Dick Clay: For the diehards


This is a hook being cast out, in the middle of summer, when almost nobody is about. A shout hoping on an echo, because these things about sport must be shared. The small, important stuff, that brushes over many fans, yet says everything about the grain of footy. To me, anyway.


And if no-one hears, fine, it’s off my chest. One day, one of you will be visiting and I’ll show it. And I will have shared.


Go to any two dollar shop, Shiploads, The Reject Shop, that sells videos and you’ll find the latest throwaway craze. Old Grand Final DVDs. Top stuff. Buy the ’74 North vs Richmond Grand Final. (or download it) In it there’s the framing- the game – And there’s five seconds of gold, and two seconds of brilliance the like of which I’ve never seen.


The match. Wood was such an underrated winger, but Greig beat him this day. McGhie bloodied Keka’s nose real good. Cable was unsighted in the first half. I’m no big wrap for Sheedy, but credit where it’s due, he was B.O.G by a mile. Balme showed just how good he could be. If he applied himself, anything was possible. John Rantall was a champion. Nothing less. Gareth Andrews was a close second B.O.G. as good as Brad Smith for North. Tall back pockets were hugely important back then. I wonder why Brad Smith left VFL footy so soon? He smashed it. And was there at the game’s end, chewing his gum, wry man’s man grin, win lose or draw. We talk of Lake and Scarlett knowing when to mark, and when to punch and when to run. They must have been watching Robbie McGhie this day. Noses aside, Keka did okay, but the tatts and smokes and sharpie ways can’t hide how good Bones was.


Barry Richardson, brilliant Richmond full-back, ruck rover, back flank, forward flank, came back from his second or third knee op to play his last ever game This time at full forward, kicking five goals on one of the greatest ever fullbacks of all time, David Dench. Having played fullback, he played full forward like fullback. Scragged, and held up and pulled the shorts of Dench, not letting him, the first of the game’s running key defenders, play his normal game setting up North from the backline. It was worth as much as his five goals.


Barry played the game of his life for his father, who was dying of cancer, but hanging on for that game. You can’t see that bit of family history in the DVD, but it’s great to know when watching it.


All good and true. Every Grand Final has heroes, villains and dramas. But these are the two bits of magic in this one…


Watch to the end. Look at how Barassi gets around his defeated charges. Greig gets a fatherly scruff of the head, Brad Smith a quick man-to-man chat. Then observe the way Pagan and Barassi react to each other. Pagan didn’t have a great game. There’s history there. Barassi sacked him as a Carlton player, then they both ended up at North, and Barassi, in that very moment, was going to sack him again. It is two seconds long – five, if you include the build-up – but electric. So chock full of naked tension a thousand press conferences couldn’t smooth over. It is a story. It is football.


The fact Pagan went on and as a coach beat Barassi to North’s Coach of the Century position is a nice, controversial twist in the tale.


But the moment.






The best I have seen in VFL/AFL football watching, happened about 10-15 minutes into the first quarter. From memory, Greig gets it from on-the-full, kicks to a pack at centre half forward, McGhie punches three deep, Shimma roves and bombs long to full forward.


There’s a pack of four, including Richmond champion winger, Dick Clay of Bourke, Barrett, Clay. First of the tall, marking centrelines. Clay, having lost a yard, has spent the last five years at full-back. He already has three premierships under his belt. His opponent is Doug Wade, who has already won a Premiership at Geelong, four Coleman awards and 14 (fourteen!) club leading goalkicker awards.


This is an age of champions.


Clay is hopelessly out-positioned. Led to the ball, he is fourth in line and running late. Way behind the ball’s line, he leaps anyway. Eyes on the pill, he gets great height, as his knee catches a back, snapping the rest of him forward and over the two nearest players, in a way he might break his neck on the way down. He has no balance, his chest is falling, yet he somehow keeps his eye on the pill. His fist is all that matters, it reaches above him, and forward to the ball’s line, and spoils what would have been a screamer to the bloke three people away from Clay, then he and the pack hit the ground.


It all happens so fast, two seconds. There is no replay. It doesn’t get mentioned. History has forgotten it. History never remembered it. Wade still kicked four that day.


But, when I want inspiration, determination, force of will, I watch and rewind and watch and rewind it again and again.





  1. Caught your shout on the echo Matt. You have made me want to watch that game.

  2. crankypete says

    Go Tiges! Great recall, I love that game, Royce doesn’t do much, but it all matters.

  3. Matt Zurbo says

    Dj, let me know if you see it! Can always You-Tube.

    Crank, yeah, Hart did not tear this one up, but still did his bit I think he went in very injured.

  4. Thanks Matt for this reminder about how good Dickie Clay was.
    Saw a lot of him as a kid in Ky. He lived over the road.

    Dick was a full forward for Kyabram and booted over 100 goals in a season in 1964 then went to CHF the following season to let Rossie Dillon (who went to Melbourne) play full forward.
    He also won the Morrison medal for B & F in the GVL.

    Nonetheless Shepp under Tommy Hafey beat Ky in both GFs….

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