With Fox Footy celebrating 1990s Retro Round this weekend, Tony Greenberg takes a look at a special day during the 1993 season that launched the outstanding AFL career of an iconic Richmond champion.
Matthew Richardson was 18 years and 51 days old when he made his senior debut for Richmond against St Kilda at the MCG in Round 7, 1993 on Saturday, May 8, 1993.
He was the youngest player on the field, with the Saints’ Peter Everitt (19 years, five days) the only other teenager out there.
Dual Richmond premiership player John Northey, who had taken the coaching reins at Tigerland in late 1992 following a successful stint as Melbourne’s coach, was well aware of the considerable playing potential of young Richo.
Northey, a 1967 premiership teammate of Matthew’s father Alan, was keen to unleash the talented son of ‘Bull’ into the action at the game’s highest level after he’d spent the first few weeks of the ’93 season in the Tigers’ reserve-grade team.
So, on that second Saturday in May 1993, Richmond gave its prized key-forward prospect, father-son selection from Tasmanian club Devonport his first crack at AFL football.
The Tigers were clear underdogs going into the match, sitting in second last place on the league ladder with just one win on the board, while the Saints were sixth with three wins.
Coach Northey was hoping the introduction of Richardson and another Tiger cub debutant in determined defender Duncan Kellaway (aged 20 years and 81 days) would provide the impetus for the team to pull off an upset victory.
It was a baptism of fire for Richo as his opponent that day was the most experienced player on the field – long-serving St Kilda captain and tough, top-notch full-back Danny Frawley.
Richo, however, wasn’t fazed by the immense challenge confronting him first-up in Richmond’s senior side.
The gangly teenager was like a two-year-old colt that day as he ran himself, and Frawley, ragged.
He finished the match exhausted, but pleased with his own performance – 20 disposals (nine kicks, 11 handballs), nine marks, two tackles and one goal (1.2) – and the team’s convincing 32-point win.
Kellaway also produced an impressive debut display – 27 disposals (12 kicks, 15 handballs), five marks and one tackle – in a particularly positive sign of things to come from him.
The Tigers held a slender five-point lead at half-time of the high-scoring contest, but seized control in the third quarter, piling on 7.7 to 4.1.
Despite champion St Kilda spearhead Tony Lockett booting nine goals, Richmond’s injection of talented, young pair Richardson and Kellaway worked a treat, and it managed to grab the four premiership points in a major upset.
The star of the show for the Tigers was current Club CEO Brendon Gale, who had 20 disposals (15 kicks, five handballs), took 14 marks and kicked four goals in his centre half-forward role.
Gale subsequently received the three Brownlow Medal votes, with prolific ball-winning midfielder Wayne Campbell given two votes for his efforts on the day (30 disposals, two goals) and speedy winger Nathan Bower the one vote (21 disposals, one goal).
But from a Yellow and Black perspective, this Round 7 match of the 1993 season forever will be remembered as the day Matthew Richardson launched his magnificent league football career with Richmond.
Richmond 4.1 9.9 16.16 19.22 (136)
St Kilda 5.1 9.4 13.5 16.8 (104)
Goals – Richmond: B. Gale 4, Hogg 4, Naish 3, Campbell 2, N. Bower, Knights, Leys, Maxfield, Menegola, Richardson.
Leading possession-winners – Richmond: Knights 32, Campbell 30, D. Kellaway 27, Naish 23, Bower 21, Maxfield 21, B. Gale 20, Richardson 20.
Goals – St Kilda: Lockett 9, Burke 2, Rice 2, Everitt, Loewe, O’Brien.
Leading possession-winners – St Kilda: O’Brien 29, G. McAdam 28, Bourke 25, Loewe 24, Morris 22.