It is 50 years since the then VFL football world was rocked with news of the sensational swap between Richmond’s Bill Barrot and St Kilda’s Ian Stewart.
Both brilliant centremen were disgruntled at their respective clubs and believed a change of football scenery would reinvigorate them.
Leading football writer for daily Melbourne newspaper of the day ‘The Sun, Greg Hobbs, had the inside word on the developing unprecedented trade deal.
Here is his initial report on the shock swap saga . . .
“ST KILDA’S dual Brownlow Medallist, Ian Stewart, last night said he wanted a clearance to Richmond.
The news came as a shock follow-up to champion Richmond centreman Bill Barrot’s plans to seek a clearance.
The clearance moves by these top players will rock the committees of both clubs.
Last night Stewart told me: “It is with regret that I have decided to seek release from St Kilda.
“For the past two seasons I have not derived the pleasure and satisfaction from playing League football which I feel I should in view of my age and ambition.
“Although I am negotiating with interstate clubs, I am unhappy with the prospect of leaving League football. But, in view of the situation which has arisen at St Kilda, it is difficult for me to produce my best.
“My friendship with Richmond’s assistant coach, Verdun Howell, and secretary, Alan Schwab, attracts me to the Richmond club and for this reason I desire the opportunity to play with the Tigers.
(Verdun Howell was a former great full-back with St Kilda – he was beaten on a countback for the 1959 Brownlow Medal – and Mr Schwab is a former assistant secretary of St Kilda).
Stewart said a clearance application was already in the mail.
He said he had spoken to St Kilda president Mr Graham Huggins yesterday.
“I was told to put in an application. Then I would find out whether St Kilda will clear me,” Stewart said.
I am told Stewart would have a favorable chance of getting a clearance interstate, but the switch to Richmond would be met with an almost certain “no” from the committee.
That was until Barrot announced his plans of seeking a transfer to St Kilda yesterday. It now seems logical that both clubs could direct a straight-out swap.
According to a recent poll conducted by 19 press, radio and television football commentators, Stewart is the best centreman to play in the VFL for the past 20 years.
He careered away to win and Barrot, even though well back on votes, was equal sixth.
Stewart is 27 and has played 127 games with St Kilda since joining it in 1963 from Hobart.
He won the Brownlow Medal in 1965-66, was captain of St Kilda last year, and has won the club’s best and fairest twice.
Before the start of the season Stewart clashed with the club and was a late starter to training.
Outwardly Stewart’s differences with the club appeared to be patched up, but apparently they were not.”
Hobbs’ colleague at The Sun, Scot Palmer, had an exclusive interview with Barrot about his football future . . .
“A PERSONALITY clash could drive me away from Richmond next year . . .” Richmond centreman Bill Barrot said last night.
Where? “It could be St Kilda, but I can honestly say I haven’t had official talks with any club.
“I would like to stay at Richmond, but could not be bothered training as hard as any other player and being kept in the Reserves.
“Not when I know that I’m one of the club’s most experienced players.”
Barrot was surprised to learn that Ian Stewart, St Kilda’s champion centreman, already had applied for a clearance to Richmond.
“It could be a bit crowded in the middle with the two of us there,” he said.
“I’m not going to hurry into any decision.
“I reckon I still have four good seasons of football left in me and would like to continue with a League side.”
A few weeks later in The Sun, Hobbs confirmed the Stewart-Barrot swap would definitely go ahead . . .
“IAN STEWART will play for Richmond and Bill Barrot will play for St Kilda next season in a sensational football swap.
Richmond president Mr Ray Dunn last night said there had been an amicable agreement drawn up between the two clubs.
I broke the news to Stewart, the dual Brownlow Medallist.
His excited reply was: “Are you sure? I feel as if I have been reborn as a footballer.
“I know I have won two Brownlow Medals, but I feel my real life as a footballer is just about to start. I have yet to play my best football.”
Mr Dunn said Barrot was leaving with the best wishes of the club.
I believe Barrot will get more than $10,000 to play with St Kilda for the next two seasons.
I’m told his signing on fee with St Kilda was $2000 and that he will receive bonuses if he wins the club’s best and fairest award and plays in a premiership team.
Stewart last night said he would be losing money by playing with Richmond.
But he admitted it was a big load off his mind to be able to join Richmond.
Stewart has played 127 games with St Kilda, and his weekly fee with Richmond will be $100 – the award rate.
Stewart signed his name to play with Richmond five weeks ago, the day after Barrot said he was unhappy with Richmond and showed keenness to join St Kilda.
Since then he had been disturbed because Barrot has taken so long to make up his mind about leaving Richmond.
One Richmond official told me the committee had discussed the Barrot-Stewart issue and voted overwhelmingly in favor of releasing Barrot.
I was told it was 13-3 vote against Barrot.
Barrot was reluctant to leave Richmond despite his clashes with coach Tom Hafey.
Stewart, who had many clashes with his coach, Allan Jeans, said he would not play again with St Kilda – clearance or no clearance.
West Australian club Claremont had offered him big money for the next six years, but Stewart always wanted to remain in the VFL.”
Barrot kicked three goals in his first game for St Kilda, in the opening round of the 1971 season. The following week, however, he was dragged from the field at half-time – and never played for the Saints again. He subsequently transferred to Carlton a few weeks later. But after a dozen games with the Blues, Barrot’s league career finished at the end of the ’71 season.
Stewart, on the other hand, positively thrived in the environment at Tigerland. Playing with renewed energy, he won a third Brownlow Medal, in his debut season at Richmond and, two years later, was a key member of the Club’s 1973 premiership side.
He retired from league football during the 1975 season, having packed plenty in a superb 78-game career with the Tigers.
So influential was he in less than five full seasons at Richmond, when the Tigers announced their Team of the Century in 1999, Stewart was named as one of the interchange players.
‘Stewie’ remains the only player in the entire history of the competition to have been selected in the Team of the Century at two league clubs, have won Brownlow Medals at two clubs, and been involved in a premiership at two clubs.