With the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in full swing, Tony Greenberg reflects on Richmond’s successful involvement in the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games.
Just 11 days after Richmond had gone into the 1982 Grand Final as a warm favourite against arch-rival Carlton, and lost by 18 points, the Tigers had a unique opportunity to gain some quick revenge.
Our home-grown game of Australian Football had been given the green light to be part of Brisbane’s Commonwealth Games, as a demonstration sport.
The two powerhouse teams of the day, Richmond and Carlton, were to showcase Australian Football at the Gabba which, back then, was far better known for hosting cricket matches and even greyhound races for a period of time.
Although nothing can erase the bitter memories of defeat in a league Grand Final, the Tigers were keen to gain some bragging rights over the Blues by winning the prestigious exhibition match.
On Wednesday, October 6, 1982, a crowd of about 15,000, and an international TV audience of several million, saw Richmond, with Kevin Bartlett and Maurice Rioli in typically brilliant form, take home Gold, defeating Carlton in an entertaining match that produced a staggering 54 goals in total.
Here’s a report on the match, which appeared in ‘The Age’ newspaper from journalist Neil Mitchell (nowadays a top-rating broadcaster on 3AW) . . .
“Do not let it be said that yesterday’s Commonwealth Games exhibition Australian football match was without tense moments, despite the obvious problems of players having to turn out for what Carlton coach David Parkin described as a ‘repechage’.
And further, let there be no doubt that the most nerve tingling of these moments came during the three-quarter time interval. It was then, as the Carlton and Richmond sides gathered for their all too necessary rest, that a group of Australian athletes, dressed in their team uniform, decided to provide a brief exhibition of their own.
Headed by 800-metre chance Peter Bourke, and the back-pocket-like builds of Bev Francis and Gael Mulhall, the athletes proceeded to criss-cross the ground with a not entirely adept display of the great Australian game.
Now, fit as these people may be, there are different muscles required in kicking, marking and tackling than there are in most forms of athletics. So it was with some discomfort that a section of the crowd watched the performance, dreading the inevitable torn hamstring, jarred knee or broken finger.
But it didn’t happen, so we returned to the football and the tension eased.
The Grand Final replay, incidentally, was won by Richmond by 18 points, the same margin by which Carlton won in the rather more serious match 11 days earlier.
The football was high scoring on the small but incongruous Gabba ground – Richmond 28.16 (184) to Carlton 26.10 (166) – and there was the customary Carlton third quarter burst which yielded 11.2.
But as an exhibition match it was exactly that. There were about 15,000 enthusiastic supporters at the ground (many dressed in the strange footy garb of shorts, team scarf and nothing else) but the match lacked ferocity.
The Richmond side was obviously more determined, even more motivated, than Carlton. After all it had something to prove. But the most significant football happening of the day was that Brian Taylor limped from the ground after again injuring his right knee, which was operated on earlier this year.
Taylor, whose future at the club is under a cloud because he did not play in the Grand Final, said after the game the injury was “not too bad”. That probably remains to be seen, and he is to seek medical advice when he returns to Melbourne.
Richmond coach Francis Bourke and his players were delighted by the reversal they achieved, and they fought hard for it.
“We had an obligation to ourselves and to our supporters,” Bourke said after the game. “We wanted to win for our own peace of mind.”
Parkin and Bourke agreed that the exhibition lacked the “ferocity” of the Grand Final, which was not surprising. Both also defended the standard of the game.
Parkin said he believed the game as an exhibition offered everything Australian Football had to offer. But he agreed it was hard for the sides to come up so soon after the big event.
“Who really wants to play an exhibition immediately after a Grand Final,” he asked. “I think it would be the most difficult emotional experience that an athlete could face. It is like missing out on Gold and then having to play off for Bronze.”
But he said the players were sufficiently professional to play the match “in the right way”.
For the record, Richmond’s Maurice Rioli topped off his superb Grand Final performance with best on the ground yesterday, Kevin Bartlett kicked classic Bartlett goals and Peter Bosustow took classic Bosustow marks.
Perhaps we really were all just a little too pre-occupied with Peter Bourke and 800 metres.”
Richmond 6.3 14.7 18.10 28.16 (184)
Carlton 4.4 10.7 21.9 26.10 (166)