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Billy, you are a hero

Homecoming Hero: Bill Barrot Dual premiership player and 1965 best and fairest, Bill Barrot is Richmond's Round 2 Homecoming Hero.

Bill Barrot is Richmond’s first Homecoming Hero for 2015.

The Tigers will honor their dual premiership star during the pre-game build-up at this Saturday afternoon’s Round 2 clash with the Western Bulldogs at the MCG.

Barrot, a pivotal member of Richmond’s 1967 and 1969 premiership sides, and who played in the Tigers’ first MCG home game 50 years ago (Round 1, 1965 v Melbourne), will walk to the Punt Road end of the ground, to receive acknowledgment from the Yellow and Black faithful.

He will then proceed to kick a ceremonial goal, before signing the football and handing it to a Richmond fan in the crowd.

Highlights of Barrot’s dynamic career with the Tigers also will be shown on the MCG’s screens.

Barrot, who was recruited by Richmond from Jordanville, which was in the heart of its metropolitan zone at the time, made his first senior appearance for the Tigers in Round 17 of the 1961 season, against Geelong at Kardinia Park, at 17 years and 105 days of age.

Richmond lost that match by 31 points, but Barrot booted a goal and did enough on debut to retain his place in the line-up the following week for the final home-and-away round match of the ’61 season (v Hawthorn at Punt Road, which the Tigers lost by 25 points).

Injuries hampered Barrot over the next couple of seasons, but Len Smith’s arrival at Tigerland as coach in 1964 was the catalyst for the young centreman taking his game to another level and establishing himself as a key member of the side.

Smith, unfortunately, was forced to step down as coach in 1965 due to ill health, but Barrot’s league career continued to blossom, and he was rewarded for his fine performances throughout that season with the Jack Dyer Medal.

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Barrot would go on to thrive under the astute coaching guidance of Tommy Hafey, who took over the reins at Richmond in late 1965.

Like his coach, Barrot was a fitness fanatic.  He was a pioneer in the competition with regards to weight training and getting his body in peak condition for the weekly on-field battles.

As a result of his tremendous fitness and strength, he was able to consistently outrun opponents and wear them down over the course of the four quarters.  

In my 50 years of intense Yellow and Black barracking, Barrot is the most electrifying Richmond player I have seen.

There have been more skilful, polished, consistent performers throughout those five decades, but in terms of taking a game by the scruff of the neck, and setting the Tigers alight, ‘Bustling Billy’ is a stand-out.

For those Richmond supporters who didn’t have the good fortune of seeing Barrot in full flight, I’d compare his explosive playing style with that of current-day Tiger young gun Dustin Martin, in terms of their capacity to be dominant through the midfield, as well as mighty dangerous when shifted deep forward, due to their awesome power in one-on-one duels.

Barrot was an outright match-winner, who loved nothing better than strutting his stuff on centre stage at the MCG in September in front of a huge crowd.

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The man also affectionately known as ‘Bugsy’ was the driving force behind Richmond’s drought-breaking 1967 premiership triumph, producing a superb best-on-ground display in that Grand Final classic against Geelong.

His match statistics in the ’67 Grand Final were impressive enough – 27 disposals, seven marks and one goal – but they alone don’t do justice to the role he played on the day.

It was Barrot’s aggression, energy, exuberance and win-at-all-costs attitude that did so much to lift the Tigers to an historic premiership win.

Two years later, Barrot rose to the challenge again in brilliant fashion on that ‘one day in September ‘69’ . . . 

After a relatively quiet start to the big game against Richmond’s arch rival, Carlton, Barrot was switched from his customary role in the centre, to full-forward, where he lined up on rugged Blues’ full-back Wes Lofts.

This was a move Tiger coach Tommy Hafey had made about a month earlier, with the team trailing Carlton at Princes Park by plenty in a must-win game.

Barrot went on to kick eight goals from full-forward and inspire the Tigers to a memorable win, which clinched a finals berth for them.

In the ’69 GF, the same positional change had a similarly positive effect.

Within a matter of minutes after being swung to full-forward in the second quarter, Barrot turned the tide of the game, booting two goals and setting up another six-pointer for the side.

After the first of those goals, a fired-up Barrot waved one finger in the air and yelled at Lofts that there was more to come. The Tigers supporters roared their approval, and the team responded in superb style.

Barrot finished the Grand Final with three goals and plenty of accolades for the part he’d played in a second Richmond premiership in the space of three seasons.

It was vintage Bugsy, further underlining his inspirational qualities and connection with the Tiger Army.

As he said years later in an interview:  “I grabbed the energy of the crowd – the for and against energy – and made it happen. Supporters in those days used to really barrack. I was that high on adrenalin that my feet never touched the ground . . . The way I played football was kill or be killed. I played like a gladiator and trained like that, too. Every week I was told someone was going to knock my block off.  As long as we won, I didn’t mind.”

It was that gladiatorial approach to the game which so endeared Billy Barrot to members of the Yellow and Black faith.

Bill Barrot fact file

Born:  6/5/1944
Height:  180cm
Playing weight:  82kg
Recruited to Richmond from:  Jordanville
Guernsey number at Richmond:  No. 24
Debut for Richmond:  Round 17, 1961 v Geelong, Kardinia Park
Games for Richmond (1961-1970):  120
Goals for Richmond:  91
Honours at Richmond:  Dual premiership player – 1967, 1969; member of the Tigers’ Team of the Century; Richmond Hall of Fame inductee; Jack Dyer Medallist in 1965