Alan Richardson was born on this day 80 years ago (November 19, 1940). ‘The Bull’ left a lasting legacy at Richmond, as a key member of the Tigers’ drought-breaking 1967 premiership team, and the father of one of the greatest, most popular players in the Club’s history, Matthew Richardson. Bull Richardson passed away in March 2015, and Tony Greenberg paid tribute to him in an article for Richmond Media. Here, in full, is that tribute . . .
To those Yellow and Black barrackers who never saw Alan ‘Bull’ Richardson play, let me assure you – he was nothing like his famous son Matthew Richardson.
Whereas Matthew was tall (197cm), supremely athletic, quick, a superb mark and a prolific goalkicker in his key forward role, Bull was considerably shorter (184cm) stockier, slower, not reliant on marking, seldom scored goals, and largely preferred handball over kicking in his role as a ruck-rover.
But don’t be deceived by the tale of the tape . . . Bull Richardson could seriously play the game!
Bull, who passed away early today aged 74 following a long illness, was a footballing pioneer.
His use of handball, as an offensive weapon, played a vital role in Richmond’s rise to power in the then VFL competition during the 1960s.
It had, however, been a hard road to success for Alan Richardson.
Richmond recruited him from Victorian country team Casterton, and he made his senior league debut with the Club in the opening round of the 1959 season, against Melbourne at Punt Road Oval, aged 18 years and 150 days.
He would make a further five senior appearances that season, with the Tigers finishing in second-last place on the league ladder, notching just four wins.
In 1960, Richardson established himself as a regular member of the senior side, playing 15 of the 18 home-and-away matches, as Richmond struggled to win only two games and collected its first wooden spoon.
Over the next few seasons, Richardson mirrored the fortunes of the Tigers’ team, battling to find consistent form.
By the time the 1963 season rolled around, Bull was in a new role at Richmond, as captain of the reserve-grade side.
He managed just six senior games in ’63 but won the reserves best and fairest that year.
In 1964, he made it back-to-back best and fairest in the ‘twos’, with only one senior appearance for the season.
After just 51 senior games in six seasons, Bull’s league career appeared over, until a saviour arrived for him, in the form of new Richmond coach Len Smith, who was a football visionary.
Smith had been senior coach at Fitzroy from 1958-62 and had lifted the Lions into the finals in ’58 and ’60.
He was one of the first coaches to implement a fast, play-on style of game, with an emphasis on short passing and handball.
It was Len Smith who resurrected Bull Richardson’s league career.
Under the Smith philosophy of quick ball movement, Bull totally thrived, turning himself into a pivotal member of the Richmond line-up.
Tony Jewell, a former teammate of Richardson’s during the 1960s, and later coach of Richmond’s 1980 premiership team, described how Len Smith helped reinvent Bull as a player at the game’s top level.
“He would get Bull to handball all the time, no matter what the situation, and it really helped our running game,” Jewell said.
“Initially, the crowd hated it, and would boo Bull.
“We would run in all directions, not only trying to give Bull some handball options, but also to take the heat off him.
“Len Smith would say to us: ‘Why do you handball when Bull has got the ball?’
“Because he can’t kick. He handballs every time,” we’d say.
‘Exactly,’ said Smith. ‘And that’s how I want you all to play. Run and handball. That’s our go from now on’.
Sadly, severe heart problems cut short Len Smith’s coaching tenure at Tigerland. His replacement, however, proved somewhat more than adequate . . .
Tommy Hafey quickly put his own stamp on the Richmond side – and what a stamp it proved to be!
Bull Richardson went from strength to strength under Hafey’s astute coaching guidance.
He constantly split packs with his powerful frame and opened the play up with constructive handball.
The Tigers narrowly missed the finals in Hafey’s first year in charge in 1966, but they swept all before them the following season, en route to a drought-breaking premiership – their first since 1943.
In an epic 1967 Grand Final encounter with Geelong, Bull was one of Richmond’s best players. He had 13 kicks, took three marks, fired out seven handballs and scored a crucial goal in the Tigers’ thrilling nine-point win.
That undoubtedly was the pinnacle of Bull’s career at Tigerland.
He made only another seven senior appearances for the Club, taking his overall tally to 103, before moving to South Melbourne to play under the coaching of Len Smith’s brother, the legendary Norm Smith.
At South, he played 11 senior games, before bowing out of league football at the end of the 1970 season.
He subsequently moved to Tasmania with his wife Dianne, taking over the reins as captain-coach of East Devonport.
After eventually retiring as a player and coach, Bull served as East Devonport’s president for several years.
And, of course, it was while the Richardsons were in Tasmania that their first son, Matthew, was born.
Matthew would go on to play junior football and senior football with Devonport, before being snapped up by Richmond under the league’s father-son rule.
Young ‘Richo’ ended up playing 282 games and kicking 800 goals in an outstanding career with the Tigers – and old Bull enjoyed watching every minute of it . . .