Matthew Richardson – Retired Australian Rules Football Player
Continuing our descent on the list of all-time AFL scorers, we come to number 11, Matthew Richardson.
Spending his entire career with the Richmond Tigers, his accomplishments on the ground would fairly qualify him for the title of best to ever come out of Tasmania, but we’ll leave that accolade to those who specialise in bestowing them and will instead offer a brief examination of a more objective nature, since where Matthew Richardson is concerned, hyperbole is not required.
Anyone who can appreciate the frustration of falling just shy of a career milestone will also appreciate Richardson’s even-800 career goals.
When he retired after just six games in 2009, he had kicked his 800th and final goal against Sydney before sustaining a partially torn hamstring injury that caused him to miss the remainder of that season and was apparently sufficiently serious to compel him to retire at the end of the season. Those 800 goals place him second, behind none other than Jack Titus, on the Richmond Tigers all-time list.
“Richo,” as he was known in one of the rarer instances of a lack of creativity amongst Australians where the subject of nicknames is involved, was born 19 March in Devenport, Tasmania.
He played for the Magpies in what was then known as the Northern Tasmania Football League that was established in 1890.
Richmond had the upper hand in drafting him in 1992, relying on the father-son rule for preferential access. Richardson made his debut with the seniors in 1993, playing in fourteen games that found him on the losing end of the equation on 11 occasions against only three wins.
He kicked 31 goals for an average of 2.21 per game, a figure that was something of a premonition of his 2.84 goals per game career average. It would seem as though if a descriptive noun for this aspect of Matthew Richardson’s game was to be attached, it would be “consistency.” His performance earned him an AFL Rising Star nomination.
He began to assert himself in the 1994 season, raising his goal output to 56. The club’s success was improved as well, with Richardson taking part in 19 games, 10 of which were wins, a better than threefold improvement.
The following season was a letdown, significant for two reasons. Playing in round 9 against the Swans at the SCG, his knee gave out when he landed awkwardly and collided violently with the fence that was just beyond the boundary line. He missed the rest of the season following surgery to rebuild his knee, but the upshot was that the SCG was compelled to move the fence back in the interest of safety. Richardson saw his club win eight of those early games in which he took part, against only one loss, and his 27 goals for the year worked out to a most respectable three per game average.
Richardson came back strongly in 1996 and enjoyed his best season from many perspectives. He set career highs for games played, with 22, a mark he would achieve only twice more over the remaining 13 seasons of his career. He kicked 91 goals and received his second highest level for Brownlow votes with 13. He was the club’s leading goalkicker that year, a he had been in 1994, and would continue to be for the next 11 years, 2000 being the exception, concluding that run in 2008. The 1996 season also resulted in the first of his three All Australian selections.
Richardson managed to stay reasonably healthy for the 1997-1999 seasons, consistently leading the team from his Forward positon, demonstrating an amazing level of speed and athleticism for a player of his size and strength.
He managed to take part in only three games in 2000, however, his 13 goals being the lowest of his career outside of his final season. He again managed to stay on the ground for the entire season in 2001 and Richmond had its best record in all the time he played there, with 14 victories against 8 losses.
Richardson’s play from 2002-2008 was a prime example of his consistency. He never failed to play in fewer than 13 games, and even though the Richmond Football Club was experiencing lean times, he did everything in his power to support the cause. He continued to accumulate individual accolades, something any competitor in any team sport universally proclaims as something they would willingly forego in order to see the team have greater success.
One amongst many highlights of that stretch would have occurred during the 2004 season, when he chose to relinquish his place on the Tigers’ leadership group in order to focus on making improvements to his level on strength in order to enable him to make greater contributions. This permitted him to enjoy a career-best 10 goal game against the Western Bulldogs. He would produce 65 goals that year, a mark he repeated in 2005, although they were spread out much more evenly.
His 2006 season was another down one for the club, but he managed to play in 18 of the contests, posting a 9-9 record. Things were even more dismal in 2007, where he was on the ground for all 22 games, but saw the Tigers on the losing side 18 times.
Richardson moved from Forward to Wing in 2008. He finished third in the Brownlow Medal voting and was selected for the All Australian Team as a substitute. The team itself was decidedly average again. He led the scoring with only 48 goals, almost leading one to speculate that the other members of the team were leaving their legs behind on game days.
Matthew Richardson’s final season of 2009 was an abbreviated one. The severity of the injury to his hamstring was all the signal he needed to make the decision that 17 seasons in the AFL were all his body could take.
He finished with 282 games to his credit, more than 300 if representative and pre-season matches are taken into account. Besides being a high scoring player, when he retired his 2,270 marks were the second highest all-time since the statistic began being tracked in 1974.
He has remained involved in the game, serving as a commentator for various outlets.