The Legacy of Richo and The Evolution of Jacko: the changing ideology of the Richmond Football Club

Richmond playing finals for the first time since 2001 was a momentous occasion for a fan base that has been torturously starved of team success and to compensate has sought refuge in the majesty of isolated individual performances for 30 years. As a 21 year old male, my adolescence and early adulthood was punctuated by the perennial mediocrity of the Richmond Football Club. Phrases emanated from the mouths of my old man, uncle and their friends, such as ‘he can’t even kick the bloody thing!’ and ‘[insert coach here] is clueless!’

The sole supplier of joy (and as I grew older, some considerable ire) was Richo; an all encompassing figure, one whose brilliance, tirelessness, petulance and rage often dwarfed the club into insignificance. When I think of Richo I often think of a quote by former Tottenham Hotspur captain Danny Blanchflower who declared, ‘the game is about glory’. Richo was undoubtedly glorious, but he never won. I yearned for victory not glory.

There were large portions of my early childhood, where as depressing as it sounds I knew we would lose. However the blow would be softened, often muted by a Richo bag of 6 or 7 goals or a gut busting run up to the wing for a routine chest mark. As I grew older I realised that such a mindset was culturally entrenched. The result became almost secondary. In many ways, Richo was the Queen Bee, swathed in the same yellow and black garb as the rest of the team yet they were at his behest; subservient to his talents and foibles. However as I aged, hitting that period of a tempestuous, often insolent adolescence, I questioned my support. As former Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets coach Herm Edwards bluntly stated, ‘you play to win the game’. I came to the realisation that I would swap Richo’s idiosyncratic brilliance for team success any day.

Thus despite the obvious necessity of having 22 players of competency, all capable of playing a role for the team (a somewhat new and very welcome concept to tiger fans), there is a poetic irony to the current situation of the Richmond Football Club. Its ascension to finals in 2013 was individually encompassed in one man much like the nadir that preceded it was encapsulated by the burly number 12. That man was Daniel Jackson. Yet while the era of Richo was crystallised by its mediocrity amidst individual achievement, the dawn of the era of Jacko is highlighted by a resolutely team orientated approach that involves every man getting the absolute best out of himself.

Amidst the dogged brilliance of Trent Cotchin and the brute precision of Dustin Martin, was Jacko. Solid, dependable, constant, unrelenting, committed. A prototype for what Hardwick’s Richmond would be and fittingly rewarded with a maiden Jack Dyer Medal. Not a flamboyant crowd pleaser like Richo, but brimming with a dogged determination to win and a desire for self improvement, no matter how improbable it seemed. It is hard to recall a player making the transition from ‘whipping boy’ to fan favourite in such a narrow, fleeting time frame.

As implausible as it seems now, Jacko noted in his Jack Dyer Medal acceptance speech that he contemplated giving up footy at the end of 2012. He just did not think he had what it took, never felt like he truly belonged at this level. Such an insight into the internalised doubts of a professional athlete was both profound and refreshing. Not all players can be grandiosely gifted and strut across the hallowed turf like Richo. It was an acknowledgement of a man acutely aware of his standing in the game, and one that recognised the attitude and mindset needed to be collectively successful.

To say Jacko was maligned prior to 2013 would be like saying water is wet. A polite and incredibly well spoken man off the field, his propensity for temper tantrums and boneheaded suspensions seemed straight out of the Richo handbook, titled ‘how to make your supporters so exasperated they want to club a baby seal’. My old man said on many occasions, ‘we won’t ever make finals whilst that ranga is in the team’. Now he says, ‘every team needs a guy like Jacko’.

However 2013 was different for Jacko and for the Richmond Football Club. Stars such as Trent Cotchin, Brett Deledio and Jack Riewoldt, hailed as the new brigade of lynchpins for finals success, all had disappointing seasons when compared to their past dizzying heights of Coleman Medals, Jack Dyer Medals and All Australian Guernseys. Yet Richmond finished 5th and Jacko had his best season ever. Whilst it is easy to attribute his success to the meditation classes he began to take to curb his white line fever or the increased opposition attention to the likes of Cotchin, Martin and Deledio, Jacko’s 2013 season was far more important than that. It was emblematic of shift in the ideology of the Richmond Football Club. No longer dependent on a star player for any form of success, Jacko’s rise represents a new Richmond. One who exists to win premierships and win games of football, not one that is happy to hoist its hopes onto the shoulders of a solitary man and as a consequence, subconsciously accept mediocrity.

Retrospectively, Tiger fans may look back on the Hardwick era as the ‘Jacko Years’ much like the Northey/Walls/Gieschen/Frawley/Wallace eras were the ‘Richo Years’, the latter a cesspool of mediocrity highlighted by one player’s incredible achievements. Hopefully the current era will be punctuated by enduring, unrelenting workman-like performances from players like Jacko, working in tandem with burgeoning superstars like Martin and Cotchin, rather than being mere worker bees for those that are more talented.

About Theo Efthymiou

'The great fallacy is that the game is first and foremost about winning. It's nothing of the kind. The game is about glory.' Richmond Tigers, Baltimore Ravens and Liverpool Football Club tragic.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Full Credit to Jackson a battler who has made the most out of his ability how ever I think there is still a long way to go re what this story is about
    1 The blast of star players and threatening to drop Deledio in particular after the defensive blunders and braking of team rules v Fremantle in Perth
    2 Riewolt ignoring a open player in the goal square and opting for a torpedo v Hawthorn this is just 1 example of him his temper tantrums at times certainly rival Richo and can be selfish
    3 Richmond had the chance to stand up to Martin time will tell on this 1
    Overall yep Richmond have improved in this area but a bloody long way to go

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Sorry missed out could have been firmer action taken already against certain players re above and Richmond would be far more advanced by now

  3. Theo Efthymiou says

    Agree Malcolm, this chapter of the club’s history is certainly in its infancy. I just saw Jacko’s rise and the way he rose above adversity, not wallowed in it as really pivotal in the direction of this footy club. The more players who go about their footy the way he does, the quicker we will get to top 4 and beyond.

    Thanks for your comments and feedback.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    A very perceptive and considerd post. While, I only view the Tigers occasionally, your assessment seems persuasive. From what we read of Jackson, he sounds like he deserves any success that comes his way, and that he is one of those players whom neutrals would want to succeed.
    I expect that your Dad is grateful for your memory which enables you to record his 180 degree conversion in his view of Jackson.
    I’m also delighted to see your quote from Danny Blanchflower, a great footballer, with an intelligent and amusing attitude to his sport.

  5. Theo Efthymiou says

    Cheers Peter.

    I think if being proved wrong regarding Jacko meant more wins for the Tiges, my old man will gladly take it!

    And I’ve always loved that Blanchflower quote; it really rings true about our great game. For all the hard work necessary to win, you don’t achieve greatness without flair and panache.

  6. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Hi Theo,
    good to see another Greek name on the footy almanac. Enjoyed your article. Tigers are on the right track.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    What about the other important and unsung “Jacko” at Richmond – Francis ?

  8. Theo Efthymiou says

    Cheers for the welcome Phil.

    And Mark you are absolutely right. Francis Jackson’s nailing of 1st round picks has been a massive part of this list’s improvement. It’s incredible to think that prior to his arrival, the club didn’t even have a dedicated recruiting team. Francis and Blair Hartley have both done a magnificent job identifying the right players.

  9. I was wrapt that Jacko won the B&F. He is a very smart young man who has survived at the top level by recognising his limitations as well as his strengths and adapting his game accordingly. Theo, I was with your dad about Jacko in past years but I think he set an example to the rest of the list in terms of demonstrating the level of improvement through hard work that is needed for this club to become truly successful. In a side where this quality is still in short supply, dare I describe it as “leadership”?

  10. Theo Efthymiou says

    Stainless, I’d tend to agree with you regarding leadership and it still being in short supply. You only have to look at the Elimination Final loss to see that. Does Jacko provide a heap of off field leadership? Much like Newman, absolutely. What we miss (even with it improving with Cotchin as captain) are players who grab a game by the scruff of the neck and say ‘fellas, this is how it’s done’. The one who stands out most for me in this regard, despite his tender age, is Vlastuin. Was as cool as a cucumber (unlike some of his more heralded teammates) in front of nearly 100,000 people.

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Leadership in that way Theo, , of players in the comp are few and far between the two who stand out are Ablett ,and Dangerfield , who virtually state by there example are boys ger aboard this bus now .Others similar but not quite as flashy or dynamic but get the job done are Pendlebury and Hodge . I think the player at Richmond most capable ability wise in this regard is Martin which deep down is why Richmond have kept him how he ends up is any ones guess . Richmond to there credit are showing in that
    Considering Matt Thomas , they are well aware of there deficiencies in leadership.
    The mail is there are areas of leadership in being positive and relationship wise on the ground Cothchin needs improvement which is being addressed
    Leadership is now being identified and worked on at a younger age at the junior accademys etc and is the aspect of the game where Luke Dunstan , fromm SA , will get drafted quite high in November .
    Swish in regard to Francis Jackson he has been good but could any one have been any worse than what Richmond , had recruiting wise . We don’t no what say he gets in recycled players such as Petterd , Stephenson , and Chaplin , but I firmly believe if Richmond really felt they were going places and to eventually get to the top they had to pick Grundy !
    Were any team finishes up depends on the draw and injuries which Richmond had very few in 2013 . We wait for the next development .

  12. Theo Efthymiou says

    I wouldn’t say it is few and fair between. You neglect fantastic on field leaders such as Judd, Watson, Boak, J. Selwood, N. Riewoldt etc. In fact I’d contend that while most sides have a player capable of this we still don’t. Cotchin will get there eventually; he’s too hard working not to. I’m not a massive fan of the alleged Matt Thomas pick up, but Hartley has seldom been wrong before and deserves the benefit of the doubt. And as far as Martin is concerned, a brilliant player he may be, but a leader he isn’t. I’ve met him a couple of times and he is far too quiet and introverted to ever be considered for such a role.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Theo you have mentioned some other great players I just think Ablett and
    Dangerfield are the 2 stand outs re brilliance as I think Martin is the standout for
    Richmond re brilliance let’s face it if he didn’t have so much ability Richmond, would have ficked him long ago

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