The Collingwood and Richmond trade war

It was a war that should never have happened. A war that saw one club bankrupt and the other on the brink of extinction.

Collingwood and Richmond have never gotten along.The cross-town rivals have shared a history that dates back to the 1920s, when the Tigers claimed their first premiership in the 1920 grand final.

Collingwood sought their revenge by trouncing the Tigers in three successive grand finals between1927 to 1929.

Tensions between the clubs were so fierce that Richmond immortal Jack Dyer confessed he could not watch black and white television because of his hatred for the Magpies.

But for all of their history, nothing would prepare the clubs for the bitter trade wars of the early 1980’s.

Richmond and Collingwood began the decade by squaring off in the 1980 Grand Final. In front of 113,461 fans, the Tigers defeated the Magpies by 81 points to win their 10th VFL premiership.

With a side full of youth, the Tigers were expected to dominate the decade and be become one of the most successful teams in VFL history.

However, the Tigers failed to make the finals in 1981 and sacked coach Tony Jewell.

Former player Francis Bourke was appointed coach in 1982 and guided the Tigers to the Grand Final. But in wet conditions the Tigers were no match for Carlton, who ran away with an 18-point victory.

While Richmond was mourning the Grand Final defeat, Collingwood were in the midst of an evolution.

For the first time in six years the Magpies failed to make the finals. The Collingwood board were criticised for being conservative and the lack of improvement saw rebel groups challenge the board for power of the club.

One of these rebel groups was the ‘New Magpies’, who were led by well know media identity and businessman Ranald McDonald.

McDonald and the‘New Magpies’ promised fans if elected onto the board they would embark on one of the biggest recruiting campaigns ever seen in VFL history.

Ranald McDonald

An election was called and the ‘New Magpies’ gained power of the club.

Collingwood historian Michael Roberts recalls the ‘New Magpies’ early promises.

“They [the ‘New Magpies’] went out to spend big money and buy a premiership. It was a charged environment under that regime and that mean’t they were spending big money and that mean’t clubs who were poached by Collingwood got a bit more pissed off.”

Richmond was one of the clubs annoyed by the Collingwood recruiting strategy.

In the wake of the grand final defeat, club legends David Cloke and Geoff Raines asked for pay increases to compliment their service to the Tigers.

According to former player Dale Weigtman in his book ‘Saving our skins and other tiger tales’, the duo had requested pay increases after discovering 20-year-old forward Brian Taylor was on a larger salary.

Livid by the perceived lack of respect shown towards the club, Richmond secretary Graeme Richmond did not accept the request.

“Graeme Richmond had this attitude that you don’t tell us what you are worth, we tell you,” Richmond historian Bill Meaklim said.

Graeme Richmond

News of the player unrest reached Collingwood and the Magpies offered the pair the money they were seeking.

Losing the well-loved players to their fiercest rival infuriated Richmond, who began plotting their revenge.

“Guys like Cloke and Raines were royalty at Richmond and Richmond were understandably pissed off,” said Roberts.

David Cloke and Geoff Raines

The Tigers tried signing Collingwood icon Peter Daicos, but a conversation with his father persuaded Daicos to stay at the Magpies.

With Daicos rejecting a move, the Tigers set their sights on Phil Walsh and John Annear.

Walsh was named Collingwood’s best first year player in 1983 and the move hurt Magpie fans.

“He [Walsh] was a very popular player,” Roberts said.

“The fans loved him and from that moment it was a realisation that this was a war.”

Collingwood hit back by securing Brian Taylor in 1985, while Richmond poached Wally Lovett, Neil Peart and Craig Stewart.

But the effects of the war were beginning to take its toll. While Collingwood were getting the best out of their recruits, Richmond’s signings failed to impress.

“What we did was dopey,” Meaklim said.

“While Collingwood were get- ting hundreds of games from Cloke, Raines and Taylor, we got ordinary players who played under 50 games.”

“The money we spent on transfers would have been enough to pay Cloke and Raines what they wanted.”

Collingwood returned to the finals in 1984, while Richmond struggled in the lower half of the ladder.

Over a four-year period, the ‘New Magpies’ spent $1.8 million on player acquisitions.

In 1986, the Magpies were on the verge bankruptcy, but found enough money to pay off their debts.

“We got a stay of execution of a couple of weeks and that gave us the time we needed to settle things down a bit,” Roberts said.

Richmond were not so lucky. Disappointing on-field results saw the club sack four coaches in a five-year period. In 1990 Richmond declared they needed to raise $1 million by October 31 or face extinction.

The Save Our Skins campaign was established and saw the club rattle tins for survival.

“Tins were taken everywhere to raise the money. A legend match was planned at Windy Hill and it got a crowd of over 23,000,” recalls Meaklim.

Amongst the many who donated to the cause was the Collingwood Football Club.

It is unclear why the Magpies donated to the Richmond fund. But what is clear is no matter how strained the relationship became, both clubs needed each other for survival.

Richmond: What needs to be done to win that elusive final?

Richmond supporters I am sorry to say, but it is time to face reality. Your side will never be considered a premiership contender unless they can finally win a final.

For three years the Tigers have been successful during the home and away season, but have exited the finals early.

2013 was an utter disaster, a game, which Richmond should have won by 10 goals, while in 2014; Richmond never had a chance against a rampant Port Adelaide.

This year was different for Richmond. Supporters may blame the umpire for an incorrect decision, but in reality Richmond were the second best side for the entire game.

26 shots on goal to 17, signals the dominance of the North Melbourne side, who only allowed Richmond to stay in the game due to inaccuracy in front of goal.

So after three years of improvement, Richmond is still searching for finals success.

It isn’t difficult to see the areas where Richmond needs improvement. However, to achieve the pinnacle in the AFL, Richmond needs to act now and start fixing the problems.

The Attack

Coaches love to talk about defending and how keeping the opposition under a certain amount of points will see their side win. But it doesn’t matter how many points the opposition scores if your can score more.

Looking at the last 15 AFL premiers, all teams bar Sydney and West Coast during 2005 and 2006 had a side capable of scoring more than 100 points.

Coaches are so fond of Ross Lyon and his defensive game plan that they fail to realise his style does not win premiership.

This year, Richmond had an outstanding defence, conceding a mere 73 points per game.

Richmond’s attack didn’t prove to be as triumphant, with the Tigers failing to kick more than 10 goals in 11 games.

With this in mind it was surprising Hardwick decided to drop Ben Lennon and Sam Lloyd for the elimination final.

Both players were in good form and had more game time than injury plagued Ben Griffiths and Reece Conca.

Hardwick seems to under appreciate forwards. Looking at the Richmond side it is difficult to determine who would be playing in the forward 50, apart from Jack Riewoldt, Tyrone Vickery and possibility Ben Griffiths.

The experiment of playing Steve Morris in attack this year further fuels speculation Hardwick is not a fan of forwards.

Jeff Gartlett was on the trade table last year and could have been valuable for the Tigers.

This year, Steve Johnson is available and would be ideal as a player-coach at Tigerland.

The Ruck

There is not a single person in Australia who does not like ‘Big Ivan’ Maric. The charismatic mullet is a fan favourite, as too his determination and grit.

But after years of playing as the single ruckman, it seems his body is starting to wear out.

Maric needs a partner in the ruck and no we are not talking about Shaun Hampson.

He needs a ruck partner who is versatile and play as a forward and a ruckman.

Matthew Kreuzer would be an exceptional pickup for Richmond. He is a good tap ruckman and can play forward.

What lets him down is the risk of injury and his salary.

Carlton would not allow him to leave for anything less than $500,000, which is somewhat of a risk for clubs as it is yet to be determined if he can play a full season.

Zac Smith is another option that has been hampered by injury. Before his knee injury, Smith was considered one of the most talented young ruckman in the game.

Since then, he has struggled to cement a place in the Gold Coast side.

The Midfield

The Richmond midfield is full of star names. Cotchin, Deledio, Martin, Miles, Edwards and Ellis all run through the midfield.

However, when one has a bad game or is out injured, it heavily affects the other members. Richmond need another A grade midfielder to complement their existing stars.

Adam Treloar and Patrick Dangerfield would be ideal but it is impossible to see them land at Richmond.

Jaeger O’Meara is one out of left field. He is out of contract next year and there are reports he could seek a move away of the Gold Coast.

The problem with him is he is returning from a knee injury and may need to be assessed before a club tries to lure him.

Harley Bennell and James Aish seem like realistic options for the Tigers. Bennell is an exceptional talent, with off-field issues.

But in the right kind of environment, he could play his best football and set the AFL alight.

James Aish’s first season in football was very good.

But this year, with talk of his exit from Brisbane, he has struggled to return to his previous form.

A fresh start could see him return to his best and compliment a star-studded midfield.

The Defence

This is one area of the field where the Tigers excel. The defence has been resilient all year and with the likes of Alex Rance, it is not hard to understand why.

The one area of the defence that can be improved is the running halfback position.

Bachar Houli will always be, at best a B grade player.

There is no sugar coating the fact that Houli cost Richmond a chance of finishing in the top four.

When he is playing well, Richmond tends to win, but when he has a bad game, Richmond tend to lose.

Houli is not a player who will lead Richmond to a premiership.

Chris Yarran seems likely to end up at Richmond and will be a better option off halfback.

Leadership

The elimination final proved to everyone that Richmond has very little on-field leadership. Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio and Troy Chaplin, are three leaders who saved there worst game of the year for the elimination final.

Cotchin is a quiet leader, not one who would voice his disapproval of teammates and stand up when his side needs him most.

But with very little leadership at the club, it is difficult to find a suitable replacement.

The Coach 

Damien Hardwick is a good coach with very little support around him. At a club with better assistant coaches, there is not doubt he would be considered one of the best coaches in the game.

Brendon Lade was brought into the club when Hardwick took over at the end of 2009, with no previous coaching experience. Since than he has become one of the senior assistants, but does not look likely of being offered a senior position any time soon.

Sir Alex Ferguson has always said fresh voices rejuvenate a side.

Maybe it is time for Richmond and Damien Hardwick to find some new fresh-faced assistants who can provide a new voice for the playing list.