Richo’s father, Alan played in the 1967 premiership team before moving to Tasmania. Twenty-five years later, he presented at Tigerland with his precocious 16-year-old son. ”I remember the day,” Richo says, ”1992, round 21. Richmond played Adelaide at the MCG. They got pumped. We went back to Punt Road, myself, dad, [then-Richmond chief executive] Cameron Schwab. He offered a four-year deal. Dad said, ‘Thanks, we’ll take it back to Devonport and have a look at it’. I said, ”No, I want to sign now’. I did.”
Another official once told me that Alan, nicknamed Bull, had a tear in his eye in that moment. So do I now, but that might be the chilli. That first contract, incidentally, was for $10,000 a year. Wins were worth $500 each; four of them swelled his first yearly cheque to $12,000.Not even once has Richo disowned his decision. But now, working in media, he sees premiership players everywhere he looks, in his box, in the next, and the next. ”Often, you’re sitting in an airport lounge and talk of premierships comes up,” he says.
”You just check out of the conversation, go up and get a beer. That’s the only time I get a bit envious.” Conscripted to The Footy Show while playing, Richo was a media innocent. ”I was petrified,” he says. ”They’d ring on a Tuesday, and all I would think about from Tuesday to Thursday was The Footy Show. Maybe it took my mind off footy. Maybe it was a good thing.
”He fell into full-time media during his last season, when he was often injured and needed something to do. The risk for a much-loved player who goes into media is that he becomes overexposed and loses a little of his former favour. This did not occur to Richo then, nor does it gnaw at him now. Sometimes he catches feedback on Twitter and laughs. He finds that merely the effort to reply disarms the fiercest critic.
But he adds: ”If you’re a player now, you’d want to have thick skin.”The best advice he received was simply to be himself. ”When I first started, I was worried about everything I said,” he recalls. ”I didn’t want to offend anyone. I rehearsed everything I said. Four years on, I don’t feel that.”
While entering happily into the irreverent spirit of the commentary box, he has not become blithe or blase. ”I want to remember always what it was like as a player when I’m commentating,” he says. He knows his Richmond-ness still shows. ”I barracked for Richmond from the age of four. I played there. It’s almost impossible to have no bias.”