As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Richmond’s drought-breaking 1967 premiership triumph, Richard Clay will be the Tigers next Homecoming Hero for 2017 . . .
Richmond are set to pay tribute to Clay, a star wingman in the ’67 flag side, during the pre-game build-up at this Saturday afternoon’s big Round 3 clash with West Coast at the MCG.
Clay, a four-time premiership player all-up at Tigerland, will walk to the Punt Road end of the ground, where he will be duly acclaimed by the Tiger Army.
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 Clay’s superb career with the Tigers also will be shown on the MCG’s screens.
Richard Clay arrived at Richmond in 1966 from Victorian country club Kyabram with a glowing reputation as a gun key forward, and he displayed impressive form in attack throughout his debut season with the Tigers.
By the time the momentous 1967 season rolled around, however, Clay had a new role in the Richmond line-up.
A talented teenager from Tasmania by the name of Royce Hart had catapulted himself into one of the team’s key forward posts, with veteran Paddy Guinane holding down the other one.
The Tigers’ brains trust decided that Clay’s football attributes would be ideally suited to a wing, where he could exploit the wide, open spaces of the MCG.
What a masterstroke that proved to be!
Clay, with his explosive pace, willingness to take the game on, strong marking, long kicking and poise, had an instant impact as a wingman in the Richmond line-up.
Later that season, a young, first-year player from Victorian country club Nathalia – Francis Bourke – was shifted from his forward pocket/second rover (to Kevin Bartlett) role to the other wing.
With ‘Bustling’ Billy Barrot in the centre (as he had been for several seasons), the trio became a dominant force, constantly generating enormous drive for the Tigers.
The combination of Bourke, Barrot and Clay, to this day, is recognised as the greatest centreline in VFL/AFL history, and one of the most famous football lines overall.
Clay played 18 games in season ‘67, averaging 17.3 disposals per match.
His home-and-away season highlights were 27 disposals against Hawthorn in Round 5 at the MCG, 26 v Melbourne in Round 10 at the MCG, 23 v Geelong in Round 7 at the MCG, 22 v Footscray in Round 13 at the MCG, 21 v Essendon in Round 1 at the MCG, and 10 marks v North Melbourne in Round 15 at the MCG.
The fact all those games were at the MCG (and all Richmond wins), highlighted Clay’s capacity as a key performer on the premier ground in the competition.
In the 18 games, overall, that Clay played throughout the ’67 season he was involved in 15 wins and just three losses.
The last of those 1967 wins was the thrilling nine-point victory over Geelong in a classic Grand Final encounter.
Clay was a valuable contributor in Richmond winning its first premiership since 1943, utilising his pace, long kicking and composure to the team’s advantage against the Cats, on that glorious last Saturday in September ‘67.
Years later, in Elliot Cartledge’s excellent book, ‘The Hafey Years’, Clay reflected on his, and Francis Bourke’s, collective efforts as wingmen during Richmond’s 1967 premiership season.
“When Francis (Bourke) came onto the scene the beauty of it was we would probably get 20 to 25 kicks each and pump the ball down to Royce (Hart) and Paddy Guinane. The law of averages would suggest we were going to score from those attacks. Plus, Neville Crowe could always drag the opposition ruckman to one flank when we had the kick out from full-back, and I’d take the mark on the other flank. So we were taking marks, kicking the ball long, kicking goals ourselves. And it was a new innovation, all because of Richmond moving to the MCG and wanting to recruit tall, running players who could play in different positions.”
Richard Clay fact file
Playing weight: 89kg
Recruited to Richmond from: Kyabram
Guernsey number at Richmond: No. 8
Games at Richmond (1966-1976): 213
Honours at Richmond: Four-time premiership player (1967, 1969, 1973, 1974); member of the Tigers’ Team of the Century; Richmond Hall of Fame inductee; Club life member