They shall not be forgotten years. Richmond: 1981 – 2016: An occasional series of reflections on the triumphs and tragedies that made 2017 so worth the wait

4. The Doug Cox Affair. Round 9, 1981.

I was pulled up with a start when I read that Richmond’s burst of 9.2 against Gold Coast on Saturday was their best first quarter return since they booted 11.5 against St Kilda in 1981.

 

My first reaction? How ordinary have the Tigers been between our 1980 and 2017 Premierships. Not one 10 goal first quarter in 38 years!

 

My second reaction was to recall the circumstances of that 11 goal haul. For those with good memories it was the “Doug Cox” game.

 

Doug Cox came to St Kilda from West Torrens and had been a serviceable defender for the Saints through the early rounds of 1981 until the Tigers challenged the legitimacy of his recruitment. Back in the days of recruiting zones, Richmond pointed out that he’d originally come from South Mildura, in the heart of Richmond’s Sunraysia recruiting zone. The League upheld Richmond’s challenge. St Kilda was fined $5000 and stripped of the eight premiership points they’d accumulated to that point of the season. The Saints were outraged and, led by their vocal president Lindsay Fox, cast themselves as victims of treachery. As fate would have it, Richmond played St Kilda at that very time. The Round 9 encounter at Waverley suddenly went from being a mundane mid-season game to an almighty grudge match, with Richmond cast very much as the bad guys.

 

Strangely, Cox, the man at the centre of the controversy, was allowed to play even though his club had been found guilty as charged. Amidst cheers from the majority of the 40,000 crowd, he defiantly led the Saints through their banner. Equally defiant, Richmond’s captain, Bryan Wood, entered the arena with fists held high in the face of hostile booing. It was obvious that the match would begin in explosive fashion. The question was – which side would capitalise?

 

The Tigers’ 11 goal opening was a power-packed burst, reminiscent of their very best footy from the preceding Premiership year. Our previous result against the Saints in July 1980 was a 152 point drubbing in which we kicked our club record score. As the quarter time siren rang out with the Tigers 50 points ahead, we sat back with the complacent assumption that a similar outcome was on its way.

 

How wrong we were! Over the next two quarters, St Kilda completely took over the game, outplaying Richmond all over the ground. By three-quarter time, they’d reeled in the deficit and with the partisan crowd urging them on, the headlines were already being drafted about the Saints’ fairy tale win over the dastardly Tigers. Sadly, for those hoping for poetic justice, the Tigers regained their composure and toughed out a gritty five goal win. Doug Cox himself had a forgettable game, having the unenviable task of matching Kevin Bartlett, who kicked four important goals, and ending the game concussed.

 

For the record, the League’s propensity to make up the rules as they go along was well and truly evident back in ’81. In an about-face later that season, they amended the rules that St Kilda had breached and the Saints had their points reinstated.

 

This match was, in many ways, a microcosm of Richmond’s frustrating 1981 season. As their first quarter burst showed, the Tigers were capable of brilliant footy, but appeared to lack the hunger to destroy opponents as they’d done the previous year. Although we won this day, our fade out against St Kilda was mirrored in a number of games across the season with more dire consequences. The most costly of these were in their two games against Fitzroy, in which they coughed up seven goal leads to lose by less than a kick. Fitzroy edged Richmond out of the Final Five by a single game.

 

Injuries also affected the Tigers badly in 1981 and the worst of these occurred in the “Doug Cox” game. David Cloke, our bullocking battering ram of a centre half forward, had been in everything during that devastating first quarter, but then suffered a knee injury that would sideline him until the last game of the season. In those days when positional football was still the order of the day, the loss of a key position player like Cloke couldn’t be over-stated. It completely upset Richmond’s forward structure and we struggled to kick winning scores for the rest of the year. Although he returned in our must-win last round match against Carlton, his impact was limited after such a long absence and on an MCG mudheap, the Tigers managed just five goals as a disappointing season came to a tame end.

 

I’ve included the match stats, courtesy AFL Tables.  Some memorable names on both sides!

 

 

Richmond            11.5       12.8       14.9       20.16 (136)

St Kilda                 3.3         9.8         13.12     15.15 (105)

 

Goals

Rich:      Roach 4, Bartlett 4, Welsh 3, Wiley 3, Rowlings 2, Lee, Nugent, Wall, Waterson

St K:       Gorozidis 5, Herbert 3, Roberts 3, Faletic, Meehan, Roach, Sarau

 

Leading possessions

Rich:      Wiley 39, Bartlett 19, Malthouse 19, Rowlings 19, Strachan 18, Rowlings 18, Weightman 18

StK:        Barker 33, Cunningham 22, Dunne 22, Roberts 22, Faletic 18, Burns 17

 

Umpires:              Glenn James, Ian Robinson

Crowd:                 40,240 at VFL Park, Waverley

 

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Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.

Comments

  1. JASON ANDREW TOPPIN says

    IT TOOK RICHMOND UNTIL THEY GOT DAMIEN HARDWICK AND THE KEPT HIM AS THEIR COACH AND WHAT THEY DID BY NOT SACKING DAMIEN HARDWICK SHOWED THAT IF YOU KEEP YOUR COACH YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TI INA PREMIERSHIP LIKE RICHHMOND DID IN 2017 HERNCE WEST COAST EAGLES DID TYE SAME THIS BY NOT SACKING ADAM SIMPSON AND LIKE RICHMLND IN 2017 WE WON THE PREMIERHIP IN 2018. AND MAY WELL WIN TEH PREMKER AGAIN IN 2019.

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