Richmond fans are famous for their loyalty. Despite being based in New Zealand, Andrew Sloman rarely misses a game, travelling all across the country to follow the yellow and black. On the other side of Australia, Brian Donaldson started flying from Perth on a regular basis to watch Richmond games from around 1992. The pair made up the 'Flying Tigers', and today, 'Slowy' pays tribute to his great mate who passed away on Sunday.
Brian Donaldson passed away on the morning of April 5 in Perth. He first brought his health battle to my attention in Melbourne, during Grand Final week, 2019. I recently enjoyed a virtual beer with him, and he stated that he’d been “scrapping and fighting like Jakey King”, but he deserved eternal rest. Many supporters like myself will miss him.
I dedicate my 2020 membership package this year to the Club, and to Brian. Simply, without the Club, we would never have met. The “connection” element the Club provides is so powerful, and I’m thankful and grateful for it, particularly in times like these. Brian’s story of connection with the Club is a beautiful one, and belies his perceived rough, basic and ‘mulleted’ exterior.
Around 1992, Brian started flying to Melbourne on a regular basis to watch Richmond games. His Tiger love was born from a local association with the Claremont Football Club, coupled with a love of the underdog, the scrapper and the fighter.
Watching infrequent highlights of Richmond on local television in Perth was not enough for him. He sometimes travelled to Melbourne for his car parts business and, after attending a Richmond game during one such business trip, he was hooked. He wanted more of the Richmond “Connection”.
He began flying over to games and sat, or stood, in the outer, generally on his own. One game at the MCG, he was outside at half-time enjoying his regular nicotine fix, when he randomly started chatting to Richmond coterie member Brian McCue. Brian was enamoured by his story, and invited him to meet some other coterie members with similar travel habits, such as Rodney Banks who, at the time, was travelling to games from Mt. Isa. He loved this, and soon joined the Legends Club coterie.
From there, his involvement just grew. Beyond the long-term financial support of the Richmond WA Supporters Group through his business Driveline, he also:
• Joined the Richmond WA Coterie, in addition to his Legends Club membership;
• Supported and attended several pre-season camps in recent years; and
• Provided support to fellow WA Tiger in young Nate and his journey to Melbourne.
We just cannot estimate how many times Brian crossed the Nullarbor to watch the Club play, but each year he went to every home game, plus away games in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth (naturally) and to Tasmania when we played in that state. He never went to Queensland, for reasons he kept to himself.
His first love was his wife Rosa Maria. Richmond was second, and motor racing a close third. He had his own sprint car team in the 1980’s and 90’s, and he raced in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
He was a renowned “spotter” in IndyCar racing. He would sit in a tower on turn three at the Indianapolis 500 and call the racing line to team drivers. I once asked him why this was needed as surely the drivers can see for themselves. After the obligatory five-minute dressing down for my ignorance, he then explained for 30 minutes in minute technical detail why drivers had their lives under his control around turn three. He travelled to the US 92 times for racing and his motor vehicle parts business.
I have no doubt many supporters were incredibly honoured to meet him. We had a wonderful time travelling the country, following the Club we love. There are many priceless memories and stories from our travels, which we will cherish.
Rest in Peace Brian “Scruff” Donaldson.