From Malthouse to Bourke and Bond, the Tiger tales of a club’s Mr Fixit

Guinane, who died this week aged 80, was a quintessential Richmond person. As Bourke recounted, Paddy lived and was raised in Richmond, was the son of an ex-Richmond player, taught at Richmond Tech and went to St Ignatius – the local Catholic school that was Jack Dyer’s alma mater, where he also sang in the choir. “He was Mr Richmond,” said Bourke.

To a younger journalist with a fascination for football’s storied past – a subject given much less attention in these days of Nintendo attention spans – Paddy was a wonderful storyteller, with a flair for peppering the past with colour.

A few of these stories stuck in one’s mind. The near-hiring of Malthouse was one.
As Guinane related it, the Tigers had just sacked Bourke at the end of 1983 following a disastrous fall from grand finalist to 10th. Richmond – that’s Graeme and the club, the two were then synonymous – asked Guinane to undertake what was, by the standards of the time, a fairly rigorous process to locate a new coach.

Guinane reckoned he interviewed several candidates. GR insisted, for instance, on him considering Hawthorn’s eccentric ex-skipper Don Scott. Paddy and the panel then ranked them from one to six or seven, placing Scott last.

At the meeting of the committee, Guinane told those assembled that their recommendation was that “Michael Malthouse be appointed coach”. Guinane, it happened, had recruited Malthouse to the Tigers from St Kilda.

Objections were immediately raised then, because Malthouse had just retired and there was a view that Bourke’s stature as a just-retired teammate had posed problems that shouldn’t be repeated.
Malthouse, indeed, had been told by the club’s general manager Kevin Dixon he had the job, only to be informed a little later that the powers-that-be had reversed their position, on the grounds that he was, like the Sainted Bourke, an immediate past player.

Malthouse, as we know, went on to coach Footscray, then became a triple premiership coach at West Coast and Collingwood; who knows what shape AFL history would have taken had coached his old team?

“He was proved right,” said Bourke, who did not hold any grudge against Guinane for the latter’s view that he should be removed as coach. Guinane, indeed, had a rollicking account of some events that led to Bourke’s sacking, but Bourke, with a chuckle, remembered a different version.

Paddy reckoned he placed John Northey, who went on to coach four clubs – including the Tigers – as second choice after Malthouse. It’s unclear what the issue was with Northey. But, ultimately, the committee appointed Michael “the Swamp Fox” Patterson as coach for 1984; like Bourke, his predecessor Tony Jewell and numerous successors, Patterson didn’t last long.

Another Guinane story was his view, based on proximity to events, that, in the course of his brief and embarrassing tenure as president of the club (1986-87), the later-disgraced figure of Alan Bond had provided Richmond with funds that had actually kept the doors open at Punt Road.

Bond, mind you, had suggested the Tigers be shifted to Brisbane, too and couldn’t name Dale Weightman, the ’86 best and fairest, correctly at the club annual general meeting.

“You could never dislike Paddy,” said Bourke, calling the vice-captain of Richmond’s 1967 premiership team, both “a great storyteller” and “a great human being”.

Paddy Guinane was one of those people whose footprint was far larger within the walls of his club than to the public. While part of Richmond’s tumultuous history passed with him, the stories should endure.

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