With Richmond holding its 2016 community camp in Albury Wodonga this week, Tony Greenberg reflects on a famous Tiger family from the area.
Six Richmond premierships, three Club leading goalkicker awards and a place in the Tigers’ Team of the Century...
That’s the sum total of the profound influence the Strang family has had throughout Tigerland history.
It all started 85 years ago, in 1931, when the Strang brothers, Gordon and Doug were recruited by Richmond from the East Albury Football Club, where they had been star performers.
Their father, Bill Strang, had played 70 games with South Melbourne from 1904-13, so the bloodlines were pretty good in the Strang family.
But not even the most one-eyed Tiger supporter, or Strang family member, could possibly have envisaged the incredible instant impact Gordon and Doug would have on the league football scene with Richmond.
The brothers made their debut for the Tigers in the opening round of the 1931 season, against Carlton at Princes Park.
Gordon, 21, took 12 marks in a superb performance at centre half-forward, while Doug, 18, kicked four goals (the most by any Tiger on the day) in a valuable, lively display at full-forward.
Largely due to the considerable contribution made by the Strang brothers first-up, Richmond was able to overpower the home side and win an absorbing Round 1 contest by nine points.
The Strangs had immediately captured the imagination of Tiger supporters.
One week later, in Round 2 of the 1931 season against North Melbourne at Punt Road Oval, Strang fever reached epidemic proportions among the Yellow and Black faithful.
Gordon again impressed with his elite aerial ability, but it was Doug, who produced something quite extraordinary at full-forward.
He marked everything that came his way (and there was no shortage of quality supply from the dominant Richmond midfielders) and was bang on target with his kicking for goal.
When the final siren sounded, the Tigers had registered a then league record score of 30.19 (199), to go with a Club record winning margin of 168 points.
Doug Strang, for his part, had finished with an incredible return of 14 goals (14.2) which, to this day, remains the biggest tally kicked by a Richmond player in a senior league game.
He went on to win the Tigers’ leading goalkicker award for the 1931 season, with 68 goals, and he repeated the dose in 1932 with 49 goals, and in 1933 with 51 goals.
Inspired by the Strangs’ star power, Richmond made it through to the ’31 Grand Final against the powerful Geelong combination, only to fall short by 20 points.
The following year, however, the Tigers went that one key step further, defeating arch-rival Carlton by nine points in the 1932 Grand Final, with the Strang brothers leading the way.
Gordon, playing at centre half-forward, was best afield, taking 16 marks in an outstanding display, while Doug played made a particularly valuable contribution, with a team-high four goals from full-forward.
It was to be Doug’s last Grand Final appearance for Richmond. He missed the 1933 premiership-decider against South Melbourne due to suspension after being reported in the preliminary final, and injury prevented him from taking his place in the Tigers’ 1934 Grand Final line-up.
But Gordon was a key member of the team that finished runner-up to South in ’33, and he was centre half-back 12 months later when Richmond exacted revenge in the ‘34 Grand Final against the Bloods.
At just 23 years of age, Doug bowed out of league football at the end of the 1935 season, with a highly impressive record of 181 goals from his 64 appearances for the Tigers.
Gordon left Richmond in 1937 to coach Tasmanian club Launceston, but returned to Tigerland the following year for one more season at the game’s highest level.
All-up, he played 116 games and kicked 108 goals in his league career with Richmond.
Six decades later, when the Tigers announced their Team of the Century, Gordon Strang’s name was pencilled in at centre half-back.
Legendary Collingwood coach Jock McHale said of the Strang brothers: “I have never seen two recruits from the bush come into a league side and shine like they did”.
The Strangs’ strong influence at Tigerland didn’t end with Gordon and Doug, however . . .
Doug’s son, Geoff, had caught the eye of the Tiger talent as a 14-year-old playing in an under-age team in Albury.
After Geoff had won the seniors Best and Fairest award playing for Albury in 1964, he was recruited by Richmond.
He played three senior games with the Tigers early in 1965, before deciding to return home to Albury later in the season after struggling to adapt to city life.
Richmond, however, persisted and managed to entice him to return for the 1966 season.
It was to prove a wise decision all-round, as Geoff Strang developed into a first-class, dashing defender.
Strang was an important member of the Tigers’ 1967 and 1969 premiership sides in his role as an attacking half-back flanker.
He had plenty of pace, great anticipation, was a good mark, and a superb exponent of the drop kick.
The wide, open spaces of the MCG suited Strang’s style of play down to the ground.
Included among Strang’s teammates in Richmond’s drought-breaking ’67 Grand Final triumph over Geelong, was his cousin John Perry, who was 19th man on that memorable day, and came on to the field late in the frenetic final quarter. Perry’s mother, Edna, was Doug Strang’s sister.
John Perry played only 26 games for the Tigers from 1964-69, before crossing to North Melbourne, where he had a fine career. He will, however, always be remembered at Tigerland as a premiership player, and yet another member of the famous Strang family.