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Ronaldson once again a Tiger hero

Homecoming Hero: John Ronaldson Dual premiership player, John Ronaldson will be the Homecoming Hero for the Round 21 match against Geelong.
John Ronaldson will be the Round 21 Homecoming Hero

John Ronaldson is Richmond’s penultimate Homecoming Hero for 2016.

The Tigers will pay tribute to Ronaldson during the pre-game build-up at this Sunday’s Round 21 clash with Geelong at the MCG.

Ronaldson, who played 59 games and kicked 33 goals during a five-year senior career with Richmond from 1965-1970, including the 1967 and 1969 premierships, will walk to the Punt Road end of the ground, to receive the plaudits of the Tiger Army.

He’ll kick a ceremonial goal, then sign the football and present it to a Richmond fan in the crowd.

Get all the match day information for Sunday afternoon's match against Geelong at the MCG

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

Whenever Richmond’s drought-breaking premiership of 1967 is discussed, the name John Ronaldson prominently features.

Ronaldson, recruited by Richmond from suburban club East Malvern, worked his way up through the ranks at Tigerland, playing with the under 19s and then reserves, before making his senior league debut in the final round of the 1965 season against North Melbourne at Coburg Oval (the Kangaroos’ home ground that year).

The 196cm, 102 kg, young ruckman then was serviceable in 13 senior appearances throughout 1966 under the Tigers’ new coach Tommy Hafey.

He played the opening five games of 1967, but then was dropped following the Round 5 win against Hawthorn and spent the remainder of the home-and-away rounds in the VFL, as the senior Richmond side swept all before it, to finish on top of the ladder.

The Tigers proceeded to crush Carlton in the second semi-final, to advance through to the Grand Final, and a shot at their first premiership since 1943.

But, just when Ronaldson seemed destined to be sitting in the stands on Grand Final day, cheering his Tiger teammates on, fate intervened.

Veteran Richmond ruckman Neville Crowe, reported for striking his Carlton counterpart John Nicholls during the second semi-final, subsequently (inexplicably) received a four-match suspension from the league’s tribunal.

Crowe’s cruel misfortune turned out to be a blessing for John Ronaldson.

Tommy Hafey, and the other Tiger selectors, turned to the 20-year-old Ronaldson as a replacement for Crowe in Richmond’s Grand Final line-up to face a slick Geelong outfit.

The hope was that Ronaldson would, at least, provide the Club’s elevated No. 1 ruckman Mike Patterson with a chop-out in the crucial battle with Geelong’s champion big man Polly Farmer.

Ronaldson, however, was to deliver the Tigers with so much more than that . . .

In the second quarter of a classic Grand Final contest, Ronaldson received a handball from Tiger young gun Royce Hart, and promptly steered it through for full points.

Ronaldson continued to provide valuable ruck support for ‘Swamp Fox’ (Mike Patterson), without doing anything out of the ordinary – until the last quarter.

Richmond held a slender two-point lead going into the final term of the absorbing, see-sawing premiership-decider, as fans and critics alike pondered who would step up, over the course of the frenetic next half-hour, to guide their team to the ultimate success.

Would it be Hart, Barrot, Bartlett, Northey and Guinane for the Tigers?  Or would Farmer, Goggin, Wade, Sharrock and Marshall lift the Cats over the line?

The first goal of the last quarter went Richmond’s way, when star rover Kevin Bartlett cleverly roved a Ronaldson ruck tap and snapped truly.

Not to be denied, however, and in keeping with the fascinating fluctuating fortunes of the epic encounter, Geelong hit back.

The Cats clawed their way to a six-point lead and, with their significant edge in experience, looked the likely winners.

Enter John Ronaldson . . .

At the 18-minute mark of the final term, Ronaldson, at full stretch, marked a pass from young teammate Barry Richardson in front of the MCC Members’ Stand.

Ronaldson was about 65 metres out, on a tight angle, when he launched a prodigious drop-kick, which kept going, and going, and going . . . right through the upright perpendiculars for as inspirational a goal as you could ever wish to see, to level the scores.

Then, just a few minutes later, at the start of the time-on period, with the two teams locked together and the crowd of 109,396 roaring themselves hoarse, Ronaldson rose brilliantly to the magnitude of the moment yet again.

Big John was awarded a free kick by field umpire Peter Sheales, after being infringed against by Polly Farmer in a ruck contest at a boundary throw-in.

This time, Ronaldson was on the opposite side of the ground, in the forward pocket, about 50 metres out from goal.

He coolly went back and, although his kick was a wobbly punt, it did the trick, just clearing the goal-line for another crucial, team-lifting six-pointer, which put the Tigers back in front.

Bartlett subsequently booted the match-sealing goal, with the final siren signalling a momentous nine-point victory for Richmond, to break a 24-year premiership drought.

The enormous value of Ronaldson’s performance on Grand Final day 1967 belied his match statistics . . .

He finished with only six kicks, one mark and no handballs, but his three goals were worth their weight in gold.

Two years later, Ronaldson again played a valuable role for the Tigers in their 1969 Grand Final win against Carlton, to become a dual premiership player.

It was his heroic deeds on Saturday, September 23, 1967, however, in just his 20th game of league football, that John Ronaldson always will be fondly remembered for at Tigerland . . .

John Ronaldson Fact File

Born:  1/10/1946
Height:  196cm
Playing weight:  102kg
Recruited from:  East Malvern
Guernsey number at Richmond:  No. 2
Games at Richmond (1965-1970):  59
Goals at Richmond:  33
Honours at Richmond:  Dual premiership player.  Member of the Tigers’ 1967 and 1969 flag sides

Previous Homecoming Heroes:

2014, Rd 2: Michael Green 2014, Rd 4: Kevin Bartlett 2014, Rd 6: Bryan Wood
2014, Rd 13: Kevin Morris 2014, Rd 14: Wayne Walsh 2014, Rd 16: Barry Richardson
2014, Rd 19: Rex Hunt 2014, Rd 20: Francis Bourke 2015, Rd 2: Bill Barrot
2015, Rd 5: Andrew Kellaway 2015, Rd 7: Mark Lee 2015, Rd 9: Derek Peardon 
2015, R12: Dale Weightman 2015, R15: Matthew Richardson 2015, R17: Dick Clay
2015, R20: Barry Rowlings 2016, R6: Matthew Rogers 2016, R7: Jake King
2016, R8: Nick Daffy 2016, R12: Nathan Foley 2016, R14: Dan Jackson
2016, R17: Scott Turner  2016, R20: Jim Jess