Round 9 – Richmond v Essendon: The return of Derek Peardon


by John Green


I first learned that it wasn’t acceptable to call indigenous people ‘abos’ when I was ten years old. It was at the Lake Oval in 1970 when Richmond was taking on South Melbourne. I was down by the fence with my brother, where all the kids were ushered in those days, while our father stood further back on the terraces. I must have heard someone use the term before that day, because when young Tiger Derek Peardon made an error I yelled out, “Come on you abo!”

An old lady, who was wearing what looked like plastic lunch wrap over her hair to keep the rain off,  responded with, “Don’t call him that luv. They were here before us.”

I was chastened. I had no idea that what I had said was offensive. I thought I was being clever. But I learned a valuable lesson from a fellow Richmond supporter at a time when adults had a ‘it takes a village’ mentality to socialising the young. She didn’t say anything else to me. She didn’t need to.


Peardon played 20 games for Richmond from 1968 -71. He is reputed to be the club’s first ever indigenous player. Even though the Tigers had a strong team in that era, Peardon would have made more senior appearances if it wasn’t for the persistent injuries he endured. He returned to Tasmania where he represented the state and played for City South for many years, winning a league best and fairest along the way. After retiring he worked as a panel beater in St. Marys on the east coast.


Now after all these years Derek Peardon re-materialises on the MCG. It’s the 2015 Dreamtime at the G fixture. He is introduced to the crowd as Richmond’s homecoming hero. He was pretty quick when he was younger, but I notice that like Michael Long, he’s comfortably surpassed his playing weight. He strides to the goal square at the Punt Road end and pops the footy through the sticks. In a way it’s like unfinished business, because he played mainly on the wing and never kicked a goal in the firsts. I heard before the game that he hadn’t been out of Tasmania in 40 years.


Then there’s Essendon’s Dustin Fletcher, who tonight becomes only the third player after Kevin Bartlett and Michael Tuck to play 400 games of league football. There are very few 40-year-olds playing senior footy in local competitions, let alone the AFL. It’s an unbelievable achievement. As for Fletcher, he seems completely unaffected by the fuss in the pre-match interviews. He’s a city boy, but reminds me of a farmer who’s just come in from the paddocks for a leisurely roast lunch.


His opponent tonight is second-gamer Liam McBean, who wasn’t even born when Fletcher made his debut for the Bombers back in 1993. The old man wins a couple of duels, too. He beats his younger rival in a race for a loose ball and taps it through for a rushed behind when McBean attempts to soccer it through from the square.


The match itself is a tight, intense struggle, but it’s not one for the purists. Essendon players often lose their footing in the centre square. Fierce tacking causes fumbles and turnovers. Carlisle and Daniher miss from point blank range. Richmond has the edge in efficiency, making more use of their scoring opportunities. The game follows a pattern where the Tigers make a break before the dogged Bombers reel them in. It’s close all night. In the first quarter Cotchin snaps a goal from a stoppage in the dying seconds to take the Tigers out to a ten-point lead. In the second term they increase the margin to 23 points before Essendon hits back. Daniher finds his range after the siren to reduce the gap to 11 points at the long break. Majors to Colyer and Daniher in the third quarter reduce the deficit to a point at the 19-minute mark. The Tigers are looking shaky. Then McIntosh floats one home, bringing the yellow and black partisans to their feet, and the pressure is relieved again. Unfortunately Fletcher suffers a leg injury and is subbed off early in the last quarter, an unfortunate end to a momentous occasion. A couple more to Grigg and Corey Ellis in the final term and the Tigers are home. They share the ball around in the final few minutes and achieve their first Dreamtime victory since 2011.


I was there in ’83 when Kevin Bartlett played for the 400th time. He only had another three games left in him. That day Collingwood rolled Richmond by 10 points. Now the Tigers are making a habit of gate crashing parties and spoiling the proceedings for the hosts. It happened when Steven Silvagni played his 300th for Carlton in 2001 and when Kevin Sheedy and James Hird were involved in their last match together in Melbourne in 2007. Last week it was Kane Cornes’ 300th and final run for Port Adelaide. Tonight the Tiger players join Fletcher’s team mates to form a guard of honour. Richmond supporters, buoyed by their third win in a row, can afford to be gracious in victory and they applaud the lanky red head as he leaves the arena.


I hope Derek Peardon enjoys his sojourn on the mainland.

Leave a Comment