Richmond is mourning the passing of its oldest living Best and Fairest winner, and Hall of Fame inductee, Havel Rowe, at 90 years of age.
Rowe (full name Stuart Havel Rowe) was a shining light for Richmond throughout the Club’s barren decade of the 1950s.
He had played school football at Geelong College before moving to Melbourne, where he joined amateur club Ormond.
It was during his time at Ormond that Rowe attracted the attention of the Tigers with his all-round skills set.
They sent the big guns out to Ormond to convince Rowe that his football career would be best served at Tigerland.
“Jack Dyer (Richmond’s captain-coach) and Maurie Fleming (the Club’s renowned secretary) came over to a pie night one time and convinced me to go to Richmond,” Rowe recalled in Rhett Bartlett’s excellent book, ‘Richmond FC: A Century of League Football’.
“I admired Jack, he was a terrific bloke, great approach, very friendly.
“I lived in Caulfield at the time, it was a Melbourne area. I just moved from the country and I had about six weeks to make up my mind or else I was a Melbourne player, because you had to live in the area for 12 months.
“So I made up my mind and decided I would go to Richmond.
“I went down and trained with them at the end of that year when I finished with the Amateurs . . .”
Rowe made his senior league debut with the Tigers in Round 5 of the 1948 season against Essendon at Windy Hill, just a week after turning 20.
It was a hectic time for him because he was studying accounting and had an exam the night before that clash with the Bombers.
“It was a two-hour exam and I finished it in an hour and then I was home ready for the match the next day,” Rowe said.
“I played on the wing and played against (Essendon’s) Chris Lambert . . . I played pretty well.
“Dyer was full-forward and he came steaming out for a pass and I came running around the boundary bouncing the ball and I hit him on the chest with a stab pass.
“I came in at half-time and he said, ‘Next time put the lace out, will you please’ . . .”
Rowe’s senior debut with the Tigers was all the more memorable due to the match finishing in a draw (Richmond 14.11 to Essendon 13.17).
“When I came off, Bill Morris, who was the star ruckman and won his Brownlow that year, gave me a big hug for doing well,” he said.
Rowe would show promising signs in a further seven appearances for Richmond’s senior side during the ’48 season.
It took him until 1952, however, before he cemented a place in the Tigers’ main line-up.
He played 16 games that season and regularly figured among the team’s best players.
The best season of Rowe’s 10-year league career followed in 1953.
Although Richmond won only three games, drew one, and finished 10th (of 12 teams), avoiding the wooden spoon by just two points, Rowe shone throughout.
The then 25-year-old played all 18 games and capped off an excellent individual season by winning the Club’s Best and Fairest award.
“It (1953) was the first year I was really in the centre for the whole year,” Rowe said.
“The year I won the Best and Fairest, I didn’t get a vote in the Brownlow.
“Bill Hutchison won the Brownlow in 1953 and he got votes in the last match, but I reckon I was the best player on the ground.
“That happened to me a couple of times.
“I played against (Essendon’s) Jack Clarke in the centre and he got three votes in the paper and I reckon I beat him.
“That was my game . . . I was more an under-the-pack player, rather than spectacular. But people look for that spectacular side of people that I didn’t have. I wasn’t a high mark, but I reckon I was a solid mark.”
Another feature of Rowe’s game was his handball, which was used sparingly, to say the least, in league football back then.
“They reckon I was the only one who handballed in my day,” Rowe said.
“Dyer mentioned later he thought I was before my time because I used to think about what was going on.
“When I was on the half-forward flank, Geoff Spring was often on the wing, and he had terrific pace. He used to come running past and I would flip him the pass.
“It was just a pattern of play. It was man-to-man and it was quick-paced.”
Rowe went on to play 124 games with Richmond, before retiring at the end of the 1957 season.
He had provided the Tigers with fine value playing in a variety of on-field roles – wing, centre and half-forward – through some particularly tough times for the team.
That same year (1957), Rowe was honoured with Richmond life membership.
Six decades later (in 2015), the Tigers inducted Rowe into their Hall of Fame.
Havel Rowe fact file
Playing weight: 73kg
Recruited to Richmond from: Ormond Amateurs
Playing position: Wing/centre/half-forward
Guernsey number at Richmond: No. 3
Games at Richmond (1948-1957): 124
Goals at Richmond: 43
Honours at Richmond: Best and Fairest winner in 1953, Club life membership in 1957, Tigers’ Hall of Fame inductee in 2015