With Richmond and Melbourne to clash in a mid-winter battle at the MCG on Sunday, Tony Greenberg takes the Tiger Time Machine back to what proved to be a momentous meeting between the two teams around this time 55 years ago . . .
The stakes were particularly high for Richmond going into its Round 12 match of the 1965 season against reigning premier Melbourne at the MCG.
After many years in the football wilderness, the Tigers were starting to re-emerge.
They had won six of their 11 games up to that stage of the season, including a major upset victory over Essendon at Windy Hill.
But taking on the powerful Demons, who were in second place on the league ladder with nine wins and two losses, was going to be the true test of just how much Richmond had improved.
The Tigers, who had joined Melbourne as an MCG co-tenant in 1965, lost their Round 1 encounter by six points. That result further fuelled their motivation to turn the tables this time and prove themselves on the big football stage.
On a cold, wet Saturday afternoon at the ‘G’, that is exactly what they did.
With ruck-rover Alan ‘Bull’ Richardson leading the way through his bullocking work and creativity around the packs via handball, Richmond snapped a seven-game losing streak, dating back to 1960, against the Demons.
The Tigers had, in fact, been beaten by Melbourne in 17 of their previous 20 matches, but on this bleak day weather-wise, they shone brightly.
Here is ‘The Age’ newspaper’s report of Richmond’s thrilling six-point win . . .
“Richmond forgot about its “brotherly love” towards Melbourne on Saturday and took over the Demons mantle of top resident team of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Tigers won by six points, but this was not a true indication of their superior play. Richmond was a five-goal better side than the Demons.
Richmond proved itself a top side by outplaying Melbourne for most of the game and, when Melbourne made a comeback in the last quarter, the Tigers fought back when other teams may have folded under pressure.
With five minutes to play Demon half-forward Barry Vagg kicked his third goal for the quarter to put Melbourne a point behind.
But the Richmond players gritted their teeth and their victory was cemented when Roger Dean accepted a well-directed hand pass from captain Neville Crowe and kicked the deciding goal.
Melbourne, realising time was running out, raced the ball to the forward line for Graeme Jacobs to kick a point. The tight Richmond defence cleared the ball from the kick off and the Tigers were in attack when the siren went.
It was a mature team of footballers who won the game for Richmond, and, if the rain had not come, the margin probably would have been much bigger.
Richmond won because of its greater ruck strength, overall pace, watertight defence and because its players seemed keener to win the ball.
In the first quarter before it started raining, Richmond ran rings around its slower Melbourne opponents.
Big Pat Guinane, at centre half-forward, was holding his marks and pushing Richmond into attack constantly, and only poor kicking by the Tigers allowed Melbourne to finish the quarter 10 points down.
Melbourne fought its way back into the game in the second quarter when rain made the ground slippery and the ball hard to handle. Richmond slowed up and Melbourne kicked 3.0 to level the scores at half-time.
Again in the third quarter Richmond gained the ascendancy, but could not kick goals. Points to Frank Dimattina, John Sheahan and Guinane were added before John Northey flashed into play and kicked two quick goals.
Richmond relaxed at the start of the final quarter and Melbourne swung into action and posted 4.1 to the Tigers’ 1.1, before the Richmond players took stock and tightened their game.
The Tigers showed better backing up in the wet, and using clever hand passes in the difficult conditions, developed a loose man on their forward line.
Follower Alan “Bull” Richardson was the instigator for these moves and his timely interceptions and hand passes made him best player afield.
Melbourne did not get its usual drive from wingman Brian Dixon, who was beaten by inter-State player Bill Brown.
And Melbourne was let down badly on the forward line. Players were often badly positioned and it was easy for Richmond full-back Fred Swift and back-pocket Neil Busse to clear.
Demon rover John Townsend was a constant trier for Melbourne, and back-pocket Neil Crompton cleared the ball on many occasions as it came off the hands of the pack.”
Richmond 3.6 4.8 7.11 9.12 (66)
Melbourne 2.2 5.2 5.4 9.6 (60)
Goals – Richmond: Erwin 2, Northey 2, Dean, Sheahan, Davenport, Dimattina, Brown.
Best – Richmond: A. Richardson (best on ground), Dimattina, Swift, Brown, Busse, Guinane.
Goals – Melbourne: Vagg 3, Lord 2, Townsend 2, Leitch, Vearing.
Best – Melbourne: Townsend, Crompton, Tas Johnson, Emselle, McLean, Wise.