This is the first article in a series of interviews with PHAFC club legends.
Craig Richardson- 253 games, 1993-2008
Craig “Richo” Richardson played 253 games for Power House in a stellar career between 1993 and 2008. He is a dual premiership player, former President, Coach, and Life Member and was awarded the prestigious VAFA Certificate of Merit Award in 2011. Now a settled family man with twin daughters Millie and Emma and wife Tracey, Richo sat down with “The Pres” to chat about his time at The House and talk about some of the best players he had ever seen during this time.
Pav: Richo, you were one of the all-time greats of the club. Most of today’s playing group wouldn’t remember you on the field. A prolific midfielder, a dynamite left foot, arguably the best kick the club has ever seen. You finished your playing career at Power House in 2008. How do you spend your Saturdays now?
Richo: Let’s get something right straight away, footy is a hobby, not a career. Now, as a father of twin daughters coming up on 15 months old, I spend most Saturday’s now baby sitting whilst watching the footy and the races on Foxtel and sneaking in a couple of special cokes from time to time.
Pav: You were awarded quite a few honours in your time at the House including Life Membership and the VAFA Certificate of Merit. What do those awards mean to you?
Richo: Plenty, I played footy ‘for keeps’ with my more than strong competitive spirit and it meant everything to me in my playing days and be lucky enough to win a few Premierships along the way both prior and during my days at Power House, which were the ultimate for me. However, to be recognised firstly the club with my Life Membership was something I never expected but it means the world to me that my peers respected myself enough to award me with such an honour and to know that I now get into all home games for free is the added bonus.
Regarding the VAFA award, I was tricked into attending the function by yourself at the MCG only then to be awarded a services to football award in front of the entire VAFA community. Looking back this is something I am very proud of and that I could contribute not only Power House Football Club but have a lasting effect on the people involved within both our club and the greater local football community, more specifically the VAFA, is something I cherish greatly.
Pav: You rocked into the club in 1993…and you were well in to your 20’s at that stage. Where were you before and what were brought you here?
Richo: I was 26 and had played at various clubs at various levels since starting my senior playing days in 1985 at 17 years of age. My first Senior club was the Wangaratta Magpies playing in the Ovens and Murray League, then onto Richmond at Under 19 and Reserve level, back to Wangaratta once they realised I was no good (please note Richmond have been no good themselves since they got rid of me!), then onto Caulfield Bears, then Daysdale in the NSW Riverina, then back to Melbourne to play with Camberwell in the old VFA Division 1 and lastly after Camberwell folded under financial pressure I played for Pearcedale in the MPFL for a couple of seasons, before I saw the light under severe pressure from the likes of lifetime friends Doc Morris and Peter Graham convincing me to play for the House under Jeff Scotland in ’93. I think my sign on bonus was a couple of free pots, which was enough to convince me I was at the right club finally!
Pav: OK, so you have always said that forwards are all glamour and no substance. I know you saw quite a few in your time at the House. Can you tell me who you think who were the standout forwards in your time?
Richo: Don’t ever believe what others tell you, backman play in the backline because they have no skill and need a forward to show them where the ball is… Ruckman are just tall but dumb and on ballers make them look good…and forwards are the recipients of the onballers hard work and skill. That’s footy in a nutshell.
But Power House has had some seriously good forwards over the past 20 years or so.
Just to name number of them in no particular order is as follows:
Craven, Robinson, Pavlou, Edwards, McCullough, Phelan, Ford, Cooper, both Galakos and Searle for 1 year each and even Lloydy when not injured.
Pav: That’s quite a list. Can you take me through some of them and how you saw them?
Richo: Sure, Let’s start with Stuart Craven.
Pav: OK, Let’s see, he played 111 games won 2 Senior Best and Fairest awards (2001/02), was Senior Captain from 1998 to 2001 and he was Captain of the 2000 Premiership Team. A fair CV?
Richo: He also kicked countless goals. He was the complete forward who kicked goals with relentless regularity. During his time, he was the heart and soul of the club. You forgot to mention that he won the goal kicking at Power House 4 times and the competition goal kicking twice and the VAFA D3 League Goal Kicking Award is actually named after him. His biggest asset he brought to the club however was off the field on a Saturday night. Whenever he could, he would grab a microphone and start singing with regular live appearances at the Arcadia Hotel on a Saturday night from midnight onwards. He wasn’t bad either!
The complete player and the complete clubman. For those of us playing on the ball, he was a fantastic target to kick to especially with his ability to time his marking with his great hands.
Pav: Who was his little mate that won the V.B. Zanin Medal for Best on Ground in the 2000 Grand Final?
Richo: That was Andrew Robinson or “Little Robbo” as we still call him. He was really a midfielder but given competition to get on the ball was tough, Little Robbo played up forward for a fair percentage of his time, kicking 50+ goals in a season on 3 or more occasions. He came to the club shortly after I got there, also from Wangaratta, (Rovers) and played all over the place but will always be remembered for his efforts in the 2000 Grand Final where he won the Norm Smith Medal for BOG. He was a small forward that didn’t really crumb but found space and was a great foil for Marv and tall forwards. He was so hard to match up on, he had pace and could always find the ball. Plus he was a left footer!
Pav: Since you mentioned them what about Lloydy and Freddy
Richo: Well, both Lloydy (Chris Lloyd) and Freddy (Paul Phelan) only had fairly brief playing days at the club and due to injuries and never really showed us their full potential – but trust me when they were 80% or better on the day the could both really could play. Both were deceptively tall at 6.3, fast running, high leaping half forwards (Freddy also had great elbows) that marked everything. As mentioned, they both spent plenty of time in the injury room.
Pav: Since we are talking about that era, what about “Flash”? He went all right?
Richo: Gordon McCoullough or “Flash” as he was affectionately known, was an extraordinary footballer blessed with incredible size, a vice like grip and a healthy ego. He didn’t play for very long but his impact on the ground and on the club as a whole at the time was huge. His big game performances stood out during our 4 year finals run in the mid 90’s. He and Stuie Craven used to “wax’ taking hangers during games. You should know…their instructions to you during games were to kick it up high in their general direction and they would do the rest. Talking about you….
Pav:- Oh…here we go.
Richo: You were one of the best forwards in the clubs history. We shouldn’t avoid that. What, you kicked over 400 goals in your career? And you did kick 15 in one game….
Pav: Keep talking, my favourite subject is talking about my career, the famous #3 at Power House…and by the way…it would have been 20 in that game… but you kept me on the bench for 15 minutes in the second quarter when I was on fire.
Richo: If you had of handballed to your teammates more often (or at least once) I might not have had to drag you so much! In all seriousness, you were the first of the modern day “swingman” at the club though. You played at both ends of the ground and coaches used you to plug holes or go forward and kick goals when we needed them. You certainly knew how to find the footy…elusive and clever on both sides.
Pav: It was hard getting a kick in some of the forward lines in our era…Trying to negotiate the talent and ego’s around me!…But let’s move on, what about “Fordy”…1993 Senior Best and Fairest.
Richo: Ahhh…Peter Ford. The 1990’s version of Nick Reiwoldt. “Fordy” came to Power House with a great reputation and certainly lived up to the hype. He was a tall, lean and super fit centre half forward he dominated the forward line with flair and high marking…and a 90’s mullet.
Pav: OK, if I mentioned the name Paul Edwards to you, what would that mean?
Richo: He did it all. Premierships, Best and Fairest awards, 100 goals seasons, Club Captain…he was really good.
Pav: He won 3 Best and Fairests…
Richo: He was the best forward at Power House since 2000 onwards. Big, incredibly strong, tough and durable, “Edo” kicked 100 goals in our Premiership year of 2006. Off the field, he was a quiet and humble guy. Edo was a dominant presence in the goal square kicking more than 400 goals in his 100 or so games and don’t forget he played a good percentage of these at full back, probably his best position. He now has now played in excess of 300 VAFA games when combining his time at his home club of Therry Penola.
Pav: And Darren Cooper? He won flags and best and fairests too?
Richo: Another forward that could play anywhere, given his best position when younger was at full back. Coops, also arrived at the club late in his playing days, but through really high levels of fitness and the ability to really push himself, he too excelled up forward. He won the White Medal for BOG in the 2006 Grand Final at centre half forward. He simply ran his opponents into the ground and with a brilliant ability to take an over head mark made him a very tough opponent to match up on.
Pav: Tell me about Dave Galakos. You always rated him
Richo: He was close to the best player I’ve seen at Power House. In just one season (2000) where he didn’t even play a senior game, (Galakos only wanted to play Reserves), he managed in 13 games to kick 80+ goals playing as a forward pocket/on baller. His attack on the ball and opponent had to be seen to really appreciate but don’t forget, this guy was good enough to play for the Western Bulldogs in the AFL for 3 years.
He didn’t pay Senior footy simply because he didn’t want to train. If he trained that would mean he would miss his favourite TV show at the time, Dawson’s Creek. He did bring a very healthy social attitude to the club in his brief time with us.
Pav: I played with him, he was a freak!
What about Darren Searle, a fair record, 1 season, 100+ goals and a Premiership…he came, he saw, he conquered…and we never saw him again.
Richo: Searley, has any one seen him since? What a bizarre player and person. No doubt he was blessed with extreme talent, in fact, if you did stats on his 2000 season 100+ goals, I think you would find almost 40% of them would have been from kicks off the ground. Unbelievable talent, its just a pity he came to us at age 36 and not 26 !
Pav: Just a couple of questions before we wind this up. Firstly, I once spoke with Jimmy Hall and he said from the minute he retired, he never missed playing again…he was done. Do you miss playing?
Richo: Not for a minute. I played some 380 Senior games of footy in my time, so by the time I played my last year out in the Reserves, having a ball mind you, I was done and I wanted play until I was 40 and I did that so when I struggled to get a kick in my last game (1st Semi final) in ’08 I knew my time was up.
Pav: And speaking of past players, do you still manage to catch up with your old Power House mates?
Richo: As often as I can. My mates are everything to me and when asked what is the best part of playing footy, I always respond with ‘playing with my mates on and off the field’ is clearly the best part.
So now with kids, I cant wait to teach them the benefits of playing team sports and making lifelong friendships.
Pav: That’s a little too deep Richo…You’ve been exceptional player for the club, a fantastic leader as a Coach and President and someone the club holds in very high regard. Your impact on the club has been huge. You should be proud of what you achieved at Power House. Thanks for your time and we will see you pushing the pram at the next Past Players function.