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Tribute to a Tiger hero

Upstart's Ben Waterworth contemplates the legacy of retiring Richmond great, Matthew Richardson.

It’s difficult to find sporting athletes who are willing to show their true personalities in the media. Normally, media mangers at clubs train athletes to be straight, to say all the right cliché’s and to give nothing away.

Today, tiger veteran Matthew Richardson, a man who provided so much entertainment on and off the field throughout his entire career, announced his retirement from AFL football. Richardson did intend to play on for an 18th season in 2010, but admitted to journalists and teammates that his body would find it impossible to adhere to the demands of modern AFL football for another year.

The 34 year-old severely injured his hamstring against Sydney earlier this year, forcing him to be sidelined for the remainder of the season. During that time, Richardson watched his team crumble on the field and disintegrate off it. So in truth, his retirement might be considered almost timely and a blessing in disguise.

After the season was completed, Richardson contemplated retirement. He trained hard and pushed himself till he could go no more. But after months of rehabilitation on that troublesome hamstring tendon and with the media constantly questioning whether he could go another round, he knew that it was time to give the game away.

According to statistics, Richardson will go down as one of Richmond’s greats. He played 282 games, kicked 800 goals, was his club’s leading goal kicker for an amazing 13 seasons and was selected as a member of the All-Australian team three times. However, the only statistic that will truly hurt Richardson is that he was never part of a premiership winning team, a real shame for a player so talented and respected by everyone involved with football.

It will be fascinating to see what the future holds for Richardson. He is an obvious media talent and will be sought after by many outlets. Richardson’s strong tie to Channel 9’s The Footy Show might see him take on a more permanent role. He has also signaled his intention to stay involved with Richmond in some form.

But what made the man they call ‘Richo’ so charismatic was the passion he showed for the game of AFL and for the Richmond Football Club on the field. He was one of those players who wore his heart on sleeve and gave his absolute all every time he stepped onto a football arena. While his emotions sometimes boiled over and got the better of him, Richardson’s leadership was truly inspirational and he was a great example to his younger teammates.

Richardson’s popularity was highlighted in last year’s Hall of Fame match. Playing for an All-Stars team against a Victorian team, Richardson received the biggest cheer when he was introduced onto the ground. It was often said that everyone’s favourite player outside of their own football club was Richardson.

The football world may never see a personality like Richardson ever again. He was a true champion on and off the field and will be sorely missed by everyone connected to football.

On ya Richo!

Ben Waterworth is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. He  writes regularly for upstart about AFL and cricket.

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