On a perfect spring Saturday afternoon, late September of 1967, Richmond defeated Geelong by nine points (16.18 to 15.15) to break what, until then, had been the longest premiership drought in the Club’s history.
At the end of a truly classic contest, the Tigers emerged with their first flag since 1943.
It was the first Grand Final I’d been to, and I remember the momentous occasion like it was yesterday. To this day, it’s still the best Grand Final I’ve seen, notwithstanding the recent Yellow and Black glory on the last day of the season.
The lead see-sawed right throughout the match, with the result in doubt virtually until the final siren.
So many greats of the game showcased their superb skills that afternoon – the likes of Bartlett, Dean, Hart, Bourke, Barrot, Clay for Richmond and Farmer, Goggin, Wade, Marshall, Sharrock, Closter for Geelong.
Throw in the heroic efforts of little-known (at the time) Tiger tall John Ronaldson (three goals), the delightful drop-kicks of Richmond captain Fred Swift from full-back, the bullocking work and creative handball of Matthew Richardson’s father, “Bull” Richardson, plus a smattering of controversy, and all the ingredients were there for a truly memorable Grand Final.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason, in the decades since, the 1967 Grand Final has not received the recognition it so thoroughly deserves.
The most recent example of the shunning of the ’67 premiership-decider came a couple of weeks ago when Fox Footy introduced its “Ultimate Grand Final Countdown: The top 10 VFL/AFL Grand Finals of all time”.
Not only was the 1967 Grand Final not included in that top-10 list it didn’t even make the initial ‘squad’ of 20 Grand Finals from which the final 10 were chosen.
I will admit to a degree of bias with this, given it was the inaugural Grand Final I’d witnessed, and the Tigers prevailed following four quarters of frenetic action. It is time, however, for the 1967 Grand Final to be acknowledged for the epic encounter that it was.
Anyway, that’s enough from me about the ’67 GF. I’ll leave it to some of the football experts of the day (along with both clubs’ captains and coaches) to review the tremendous Tigers’ triumph on that one day in September 1967 . . .
‘Footy Week’ editor, Harry Beitzel, wrote:
“RICHMOND won their first peace-time premiership since 1934 when they defeated Geelong before a crowd of 109,396 on the MCG.
Only nine points separated the two sides when the final siren sounded.
Already the match has been acclaimed one of the greatest exhibitions of football ever played.
Richmond were unforgettable in winning: Geelong were magnificent in defeat.
Four times in the torrid last quarter the scores were level as players on both sides rose to undreamed of heights. Five times the lead changed.
But Richmond – the side that has played the best football this season – could not be stopped.
Not even the handball of Farmer, the pace of Goggin or the elusiveness of Sharrock, could stop Richmond from scoring the last two goals of the match which sealed the issue.
Centreman Bill Barrot is the toast of Richmond.
Barrot – rough, tough and brilliant – was the man mainly responsible for his side’s win.
Whenever his side looked like faltering, Barrot was the man that corrected its step.
Geelong tried Closter and Marshall on him, but neither could curb his brilliance.
No player could have matched Barrot as he tore away from the centre and planted the ball right into the goal square.
Richmond’s second best player was 19-year-old Royce Hart, who spent most of the game at centre half-forward.
Hart has matured as a footballer this season. On Saturday he came of age.
Geelong captain and former West Australian Graham Farmer led his side inspiringly.
His handball – which revolutionised Victorian football – was at its best again.
His long footpassing had the crowd gasping with awe as he slammed the ball on to the chest of a teammate 60 yards away.
But in the final minutes of the last quarter, Farmer – after such a gallant effort – had driven himself into the ground.
Sensation of the opening term was two reports. West and Wade were on the receiving end of the reports.
Richmond suffered more from Grand Final nerves and early in the game all players tried to bump opponents instead of winning the race to the ball.
Sharrock thrilled the crowd with his play. One raking footpass hit Wade on the chest and he goaled.
Three minutes later the arena arose as one to acclaim the brilliant Goggin who showed amazing speed to break from the pack and kick the Cats’ third goal.
In the second term Hart was at centre half-forward and Guinane had gone to full-forward.
Then 22 minutes into the quarter Geelong were forced to shift Closter from the devastating Barrot. Marshall went into the pivot, but could not curb the Tiger champion.
Just before the half-time siren Bill Goggin raced clear and goaled, an important major as the Cats were now still 16 points down.
Richmond had the better of the first half – mainly because they were more direct in their approach to goal.
Geelong had their share of the play but were taking three kicks to do the same as Richmond were doing with one kick.
Geelong were late on to the field and Ryan was now at centre half-forward. Andrews was in a forward pocket and in the ruck and the Cats had two rovers running together.
Farmer was supreme and Sharrock was cutting loose on the half-forward line.
Guinane was off his game and was throwing his weight around and giving away frees.
Four minutes into the third quarter and Geelong had hit the front.
This is how it happened . . .
Sharrock tapped the ball to Goggin going past and one and a half minutes into the quarter Geelong had their first goal for the quarter on the board.
Then Andrews, shepherded by Chris Mitchell, added the second. A penalty free to Wade and the Cats were on top.
Three minutes later Wade received the second magnificent footpass from Sharrock and Geelong were on their way.
But just when they looked like taking the game, and Richmond started to use too much vigor, Barrot and Hart played their best football of the match.
These two steadied their side and by three-quarter time Richmond were two points in front.
Bartlett kicked the first goal of the final term to take his side to an eight-point lead.
Geelong were starting to fall into errors, but their supporters’ hopes were raised when ruckman Ryan kicked a goal.
Then followed two points before half-forward flanker Sharrock kicked Geelong’s 15th and his third for the game.
But it was short-lived.
Producing their best football of the match the Tigers through Ronaldson swept to the front again.
Ronaldson kicked Richmond’s 14th and 15th goal to give his side the lead.
When rover Bartlett bounced back from a pack into an open goal and kicked Richmond’s 16th goal, the game had been sealed.”
Here’s how chief football writer for ‘The Age’, former Melbourne champion, Percy Beames, saw the ’67 Grand Final unfold . . .
“Richmond captain Fred Swift does not believe in half measures. The 29-year-old full-back came off the field on Saturday as Richmond’s 1967 premiership captain, and promptly announced his retirement from League football.
In his only season as Richmond captain, Swift now quits the League scene as the Tigers’ most successful leader over the past 24 years.
The win, 16.18 to 15.15, ended a Richmond premiership drought that had dogged the club since 1943.
But while Richmond took the premiership, Geelong emerged from the Grand Final as a team equally deserving of this coveted football honor in the eyes of the 109,392 crowd.
Geelong matched Richmond in skill, clever teamwork and fighting spirit to produce such a top-class Grand Final that it was almost unfair that one team had to lose.
Only one thing marred the day – the reporting of two Geelong players.
The umpires alone seemed to read unnecessary roughness into the incidents.
Geelong full-forward Doug Wade was reported by field umpire Peter Sheales for striking Graham Burgin of Richmond with the clenched fist.
Full-back Roy West has to face a charge laid by goal umpire B. Grant of striking Richmond forward Royce Hart.
West played his last game on Saturday. The Geelong full-back conducts a hotel at Stawell, and he intends to play with the local club next season.
Richmond’s premiership win goes much deeper than efforts produced by players on Saturday.
The first seeds of this premiership were sown in 1964, when the late Len Smith changed the pattern of Richmond’s teamwork.
Then came the big switch of headquarters to the MCG, and once they had settled in, the Tigers concentrated on securing big, fast recruits to suit the needs of the big ground.
As Saturday’s win proved, the Tigers have succeeded well, and the two prime forces in topping off the team are coach Tom Hafey, a quietly spoken, but fiercely determined man, and untiring secretary Graeme Richmond.
When something had to be done, they simply set out to get results in the shortest possible time, and if tough decisions had to be made, they were tackled without any show of sentiment.
Neville Crowe lost the Richmond captaincy this season; then there was the disciplinary action in standing down Bill Barrot after he had criticised the club, and finally the bold decision taken to regroup the team late in the season.
Swift was a case in point. Late in the season the selectors decided the full-back position was not being filled to their satisfaction, so Mick Erwin was dumped and Swift, a half-forward flanker and ruck-rover, took over.
Swift’s success against Carlton in the second semi-final, and again in holding crack Geelong forward Doug Wade to four goals on Saturday, proved the wisdom of the move.
Swift showed coolness and steadiness all day, particularly when he marked a kick from Geelong rover Bill Goggin close to the line minutes before the siren.
Geelong was 10 points down at the time, and Swift covered a lot of distance with surprising speed to get to the ball and hold a mark. Had he failed to get there it would have been a goal.
Spurred on by that success, Geelong might have built up another frenzied effort to have carried out another last-minute attack.
Some Geelong players, and particularly captain Polly Farmer, were emphatic that Swift did not save the goal.
Farmer declared that Swift marked the ball after it had passed the goal line, but whether he did or did not, no one is ever going to know.
The goal umpire said not, and as far as Richmond and Swift are concerned that is all that matters.
The great thing about the game was that it was climaxed by a last quarter of continuous, nerve-wracking excitement as both teams struggled desperately to get on top.
It began with Richmond leading by two points. Then four times the sides were level, and more than once each won and lost what looked like being deciding advantages.
In the end it was not anything specific that decided that Richmond was to take the premiership.
The Tigers got the run of the ball at the right time, umpire Sheales saw fit to penalise Geelong in one or two decisions and a couple of telling kicks went through for goals.
When goals were hard to get 6ft 5in John Ronaldson kicked two magnificent ones, yet Geelong’s last four scoring shots, not counting Bill Goggin’s marked kick, produced only four points. It was as simple as that.
To that stage Ronaldson had done little all day, and it was ironic that his first goal, from about 50 yards out, almost from the boundary line, was meant to be a kick to position.
He tried to land the ball somewhere in the square to give one of the high flyers a chance to take a mark.
His second goal, seven minutes later, was from an angle just as acute.
Then rover Kevin Bartlett bounced out of a pack blindly, but perfectly, and with non one between him and the goals, popped the ball through virtually to sew up the game for the Tigers.
But the point that must not be overlooked is that Richmond had the determination to come back hard and grasp its chances.
When a side does this, no one can rightly begrudge it its good fortune.
It is also well to remember that the Tigers were never behind at the end of any quarter of the match.
The big thing that counted all day for Richmond was that in midfielder Bill Barrot, it had a brilliant kick-winner, who never ceased to keep the Geelong defence under pressure.
Richmond also had an outstanding forward in Royce Hart, and once it settled down, was able to depend on a fairly formidable defence.”
The then dual St Kilda Brownlow Medallist, Ian Stewart, in his column for ‘The Age’ newspaper, wrote:
“Congratulations to Richmond and Geelong on a superb game of football. The thrills and artistry of Saturday’s Grand Final will live in the memory a long time.
And, well done, Tigers. It was a magnificent climax to the team’s great season. You were the best side in the competition, by a good margin, and thoroughly deserved the premiership flag.
But you were not the better side on the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. In my opinion, Geelong played superior football, and needed only a couple of breaks to have won.
This would have been most unfortunate and perhaps unjust, because I believe that if Richmond and Geelong were to play seven times, Richmond would win five of them.
Richmond, much of its team skill having deserted it in the Grand Final, pulled the game out with raw courage, amazing stamina and an epic performance by centreman Bill Barrot.
I talked last week about Geelong’s coolness in the face of adversity, but this paled against Richmond’s steadfastness after Geelong’s demoralising burst at the beginning of the third quarter.
The thousands of Richmond supporters who sagged in dejection as the Geelong machine was winding up should remember that this is exactly what the players must have been tempted to do.
If their determination had wavered for an instant, they were gone. Actually, a few did seem to falter for a short time.
But most fought even more fiercely and one, in particular, little Bill Brown, set an example in courage at this critical time which must have given the Tigers a great lift.
Having seen the Geelong blitz destroy both Collingwood and Carlton, it took a lot of Richmond faith to say it would not be destroyed.
But all the faith in the world would not have been enough if it had not been for the team’s amazing stamina.
I thought Geelong would be the team to kick on, because its precise use of the ball was less taxing on energy.
Richmond’s blaze-away percentage football can be quite exhausting, and on Saturday its score was not equal to the effort expended.
But, in the end, although the Tigers were just plodding, they were plodding somewhat faster than the Cats.
In brief, here are some of my observations from the match:
- Richmond badly missed Neville Crowe in the ruck.
- What a great and polished player Graham Farmer is! It was danger for Richmond every time he touched the ball.
- Bill Barrot, with his explosive energy and his rain of long drop kicks, was a real match-winner. If Geelong had put a purely negative player on him in the second half it might have won.
- Royce Hart has everything and is one of the best prospects I have ever seen. To play so brilliantly, so confidently and with such determination in his first Grand Final, stamps him a complete player. What great marks he took in the last quarter!
- Full-backs Fred Swift and Roy West never put a foot wrong, but Swift’s kicking was perfection. At the end, when he was getting tired, a moderate kick-out could have been pardoned, but Fred kicked them even further.
- Much of the credit for the high standard of the match must go to umpire Peter Sheales, who kept a firm hand, but did not inhibit the flow of play with over-technical free kicks.”
Richmond coach Tommy Hafey said: “This Grand Final victory came in one of those games in which each coach died a thousand deaths. I felt every Richmond player wanted to win this flag, and was not going to concede defeat. There will not be any over-confidence at Richmond as there has been at other clubs which have won a flag and then slumped the next season. Both sides had this game won, and then lost it, but Richmond was ahead at the final siren.”
Richmond captain Fred Swift said: “This premiership win was a great tribute to the way the Richmond committee, coach and players have blended together to bring the club up from the doldrums. I must congratulate every Richmond player for the way the side fought back. Each knew this was a premiership we had to win. And congratulations go Geelong for making such a wonderful spectacle of the game.”
Geelong coach Peter Pianto said: “Both teams were even on the day. In fact, I think the better team lost. The scores were no indication that Richmond was the superior side. Richmond got the breaks when needed in the last quarter, especially in the last vital five minutes. Congratulations to Richmond – it worked hard for the premiership. But I am very proud of Geelong. The side could not have done any better and every player gave his utmost.”
Geelong captain ‘Polly’ Farmer said: “We let the game slip out of our fingers through a couple of careless mistakes, and Richmond finished just a little better than we did. We had plenty of opportunities to win, but wasted them through careless kicking.”
1967 Grand Final details
Richmond 4.3 9.10 12.15 16.18 (114)
Geelong 3.3 7.6 13.7 15.15 (105)
Goals – Richmond: Brown 3, Bartlett 3, Hart 3, Ronaldson 3, A. Richardson, Guinane, Barrot, B. Richardson.
Best – Richmond: Barrot, Hart, Bartlett, Patterson, Brown, Swift, B. Richardson, A. Richardson, Dean, M. Perry.
Goals – Geelong: Sharrock 4, Wade 4, Goggin 3, Andrews, Eales, Hynes, Ryan.
Best – Geelong: Goggin, Sharrock, Farmer, West, Polinelli, Newland.
Richmond player match statistics
Roger Dean: 16 kicks, 1 handball, 3 marks
Fred Swift: 8 kicks, 1 handball, 5 marks
Tony Jewell: 10 kicks, 2 handballs, 3 marks
Graham Burgin: 6 kicks, 2 handballs, 1 mark
Mike Perry: 12 kicks, 2 handballs, 3 marks
Geoff Strang: 10 kicks, 4 handballs, 6 marks
Francis Bourke: 8 kicks, 2 handballs, 3 marks
Bill Barrot: 26 kicks, 1 handball, 7 marks
Dick Clay: 11 kicks, 1 handball, 1 mark
John Northey: 8 kicks, 2 handballs, 3 marks
Paddy Guinane: 5 kicks, 2 handballs, 3 marks
Barry Richardson: 15 kicks, 1 handball, 5 marks
John Ronaldson: 6 kicks, 0 handballs, 1 mark
Royce Hart: 13 kicks, 6 handballs, 7 marks
Billy Brown: 17 kicks, 2 handballs, 2 marks
Mike Patterson: 12 kicks, 3 handballs, 4 marks
Alan Richardson: 13 kicks, 7 handballs, 3 marks
Kevin Bartlett: 16 kicks, 2 handballs, 2 marks
Michael Green, 19th man: 0 kicks, 0 handballs, 0 marks
John Perry, 20th man: 2 kicks, 0 handballs, 0 marks
Total: 214 kicks, 44 handballs, 60 marks