Richmond Team of the Century half-back Basil McCormack is now credited with 200 senior games for the Tigers.

It is often the case for historians. You go researching one thing and end up discovering something else entirely.  That’s what occurred when a simple Twitter question a few months ago resulted in statistical changes for four former Richmond players.

As the Club’s historian, I have an obligation to document our history as accurately as possible. With digital archives, newspapers, and football records now at our fingertips – something no ‘keeper of the records’ in Tigerland’s history had the benefit of previously – we can re-examine and strengthen our heritage and story.

Of course, with that responsibility comes the realisation that not every historical change can be good news. In most cases, it’s a mixture of celebration and disappointment. 

The game tallies for four Tigers of old – Basil McCormack, Jock McConchie, Jack Dyer and Allan Geddes - have changed.

In short, McCormack is now credited with 200 senior games for Richmond (previously 199), McConchie with 15 games (previously 16, and his Fitzroy tally of 22 remains unchanged), Dyer with 311 games (previously 312), and Geddes with 183 games (previously 182).

So, how did this all come about?

Well, I received a tweet on August 24 from the creators of the excellent footy history podcast ‘Kick To Kick’. They wondered why Jack Dyer’s 310 games upon retirement in 1949 was credited by the AFL (and AFL Tables) as 312 games.

The answer was simple, as AFL historian Col Hutchison explained in an email to me:

“He was 19th man twice in 1931 (Round 2, his League debut, and Round 17).

In both cases, he spent the entire match on the bench and was not required to replace a team-mate.

During that period of history, players in that situation did not receive a match payment.

For several years, in such circumstances, players were not credited with a game as part of their career total.
By the time the League 200 Club concept was adopted in 1961, such situations were included in players' career totals, although it took some years for proper research to make the records more accurate.”

Concurrent to Col Hutchison’s response, I started to reconcile Dyer’s games tally in the Club’s Annual Reports against that of AFL Tables. And it was there that I stumbled across discrepancies for all four above-mentioned Richmond players.

Basil McCormack, the champion half-back in Richmond’s Team of the Century, was credited with 199 games. But Richmond’s 1934 Annual Report listed him playing 17 games that season, while AFL Tables had him with 16 games.

A round-by-round search through all Melbourne newspapers that year uncovered a discrepancy with Round 7 v Hawthorn.  

The Age match report wrote that “on the winning side O’Neill, Bolger, and McCormack never wavered . . .”

The Australasian newspaper, when naming the Tigers best players in the match, said: “For Richmond, McCormack, Martin, Bolger, Titus, O’Halloran, Dyer, Strang and Geddes performed well”.

And, in The Herald’s evening edition, McCormack is listed at his usual half-back spot, and first named in its “Best Players”.

Appears as though Basil produced a top performance . . . Problem was, he wasn’t listed on AFL Tables as playing in that game at all!

Instead, Jock McConchie was credited with that game. But research shows that was unlikely, as not only was McConchie not listed in the line-ups published in the evening edition of the newspapers (printed after the game), he was actually listed as lining up, and kicking a goal, for Richmond reserves the same afternoon as the senior match.

Col Hutchison suggests that “the two identities were confused, due to the similarity in appearance of McConchie and McCormack” in the handwritten archives. We may never know how the error occurred; we just know it can be rectified.

So, while Jock McConchie ‘loses’ a game, Basil McCormack gets one added, and he joins the League’s 200-game club as its newest member.

As for Dyer, his discrepancy lay in the 1934 premiership season as well. In Richmond’s Annual Report, he is listed on 15 games, while the AFL/AFL Tables has him playing one extra with 16.

Was there a discrepancy, or just a typo in the Club’s records?

Reviewing each game of the 1934 season, the Round 5 Richmond vs Essendon match, which was played on a Monday (a holiday), seems to be the culprit.

While Dyer is listed in the team line-up before the game, the following week, when The Argus newspaper previewed the Tigers’ Round 6 match, it wrote: “Dyer . . . because of illness was not able to play at the last minute on the holiday.” 

The Age, in its preview, revealed further information, stating that “Dyer’s absence on Monday was due to the illness of a relative.”  It then listed him as an ‘in’ to the Richmond side for Round 6.

So, who replaced Dyer at the very last minute?  

The Age match report of Round 5 said: “Others who frequently shone were McCormack, Geddes, Guinane . . .”

Geddes wasn’t listed by AFL Tables as having played this game, so the spotlight turned to him.

Later, The Age wrote in its Round 6 preview that “everyone connected with Richmond was pleased last night when it was announced that little Judkins had been reincluded in the Senior side and that the old line of Judkins-Zschech-Geddes would function once again across the centre”.

This indicates that Eric Zschech and Allan Geddes were already in the previous game (Round 5), which further points to Geddes playing that day.

After I compiled the evidence, I posted my findings, for scrutiny, on the Big Footy History thread (which is manned by incredible footy researchers across the country), as well as on my Rhettrospective Twitter page, RFCHistorian Facebook page, and my Tigerland Archive website.

Following that, the AFL’s history department was brought across the research and Col Hutchison ratified the changes in an email dated September 6, 2020, with the new games tallies adjusted in the AFL’s database, and soon to filter through to other sites/publications.

Richmond’s history will continue to evolve, gaps will be filled, questions will be answered, new questions will emerge, stats will be altered, and the news will be good and not so good. Most importantly, however, it will be accurate.