne
clubs. The whole period was a time of rampant chequebook recruiting.
Barry Richardson lead a challenge to the board and as part of his victory
replaced Patterson with Tasmanian Paul Sproule. The high prices paid for
players at this time and the legal battles to gain clearances were crippling
clubs. The players Richmond recruited such as Phillip Walsh and John Annear
were not successes and the need to continually recruit replacements for
poor recruits was draining club resources. A board room deal saw long term
treasurer and recruiter Ron Carson deposed. The board turmoils and financial
malaise led the VFL to sponsor a suggestion that Richmond should move to
Brisbane in 1985. Ian Wilson was deposed by Barry Richardson as president
in March 1985. Richmond cleared Brian Taylor and lost Merv Keane and failed
to recruit anyone of note. At the end of the season as the club finished
8th Sproule was replaced by Jewell and Patterson resigned the presidency
in favour of Bill Durham when he refused his supporters demands to sack
Sproule. Richardson was attacked by Jack Dyer for not seeing the job through
and abandoning Richmond for Melbourne.
In 1986 there was speculation that despite being the third most supported
club in Melbourne the abscence of decent marketing and poor planning had
contributed to a debt far greater than the official debt of around $350,000.
Alan Bond arrived at the club as president with plans to move the club
to Brisbane. Supporter Gary Krauss had saved the club with a large loan,
and this loan was used to prop up president Durham who said that this loan
was interest free and would be withdrawn if he was challenged. The loan
was not interest free. At the end of 1986 board member Andrew Farley announced
that Richmond wanted to play 11 games in Brisbane and 11 at the MCG, and
that Alan Bond would underwrite it all. Kevin Bartlett led a stinging attack
on the board, and supporters rallied to save the club. Graeme Richmond
said the club should move lock, stock and barrel to Brisbane. The move
was fought off but the club incurred a loss of $460,000 that year. The
1987 season saw the resignation of Alan Bond and his replacement by Neville
Crowe. The introduction of the Brisbane Bears removed the threat of the
board relocating the club north.
In 1987 Tony Jewell led Richmond to the bottom of the ladder, and the
media reported that the board were considering a move to Adelaide or Tasmania,
and ex-President Ian Wilson called for the board to be replaced. Wilson
had kept his silence but finally hit out at the Durham group who had replaced
him. He called on President Neville Crowe to look at those around him and
to make changes. The board considered listing on the stock exchange and
removing the membership nature of the club. Richmond was in dreadful shape
and rumours abounded about mergers and relocations. It was revealed that
Crowe was second choice after failing to get a corporate leader and board
members Finley and Robertson were Bond men. There were 16 litigation cases
against the club and 2 wind up orders, the club survived due to a $250,000
contribution from Alan Bond.
The recruitment of Kevin Bartlett as coach was as much an attempt to
unite the Richmond support as it was an attempt to secure a coach. Bartlett
adopted a youth policy and started the long climb back to the top. The
club reported a profit in 1989 but the debt stood at over $1.5 million
and servicing this debt was crippling. The debt meant that the club couldn't
recruit the best credentialed players and had to turn to kids from country
Victoria. The draft system which had replaced the zoning system although
intended to make the teams more even was actually working to help those
clubs which had a pre-exisiting core of senior players at the expense of
teams like Richmond which had to build from scratch. A 10th place finish
in 1988 was Bartlett's best effort and by 1991 they were in 13th.
In 1989 the VFL had orchestrated a Fitzroy takeover of Footscray, and
in response to this Footscray fans raised $1.5 million and reversed the
merger, effectively condemning Fitzroy to a slow death. A VFL supported
scheme for Richmond and St Kilda to merge was publicly mooted and Neville
Crowe rejected it forcefully. Richmond launched a fund raising campaign
to reduce its debt. Membership increased in 1990 and allthough the club
was making profits servicing the debt was holding the club back. On August
15 1990, the Save Our Skins campaign was launched with the aim of raising
$1 million by October 31. The debt and the closure of the social club due
to breeches of liquor licensing laws were draining the club financially.
The club's wages bill was $450,000 below the salary cap. Membership had
been allowed to fall from 12,000 in 1980 to 7,000 in 1990. The money was
successfully raised as supporters rallied.
Richmond's chief administrator between 1981-86, Kevin Dixon, blamed
the poor record on interference by Graeme Richmond who had forced him to
recruit players he otherwise wouldn't have. Richmond's recruiting at this
time was ridiculous. Its list of purchases included, Terry Wallace $175,000
(11 games), Phillip Walsh $110,000 (40 games), Daryl Suton $80,000 (6 games),
Andrew Cross $20,000 (1 game), Peter McCormack $20,000 (4 games), Gary
Frangalas $100,000 (17 games), Michael Roberts $30,000 (12 games), Dennis
Collins $80,000 (17 games), John Annear $100,000 (65 games) and Jeff Dunne
$20,000 (1 game). The settlement for sacked coach Paul Sproule cost $65,000.
Going 'Round In Circles 1992-2009
The end of Kevin Bartlett's coaching stint was very controversial. He
had been a large part of the campaign to save the club and no one disputed
that he had had very little talent to work with. In the end the board decided
that if Allan Jeans was interested then he would have the job, whereas
if he didn't accept then Bartlett would continue. Graeme Richmond orchestrated
the recruitment of Jeans and a very bitter Kevin Bartlett left. Alan Jeans
coached for only one year before illness caused him to step down. John
Northey who had been successful at Melbourne was his replacement and people
openly talked of a Smith-Hafey like dawn. John Northey's first season was
poor as the team fell to 14th. In 1994 they recovered to just miss the
finals before making the finals in 1995 for the first time since 1982.
With Neville Crowe standing down in favour of Leon Daphne as president,
and the recruitment of experienced coach Robert Walls to replace John Northey,
who preferred Brisbane, Richmond seemed to be at the beginning of a new
era. However Walls proved to be a disastrous appointment. Walls
was replaced by his assistant, Jeff Gieschen, after round 17 1997.
Although winning 4 out of the last 5 games of the 1997 season and 9 out of
the first 15 games of 1998, Richmond under Gieshen faltered to just miss the finals (9th)
in that same year and a disappointing 13th in 1999. During 1999, rumors of senior players
losing confidence in Gieschen and his imminent sacking surfaced. This lead president Leon Daphne
to state publicly that if Gieschen went he would follow. With plans to replace Gieschen with
former Richmond premiership player and current long-term Essendon coach, Kevin Sheedy, under
a deal of $1 million a year for five years, Gieschen resigned before the last game of 1999.
Leon Daphne followed him and Clinton Casey was elected president. A boardroom reshuffle followed.
Although Richmond had made 10 consecutive profits and reached nearly 30,000 members
the lack of on-field success had tolled.
With Kevin Sheedy deciding to stay on at Essendon, the new board had to find a new coach
for the season 2000. After a number of potential coaches rejected offers from Richmond,
the board decided on former St. Kilda champion full back and their longest serving captain, Danny Frawley.
With the club pumping in a significant amount of money into a strong coaching panel under Frawley,
Frawley instituted a strict discipline policy on the player group. Two senior players were suspended
for a week each for off-field incidents. The pressure of on-field success was placed squarely
on the player group's shoulders. The players and supporters could no longer blame the
coach for poor performances as in past years. This seemed to spark Richmond, winning 8 out of 10 games
between rounds 5 and 14 even with many of its star players missing.
However the ever increasing injury list (up to half the players out of a
list of 38 were injured at once) eventually took its toll and Richmond once again
finished ninth for the fourth time in seven years and missed the finals.
With virtually a full compliment of its playing list, 2001 appeared to be a turning point
for the club making the finals for the first time in six years and only for the
second time since 1982. Richmond finished third losing the preliminary final to eventual premiers
Brisbane at the Gabba. However, history was to repeat itself, and Richmond performed poorly in
the next two seasons finishing in the bottom four. As in previous years, great pressure from
supporters and members was brought onto the Club to sack Frawley. The Club stood firm however.
At the beginning of 2003, Greg Miller, who had had great success as a recruiter and overseer at North
Melbourne during the 1990's, joined Richmond and was given the task of "Football Director". He emphasised the need for stability to achieve success and along with Club's board vowed that Frawley would see out his five year contract. A promising start to 2003 also ended in disappointment and Frawley's tenure as coach would end with the wooden spoon in 2004.
The Club faced further upheaval with a full Board challenge as soon as the season was over. This would result in the first members vote to determine the make-up of the Board. With the standing down of Club president Clinton Casey who was replaced by Gary March and at the urgence of Miller to back the existing board in the name of stability, the challengers were defeated.
The fact that the Club saw out Frawley's five-year contract began the process of rehabilitating the Club's image. No longer was Richmond seen as 'eating their own'. Richmond's new coach would be ex-Bulldogs coach and former Hawthorn, Bulldogs and Richmond (for one season) player Terry Wallace. Wallace, with his senior coaching experience in which he lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back Preliminary Finals in 1997-98, as well as his high media profile, was seen as the best choice and he was likewise given a five-year contract. With the Club having five picks in the top 20 of the 2004 draft, hopes were high that Richmond was finally on the right track to rebuild its list properly with no quick fixes.
Wallace's first season in 2005 began excitingly with ex-Bulldog Nathan Brown (who crossed over the year before to the Tigers) starring. The Tigers were 7-2 and flying. However, a shocking fractured leg to Brown in Round 10 against Melbourne would end his and Richmond's season. The Tigers struggled to win without Brown and missed the finals. 2006 would also see the Tigers absent from September but the performances of a number of Tiger cubs including Andrew Raines who finished second in the Rising Star Award raised hopes leading into 2007. However, 2007 proved to be a disaster with the Tigers finished last. Calls to sack the coach were again vocal but the Club once again stood fast. Season 2008 proved more fruitful as the team recovered to just miss the finals. Matthew Richardson was moved out of his customary key forward role and onto a wing whereby he would finish second in the Brownlow Medal that year. Again, hopes were high leading into 2009 but they would be shattered with a 89-point loss to Carlton in the season opener. By mid-year, Wallace had resigned with Jade Rawlings taking over as interim coach.
While the Tigers were now a stable club, its poor financial position dating back to the 1980s, outdated facilites trapped in the 1970s, and totally inadequate resources especially in the area of recruiting, had failed to turn the Club's fortunes around. Along with a new coach, a new plan and process would be required.
The Sleeping Giant Awakens 2010-2023
During 2009, former Tiger and ex-AFLPA president Brendon Gale returned to the Club as the new Chief Executive Officer. Leading into 2010, Gale announced the bold and ambitious "3-0-75" plan. The Club would aim within the next five years to play in three finals series, eliminate its six million debt to zero, and reach the target of 75,000 members (which was more than double the Club's membership at the time). With an improved financial position, the Club would also invest in modernising Punt Road by constructing the large David Mandie building, re-shaping and re-surfacing the oval itself, and expanding the Club's recruiting resources and network across the country. Gale and Club's plan was mocked and scoffed at by all and sundry from the football media to opposition supporters. Not surprisingly though given Richmond's three decades in the wilderness with a long list of false dawns.
The new coach for 2010 would be chosen via a thorough and lengthy coaching selection process from a long list of potential candidates. The Club was seeking a highly talented untried senior coach at AFL level and in the end, ex-Essendon and Port Adelaide premiership player, Damien Hardwick, won out. His successful background at multiple clubs including as assistant coach under Alistair Clarkson at Hawthorn when they won the 2008 premiership, a significant factor in the decision.
With veterans such as Matthew Richardson, Kane Johnson and Nathan Brown having retired, to the outside world Hardwick had inherited "the worst side since Fitzroy" (alluding to the defunct Fitzroy's mostly winless final years in the mid-1990s before they were forced to move north by the AFL and merge with Brisbane). However, a young core group was in place to build around. Along with 2006 draftees Jack Riewoldt and Shane Edwards and 2007 draftees Trent Cotchin and Alex Rance, were added David Astbury, Dylan Grimes and a young kid from the Bendigo Pioneers called Dustin Martin, from Hardwick's first draft as coach.
Season 2010 began as the critics had predicted. Richmond under Hardwick struggled to compete in the early rounds and suffered regular hidings. But the wheel began to turn after the first two months and Hardwick secured his first win in Round 10 interstate against Port Adelaide at a soggy Football Park. Inspired by a breakout year from young full forward Jack Riewoldt, who would go on to win his first Coleman Medal kicking 78 goals, the Tigers would end up winning six games for the year. More than respectful when compared to the dire preseason predictions.
Gradually improvement would follow across 2011-12 with eight and ten wins respectively, and with the team additions of Brandon Ellis, Bachar Houli and Nick Vlastuin, the Tigers would win 15 games in 2013 to reach their first finals appearance in 12 years. With Essendon being disqualified due to the drug saga at Windy Hill, Richmond's opponent in the Elimination ended up being ninth-placed Carlton who had originally failed to make the finals. The Tigers went into the match as favourite and jumped the Blues in the first half to be up by 26 points at half-time. Despite Richmond kicking the first goal of the third quarter to lead by 32, Carlton whittled away the margin by 3/4 time. The Tigers couldn't halt the Blues' momentum in the last and ultimately went down by 20 points. The loss stung. Richmond wouldn't lose another match to Carlton for the next nine years.
The next two years followed similar disappointing Elimination Final exits. A poor first half of the 2014 season had the Tigers with just 3 wins by Round 14, but a nine straight winning streak on the run home saw Richmond jump into the Top 8 with a last round away win over ladder leader Sydney. The toll of chasing the season plus newish captain Trent Cotchin infamously winning the toss and selecting to go against the strong breeze, saw the Tigers thrashed and knocked out by Port Adelaide. Season 2015 was a stronger and more consistent year and Richmond finished fifth with 15 wins. The Tigers would face off with North Melbourne who were able to rest most of their team in the previous meeting only a week earlier given their eighth-placed ladder position was locked in. In a close game on the scoreboard, the Tigers would lose a third straight Elimination Final by 17 points.
The pressure was on Hardwick and the team in 2016 to finally crack a win in the finals, but the year would be a significant step backwards winning just eight games and finishing 13th. Richmond was criticised for playing slow, backwards and sideways football. As had happened in the past, pressure mounted on the Club to sack the coach. However, Gale and president Peggy O'Neal stood by Hardwick. A post-season review of the entire football department was implemented with the result being the exit of all assistant coaches. A new group of assistant coaches with fresh ideas and tactics were added, while Hardwick himself went away and changed his mindset and approach to his coaching. Individual imperfections would be embraced and a jollier enviroment was created for the players and staff within the Club. The playing list itself saw some major chances. Long time servant and former first pick Brett Deledio departed for GWS. Into the Club arrived ruckman Toby Nankerivs, Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy.
The new attitude immediately paid dividends. Richmond began 2017 with 5 straight wins including a last quarter comeback against Melbourne in the Anzac Eve blockbuster. A reality check followed though. A thumping at the hands of the Crows in Adelaide in a top of the ladder clash was followed by three what would become known as "Richmondy" losses (snatching defeat from the jaws of victory). A feeling of the same old Richmond was creeping in amongst the Tiger faithful. A significant change to the forward line structure was implemented at this point. After desperately trying and failing to find a workable second tall forward, the coaching staff decided to surround Riewoldt with quick small pressure forwards in Dan Butler, Jason Castagna and Daniel Rioli. The Tigers recovered and despite an outlier heavy defeat against St Kilda in Round 16, Richmond finished the home and away season strongly to finish third on the ladder. The Tigers highest ladder finish in 22 years.
The final addition to the team's line-up heading into the finals was mid-sized forward Jacob Townsend who took his opportunity via injury and kicked bags of 6 and 5 respectively in the last two rounds. Richmond's opponent in the Qualifying Final would be bogey side Geelong - a team who had won their previous 13 meetings against the Tigers dating back a decade. After a tight first three quarters in front of a predominantly pro-Tiger crowd at a packed M.C.G. (Geelong were the nominal home team), the Tigers blitzed the Cats with a seven goal to one last quarter to win by 51 points. The Tiggy train was now in full flight.
Richmond opponent in the Preliminary Final was expansion club Greater Western Sydney. Given the latter's tiny supporter base, the Tiger Army filled all but a couple of thousand seats in the 95,000 strong crowd at the M.C.G. When Kane Lambert kicked the opening goal in the first 30 seconds, the decibel reading of the crowd noise was higher than a jet engine. Once again the first 2.5 quarters would be neck-and-neck before the Tigers broke the game open to win by 36 points and reach their first Grand Final in 35 years.
Grand Final day would be against top of the ladder Adelaide who had cruised through both of their finals at Adelaide Oval. The pre-game ceremony would be marked by the Crows players' infamous "power stance". This was in stark contrast to the more naturally relaxed and jovial Tigers. The match would follow a familiar pattern to the Tigers' previous two finals. After trailing for most of the first half, Richmond hit the lead through young South Australian Jack Graham before Dustin Martin marked and kicked a goal to put the Tiges up by 9 points at half-time. The third quarter was another Tiger blitz as Richmond's overwhelming pressure suffocated Adelaide's ball movement. When Townsend kicked the sealer 17 minutes into the final quarter, it was party time. Late goals to Butler and Norm Smith medallist Martin saw the Tigers home by 48 points to finally end a 37-year premiership drought.
Richmond's premiership defence in 2018 would be its best home and away season result since 1982 with an 18-4 record and the minor premiership (McClelland Trophy). However, the Tigers would pay for peaking too early. By August, Richmond was looking flat and scraped narrow wins against mid-ladder sides that earlier in the season it had demolished. A comfortable win over Hawthorn in the Qualifying Final raised hopes the Tiges had switched back on. However, the lead up to the Preliminary Final against Collingwood was marred by injury and illness. Martin had suffered a severe corky around his knee and was in doubt to play. Astbury spent a night in hospital with gastro and there were rumours other Tiger players were also ill. The red-hot Magpies jumped the sluggish tentative Tigers from the start and by half-time Richmond trailed by 44 points - a margin the Tigers couldn't bridge in the second half. A missed chance to go back-to-back and it stung.
The year of redemption in 2019 began disastrously with champion full-back Alex Rance suffering a season-ending ACL in the season opener against Carlton. Commentator Damian Barrett famously declared that Richmond could not win the premiership. The injury toll mounted over the next couple of rounds to the point the Tigers had to send a mostly young team across to Adelaide to play Port in round 4. Despite being heavy underdogs, the young cubs assisted by a starring performance from ex-Gold Coast free agent recruit Tom Lynch up forward, upset the Power by 7 points. The cubs were able to keep the wins coming until the experienced premiership players returned from injury during the second half of the year. Richmond ultimately finished third on the ladder with 16 wins, only percentage behind Brisbane and Geelong. Both sides the Tigers would defeat in the Qualifying and Preliminary finals respectively. Experts were expecting a rematch with Collingwood in the Grand Final but the Magpies suffered a shock defeat to Greater Western Sydney in the other Preliminary Final. The Giants had come from sixth to reach the Grand Final and were no match on the day for a hungry Richmond outfit on a mission for redemption. The final margin of 89 points is the Tigers' biggest Grand Final win.
Season 2020 will go down in history as the most challenging due to the Covid pandemic. While the March season opener against Carlton went ahead, the match was errily played inside an empty M.C.G. due to the nationwide lockdown. The season was then paused until June with Victorian clubs eventually forced to uproot to a hub in Queensland to play their matches. Richmond found the initial rounds difficult and the media was critical of the Club's attitude. Two players were also caught out after hours outside the hub breaching Queensland's covid rules and were sent home. Whether it was the challenge of the situation or the over the top criticism, the Tigers seemed to bond tighter as a group with us-vs-them resolve. Richmond finished the shortened 18-round home and away season with 12 wins and a draw to again be third on the ladder heading into finals. After a 15-point Qualifying Final loss to home-town Brisbane at the 'Gabba, the Tigers easily accounted for St Kilda in the Semi-Final on the Gold Coast. Richmond then had to travel to Adelaide to face another home-town opponent in Port Adelaide. In a low scoring affair, the Tigers hung on by a kick in a mighty and couragous win against the odds. This set up a Grand Final clash with Geelong at the 'Gabba - the third final in four years against the Cats. Despite Richmond kicking the first two goals, the first half and especially the second quarter was dominated by Geelong. To add to the Tigers' woes, defender Vlastuin had been knocked in the first 5 minutes which upset the balance of the backline. A late goal to Martin just before half-time though kept the Tigers in the game and only 15 points behind. In a repeat of the 2019 Preliminary Final, Richmond were able to get on top in the third quarter and bridged the gap to lead at 3/4 time by two points. With the match up for grabs, it was Richmond who would prevail with a five goal to one last quarter. Dustin Martin completing a hattrick of Norm Smith medals with 4 goals. It was third time in Richmond's history that they won back-to-back flags.
The AFL introduced a number of new rules prior to the 2021 season to in their words "open up" the game. The most controversial one being the "Stand" rule which HeraldSun columnist Scott Gullan claimed was introduced by then AFL General Manager of Football Operations and former Geelong player Steven Hocking, because of the way Richmond players and in particular Trent Cotchin manned the mark and pressured the kicker. Richmond struggled to adjust to the new rules and by the second half of the season the team was lethargic. The Tigers as reigning premiers would only win two of their last 10 games to finish 12th and miss the finals. The following season in 2022 would start off similarly but the Tigers were finally able to adjust to the new rules. Despite a couple of embarrasing "Richmondy" losses to strugglers Gold Coast and North Melbourne, the Tigers won their last 4 matches to finish seventh and reach the finals for the eighth time in ten years. In a close Elimination Final against Brisbane at the 'Gabba, Lynch had the opportunity to seal the game from the pocket. However, his shot was kicked high as Brisbane full-back Harris Andrews didn't stand and ran over the mark (the umpire didn't pay a 50m penalty). Despite the goal umpire's soft call being a goal, the ARC on review controversially declared the ball had gone over the goalpost for a behind. Brisbane went down the other end and via a "Richmondy" defensive error, were able to kick the winner to end Richmond's season.
2023 marked the end of the Damien Hardwick era. After a one-point defeat to Essendon in the Dreamtime at the 'G match (Richmond's first loss to the Bombers since 2014) and with the Tigers 3-6-1 and in 14th place, Hardwick declared that he was burnt out and he was stepping down. He felt he couldn't get anymore out of the playing group after 14 seasons in charge and it was time for a fresh voice. Hardwick coached Richmond for a club record 307 games for 170 wins, 6 draws & 131 losses - a win rate of 56.3%. He delivered three premierships which is only one behind Tom Hafey.
A New Era 2023-
Former Saint Andrew McQualter has taken over as interim coach. He will be one of the candidates vying for the full-time role in 2024. Whoever wins the job will take over a Richmond team in transition. Premiership heroes Astbury, Castagna, Caddy, Edwards, Houli and Lambert have already retired. Cotchin and Riewoldt are likely to join them at the completion of 2023. Having said that there is and will be an existing core group to build around - Liam Baker, Noah Balta, Shai Bolton, Daniel Rioli, Jayden Short plus new recruits Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto. And of course, they will be coaching one of the biggest and most passionate clubs in the land.