HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Raymond John RICHARDS
|Date of Birth||23rd February 1931|
Games 195 (South Fremantle 148, Claremont 34, WA 13)
Goals 41 (South Fremantle 14, Claremont 25, WA 2)
Honours: South Fremantle Premiership player 1952, 1954, South Fremantle Captain 1958, Claremont Captain Coach 1959-1960, South Fremantle Hall of Fame 2011, South Fremantle Life Member 1965
Full backs came no tougher than Ray Richards, one of a cast of football royalty to emerge from the small south west timber town of Deanmill along with Sir Ross Hutchinson and John Todd. First choice state team full back for 7 years between 1953 and 1959 and twice a premiership player in the remarkable South Fremantle Golden Era, Richards backed his toughness and courage with an enormous leap and brilliant high mark to become one of the outstanding players of his era.
Raymond John Richards was born in Manjimup and learnt his football in the tough school of the nearby timber towns – initially with the Jardee B side at 15 years of age and then seniors from 16 with the Deanmill Football Club in the Warren Football Association. For 3 seasons as a teenager he was a member of Warren District Carnival sides and at 18 won the Association as well as his clubs fairest and best award playing mainly at centre-half forward.
Encouraged by 1949 South Fremantle coach Ross Hutchinson, Ray went to the Bulldogs in 1950. Finding the powerful South team tough to break into, he spent the season in the reserves but the retirement of regular full back Bob Mason gave him an opportunity the following season. Seizing this chance he played 16 games and all 23 including 3 finals in 1952 to win premiership honours at the age of 21. A broken ankle in a derby in June 1953, cost Ray the last 12 games of that season including the South premiership and also the opportunity to first represent WA, for he had already been selected in a 25 man squad for the interstate carnival at the time of the accident. A second premiership came in 1954 and state selection against Victoria at the MCG in 1955. Despite his teams loss, Richards was amongst the best players that day and he went on to play 13 state games, several as vice-captain, between 1955 and 1959. His versatility was demonstrated in a match against Victoria in 1957, when he was thrown into the ruck and kicked two goals in an impressive display.
Ray Richards was particularly fast for a full back and his pace unsettled many forwards as he tore through packs, usually in a straight line, caring nought for whoever lay in his path, friend or foe. But it was his outstanding leap and high marking ability that separated him from the ordinary as a full back. He was natural left footer and, although only an average kick early in his league career, Ray worked hard to significantly improve this skill and become the complete package as a defender.
Towards the end of the 1958 season, Richards received an offer to captain coach the struggling Claremont and he was cleared after John Todd was preferred for the South job. It was a difficult task in a challenging era for Claremont and after two years at the helm, Ray made way for Victorian Peter Pianto although he remained as a player for the 1961 season.
Calling a halt to league football after 195 senior games (including 13 for the state), Richards went to Geraldton in 1962 as coach of Towns Football Club. After winning the club fairest and best and being runner up for the Clune Medal in 1963, he retired from football but later served on the South Fremantle committee and is still seen regularly at home games and functions.
There is less scope in modern football for the tough, uncompromising player of the Ray Richards ilk, but with his outstanding marking ability and versatility Richards had the adaptability to be a star in any era and he joins several other members of one of the strongest club teams of all time as a worthy addition to the WA Football Hall of Fame.