Mike Tyson returns to the ring this weekend at age 54 to take on Roy Jones Jnr at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
At his peak, Iron Mike simply destroyed opponents, cutting a swath through the heavyweight ranks in the late 1980s and again – after serving time in prison – in the late 1990s with his power and fury.
A short right, a formidable right hook, a devastating left hook … Tyson had it all.
Here’s 10 of his best knockout punches.
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10. KO4 Don Halpin (May 23, 1985. Albany, New York.)
While not among his most famous knockouts, this finish gets a mention because it came in only Tyson’s third professional fight, and while still only 18. Also gave us a glimpse of the mayhem to come when, with Halpin already floored, a young Tyson then cracks him on the canvas with yet another uppercut. Wonderfully, the commentator described said punch simply as “questionable”.
9. KO1, Peter McNeeley, (August 19th, 1995)
After his time in prison and four years out of the ring, it was only fair to question whether Tyson would be a lesser fighter once he returned. McNeeley was a solid fighter, but he was also a sacrificial lamb and Tyson ripped him apart in 89 seconds of thunderous blows that ended with McNeeley staggering across the ring and his trainer flying beyond the ropes in an effort to save his charge from more punishment. Technically, it’s in the books as a disqualification, but after four years in jail it was exactly what Tyson needed to show he was still one of the most dangerous men boxing has ever known.
The last knockout of Tyson’s career. It took the former champion just 99 seconds to wipe out “The Black Rhino” in what proved to be the last showing of the fearsome power and speed that once dominated the boxing world. Tyson showed little of his old precision but plenty of fury as Etienne walked directly onto a short right that sent his eyes rolling into the back of his head.
7. KO5 Francois Botha (Jan. 16, 1999, Las Vegas)
One right hand, as they say in the classics, is all it takes. And so it was in this one. Sure, Tyson struggled so badly through the opening four rounds of this one it seemed, well, the magic was gone. Then, thwack. Back for the first time in 19 months after serving his suspension for biting the ear of Evander Holyfield, Tyson delivered in cracking right hand late in the fifth to drop Botha, win the fight and conjure of wonderful blast of violence from his past.
6. KO1 Alan Garner (June 5, 2009. Las Vegas)
OK, so isn’t exactly on any of his official boxing records, but given Mike Tyson is fighting this weekend aged, 54, we’re also going to take a little licence with his ‘Greatest Knockouts’ list. Certainly there is no doubting the devastating right that floored actor Zach Galifianakis’s character in The Hangover movie remains an undeniable fan favourite. Better, the scene breathed new life into the fighter’s Baddest Man on the Planet aura. Oh, yeah, the heavyweight king was also deep into a cocaine bender when said punch was thrown. Classic Mike.
5. KO1 Henry Tillman (June 16, 1990, Las Vegas)
Some of these knockouts made the list because of their significance to Tyson’s career. Others made the cut because of the calibre of fighter Tyson managed to bring down. And some, like this one-round massacre of Henry Tillman, are just awesome. Tyson and Tillman had a bit of history – Tillman beat Tyson as an amateur twice, both by decision – and given Tyson was coming off the first loss of his career he didn’t need any extra motivation. After 2:47 of the first round, Tyson’s right hand found the mark and one hammer blow was all it took as Tillman went down like he was shot.
4. KO4 Larry Holmes (Jan. 22, 1988, Atlantic City, New Jersey)
Holmes might have been coming off a two-year layoff after losing two decisions to Michael Spinks, but he was still one of the most decorated heavyweights of his era and throughout his sterling career he’d never been knocked out. Like most of Tyson’s finest moments, one punch was all it took – a short, right hook in the fourth round sent Holmes flying. The former champion beat the count, but the writing was on the wall and a flurry from Tyson sent him down again before another right hook turned out the lights.
3. KO1 Marvis Frazier (July 26, 1986, Glens Falls, New York)
Fastest KO of Iron Mike’s career. In just 30 seconds, Tyson not only destroyed the son of former heavyweight world champion Joe Frazier, or took his undefeated run to 25 fights, but took a big step towards confirming that growing reputation as a genuine killer.
2. TKO2 Trevor Berbick (Nov. 22, 1986, Las Vegas)
It was the night Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history. Aged only 20, the young heavyweight came good on the predictions of his late trainer, and guardian, Cus D’Amato, when he demolished his rival with a devastating left hook. Three times, Berbick tried to find his feet. Three times, he failed. By the finish, tumbling into the ring ropes as the bout was waved off.
1. KO1 Michael Spinks (June 27, 1988, Atlantic City, New Jersey)
Mike Tyson needed just 91 seconds to confirm himself the Baddest Man of the Planet. Apart from being the most important win of Iron Mike’s career, it was also the moment which, undoubtedly, defined the Iron Mike mystique. Sure, Tyson already had three belts – but Spinks also arrived for what was then the richest fight in history undefeated in 31 fights, while also having claimed both light heavyweight titles and the IBF heavyweight strap. Didn’t matter. Within less time than it took to announce the dignitaries ringside, he was so gone he would never fight again.
Argentina Government Declared Three Days Of Mourning
Football legend Diego Maradona has died of a heart attack at the age of 60. The whole of Argentina mourned for the loss. He suffered at his home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires on Wednesday, Argentinian media and acquaintances of the former player said.
Maradona has been known as one of the greatest footballers ever by winning the 1986 World Cup with Argentina. He famously captained the team, winning the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament.
The said tournament also featured his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goals against England in the quarterfinals. He broke on to the scene with Argentinos Juniors and then joined the club he idolized as a boy, Boca Juniors. This was before moving to Europe and joining the Spanish giants in Barcelona in 1982 on what was then a record transfer fee.
However, his time in Barcelona did not work out, thus he moved to Italy in 1984 as he joined Serie A side Napoli. His career skyrocketed there, being idolized in the country and led the previously struggling club to their first-ever Italian league title in 1987.
That was before he ended his playing career back in Argentina with Boca.
Upon retirement, he had held numerous managerial roles. The most interesting one was the brief career as the Argentina national coach from 2008 to 2010 which is packed with the controversy spell. Shortly after, he coached in the Middle East and Mexico.
His reputation was tarnished by drug problems, off-field indiscretions and the ill-fated spell in charge of the national team. Despite that, he remained idolized in football-mad Argentina and dubbed as the ‘Pibe de Oro’ or ‘Golden Boy’.
In 2000, he was hospitalized and was reportedly near death. The same happened in 2004, both cases linked to heart problems brought about by cocaine use. Later, though, Maradona revealed that he had overcome his drug problem, admitting that cocaine had been proven to be his “toughest rival”.
Following his death on Wednesday, the Government of Argentina declared three days of mourning for the loss of a national legend.
President Alberto Fernandez said in a tweet, expressing his sentiments and adoration for the deceased legend: “We will miss you all our lives. You took us to the highest point in the world and made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all. Thank you for having been with us, Diego.”
Also, Brazilian football legend Pele, who was rated alongside Maradona as one of the greatest ever to play the game, said in a brief statement “certainly, one day we’ll kick a ball together in the sky above.” He was among those to mourn with Argentina.
Messi, another famous football legend, and was widely considered to be Argentina’s greatest footballer since Maradona, posted a tribute picture of the two. “A very sad day for all Argentinians and football,” Messi wrote on Instagram.
To date, many famous sports personalities and fans have made tribute as they continue to mourn the once considered a hero.
Slater (fullback), Lewis (five-eighth), Thurston (halfback) and Lockyer (bench) didn’t vote for themselves but received a vote from all other members of the expert judging panel.
Meninga, a member of the inaugural Queensland team in 1980 who went on to play 33 Origin matches, was chosen by everyone at centre. Cameron Smith was also unanimously selected as hooker of the Maroons all-time team.
Meninga edged out Wayne Bennett and Arthur Beetson for the coaching duties on the strength of leading the state to an unprecedented eight consecutive series wins from 2006-13.
Broncos legends Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri nabbed the wing jerseys ahead of Darius Boyd and Kerry Boustead. The late Beetson, who led the Maroons in the first Origin match, was a popular choice at prop alongside Shane Webcke, who relegated Petero Civoniceva to the bench.
Fullback: Billy Slater
“If you look at a lot of the great moments in Origin, Billy is in a fair view of them.” – Darren Lockyer.
“Basically every time that Billy was coming on to the ball you knew something was about to take place for Queensland.” – Wally Lewis.
Wingers: Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri
“You could have the best set of six and kick to the corner, then they would pick the ball up on their try line and go Wendell, 15 metres, then Lote 15 metres. In Origin you need your wingers to be like front rowers. They were just so big and strong.” – Andrew Johns.
“That’s what you need, big bodies coming out getting you on the front foot. Also, Lote scores a lot of tries on the end of the backline.” – Johnathan Thurston.
Centres: Mal Meninga and Greg Inglis
“Mal was just Mal. Right from the very first Origin, he was unstoppable at times.” – Paul Vautin.
“I used to mark up against him all the time and it was a huge task. There were games where my only objective was to tackle Mal. I was just sent out there with ‘okay make sure you just tackle Mal’.” – Brad Fittler.
“Like Billy a wonderful athlete, and when he was on no one could contain him. He was a special player.” – Darren Lockyer
“Without him in our side I don’t think we would have had that streak like we did. He could find a way to the try line and win us the game. Just give him the ball and watch him do the rest.” – Johnathan Thurston.
Five-eighth: Wally Lewis
“When I think of Queensland and Origin, I think of Wally Lewis.” – Peter Sterling.
“Origin wouldn’t be what it is today without Wally. When you look at his performances and how many man-of-the-matches he had, that’s why there’s only one kind.” – Andrew Johns.
“A special player and the best I’ve ever seen.” – Darren Lockyer.
Halfback: Johnathan Thurston
“When the big play needed to happen, it was always Thurston involved in some way.” – Andrew Johns. “I watched him develop from a talented special footballer into a leader. Into someone that people wanted to follow.” – Darren Lockyer
Props: Shane Webcke and Arthur Beetson
“He wasn’t a guy that was too spectacular. He was just a work horse. He wasn’t a guy who sought a rest or a pat on the back.” – Wally Lewis
“There’s so much more to State of Origin than just the game of footy. Without him, we don’t have it.” – Brad Fittler
“He’s only played one game of Origin but everyone has him in their team because he’s the spiritual leader. He’s the reason why Origin started the way it did. I think he would be our captain.” – Darren Lockyer.
Hooker: Cameron Smith
“I’ve gone public before and said Cameron is the best player I’ve ever seen.” Andrew Johns.
“Since Wally he has been the GOAT – the greatest of all time. If Andrew Johns, a New South Welshman, says Cameron Smith is the greatest of all time then you have to believe it. For Queensland he was just an absolute wizard.” – Paul Vautin
Backrowers: Trevor Gillmeister and Gorden Tallis
“Gilly typifies what Queensland is about. He just never gives up, is tough and uncompromising. The opposition feared him a lot but he never feared anyone.” – Darren Lockyer.
“He was a magnificent captain in the ’95 series and we wouldn’t have won it without him.” – Paul Vautin.
Gorden Tallis “Whenever Gorden went on the field you’d get plenty of emotion attached to his performance. He was prepared to do anything possible, whether it was legal or not, to ensure Queensland had the best possible chance of success.” – Wally Lewis
“You speak to the people who played alongside him and they say if he had that look in his eye you knew you weren’t going to lose.” – Johnathan Thurston
Lock: Bob Lindner
“If I could give Bobby one wrap, it’s that he was playing with a broken leg in a State of Origin game. I remember screaming at him ‘get off the ground Bobby, get over the blind side, I need you’. He said I can’t and continued for 10 or 15 minutes. Then I got a message from a trainer who said he had to come off ‘he’s got a broken leg’.” – Wally Lewis.
“He was a great inspirational captain for us. A great leader.” – Paul Vautin.
“He was an idol of mine. To get the opportunity to play with him I was like a kid in a candy shop.” – Johnathan Thurston.
“Petero was a wonderful player. He worked so hard and was a tireless performer. He can be described as one of the nicest blokes you will ever meet, unless you were the opposition.” – Wally Lewis.
“Petero was one of those guys who gave you confidence in the dressing room. You just knew you weren’t going to be pushed around or intimidated.” – Darren Lockyer.
“He was the type of guy in that era where he had a bit of skill. He was probably underestimated by the opposition but he was a very smart footballer.” – Darren Lockyer.
“Fatty has been my right-hand man for so long. He was the guy I trusted on the football field more than any other.” – Wally Lewis.
“He’s one of the greatest halves ever. He inspired those around him.” – Johnathan Thurston.
“Alf was a winner. When the game was in the balance, he wanted the football and he got the result for us.” – Darren Lockyer”.
Coach: Mal Meninga
“Mal changed everything about the Queensland game. He had quite a few good players to work with, but everyone will say he turned a good player into a great player.” – Wally Lewis.
“He has an aura about him because of what he has done on the field. The players respected him and listened to him. His record in this arena, you won’t beat it.” – Darren Lockyer.
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald
Fittler had to find a spot for Cordner and fullback James Tedesco, who will replace his Roosters teammate as skipper for this Wednesday night’s do-or-die showdown against Wayne Bennett’s Queensland Maroons.
Fittler also managed to squeeze in the injured Tom Trbojevic in somewhat of a shock selection on the bench. However its Cordner’s selection ahead of the likes of Ben Kennedy that may come as a surprise to some.
“I was there at the Roosters when [Boyd] was 16 at the club and I played him as a 16-year-old in first grade,” Fittler said when interviewed about his team last month.
“He was just that sort of person. He handles anything you throw at him. Everyone has conjecture now over his wellbeing given the way he throws himself into a game. He doesn’t say too much but he’s very inspirational. Everyone loves him.”
James Tedesco: The last two years have been so significant for NSW breaking the drought, but I feel like how busy Teddy is, I feel a lot of fullbacks complimented the team, but Teddy has been the one leading the charge and that’s most probably why I went with him.
Jarryd Hayne: The superstar. The victories during that period all came down to him. The game that they won in 2014 a lot of the big plays were him. He was just wonderful. He came in at a young age and was a our best player many a time and was rewarded with the Brad Fittler medal many times because of that.
Andrew Ettingshausen: He played about 29 or 30 games for NSW and never got the raps as a defender. I always thought he was a better defender than attacker. A great bloke to have in your team. I thought it was awesome.
Laurie Daley: I had to find a way for Loz and Brett Kenny to be in there, some of my favourite players. Loz was just so tough. Such a tough player.
Mark Gasnier: Gaz was just so silky. I was lucky enough to play with him in 2004. I think on his day he was just about the best centre I’ve seen. Matt Gidley was close with his silky skills but I could only pick two.
Brett Kenny: I idolised him as a kid. I grew up in the Parramatta area and I remember he came to our school and presented us with some trophies one day. There weren’t many games when he played five-eighth that they lost. He was a fantastic player.
Andrew Johns: Joey just ticks a lot of the boxes that I don’t think many halfbacks before or after can do. The defence was as good as the attack which was as good as the kicking which was as good as the toughness.
Paul Harragon and Glenn Lazarus: Lazzo and Chief in the early-90’s period, where we won four out of five – a lot of it was due to them. They were just so brutal.
Danny Buderus: This was the toughest. The fact I played with Bedsy through that period in the 2000s and because I know him myself, a bit of heart went into that one (over Ben Elias).
Paul Sironen: I’d have him in the top five State of Origin players. He was just incredible.
Boyd Cordner: I was there at the Roosters when [Boyd] was 16 at the club and I played him as a 16-year-old in first grade. He was just that sort of person. He handles anything you throw at him. Everyone has conjecture now over his wellbeing given the way he throws himself into a game. He doesn’t say too much but he’s very inspirational. Everyone loves him.
Bradley Clyde: Clydey could add so much more value. He was busy on the early tackles and he could complete skilful tasks at the end of the set. He was an attacking lock and could do all the tough stuff.
Tom Trbojevic: If you look at his game in Perth last year, there aren’t many people who could have done that. I put him in a position he’d never played and just did it.
Bryan Fletcher: He had this attitude that he could always win. He went out there, whether it was his jovial nature or not, he just went out there believing he could just win.
Trent Barrett: Most of my best footy was played with him next to me in the team. We never got in each other’s road but always seemed to support each other.
Ian Roberts: He was just a machine. He’s got a bit of Cyborg in him, Ian Roberts. I’m glad he was on our team.
Coach: Phil Gould.
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald
Billy Slater: He’s the greatest fullback I’ve ever played with. Defensively he’s good at getting the line organised, especially on the try line. Offensively, he only just needs a little bit of space and he does the rest.
Wendell Sailor: Coming from the back field, he’s so big and strong. He’s great under the high ball and is definitely a big body there.
Lote Tuqiri: Another big body. Scored a lot of tries in Origin as well. Him and Dell bringing out of the back field, that’s what you need. Two big bodies, that’s what I like.
Mal Meninga: He leads from the front and inspires those around him. I’ve seen that first hand when he was the coach. When he says jump, I say how high, that’s how much respect I have for him.
Greg Inglis: If we didn’t have him in our side, I don’t think we have the streak that we did. He could just find a way to the try line to win us the game, or create opportunities for us to ice the game. Just give him the ball and watch him do the rest.
Darren Lockyer: He was an idol of mine and to get the opportunity to play with him, I was like a kid in a candy shop. He was five, six, seven sets ahead of everyone else on the field. When you needed the big moments, you just give him the ball.
Allan Langer: He’s one of the greatest halves ever. He inspires people around him. His short kicking game, his running game, and he’s a character in the team – that’s what you want in your team. State of Origin is such a big build-up, and you need a player like Alf to keep it light-hearted.
Cameron Smith: I mentioned Locky being six or seven sets ahead of everyone else, Smithy was like nine or 10. There’s no one better. He can turn a match. He knows how to speed it up and he knows how to slow it down. He’s the best player I’ve ever played alongside.
Petero Civoniceva: I always felt safe when Petero was in the side. I knew he was going to get us on the front foot and I knew he was going to be aggressive. That’s what I liked. He was going to give you that seven or eight out of 10 every time he strapped the boots on.
Arthur Beetson: Obviously I didn’t get to see much of him play, but when he led the team out in 1980 with all the chalk over him, it’s just such an iconic image of State of Origin. He’s like the godfather of Origin. Without him, it wouldn’t be what it is.
Sam Thaiday: He was always aggressive with the ball and without the ball. He had a really good combination with Locky and Billy as well.
Gorden Tallis: I didn’t get the chance to play alongside Gordie, but when you speak to those who played alongside him they say if he had that look in his eye, you knew you weren’t going to lose.
Wally Lewis: Eight man of the matches – his record speaks for itself. It would have been a lot of fun back in the days playing alongside someone like The King. He led from the front and the rest followed.
Nate Myles: Just aggressive with the ball and especially defensively. Very underrated but deserves a lot of the accolades. Playing in the halves, you need men like that around you and he was one of the best at that.
Gene Miles: I was thinking if an outside back went down, I could chuck him in there. If a back-rower went down, I could chuck him in there as well. He played over 20 games of Origin and knows what it takes to win big games.
Steve Price: He was the captain at the Bulldogs while I was there and led from the front. That didn’t change to the day he retired. He doesn’t have an aggressive style but when he took hit-ups he would create ruck speed for you, and defensively he could come out of the line and put shots on.
Cooper Cronk: A very articulate football brain and could also play a great bench role as well. I think coaching will be his role down the track, that’s for sure.
Mal Meninga: You need a coach who knows how to bring a group together and play for each other and certainly play for the state.
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald
Flemington on the day of the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s greatest race, once more proved yesterday to be the Mecca of the multitude. If the drenching shower of rain which fell soon after lunch did not threaten to dampen the social spirit, it happily came too late to divert the throng from Flemington, and so the Hill, the stands and the lawns and flat were crowded with good-humored people from all part of the continent.
There is nothing like the knowledge that a hot favorite is in the field to attract men and women who like to see a great race well run, but the broader aspect of Cup day is its social appeal. For most of the year a community lives to a considerable extent in watertight compartments. Flemington on the second Tuesday of November, however, is the natural environment for the give and take, the thrust and parry of humor in social intercourse. If you tell a yarn or crack a joke at Flemington, especially after the Cup race is run, it must be a good one. The veteran racegoer, who recalls the scene when Carbine, carrying 10 st. 5 lb., in a field of 39, became a national idol, is listened to with rapt attention. The man or woman punter who can lose with a smile and win with a cheer chants the keynote in a magnificent holiday chorus.
Caution was the feminine characteristic in fashions, and the coats and furs which dominated the dressing did not seem to cover up the variety of colors that lent gaiety to the parade below the Hill. Seen from the saddling paddock, where Phar Lap and his many chestnut rivals walked before their admirers prior to the race, the course presented a stirring sight. With the members’ lawn sprinkled with humans in the foreground, the Hill, where abides the spirit of Flemington in festive mood, suggested something of what one might imagine an old Roman amphitheater looked like when the gods smiled down on mortals making carnival.
But the race is imminent. Fifteen horses file on to the track for all to admire and criticise. They go to the barrier which runs back from the track into the training ground. There is a lull in the conversation. “They’re off!” It was a good start.
Spectators crane their necks for a view of their fancies. The small field quickly forms a bunched group on the rails. Temptation leads the way, and after a short distance has been run, Phar Lap is also in the van. As the horses clatter past the main crowd there is comparatively little mud flying from the grassy turf. Over on the flat the crowd moves fitfully from place to place. It is the only portion of the ground where freedom of movement is unlimited. They run in all directions, those people, in a sort of civil riot, which has for its object a changing view of the race.
The field gallops round. Al except the discriminating see their fancies in the lead. Into the straight heads this mass of glossy-coated, straining horseflesh, the horse of the hour prominent, preparing to make his run. Shadow King, the Comedy King bay gelding, is with him, and the big frame of Second Wind is observed among the leaders.
With powerfully measured gallop Phar Lap forges ahead. The shouts and yells of admiration are deafening. This beautiful horse has found a cherished place in the imagination of the people. Twice favorite for the Melbourne Cup – he is winning. Not a mad gallop this, but a finishing burst of speed which is unbeatable. He wins, with Second Wind and Shadow King second and third.
A great cheer rises from the throats of the multitude. For the race is over. The favorite has won. At last the horse in second place has justified his name. All there, in fact, have gloriously run their second Melbourne Cup.
The 10-man judging panel includes Brad Fittler, Paul Gallen, Phil Gould, Peter Sterling, Darren Lockyer, Wally Lewis, Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Paul Vautin and Johns.
Andrew Johns’ greatest NSW team
James Tedesco: Him and Anthony Minichiello were neck and neck. It was hard to split them. Tim Brasher was close too. But I went with Tedesco.
Jarryd Hayne: He played in an era when Queensland were so dominant, and he was still the best player on the field in both teams. Some of the things he did in those series was just unbelievable, and when they won the series it was on the back of him.
Eric Grothe snr: He was so damaging. In an era when they didn’t do much scientific weights, he would have been incredible.
Brad Fittler: I wanted to pick Freddy at five-eighth but I went with combinations with Ricky and Laurie. Freddy is the ultimate competitor. You could play him anywhere on the field and he was always one of the best players.
Mark Gasnier: He added the X-factor. He had the footwork and speed. He was so dangerous when he was on.
Laurie Daley and Ricky Stuart: Growing up, that was the era in the early 1990s when they won three in a row, and it was on the back of those two players. Just that combination, the long passing of Ricky and the running game of Laurie.
Danny Buderus: I was tossing up Benny [Elias] also, but I had to put my great mate Bedsy in there. I remember when we kicked off, might have been the first game at Suncorp, and the ball bounces. Shane Webcke gets it after it bounces and, as he looked up, Bedsy launches at him. It set the tone for the whole series. We won the series … it was all set up from the first play from Bedsy.
Paul Harragon and Glenn Lazarus: Chief [Harragon] picks himself because, at Origin level, he was just such an intimidator. Lazo is the best front-rower I’ve ever seen. Early on I played hooker in between those two and Lazo taught me a great deal about ruck defence. Not only was he a great player, but he was incredibly smart.
Paul Sironen and Ben Kennedy: Siro is one of NSW’s finest in the back row. He always aimed up. Ben Kennedy was my favourite player to play with. He was just so intimidating and everyone loved playing with him. A great player in any era.
Bradley Clyde: One of the greats.
Paul Gallen: I couldn’t put him in on the front row ahead of Chief and Lazo, but his leadership and the way he ripped into Queensland is what we’re all about here in NSW.
Steve Roach: No one hates Queensland more than Blocker. Growing up when it was catch and kill out there, Blocker was catching and killing.
Steve Menzies: Beaver is the perfect bench player because he can play any position other than front row.
Craig Wing: He’s probably the best jersey 14 player ever. No one talks about his toughness because he’s such a handsome devil, but he was so tough.
Phil Gould: Taught me so much about footy and big-match mentality. He was the perfect coach for that six-week period to get anyone in tune. He was a genius at it.
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Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald
Brendon Gale had been in his role as Richmond chief executive for six months, and already he found himself on trial.
The club with which he had enjoyed an 11-year, 244-game career as a player had just come off a season in which it had finished second from bottom. The Tigers hadn’t played finals for nearly a decade, and for the first time in nearly as long had recorded fewer members than the season before.
Gale sat in front of the panel on Channel Nine’s Footy Classified, just a handful of days out from the 2010 AFL season’s opening bounce, and faced the music. After a solid grilling about the state and stability of Ben Cousins — it was 2010, after all — talk moved on to the news of the day, and a leaked document that had the footy world talking.
“Are you embarrassed by it?” asked Garry Lyon, genuinely.
Gale’s crime? Ambition. And his answer? Absolutely not.
History now looks back at Gale’s 10-year battle plan, titled Winning Together, as one of the most inspired and inspiring managerial moves in the AFL’s modern history. At the time, it was little more than a joke.
Three finals appearances by 2014? A complete eradication of the club’s debt, which at that point exceeded $1 million? At least 75,000 members, more than twice the 35,960 the club began 2010 with? Pure fantasy. Pie-in-the-sky thinking from an executive looking to win some fans over and get some good PR before round one.
But that wasn’t even the best of it, the kicker was saved until the end. A club that had not tasted success in 30 years, a period Gale himself called a “collective failure”, wanted three more premierships by 2020.
Three. In 10 years. Numbers reserved only for era-defining and game-changing teams, clubs operating at an elite standard from top to bottom, the juggernauts of Australia’s juggernaut winter sport.
For the Tigers to achieve what Gale set out, it would have to become one of the best teams in the game’s history.
So that’s what they did.
2017: The breakthrough
That this mission was emphatically accomplished on the Gabba, at night, in mid-October is somehow still not the most unlikely part of the story.
As recently as 2016, when a 13th-place finish ended a run of three straight finals appearances and departures, that trio of flags looked as far away as ever. The pressure on coach Damien Hardwick had become suffocating, and the overriding opinion was a complete Richmond reboot was required.
Hardwick’s defiance and confidence, once misconstrued for stubbornness and arrogance, was not misplaced. Much has been written about a change of attitude within the coach, which started early in 2017 and quickly trickled through the rest of the club.
The new Richmond was more relaxed, less worried about what others thought of it. Like their coach, the Tigers began to care about one another in a way they had never fully embraced before. Players were given freedom to express themselves, even while on-field roles became more clearly defined.
Dustin Martin fully became Dusty as we know him that year, and Trent Cotchin went from good player to titanic leader. Alex Rance’s standards remained sky-high but he at last had a system in place to help him, while Jack Riewoldt surveyed his forward line and watched his army of smalls swarm and submerge any loose ball or opponent in sight.
From the outside, it happened almost silently and came entirely without warning. But in those unforgettable few months in the winter and spring of 2017, when 30 years of pain gave way to a generational yellow and black eruption, it was hard not be swept along.
It was a captivating story, but it was not entirely unique. After all, just 12 months earlier the Western Bulldogs had enjoyed their own drought-busting breakthrough and had disappeared back to September holidays as quickly as they had arrived.
That was the fear for Richmond, that this glorious moment in time was to be just that — a moment.
2018: A setback
Throughout this whole dynasty — and we can now safely call it a dynasty with no need for disclaimers — Richmond has never been as good as it was in 2018.
The Tigers were borderline untouchable for that entire season, as sure a premiership bet as you could find right up to the season’s penultimate week. Freed from the pressure of the premiership drought, this was Richmond with the shackles off and mainlining confidence.
It was at this point that the first rumblings of a Tiger era emerged. If nobody can stop them this year, then who could in the future? What exactly is it we are witnessing here?
Then Mason Cox happened. In a game that remains as surreal now as it did on the night, Richmond fell apart amid a first-half Collingwood ambush and could not recover.
In the blink of an eye, the 2018 Tigers were no more, a footnote on someone else’s premiership story. Amid the wreckage on that night at the MCG was the Richmond dynasty, seemingly over before it really began.
As it turns out, they were still just getting started.
2019: Sweet validation
A swift rebound was needed, so Richmond turned into Dennis Rodman — the first thing the Tigers did after falling short in 2018 was bring in one of the best key forwards and most damaging players in the league.
But there was more to Richmond’s 2019 than just Tom Lynch’s arrival. The Tigers were both hungrier and smarter, and carefully plotted their entire season with the Collingwood prelim in the back of their mind and one goal in sight — to be at optimal condition at the most important part of the season.
Outside the club, some were concerned as Richmond fumbled its way through the middle part of the year. Lynch took some time to settle in, some injuries played their part, but the overwhelming sense was that the Tigers were holding something back. Probably because they were.
A quirk of the fixture allowed them to throw everything at the last two months of the season, safe in the knowledge they would not have to leave their MCG home base for near enough to the entire time. One by one, they picked off the challengers with a ruthless efficiency.
At half-time of a preliminary final against Geelong, the spectre of Cox loomed once more. But this time, facing a deficit and the prospect of an untimely exit, Richmond rallied and overcame. Once through to a grand final against a wide-eyed GWS, the result was a formality.
Two premierships then in three years, another Norm Smith Medal for Dusty. The 2019 flag erased the immediate pain of the 2018 preliminary final but it could not completely compensate for the missed opportunity.
Brendon Gale promised three, and if these Tigers wanted to be able to stake their claim as the team of this generation, no fewer would be sufficient.
There’s little more that can be said about season 2020 and Richmond’s momentous achievement. Since the football was restarted in June, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan repeatedly said he believed a premiership this year would be one of the great achievements in the game’s history.
The randomness and unfamiliarity of the season seemed to increase the potential of an unlikely premier, as if weirdness would naturally beget weirdness. That it would be Richmond — again — speaks to what the club has built, and a resilience that can withstand even self-sabotage.
Richmond did not make it easy for itself this year. Indiscretions from players, both on the field and especially off it, tallied up much too quickly and would have derailed a less self-confident club.
The fires that built up around the team seemed, in a perverse way, to eventually fuel it. If in 2017 the Tigers first learned to ignore the hate, in 2020 they learned how to embrace it.
It made for an even more resilient Richmond, one that could lose heavily to Brisbane in the first week of finals and be forced to the wire by Port Adelaide in a prelim, and still prevail.
That resilience was a feature once more on grand final day, when Geelong pushed the Tigers to the brink in the first half only for Richmond to flip the script entirely.
The Tigers didn’t so much claw themselves back into that game as they did hack and slash Geelong into submission. It was a mighty effort, one worthy of the reward it produced.
There was something about that performance that just made this Tiger era seem more tangible. There is an inevitability to this Richmond team, a helplessness that the opposition surely can’t help but feel as Dusty and Richmond toy with them before finally and coldly snuffing them out.
This win was both the product and cherry on top of the last four years for the Richmond football club. And it was simply magnificent.
The yellow and black dynasty
With this Richmond team’s spot in the upper echelon of our game’s history now secured, the next great debate will be as to its place within that elite group.
In the AFL era, Brisbane and Hawthorn both won three consecutive grand finals and played in four straight grand finals, while Geelong played in four in five years, winning three of them.
This side of the millennium, that’s the benchmark. In the Lions’ and Hawks’ favour is the glorious symmetry of the three-peat, and Geelong has an extra year of longevity to its name.
But Richmond now has a perfect record in grand finals, something none of the other three teams can boast. And whether it’s fully apparent in this moment or not, McLachlan is right when he says the 2020 premiership just has something extra attached to it — not an asterisk, but an exclamation point.
They’re also not done. There’s absolutely no reason to suggest the Tigers will be any lesser team in 2021, no imminent loss of star players or fears of age creeping up and taking over. Three could become four, shifting the conversation entirely.
For now, it remains a pub debate, something to mull over in the summer when the cricket gets boring and when anticipation for 2021, in whatever form that takes, begins in earnest.
But before then, one last look back at Gale’s rallying cry. In it, he namechecks Geelong specifically, the very team that the Tigers needed to conquer to gain membership to the exclusive club.
“We all know of the success of Geelong over the last three years. Was that a fluke? Of course it wasn’t,” Gale said.
“The backbone of Geelong’s success was put together in a room like this, with a group like this, with a plan like ours, at the start of this decade.
“The Cats planned for their success, they brought in good people, who worked together. They acted and made decisions in accordance with a strong set of values. They believed in themselves and their plan.
“They stuck to their plan and remained loyal to each other when the really tough questions were being asked of them.”
Everything Brendon Gale said of Geelong that day in 2010 is true of the Tigers in 2020.
Their story should be an inspiration to every club in the AFL, that meaningful change and sustained success is possible if the ingredients are right and patience is allowed.
They laughed at Richmond once. Now they tremble in its wake.