Matthew Richardson was one of the most watchable players in the competition, for good or bad. in his 282 games and 16 years. A three-time All-Australian, he won the Tigers’ best and fairest in 2007. Richardson’s 800 goals put him 11th on the all time goal kicking list and he topped the Tigers’ goalkicking 13 times.
Matthew Richardson WAS Richmond — the raw passion that wouldn’t have been out of place on the other side of the fence in the Tigers cheer squad, the fleeting highs and heart-wrenching lows, all laid bare for the world to see. He carried the club through a mostly dismal era, making the Tigers a team worth watching and giving hope to a success-starved army of fans.
We loved him because he cared, and he tried, and he gave everything for a team in the toughest of circumstances and he is Richmond! What are your favourite Richo moments?” Here are my 12 classic moments in the career of one of Tigerland’s Favourite sons
- Richo chooses the Tigers
The precociously talented teenager was dominating Tasmanian footy and Collingwood was circling, prompting Richardson’s coach Peter Knights to phone the Tigers and tell them to grab the father-son pick before it was too late. Young Richo and his dad Allan “Bull” Richardson — a Tigers 1967 premiership player — met with Richmond officials at the MCG and dad advised his son to go home and think about the contract offer from a team struggling on and off the field. The story goes Richo replied: “No, I’ve always wanted to play for Richmond. I’ll sign now.”
- Taking the big stage
The Tigers didn’t have much to smile about in 1993, winning just four games and finishing second-last. But one positive was the debut of a skinny mop-haired Tasmanian in Round 7 against St Kilda. Matthew Richardson, aged 18, collected 20 disposals, took nine marks and kicked a nice running goal in a sign of things to come. And the Tigers had a win.
- The start of something big
It was a windy day at Whitten Oval in March 1994. The game wasn’t on TV but the 18,000 who turned up saw not only a great game (the Dogs won by two points) but the first Richo special. Days after his 19th birthday he kicked 8.1 and took a ‘speccy’ witnesses say should have been mark of the year. He backed it up the next week with another seven goals against Brisbane.
- Perfect 10
Robert Walls predicted Richo would kick 15 one day and while that never happened, he did reach double figures once — in Round 8, 2004. It was a game against the Bulldogs and Richo had nine when Matthew Croft fumbled a kick-in and Richo pounced and snapped on his left boot to become the first Tiger to kick 10 goals in a game since Jeff Hogg against Collingwood in 1991. Richo finished with 10.3 and Richmond won by 23 points and ended the round in the top eight.
- Brownlow bolter
In his 16th season at age 33 Richardson was moved to a wing in Round 3 to open the forward line for youngsters including another skinny Tasmanian teenager with a big leap — Jack Riewoldt. Richo responded with a career-best season and in what was almost the feel-good story of the year was within sight of a Brownlow Medal. Despite being willed home by most of the 1200 people in the Crown Palladium ballroom, he fell two votes shy of Bulldog Adam Cooney.
- Don’t fence me in
After bursting on to the AFL scene with 56 goals in 1994, the ponytailed Richo had 27.3 on the board when he led for a mark at the SCG in Round 9 and pulled up on the boundary line to avoid crashing into the fence. He wrecked his knee and missed the Tigers’ first finals campaign in 13 years. He later estimated he lost almost four full seasons to injuries including two broken arms.
- Milestone man
The Tigers faced Port Adelaide in Round 6, 2005 in Richardson’s 200th game and midway through the second term it looked like it would be a dismal day as the Power established a 28-point lead. But inspired by a raw recruit named Shane Tuck the Tigers roared to life and when Richo soared over a pack at the top of the goalsquare and converted to give Richmond the lead just before half-time it nearly blew the roof off the stadium. The Tigers went on to record a commanding 10-goal win with Richardson putting his arms around youngsters Brett Deledio, Richard Tambling and Danny Meyer as they walked off dreaming of better times ahead.
- Dreamtime nightmare
In the second Dreamtime at the G match in 2007 the Tigers led by 12 points with five minutes left only to concede two quick goals that levelled the scores. Enter Richo. After taking a strong mark on the wing he played on and, ignoring the umpire’s whistle, bombed a goal from 50m. His celebrations were curtailed when he realised the umpire had paid a free kick against him for a push and then added a 50m penalty for booting the ball away. The Bombers went on to win by eight points and add another chapter of Richmond — and Richo — heartache.
- Agent Orange
Only four players own an Alex Jesaulenko Medal awarded to the best player for the Allies — a short-lived State-of-Origin side that united the smaller footy states in the 90s. One of them is Richo after he dominated a game against Victoria in 1996. The big V won by 10 goals but Richo took a huge speccy over Nigel Lappin on the MCG wing and took home the medal to go with his aqua and orange jumper. He was at the peak of his powers and finished the 1996 season with 91 goals.
- Spitting the dummy
Richardson was known for wearing his heart on his sleeve and sometimes it landed him in trouble, and never more than in July 2002 against Carlton. Richo stopped after a Matthew Knights pass bounced in front of him (he later said it was because he thought a free kick had been paid) and eyeballed youngster David Rodan after he fumbled when Richo was free in the goalsquare. Richardson took his demotion on the chin and responded with 22 goals in the last six rounds of the season. “I was embarrassed by the footage of that night, which got played over and over again,” Richardson said later. “Obviously, it doesn’t look good and it’s not good for the team, but I wasn’t embarrassed playing for Coburg; I had a good day out there and the players were fantastic, and it was a good experience.”
- Finals at last
Richardson played in three finals in his 282-game career and just one of them was a win — against arch-rival Carlton in 2001. He kicked only one goal but was crucial in a low-scoring game with a season-high 13 contested possessions.
- Hero to villain to hero
Richmond’s Round 11 clash against Collingwood in 1997 sticks in my mind as the ultimate Richo game. It was at the MCG on a cold Friday night in July, and Richardson, wearing a protective brace in his second game back from a broken arm, did everything — he took 13 mostly incredible marks, was dragged for a shocking turnover, kicked into the man on the mark, kicked five goals and missed some unmissable shots; on one occasion he had to hand the ball back after playing on outside the boundary line but In the space of 30 seconds in the third quarter he took a screamer at the top of the goalsquare and hit the post from point-blank range then, after a turnover from the kick-in, took another screamer 30m out and missed that shot too.
With scores level in the dying moments, of course the final act would focus on the Tiger No. 12. He took a brilliant one-handed mark and instinctively played on, kicking the match winning goal. “You don’t have to think about those ones,” he told the Herald Sun’s Michael Horan after the game. “If it was a set shot it might have been different.”
AAHHHH! Richo and to this very day we love you like no other!