Robert Wiley had a huge impact at Richmond in only five seasons.
The sublimely-skilled star rover, who was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame last Tuesday night, had signed a Form Four agreement with the Tigers in 1977, but decided to spend an extra season at his WAFL club Perth before making the move to Punt Road.
He debuted for Richmond in the opening round of the 1979 against South Melbourne at the Lake Oval and provided glimpses of the immense talent he possessed, finishing the match, which the Tigers won by 14 points, with 16 disposals and a goal.
Unfortunately, Wiley was severely hampered with injuries in his first season of VFL football, managing only nine games.
It was a vastly different story, however, in 1980.
Wiley starred for the Tigers throughout the season, both on-ball and around the goals. He averaged 25.6 disposals per game and kicked 29 goals.
The 46 disposals he racked up in Richmond’s Round 8 victory over Carlton at the MCG, before a crowd of 85,673, remains the most by a Tigers player in a match to this day.
On that last Saturday in September 1980, when Richmond annihilated Collingwood to capture the premiership, Wiley had 26 disposals, took eight marks, and kicked three goals.
Wiley finished runner-up in the Tigers’ 1980 Best and Fairest award and was second again the following year.
He maintained his fine form in 1982, producing a roving/goalkicking masterclass against Essendon on Easter Monday at the MCG.
Richmond ran away from the Bombers to record a 62-point win in front of a massive crowd of 90,564, Wiley dominant with 33 disposals and seven goals.
The Tigers, unfortunately, fell short of Carlton in the 1982 Grand Final, but Wiley again was excellent on the big stage with 24 disposals (the equal second most by any player) and five marks.
His impressive tally of 40 goals for the 1982 season was the most he scored in his time at Tigerland.
That time was up at the end of 1983 with Wiley returning home to Perth.
He had played a total of 95 games for the Tigers, kicked 127 goals, averaged 23.6 disposals per match, and thrilled Yellow and Black barrackers with his exquisite skill set.
Richmond ‘Immortal’ Kevin Bartlett was a big Rob Wiley fan.
Here is what Bartlett, in his book “KB: A Life In Football”, had to say about Wiley . . .
“Robert won five best and fairests at the Perth Football Club before coming to Richmond and another three with Perth after he left Richmond.
His eight best-player awards show just what a champion player he was.
He was 24 when he came to Tigerland in 1979 and it was clear from the start that he was a ball magnet.
He was an outstanding rover and a brilliant forward, with equal ability on either foot and a League average of a goal a game.
Rob finished runner-up in the 1980 and ’81 Richmond best-and-fairest counts and came third in ’82.
We had him for only five seasons, but he was a great Richmond player in that time.
In particular, his 1980 finals series was magnificent – he averaged 28 disposals a game.
He always knew where the ball was going, and he never fumbled. He actually ended up taking my on-ball position; it was partly because of Rob’s talents that the club moved me to the half-forward flank . . .”