The Royce Hart Story | PUNT ROAD END | Richmond Tigers Forum
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The Royce Hart Story



Reflections of a Rolls Royce Tiger
Tony Greenberg
4:41:24 PM Fri 19 July, 2002

It's 25 years ago today (July 19) that the greatest player I've ever seen in the famous Yellow and Black, announced his retirement after an outstanding league football career.

He played 187 games for the Tigers from 1967-77 and kicked 369 goals. He won two Richmond Best and Fairest awards and twice was the Tigers' leading goalkicker in a season. He was Club captain from 1972-75, a dual premiership captain (1973-74), and a four-time premiership player. He was a Victorian State representative 11 times and an All-Australian rep. in 1969. He is a Richmond Team of the Century member, a Tigers' Hall of Fame member and an AFL Hall of Famer.

He, of course, is the one and only Royce Desmond Hart -- the idol of so many Tiger supporters (including yours truly) throughout the late 1960s and the 70s.

It was on June 19, 1977 that Hart, after courageously battling nagging knee problems for several seasons, decided to hang up his boots.

The Football Record of Saturday, July 23, 1977 reported that "One of the really "greats" of League football in recent years, 29 years old Royce Hart, former Richmond captain and one of the best centre half-forwards we've seen, announced his retirement on Tuesday night . . .

"On behalf of all who love VFL football, we add our thanks to Royce Hart for his great efforts . . . as a fine player in every respect on the field and a model young man off the field . . ."

The man who coached Royce right throughout his league career -- another Tiger legend in Tom Hafey -- remains as lavish in his praise of the champion centre half-forward from Tasmania today as he ever was.

When I spoke to Tommy recently about his superstar left-foot forward of that golden Tiger era, his eyes lit up.

"Royce really was something special and we were just so fortunate to have him around the place," Hafey said.

"He was fantastic right from the start. He played in front like you would not believe, and he just had so many other things about his game that were sensational, like his recovery, his concentration, his coming up under pressure to take the big mark and kick the vital goal right when it was needed. And, he was always having an opposition ruckman falling back on him, which was the style then, to make his job harder. But nothing could stop his brilliance from shining through.

"Some people would question the fact he didn't use his right foot much, but to me, it wasn't really necessary.

"I just didn't see weaknesses in his game and I still use him today as an example for young players to follow. He chased and tackled like Alfie Langer. When the ball hit the ground he was like a rat up a drainpipe -- like Johnny Platten and Kevin Bartlett -- but this was from a key forward!

"And, he was just so professional in his training and preparation. He worked extremely hard on the track and didn't purely rely on his natural talent to get by."

Hafey said that from the time Hart arrived at Tigerland from Tasmanian club Clarence, he displayed an exemplary attitude to his football.


I remember when he arrived in Melbourne we organised for him to go to a gym in the city. Stan Nicholes, who was a well-known fitness person, was his trainer at the gym and he sent me back a bit of information about Royce. It was along the lines of 'Knowing nothing of this player's football ability, I would be very surprised if he didn't turn out to be something special. His attitude about his fitness and the work that he's done in the gym, has been fantastic'.

Tom Hafey and Stan Nicholes weren't the only people at the time predicting a big football future for Royce Hart.

A young lad by the name of Tony Greenberg was so impressed with what he'd read and heard about this Tasmanian teenager that he requested Royce's number be sewn on to the back of his new Richmond jumper -- before the boy from Clarence had even made his senior league debut (see, I've always been a good judge of football flesh)!

For some reason, I had closely followed Royce's progress in the Richmond under 19s throughout the 1966 season. Maybe it was the number of goals he was kicking, or perhaps it was the fact he kicked the winning goal for the Tigers in the reserve grade grand final that year, after rising through the ranks late in the season. Whatever it was, when time came to nominate a new number for my Tiger jumper, I asked for No. 42, which Royce had worn with such distinction in the under 19s and the reserves.

He subsequently was given No. 4 at Richmond's official guernsey presentation for the '67 season, so Mum had to make a quick alteration to my jumper before the Tigers roared into action for what was to prove a memorable year in the Club's history.

Hart had an instant impact on the senior league scene, kicking 55 goals that season (winning the Club's goalkicking along the way) and playing such a pivotal role in our drought-breaking premiership side.

That classic mark he took over Geelong opponent Peter Walker in the desperate last quarter of the '67 Grand Final is indelibly etched in the minds of all Richmond supporters fortunate enough to have been there on the day. He also kicked three goals and was in the Tigers' top three players on the ground.

The Royce Hart legend was born that sunny late September Saturday afternoon. Over the next decade, Royce was to thrill members of the Yellow and Black faith with his brilliant football exploits.

From my viewpoint, it was a sheer privilege to have watched him in almost every one of those 187 games he played throughout his illustrious career.

Just the other day I relived some of that Royce Hart magic on a video highlights package. In a year that unfortunately has turned sour for the mighty Tigers, it was wonderful to reflect on an era where Richmond -- and Royce -- ruled . . .