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.

3. The 1982 Grand Final


This is a hard one to write.


The 1982 Grand Final burns in the gut, even after 37 years. But any account of Richmond’s forgotten years must confront the significance of this day and the repercussions that followed.


Although Richmond had topped the ladder and beat Carlton comfortably in the Second Semi-Final, the omens weren’t promising.


Morale was sapped on the final training night when Mick Malthouse failed his brave attempt to overcome a dislocated shoulder just two weeks after injuring it. Having endured all the fitness tests that could be thrown at him, Malthouse was put through one last impromptu ordeal – a one-on-one wrestling match with coach Francis Bourke. He re-popped the shoulder with his selection in the side just seconds away.


In a bone-dry year that prefaced the disastrous Ash Wednesday bushfires the following summer, it would have to be Grand Final day that brought scudding showers, disrupting a Richmond line-up that was big and powerful, but slow and top-heavy in comparison with the opposition. The game began in slippery conditions and Carlton immediately pounced. The Tigers, slow to adjust, found themselves three goals down in minutes. It was the decisive break in a game decided by that exact margin.


The rest of the afternoon played out like an exquisite form of torture. Richmond, a proud but wounded bull to Carlton’s nimble toreador, was teased with the promise of victory, only to be stabbed at critical stages by its strutting tormentor – and by fate. The Blues’ poor kicking in the first half – 6.11 to 9.4 – didn’t come back to bite them. The poor timing of Helen D’Amico’s infamous streak couldn’t distract Carlton from their decisive third quarter roll. A couple of quick Richmond goals early in the last quarter couldn’t inspire the big finish that Leon Baker and co were to deliver a couple of Grand Finals later. Even Maurice Rioli’s peerless performance that won him the Norm Smith Medal wasn’t enough to get us over the line. The rain was tumbling again as I stood glumly in the old Northern Stand watching the relentless Blues delivering the coup de grace. As Rioli accepted his medal my sentiments echoed Norm Smith himself when he once said of Collingwood: “I hate you bastards, but by gee I admire you”.


What I wasn’t to know at that time, but what would really cause me years of angst about this fateful day, was that our near miss that day was just the precursor to a whole era of discontent and upheaval at Tigerland. “What if” questions have jangled in my head ever since. If we’d won that day would Raines, Cloke and Wood have walked out on the club? If Brian Taylor had played, would we have won and would he have remained longer at Richmond? If Malthouse had got through his fitness test, would it have made a difference to the relationship that quickly soured between the players and their coach, Bourke?


Whatever the case, it was clear early in the following season that the strong, confident Richmond of 1982 was no more. The bitter disappointment of the Grand Final loss was probably not the key factor in this but one can only imagine a much happier, more harmonious Punt Road Oval if we’d managed to find those extra three goals.



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About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. george smith says

    I feel sorry for you guys, then I remember the relentless crap that Jack Dyer and co heaped upon my Magpies during the 70s and 80s. Even though we made grand finals in 70, 77, and 79 to 81 we were deemed gatecrashers at the feast, not even considered real contenders.

    After we bought Raines, Cloke and Taylor, because they had a snit with coach Francis Bourke, Graham Richmond contemptuously bought our best first year player Philip Walsh, because he could. Not content with this and others like John Annear, he bought Peter Francis from Fitzroy, not knowing that, like the Pitura deal, it was the seeds of their own destruction. Then there was the coaching merry go round; and the Save our Skins campaign when Richmond ran out of money. It’s easy to go from the penthouse to the outhouse unless your name is Hawthorn…

  2. Taylor should have played instead of Martello and Egan should have played instead of Sartori. Going with Jess, Roach and Cloke up forward with Martello lumbering around the backline was costly error. When Richmond won the wooden spoon a few years later I finally realised that the expected finals and likely Premiership was a distant expectation. Love the line of bull and toreador comparison. Great work as always Stainless.

  3. Hey Stainless, have you caught up with the STAINLESS STEEL RAT books by Harry Harrison I recommended to you a little while back. They’re extremely good but nothing to do with footy..

  4. Stainless says

    George – no sympathy expected, especially from the black and whites. All I can say about the player poaching between the clubs in the 80s is that it takes two to tango, and the New Magpies era was just as hubristic and shambolic as the activities at Punt Road.

    Noel – it’s amazing that we can remember those selection blunders so clearly all these years on. Taylor was on target for 100 goals when he injured his knee in a midweek match that we won by about 30 goals against a third-string Swan Districts line-up. He got back in time for the finals but by then the selectors had moved to a different forward structure. Phil Egan was a cracking player. Tough, explosive and skilled. He might well have provided that X factor in the GF.

    Fisho – sorry no I haven’t yet but will look them up I promise.

  5. Stainless, Please google the Books, there’s stacks of info there about the series. The Rat is a master criminal, a lovable rogue, in the far future. They are a great read.

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