It was on October 2, 1920 that the Tigers defeated Collingwood by 17 points – 7.10 (52) to 5.5 (35) – to claim their inaugural premiership in the then VFL competition.

Richmond, which left the VFA, where it won two premierships, to join the VFL in 1908, had made the league’s Grand Final for the first time in 1919, only to be comfortably beaten by the Magpies.

But the Tigers entered the 1920 season with renewed optimism after securing the services of former Collingwood skipper and star, Dan Minogue, as their captain-coach.

Under Minogue’s astute and inspirational guidance, Richmond won 14 of 16 home-and-away games that season to finish on top of the ladder, just ahead of Fitzroy on percentage.

The Tigers started their 1920 finals campaign with a 23-point loss to Carlton in the semi-final, but the top-of-the-ladder finish assured them of a passage into the Grand Final, where they would meet Collingwood for a second successive year.

1920 Grand Final details

Richmond 1.2 2.5 4.7 7.10 52
Collingwood 1.2 1.2 3.4 5.5 35

Goals: Don 2, Weatherill, Harley, H James, W James, Hall.
Best: Hislop, H.James, Hall, Moffatt, Herbert, Smith, Thorp, Hede.

The 1920 premiership team 

Backs R Hede V Thorp E Taylor
Half Backs J Smith M Hislop G Parkinson
Centres S Morris F Hughes R Carew
Half Forwards D Don R Weatherill F Harley
Forwards H James D Minogue W James
Ruck B Herbert D Moffatt  
Rover C Hall    
Coach Dan Minogue    

1920 Grand Final review

This game was played in fine weather before a crowd of 53,908 people. Richmond went into this game as slight favorites. Both teams were missing their champion full-forwards, Bayliss from Richmond, who was ill and Lee from Collingwood, injured. Richmond skipper, Dan Minogue who was also ill moved himself to full-forward to cover this loss; however, the move proved unsuccessful. Richmond won the toss and kicked with the wind.

The Tigers started in a far more determined manner than Collingwood, with revenge for the previous year a prime motivator. The first quarter was very even with scores level at the first change.

The Richmond defence led by Max Hislop prevented Collingwood from scoring in the second quarter when they had the wind. This proved to be a crucial period of the game as Richmond went to the long break with a 9-point lead after a fiercely fought first half.

Early goals in the third quarter to Harley and Don ensured Richmond maintained their 9-point led at three-quarter time.

Richmond attacked early in the last quarter before Donald Don goaled after 3 successive points. Robert Weatherill followed soon after and the Tigers were well on their way to their first Premiership. Two late goals to Collingwood were answered when Richmond’s first gamer Bill James, ran in to kick the last goal of the match and signal the beginning of Premiership celebrations. This victory proved that Richmond had learned from the 1919 defeat. Instead of trying to outmuscle the Magpies, they kicked into the open spaces, allowing their superior pace and skill to keep the game open and flowing.

After the game, champion player Bernie Herbert shouted to the excited Richmond crowd, “What did we do?” The crowd replied, “we ate’em alive.” Thus a famous club catch-cry was born. Collingwood later complained that the loss of Dick Lee had disadvantaged their side more than Bayliss did for Richmond. Richmond officials dismissed this statement as sour grapes. 

VFL records show that George Bayliss won VFL Competition Goal kicking award for the 1920 season.

1920 newspaper
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