Dick Clay will be Richmond’s next Homecoming Hero for 2015 . . .
The Tigers are set to pay tribute to Clay in the pre-game build-up at this Saturday’s big Round 17 twilight clash with Fremantle at the MCG.
Clay, a four-time premiership player with Richmond, 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 magnificent career with the Tigers also will be shown on the MCG’s screens.
Dick Clay arrived at Punt Road in 1966 amid a blaze of publicity . . .
Richmond had managed to sneak under the guard of rival league club North Melbourne, who had Clay signed on a Form Four agreement, and snared the 21-year-old, key-forward sensation from Victorian country club Kyabram.
Dubbed the ‘Kyabram Kid’, Clay quickly captured the imagination of the Tiger faithful with his explosive pace, poise, strong marking and long kicking.
From his first senior appearance with Richmond, when he lined up at centre half-forward in Round 2 of the 1966 season on Footscray champion, and one of the game’s all-time greats in Ted Whitten, Clay looked comfortable in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of league football.
“The much-publicised, controversial Dick Clay from Kyabram did much better than most Richmond officials and supporters dared hope,” was how one football scribe of the day described his excellent debut.
“Anyone who can win 19 kicks in his league debut against Ted Whitten, has a bright and prosperous future ahead.
“Clay put the mark of class on his work by making use of every kick.”
Clay went on to play 213 games and kick 79 goals for the Tigers over 11 superb seasons from 1966-76. He was a member of the Club’s premiership sides in 1967, 1969, 1973 and 1974, playing a key role in all four triumphs.
To highlight Clay’s tremendous versatility, he was on a wing for the first two premierships, and then full-back for the next two. That, of course, was after making his debut with Richmond at centre half-forward.
A handy player by the name of Royce Hart pushed Clay out of the centre half-forward role in his own brilliant debut season the following year (1967), but the Kyabram Kid soon found his niche on a wing, forming part of the greatest centreline in league football history, alongside Bill Barrot and Francis Bourke, before eventually becoming one of the best full-backs in the competition.
“Young Clay, big and fast as a wingman, fitted admirably into Richmond’s long-kicking game. He would run 10 metres with the ball, have a bounce if it was safe, and then let them go with a 60-metre kick,” wrote The Herald’s legendary chief football scribe Alf Brown.
“As a full-back he could reach close to the centre when kicking off and he had the best mark-spoiling punch in the game.
“Clay was a brilliant wingman and is remembered more in this role than as a defender. As a full-back, he was a superb team-man. He broke a full-forward’s heart. He did not try for the big mark. He was content to punch the ball away all day and rely on his own quickness or teammates around him to clear.”
Interestingly, Clay preferred the pressure associated with the key defensive post, rather than the relative freedom of the wing.
“At full-back I became a more responsible player and I enjoyed it,” Clay said in an interview with ‘The Herald’ several years after his retirement.
“On the wing, if I made a mistake and a goal resulted from it, I did not worry. There would be plenty of opportunities to get even, to kick a goal.
“Full-back is different. You can’t erase a mistake and a resultant goal with one of your own. Even if you beat your opponent the next six times, that goal is against his name and is a black mark against you.
“I enjoyed the weekly battles; the game-to-game responsibility.
“A dash along the wing on the MCG caught the eye. If I curbed a good full-forward only my club and astute critics noticed. Full-backs don’t get much publicity . . . that never worried me.”
Dick Clay Fact File
Playing weight: 89kg
Recruited to Richmond from: Kyabram
Guernsey number at Richmond: No. 8
Games at Richmond (1966-1976): 213
Honors 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