Richmond’s finals best of the last 50 years

Richmond’s best players in finals during the last 50 years

by Miles Wilks

Bartlett                                   39 votes

Hart                                        18 votes

Bourke                                   16 votes

Sheedy                                    16 votes

Barrot                                     12 votes

Richmond’s best players in finals during the past 50 years can only be determined by accruing all of the best on ground votes from various newspaper panels. A voting system was employed in which three votes were given to the player deemed as Richmond’s best player in a final, two votes to the second best and one vote to the third best player. Due to the increased importance of grand finals, votes in these matches were awarded at double the rate of the other finals matches. The votes were obtained from the writers at The Age newspaper and when this paper didn’t award best on ground votes The Sun newspaper was utilised.

Kevin Bartlett – 39 votes:

2nd bog 69 prel. (Age)                         2 votes

Bog 69 grand final (Sun)                    6 votes

3rd bog 71 1st semi (Sun) (Age)           1 vote

bog 72 grand final (Sun)                     6 votes

bog 73 1st semi (Sun)                          3 votes

2nd bog 73 prel. (Sun)                          2 votes

bog 73 grand final (Age)                    6 points

2nd bog 75 elim (Age)                          2 votes

2nd bog 75 1st semi (Age)                    2 votes

2nd bog 77 elim. (Sun)                         2 votes

2nd bog 80 qual (Age)                          2 votes

equal bog 80 2nd semi (Age)                3 points

3rd bog 80 grand final (Age)               2 votes

In 1999, The Sun newspaper listed the top 200 players of all time and Kevin Bartlett came in at position 24. Bartlett’s ranking deserved to be much higher if one considers his record in finals. For starters, only five players in the history of the game have played in more premiership teams than Bartlett. And secondly, there are few players that can top Bartlett’s exceptional record in finals.

Bartlett’s performance record in grand finals is second to none. In the 1969, 1972 and 1973 grand finals Bartlett was considered Richmond’s best player by the writers from either The Sun or The Age. Then in the 1980 grand final Bartlett won the Norm Smith medal as the best player on the ground. This meant that of Bartlett’s seven grand final appearances there were as many as four where he obtained best on ground status for his team. (In the 1972 grand final loss to Carlton, Bartlett was the only Tiger to poll a vote from The Sun.)

It should be remembered that Bartlett was still a leading player in the other grand finals where he didn’t obtain best on ground status for Richmond (1967, 1974 and 1982). In the 1967 and 1982 grand finals, for instance, Bartlett kicked three goals in each match. And in the 1974 grand final he obtained 27 kicks.

This grand final record from Bartlett stacks up favourably against any other legend of the modern era. For example, Hawthorn’s Leigh Matthews played in seven grand finals and was considered his team’s best player in one of these matches. (The 1978 grand final.) And Carlton’s John Nicholls played in six grand finals and was considered his team’s 2nd best player in newspaper voting in two matches –(The 1968 and 1972 grand finals.) Bartlett, meanwhile, was a star player who obtained best on ground status for his team in as many as four of his seven grand final appearances.

No mention of Bartlett’s record in finals would be complete without focusing onhis goal kicking in the final series of 1980. Bartlett kicked six goals in a qualifying final, eight in the 2nd semi-final, most of which were opportunist goals scored off the packs, and a bag of seven in the grand final. This tally of 21 goals in a finals series is only six goals less than the tally of Gary Ablett in his stellar year of 1989. Yet Bartlett’s tally in 1980 was all the more impressive considering he played in one less final than what Ablett played in 1989. Whichever way you look at it, whether compared against Matthews, Ablett or Nicholls, the fact is that

Bartlett deserves his status as a legend of the game for his finals record alone.

Royce Hart – 18 votes

2nd bog 67 2nd semi (Age)                    2 votes

2nd bog 67 grand final (Sun)               4 votes

3rd bog 69 1st semi (Age)                     1 point

bog 72 qual (Sun)                                3 votes

equal 2nd bog 72 2nd s tie (Sun)           2 votes

2nd bog 73 qual (Sun)                          2 votes

2nd bog 74 g/final (Age)                      4 votes

Royce Hart, at just 19 years of age, was one of the Tigers’ best players in the premiership win of 1967. A couple of days after this grand final, Ron Barassi stated in The Australian newspaper that he believed Royce Hart would become one of the game’s great forwards; as good as Bob Pratt, Gordon Coventry and “Soapy” Vallence amongst others. At the time it was a big claim to be making about a 19-year old player, but Ron Barassi’s assessment of Hart would prove to be 100% accurate.

The facet of the game that Hart will be most remembered by was his ability to take contested marks. All three of his goals in the 1967 grand final were scored after taking contested marks. He had the pressure of ruckman Polly Farmer on his back for his first mark, then with his second he contested against two players and for his third a Geelong opponent unwisely tried to out-mark him from behind.

On top of this marking ability, Hart led Richmond out of the abyss of the third quarter of the 1967 grand final. Geelong scored four unanswered goals in a period of seven minutes in that quarter. Yet just when the premiership cup looked as if it was heading towards Corio Bay, Hart scored Richmond’s 10th goal. It must have been the most vital goal scored by the Tigers in the match, as it stopped the momentum of a seemingly unbeatable Geelong blitz.

Of course no mention of Hart in finals is complete unless one refers to the 1974 grand final, as he set Richmond up for victory in the second quarter of this match. Contested marks, feigning past opponents and long range goals, Hart showed a full range of skills in kicking three match changing goals – all of which where kicked in a 12 minute period of play.

Not only did Royce Hart win a place in Richmond supporter’s hearts, but all football supporters as his performance in all of his grand final appearances greatly enriched our game of Australian Football.

Kevin Sheedy

Bog 71 1st semi (Sun)                          3 votes

2nd bog 73 g/final (Age)                      4 votes

bog 74 g/final (Age)                            6 votes

bog 77 1st semi (Sun)                          3 votes

Kevin Sheedy’s greatest contribution to the Tigers occurred in the 1973 and 1974 grand finals. He was voted 2nd best on ground for the Tigers in 1973 and best on ground in the 1974 grand final.

Sheedy was instrumental in the victory of 1973 as he kicked all three of the Tigers’ goals in the opening quarter of the match.

“He (Sheedy) set us on the road to victory in the first quarter with creative handball,

shepherding, plain hard slogging work and of course those invaluable three goals,”

said teammate, Francis Bourke.

One of Kevin Sheedy’s greatest assets was his ability to stir up the opposition. Lou Richards referred to Sheedy as “The Mouth”.  And commentator Mike Williamson stated during the 1974 grand final that, “Shady Sheedy loves a bit of a stir.”

Yet there was one Sheedy moment that rattled the opposition more than any other in this match– and it had nothing to do with Sheedy’s words or physical attention.North had kicked three unanswered goals in the second quarter to gain an 11-point lead, yet Kevin Sheedy stepped in with a role in a Richmond goal that gave his team psychological control of the match.

Sheedy’s moment occurred just after he had taken a mark near the behind post. Most would have believed that the best he could have hoped for was a behind as he was on such a difficult angle to shoot at goals, yet Sheedy had a trick to play that left North Melbourne floundering.

Whilst Sheedy moved towards goal he held his head down over the ball as if he was deep in concentration with his kick. As he moved towards the man on the mark he tricked everyone into believing he was going to kick the ball. Instead he handpassed over the top of the defender’s head to the unattended Richmond ruckman, Mike Green, in the goal square.

“I didn’t know if he (Sheedy) knew I was on my own, but I didn’t want to wave my hands around to attract attention. Kevin had his head studiously down over the ball and then he ran past the point where he should have kicked it. Then I knew it was on. I can remember thinking if I drop this I will look like a bloody idiot.” Mike Green (2002)

The commentators knew the significance of the moment. Mike Williamson said: “Oh Louie, that was disgraceful. I think Ron Barassi would be screaming about that one to Michael Green.” Later when Richmond had regained control of the match, Mike Williamson added: “I think the goal Green got, the easy one, has shattered them [North] a bit.”

Football is a game of confidence and intimidation – and no one knew this better than Kevin Sheedy. This moment of trickery from the 1974 grand final was arguably Sheedy’s greatest moment in finals history.

Francis Bourke -16 votes –

3rd bog 67 s/semi (Age)                       1 vote

Bog 69 prel (Age)                               3 votes

2nd bog 72 qual (Sun)                          2 votes

Equal 2nd bog 72 2nd s tie (Sun)           2 votes

2nd bog 72 2nd semi replay (sun)          2 votes

bog 75 prel (Sun)                                3 votes

bog 77 elim (Sun)                                3 votes

With all the attention on Royce Hart and Kevin Bartlett it is possible to forget how good a player Francis Bourke was for Richmond. A member of five premiership teams and a consistent top-notch performer in finals, Bourke deserves to be rated as a Richmond and AFL legend.

Three greats names of the game – in Norm Smith, Ron Barassi and Lou Richards – all gave considerable praise to Bourke in regards to his performances in finals.

The 1969 preliminary final was Bourke’s first match where he was rated as Richmond’s best player in a final. Norm Smith praised Bourke after this match when he stated for the Age, “Courage, marking, kicking and intelligent disposal is of such a high standard that he could fill other key positions with distinction,” said Smith.

In 1972 Ron Barassi referred to Bourke as a player of the ages, “The wings fed their forwards with juicy morsels. I thought greased lightning Graeme Bond was pretty good, but what about Francis Bourke. This player is one of the greats.” Lou Richards praised Bourke for his performance in the 2nd semi final replay of 1972, “After a limping start, wingman Francis Bourke warmed up and simply obliterated any Carlton attacks which came his way.”

Later in his career, Francis Bourke was shifted to defence, yet he still picked up best on ground votes in finals as a defender. In the 1977 elimination final, Bourke was considered his team’s best player. Yet no matter the playing position, Bourke provided consistently strong performances and deserves his rating as one of Richmond’s best finals players of the 20th century.

Bill Barrot- 12 votes

Bog 67 g/f (Sun)                                 6 votes

2nd bog 69 1st semi (Age)                    2 points

Equal 2nd bog 69 g/f (Sun)                  4 votes

It was testament to how important Barrot was to Richmond’s 1967 flag assault that he polled 23 best on ground grand final votes from The Sun’s newspaper panel. Next best for Richmond was Hart with six votes. No other Richmond polled votes in this match, which goes to prove that there was no way Richmond would have won the 1967 grand final without Barrot.

In most grand final the winning team usually has more dominant players than the opposition. The 1967 grand final was one of the few exceptions to this rule. Geelong had Farmer, Goggin and Polinelli all polling best on ground votes, and a handful of others who also deserved votes. Yet Richmond had Bill Barrot and his contribution outweighed the benefit of at least half a dozen great Geelong performances. His match statistics were 27 possessions, seven marks and one goal.

Barrot proved himself as an impeccable grand final performer as he was deemed Richmond’s second best player in his next grand final – the final of 1969. Yet the match didn’t start well for Barrot as his first quarter performance, by his standards, was dismal. He had gained only three possessions for a quarter of football. Two of those possessions were free kicks- one for Carlton kicking out of bounds on the full and one downfield for a late tackle on Bartlett. It was a far cry from his performance in the grand final two years earlier.

Fifteen minutes into the second quarter and he still had a negligible impact on the game. At this point the Tigers needed Barrot firing and they needed to kick goals. The solution was simple – move Barrot from the centre to full-forward.

“Billy Barrot was a real big game player, as he always lifted another notch for finals. We thought Wes (Carlton’s fullback) might have a few nightmares about Bill Barrot. During the course of the year when we placed Bill against Wes Lofts at Princes Park, Bill had kicked eight goals. Tom Hafey – Richmond  coach

In the grand final the same formula worked a treat for the Tigers. Again, as in the round 19 match, the positional move was made in the second quarter. Barrot’s next four possessions at full-forward in the grand final changed the course of the game. His first kick as a full-forward resulted in a goal, his second – a behind, his third – a goal, and his fourth – resulted in a Ronaldson mark and goal.

Of these four possessions, the first was the most memorable because of Barrot’s response. Barrot had taken a safe chest mark in the goal square and most people in the same position would calmly use a drop punt to score the goal but Barrot was  “pumped up” and opted to use a torpedo punt with enough power behind it to reach a distance of 50 metres. A split second after the goal he waved his fingers at Lofts and yelled out to him that more were to come.

Just like Sheedy and Hart, Bill Barrot earned his place as one of Richmond’s greatest finals players for his leading role in two grand finals. With such a remarkable contribution in the 1967 and 1969 grand finals, it must only be a matter of time before Barrot becomes an AFL hall of fame player.

“I grabbed the energy of the crowd, the for and against energy and made it happen. Supporters in those days used to really barrack. I was that high on adrenaline that my feet never touched the ground.” – Bill Barrot (2000)

“The way I played football was kill or be killed, I played like a gladiator and trained like that too. Every week I played I was told someone was going to knock my block off. As long as we won, I didn’t mind.” Bill Barrot (2001)


  1. Miles, you’re making me wish I was alive for those years. Who would have thought that such a bright period of success would be followed by such a generally miserable 30 years?

    I find it surprising that Bartlett wasn’t BOG in the 1980 Grand Final – who was?

  2. Adam,
    I am a contrary bastard but i do recall not having him in my top 3…the finisher.

  3. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says

    Based on impact not games played the best Tiger in finals was Bustling Billy Barrott!

  4. Miles Wilks says

    Hi Adam,

    Good pick up there. Yes, most would put Bartlett as best on ground in the 1980 g/f, but the newspaper I based my votes on (The Age) had the Tigers’ ruckman Mark Lee as BOG.

    He did have a dominant day, regularly bashing the ball out of the centre congestion.

    Regds- Miles

  5. Miles Wilks says

    Hi Sheik Mohammed Bin Rocket,

    I agree. Bill Barrot was a genius on the football field and should go down as one of the all time greats not only of Richmond, but of the game. He was before his time. Bustlin’ Billy was like Jason Akermanis and Michael Voss rolled into one player 30 plus years before those players entered the frame.

  6. …and beautifully named. Something about the footballers and alliteration especially where B is concerned.

  7. Terrific post Miles.

    One that seems to have been forgotten is Royce’s ’73 PF performance. Replaced Robert Lamb at half time with the Tigers trailing by 6 goals. His two 3rd quarter goals lifted the side, they would eventually prevail by a goal and a bit. Inspirational stuff. Not often you’d get votes for a five kick performance but Hart should’ve.


  8. Robert Williamson says

    Billy Barrot on his day was the best footballer ever, I can vividly remember a game late in the 1967 season at Princes Park against Carlton, the tigers were trailing by about 3 goals just before half time and looked hopeless, Billy Barrot was moved to full forward and finished up with 8 goals, allowing the tigers to get into the final and win the premiership.
    The fans in the street after that game could only be described as delirious, I have never seen anything like it, it will live in my memory forever.


  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    The Richmond sides of the seventies and 80 must be ranked right up there re the greatest of all time Hart , Bourke , Bartlett , Stewart all with huge claims to be in the team of the century . Barrott , Wood , Sheedy , Balme , Richardson McGhie etc
    when you try and explain to young tiger supporters that only about , 3 current players would be considered to make the best of if you were picking the best of tiger side inc current players they look at you with bewilderment on ability ignoring the extra training and , Graeme Richmond would not tolerate the bullshit which occurs at tiger land way too frequently now days

  10. Robert Williamson says

    Correction, Bill Barrot’s fantastic 8 goal game against Carlton was in fact 1969, not 1967 ,his fantastic effort got the tigers into the final and the premiership

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