In the 11th of a special 12-part series on richmondfc.com.au, where we set about building the perfect Tiger, our attention turns to the shrewdest players at Richmond over the past half-century. Take your pick of these five Yellow and Black ‘brainiacs’ . . .
Barry Richardson, 125 games for Richmond, 1965-74
Richardson’s clever football brain enabled him to achieve considerable success, in a variety of roles, throughout a decade-long league career at Richmond. Although Richardson endured significant knee trouble in his time with the Tigers, he was still able to exert a significant on-field influence. Much of that was due to the fact he was such a deep thinker about the game. After playing in Richmond’s drought-breaking 1967 premiership team, as a tall half-forward, Richardson subsequently developed into one of the competition’s best full-backs. He became the first player to keep Hawthorn’s champion full-forward Peter Hudson goalless in a league match. Richardson later made a triumphant return to the Tigers’ forward line, culminating in his top-class, five-goal display in the 1974 Grand Final victory over North Melbourne.
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Ian Stewart, 78 games for Richmond, 1971-75
Of all the numerous football attributes Stewart possessed, it was his intelligence on the field of battle that propelled him to greatness in the game. Stewart’s superb reading of the play enabled him to seemingly always be in the right position, at the right time, to gain possession of the ball. With ball in hand, that astute football brain again kicked in, ensuring his decision-making was spot on. And, teammates received the ball from Stewart in a precise, ‘lace-out’ style that further underlined his footy ‘smarts’. The champion centreman’s adroit handling of the ‘leather’ made him such a tremendous weapon for Richmond, and a delight to watch, as he weaved his magic.
Paul Sproule, 86 games for Richmond, 1972-75
Sproule was arguably the best bargain-basement buy in Richmond’s history, having been traded to the Tigers by Essendon, at the end of the 1971 season, for the modest transfer fee of $2000. Over the next four seasons, Sproule provided Richmond with enormous value for money, in his midfield role. At the core of Sproule’s game, was his football nous. Like his fellow classy Tasmanian Tiger teammate, Ian Stewart, he read the play extremely well, and had the knack of constantly being where the ball was. Sproule was cool under pressure, and really calculating with what he did on the field. He played a vital role in Richmond’s 1973-74 back-to-back premiership sides.
Dale Weightman, 274 games for Richmond, 1978-93
To coin an old expression, Weightman was “smart as a whip” on the playing field. What he lacked size-wise, he more than compensated for in so many other ways – most notably his cunning football mind. Weightman was as crafty as they come and generated significant drive for the Tigers through his creative play. The strong Richmond sides that Weightman was a member of, early in his league playing career, bore no resemblance to those struggling Tiger teams of his latter years. Regardless, however, ‘The Flea’ never stopped flying the Yellow and Black flag. He was a constant source of inspiration for Richmond, in his role as the team’s No. 1 rover, with his courage, aggression, and ever-alert football brain.
Paul Broderick, 169 games for Richmond, 1994-01
Broderick certainly didn’t rank highly in the pace or athleticism departments, but there was never any doubting his football acumen. Like the other Tigers in this category, Broderick was elite in his ability to read the play. He had a major impact at Richmond, after crossing over from Fitzroy, due to the numerous opportunities he created for teammates in his inside midfield role. Broderick rarely wasted a possession, and he certainly racked up plenty of them. He consistently put himself in the best-possible position to win the ball, and then utilised his footy smarts by using the right option when delivering to teammates.
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