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Q. Which of Richmond premierships were the most satisfying and why?
EVERY ONE WAS SPECIAL. 1967 was the first for 24 years, a wonderful feeling. 1969 was a tough year and we struggled to make the Finals but really starred in our 3 Finals games. 1973- Revenge on Carlton who thrashed us in 1972. 1974-Back to back flags, made us have a great era.
Q. How beneficial were the relationships you built with players? Michael Bowden speaks about you like you were a second father to the players.
People felt I was too close to the players but I believed it was the way I wanted it. We had many club functions, dances parties, evenings out with the players, committee, staff and their wives. We were very close, good friends and we still are. We are family.
Q. When you were coaching the RFC did you place specific importance on being 'strong at the footy'? And if so, how did you get the players switched on to this in practice and matches?
talked about making every contest, every ball up, throw in, every mark a do-
or-die effort. Never, never concede or give up. To chase as if life and death
depended on it. To never let your team-mates down. Just be honest knowing you
can look them in the face, knowing you could not give any more, and to play for
each other. Respect our club.
P.S. Any consideration to making a comeback to coaching the Tige's?
I would have loved to.
From Skiddy McGhee
Q. Apart from the gun players he had (i.e Hart, Bartlett, Barrot, Bourke, Sheedy...), who was his 'project player'. The guy who didn't have all the skills and had to work real hard at it achieve success?
Kevin Sheedy mainly fits into that project group. Not blessed with great talent or speed but had a wonderful work ethic. Laurie Fowler, Ian Owen, Brian Wood, Mervyn Keane- We also had many in the reserves or who didn’t make big names but I regarded as high achievers because they got the best out of themselves.
Q. Hart or Carey?
Bit tough to compare 20 years apart but I’m glad Royce Hart was in our team.
Hardest trainer? Kevin Sheedy, Francis Bourke
Hardest to coach? Billy Barrot was our best trainer at times but was often down on himself
Funniest? Brian “Whale” Roberts
Best clubman? Kevin Sheedy, Brian Roberts
Best player coached? Royce, Francis, Kevin Bartlett, Ian Stewart
Best RFC player seen? Any of the above plus Roy Wright
Best player seen? Graham Farmer, John Nicholls
Hardest player to coach against? John Nicholls
Biggest footy disappointment? 1972 Grand Final loss
Funny moments? Many in the Club Rooms and Socials- but most of them included the Whale
Q. How was your time coaching Shepparton?
A marvelous tie, had a great learning experience from our wonderful President, Jack Edwards, who would out-sell any AFL Administrator I’ve met. I still keep in touch with many of the Shepp players from that era.
From Al Bundy
Q. Was there any one player when you coached that you cut from your list or traded that you later might have had regrets?
GRAEME TEASDALE who won the Brownlow with South Melbourne, because we didn’t give him enough time and we didn’t play him once in the ruck.
BRIAN ROBERTS was a massive mistake as he was such a great person around the club.
’69 was a tough year-Ray Dunn President and Graeme Richmond Secretary were not getting on too well and I was meat in their political sandwich. There were nasty articles in the paper, which suggested my sacking, but the players rallied for a great year.
Q2. Leading up to the 1972 GF, Richmond was almost unbackable. Could you sense any complacency amongst the a) players, and/or b) those in the inner sanctum?
Not really. We beat them well in the Replay of the tied Semi and they changed their team around learning from that semi defeat.
Q3. Were you surprised at Carlton's all out attack in the 1972 GF? And, do you think you took too long to respond to that by showing too much faith in your players?
That was the
way I always did things and I have always had criticism regarding our hard
training sessions and my faith and respect for the players by giving them every
chance to come good.
Q4. I've heard you say that as part of the motivation on the day of the 1973 GF a huge poster of John Nicholls being chaired off the ground with the '72 premiership cup was placed above the players race door; and that some of the players said to you after that game that it was the easiest game you ever coached - they were never going to lose. Did you sense the players had a different hunger that day, and did you feel that we were never going to lose during the game?
1973 we were
the underdogs and we had revenge on our mind. The players were self-motivated
and many of them did say after the game there was no known way we would be
Q5. During the 1973 finals series, we lost the qualifying final to Carlton in week 1. After that game, did you think Carlton had improved from the previous year? Was there something lacking from Richmond that day to make you feel we could beat them if we had another go at them?
Games lost can help the beaten team on many occasions; probably losing you can learn much about what we will do at a later date.
Q6. Did you see the "Battle of Windy Hill" unfold? What did you say to the players in the dressing rooms at half time?
I saw it all sitting in the coach’s box. I just reminded the players we had a football game to win and to concentrate on first to the ball, and only having eyes for the ball.
Q7. After we picked up John Pitura, could you sense a drop in the players’ morale for we gave away Brian Roberts, Francis Jackson and Graeme Teasdale?
Big mistake particularly Brian Roberts who was a premiership player and everybody’s best mate. The other players weren’t regular players in our team back then but good luck to the for grabbing a second chance.
Q8. My understanding of why you left Richmond at the end of 1976 was that following a board meeting where your tenure was discussed, 10 of the 12 board members voted in favour of you remaining coach. As this decision was not unanimous, you felt you could not continue. Is this true? If not, why did you leave?
That is very true. I thought I couldn’t coach against the Tigers and I would most likely go to Perth or Adelaide but when Collingwood spoke to me I thought about it, and with them on the bottom of the ladder….why not?
Q9. You are a Tiger legend regardless of your time at Collingwood, so I won't hold the wrong answer against you, therefore, after which GF loss were you most disappointed: 1972 when we were red hot favourites, or 1977 when Collingwood had the game virtually won at 3/4 time in the first game?
1972 because we were such hot favourites.
1977 was so disappointing also because the players responded so well to tie the Grand Final from wooden spooners.
Q10. Obviously you would have been disappointed after the 1980 GF; but during a private moment later on, did Richmond being the premier soften the blow?
Not really-You are sad and down to lose a grand final because loyalty lies with the tea I was coaching
Q11. Finally, about 12 or 13 of your players went on to coach at senior level in the VFL/AFL. Kevin Sheedy aside, who were you most impressed with when coaching against?
(18 actually) Tony Jewell, Paul Sproule and Kevin Bartlett.
Q. Tommy was there a time after you have finished coaching the swans that you would come back to the tigers?
About 10 years ago the media were calling for e to be coach of the Tigers but the people in charge at the time didn’t even speak to e.
I do different things for the Club- speak to Coterie Groups etc; and at times speak to some groups of the players.
Q. Tommy, what are your main memories of playing for Richmond in the 1950's?
We didn’t look like making the Finals. We had some really big names. Des Rowe, Max Oppy, Roy Wright, Ray Poulter, Billy Wilson, Ron Branton, John Nix, and many ore but I always felt we kicked too much small stuff. I was always a fan of the famous Melbourne teams under the great Norm Smith.
From Chiang May Tiger
Q. What are your thoughts on selecting kids in the draft? Should picks be about 'best available' or list needs?
Our needs over
the possible number 1. Players with big bodies are usually our needs although
with 40 players on the list all shapes and sizes are around and there is a place
From Barty Boy
Q. Tommy how important was it for the club to not only select a good footballer but also a human being of good character?
Being of good character is a must. I hate it when players make fools of themselves with too much drink & such. They let our Team & Club & teammates down.
Q. Tommy what is your opinion on drafting footballers vs athletes, considering beep tests and vertical leap measurements wouldn't have been scrutinised so closely in your day?
Most of the things being done now have been good for the game. Obviously players now full-time should be fitter and more skillful but I think the coaches must have trouble teaching football smarts because I still see so many dopey, stupid handballs to a teammate who they can see is going to be caught.
Q. Also how would the footballers from your successful coaching era stand up in the modern game?
Players from other eras would adapt now if they had the same amount of time and practice as happens now. It’s stupid to compare players and sportspeople from years gone by to the present time, so difficult. But it is worth remembering there were no computers, Game Boys, TV and youngsters only had their footy & cricket to play every night after school…365 days a year.
Q. You’re the most passionate Tiger I can think of. Do you address the players, especially the kids, in any way to give them a feel of our proud heritage the honour it is for them to wear the yellow and black jumper?
I speak to over 100 schools a year on playing sport, loving their parents, non-smoking, non-drinking. I talk on being the best they can be, not to get upset when things go wrong but just to keep trying. Never give up.
Read previous Q&As with Tommy HERE.
On behalf of us all at PRE thank you Tommy. Eat 'em Alive.