Mark Lee is Richmond’s third Homecoming Hero for 2015 . . .
The Tigers will honor Lee during the pre-game build-up at this Sunday afternoon’s big Round 7 clash with Collingwood at the MCG.
Lee, a pivotal member of the Club’s last premiership side in 1980, and a former Tiger captain, will walk to the Punt Road end of the ground to receive due recognition from the Yellow and Black faithful.
He will then proceed to kick a ceremonial goal, before signing the football and presenting it to a Richmond fan in the crowd.
Highlights of Lee’s successful career with the Tigers also will be shown on the MCG screens.
Mark Lee was a product of Richmond’s old Victorian country recruiting zone in the Sunraysia League.
He played senior football for Mildura, aged just 16, in 1975, and was subsequently recruited by Richmond at the end of that year.
The strapping, young ruckman spent the 1976 season in the Tigers’ under-19s team, before graduating to the reserves the following year.
Late in the 1977 season, Lee received a call-up to Richmond’s senior line-up. He made a promising league debut in the Round 18 clash with Essendon at the MCG, at 18 years, 124 days of age, finishing with 13 disposals, five marks and 12 hit-outs in a 46-point win by the Tigers.
Lee played one more game that season, against Footscray in Round 19.
By the second half of the following year (1978), Lee had established himself as a permanent fixture in the Richmond side.
He would go on to become the Tigers’ No. 1 ruckman for more than a decade, generating great drive for the team due to his exceptional mobility for a player his size, a great leap, and the ability to consistently punch the ball a long way forward at centre bounces.
It was that centre-bounce work, which was such a feature of Lee’s superb performance in Richmond’s crushing 81-point victory over Collingwood in the 1980 Grand Final.
Lee took on, and defeated, a top-class opponent in the Magpies’ ruck star Peter Moore, paving the way for the Tigers’ talented fleet of running players to run riot.
The smaller Richmond players always walked that bit taller under the protectorship of the man affectionately known as ‘The General’.
He had a great understanding with fellow Mildura ‘export’, Dale Weightman, the pair forming one of the best ruck/rover combinations in league football throughout the 1980s.
During the 1982 season, Lee showed he could also be used successfully in another on-field role.
Over a three-week period, from Round 17-19, Lee starred at full-forward for the Tigers, booting 18 goals (four v Melbourne, nine v St Kilda and five v Geelong), while regular spearhead star Michael Roach enjoyed the greater freedom of the ruck position.
Lee won the Jack Dyer Medal in 1984, after finishing second in 1983. He captained the Tigers from 1985-87 and was awarded Life Membership of the Club in 1986.
Richmond ‘Immortal’, Kevin Bartlett, in his book “KB: A Life In Football” was full of praise for Mark Lee, who he played alongside in the Club’s 1980 premiership side, and subsequently coached at Tigerland.
“’The General’ was a ruckman who was amazingly athletic for his height. I couldn’t get over how quick he was for a man who was 199cm.
“His agility made him an outstanding player and his best football came when it mattered most, the 1980 finals series, when he destroyed everyone with his all-round brilliance.
“His ruckwork was team-lifting stuff; he ran in at the centre bounce, leapt high and thumped the ball 25 metres.
“He was one of the few ruckmen at that stage whose game included ground skills, strength, power, and leg-speed. He was as much a giant midfielder as he was a ruckman . . . He didn’t have the sure hands of Michael Green, but his midfield skills set him apart.”
Mark Lee Fact File
Playing weight: 95.5kg
Recruited to Richmond from: Mildura
Guernsey number at Richmond: No. 41 and No. 1
Games at Richmond (1977-1991): 233
Honors at Richmond: Member of Richmond’s 1980 premiership side; Club captain 1985-1987; Jack Dyer Medal winner in 1984; Life Member in 1986
Mark Lee and Collingwood's Peter Moore contest a ruck contest in the 1980 Grand Final