It was 1962 and a wispy little teenager knocked on the tigerland door. He looked more like a paper boy than a footballer. Club under 17 coach Bill Boromeo was the first to knowingly lay eyes on the youngster. The kid hadn’t been hounded by recruiting officers or kept under close scrutiny. He was just one of those boys who walk off the street and asked for a kick. The slightly built youngster with a greyhound look didn’t have tickets on himself but knew he could play. His name didn’t mean a thing when he was asked for details.
“Kevin Bartlett,” he declared. Richmond never turned anybody away without a trial particularly as young Bartlett detailed some pretty interesting performances in his junior football endeavours. There were a few raised eyebrows when Richmond’s training crew cast their eyes over the Bartlett torso – there was more meat on a hambone in a pool of piranhas. The prospects of this skeletal object making the Richmond list as Tigerland embarked on the most massive recruiting drive in club history looked remote. The Tiger drive was directed at finding untapped youngsters with height, physique and the sky the limit in potential. They wanted youngsters with a love of the game.
Their philosophy had swung from foraging through the trash cans of opposition clubs to seek out new talent – not many champions have been found on the refuse heap of the football tip. It was perhaps fortunate the first person Bartlett walked into when he entered the portals of Tigerland was to be his first VFL coach – Boromero.
To this stage Bartlett had performed brilliantly in schoolboy football and it was surprisingly he had not been feted by Richmond for although he had a South Yarra residential address he was firmly tied to the Richmond zone.
He displayed qualities of a champion and team leadership from the outset. He captained Hawksburn State School, Prahran Technical School and the Try Boys Society team in South Yarra. With those qualifications Richmond had no hesitation in asking him to join their Under 17 team but the Try Boys blocked his clearance. In frustration K.B. as he soon became identified appeared at Richmond as a boundary umpire and in the face of that resolution the junior club relented. Now available to play he dominated the junior Tigers and won the fairest and best trophy.