The first Indigenous player in Richmond’s league football history, Derek Peardon, is to be the Club’s Homecoming Hero at Saturday night’s blockbuster annual ‘Dreamtime at the ‘G’ clash with Essendon.
It will be the first time Peardon has been back in Victoria since leaving Richmond, following an injury-interrupted 20-game senior career from 1968-1971, and returning to his home state of Tasmania.
Peardon, a proud Indigenous Tasmanian football pioneer, will be honored by the Tigers in the big pre-game build-up to the 2015 Dreamtime game.
He’ll walk to the Punt Road end of the ground that he hasn’t been at since playing in Richmond’s reserve-grade premiership side in 1971, to receive appropriate acknowledgment from the Yellow and Black faithful, before kicking a customary ceremonial goal, then signing the football, and presenting it to a Tiger fan in the crowd.
Derek Peardon was born on Cape Barren Island in Bass Strait and subsequently became a member of the Stolen Generations.
He was a schoolboy football star, living in a Launceston orphanage, when he first attracted the attention of the Tiger talent scouts.
Peardon earned selection in the 1965 All-Australian Schoolboys’ team following a string of impressive performances for Tasmania in that under-15 carnival series. He tied for the medal awarded to the best player at the carnival.
St Kilda made the first approach to Peardon through his orphanage. He, and the orphanage’s superintendent, spent a weekend in Melbourne at the Saints’ expense.
During that trip to Melbourne, the superintendent received a phone call from Richmond to see if it was possible that Peardon could train with the Tigers before going back to Tasmania, which he duly did.
A couple of other league clubs were also circling Peardon by that stage, and the decision of who he would join became the responsibility of the board of the orphanage.
They chose Richmond as young Derek’s league football home and, at just 15 years of age, he made the trek across Bass Strait to Melbourne to play with the Tigers.
Peardon, a quick, skilful wingman/half-back, worked his way up through the ranks at Tigerland, starting with the under 17s in 1966 and playing in their premiership team that year.
The following year, Peardon was a member of the Richmond under 19s premiership side and then, in the final home-and-away round of the 1968 season, he made his senior debut with the Tigers.
He was 17 years, 342 days old when he lined up for Richmond in Round 20, ‘68 against Melbourne at the MCG, wearing the No. 50 guernsey.
The Tigers won by 49 points that day, but it was an inauspicious debut by Peardon, who picked up just three disposals.
As part of his preparation for the 1969 season, the pacy Peardon competed as a professional runner, winning the Maryborough Gift and Leongatha Gift in January of that year.
Peardon swapped the No. 50 for No. 6 in 1969, but found it difficult to establish himself in a powerful Richmond side that went on to capture the premiership.
His best performance during the ’69 season was in the Round 4 clash with South Melbourne at the Lake Oval, where he had 21 disposals in a 45-point win for the Tigers.
The 1970 season was Peardon’s best at the game’s highest level. He played nine senior games early on, picking up 20 disposals or more on four occasions, with a career-high 26 touches in a 24-point victory over Geelong at the MCG in Round 7.
Unfortunately, however, a back injury cut short Peardon’s season, just when he was starting to cement himself as a senior regular.
He managed only three more senior games, in what was to be his final season of league football in 1971, with a knee injury hampering his progress throughout that year. But he bowed out of Tigerland as one of the best players in the Richmond reserves’ grand final win against Essendon.
Peardon returned to Tasmania at the end of the ’71 season and went on to carve out a magnificent football career in the Apple Isle, playing for the City South club in the Northern Tasmanian Football Association.
He played in two premiership sides with City South, won the club’s best and fairest twice, and represented Tasmania in state football on two occasions.
Decades later, he was selected as the ruck-rover in the City South team of the century, and he was inducted into the Tasmania Football Hall of Fame.
Derek Peardon was the first Tasmanian Indigenous footballer to play in the then VFL competition.
He also is credited as being the player who provided the spark for the AFL’s Dreamtime at the G fixture and subsequent Indigenous round.
Kevin Sheedy, one of the founders of the Dreamtime game, and a passionate promoter of Indigenous football, was a teammate of Peardon’s at Richmond in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
Peardon was the first Indigenous person Sheedy ever met, and the only one he played alongside during his illustrious 13-year, 251-game league career with the Tigers.
“He was a lovely, young man and quite shy, but probably should have played more games of AFL,” Sheedy told The Mercury in 2014.
“But a lot of Indigenous boys back in those early days really didn’t know how to handle Melbourne, and he was at Richmond in a very successful period. But Derek was just fantastic . . .”
It was Peardon, who whet Sheedy’s appetite for knowledge about the Indigenous Australians.
“I grew up in South Yarra, where you wouldn’t see an Aborigine.
“Meeting him (Peardon) was no different to anybody coming from overseas. You just started to pick up information . . .
“It started then because that was the first hello.
“That was very eye-opening for me.
“It would have been real difficult I would have thought, although Richmond accepted everybody . . .
“He had a magnificent build . . . he was strong, low set, with speed to burn.
“I only have positive and fond memories of Derek Peardon.”
Derek Peardon Fact File
Playing weight: 86.5kg
Recruited to Richmond from: King Meadows High School, Tasmania
Guernsey number at Richmond: No. 50 and No. 6
Games at Richmond (1968-1971): 20
Honors at Richmond: Member of the under 17s premiership side in 1966, the under 19s premiership side in 1967 and the reserves premiership side in 1971