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Opinion

The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter R

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Roar Pro
18th September, 2020
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The R team could have been a true family affair, with the likes of Rocca, Riewoldt, Rankin and Richards all having claims to multiple members of the family in the team.

Even so, there are two families that do have multiple representatives here.

Back line

Alex Rance (Richmond 2009-19)
200 games, nine goals
One of the most brilliant defenders of the past decade, Alex Rance’s importance to Richmond was highlighted in his last match when, after injuring his ACL, the Tigers had been written off from premiership chances (incorrectly, as it turned out). His anticipation and intercept ability launched many a Richmond attack, and he was equally capable of holding his own in a battle of strength. Rance played in the 2017 premiership, and won the 2015 best and fairest while finishing runner up in the next two years. He was named All Australian five times and served as vice captain from 2017 until his retirement.

Alex Rance of the Tigers celebrates

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Jack Regan (Collingwood 1930-41, 1943, 1946)
196 games, three goals
Only one man has been termed the Prince of Full Backs: Jack Regan. In an era flush with high flying and high scoring, Regan would turn back many a tide by matching opponents one on one. He played in Collingwood’s back-to-back premierships of 1935 and 1936, also winning the best and fairest in the latter year. Regan also captained Collingwood in 1941 before an interrupted retirement halted his 1942 season. He served in the RAAF during 1944 and 1945, returning to good effect in 1946. When the AFL Team of the Century was announced, there was much consternation in Collingwood circles that Regan was not named at full back, and Regan had to make do with the same position in Collingwood’s Team of the Century.

Ted Rowell (Collingwood 1901-03, 1906-15)
189 games, 175 goals
Ted Rowell hadn’t seen a single game of footy in 1915, having retired at the end of the previous season. He was held in such regard by Collingwood, though, that he was called upon for the grand final, and in doing so became the oldest player to ever don the black-and-white stripes. His career to this point had been remarkably successful, with three premierships (1902, 1903, 1910), twice leading the club’s goal kicking (1901, 1902), representing Victoria seven times, and along with Charlie Pannam and Dick Condon being responsible for the invention of the stab kick, revolutionising the game. In 1907, Rowell was moved to the back line, where he became one of the first attacking defenders by dint of his great pace and powerful kicking ability. In 1910, he took part in a 100-yard race with world champion Jack Donaldson, only just being shaded despite playing a full half of footy beforehand!

Half back line

John Rantall (South Melbourne 1963-72, 1976-79, North Melbourne 1973-75, Fitzroy 1980)
336 games, ten goals
For ten years, John Rantall was an ever present on the back flank for South Melbourne, using excellent judgment and precise ball skills to hold the line resolutely. The introduction of the ten-year rule in 1973 saw Rantall move to North Melbourne in pursuit of a premiership, which he achieved in 1975. Rantall also won North’s best and fairest award in 1974 – curiously, he never won one at South. He returned to South Melbourne for four more seasons before a coda at Fitzroy saw him retire with a then-record 336 games. Rantall was named in the back pocket of South Melbourne’s Team of the Century, and the half back flank of North Melbourne’s Team of the Century.

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Paul Roos (Fitzroy 1982-94, Sydney 1995-98)
356 games, 289 goals
In the late 1980s, Paul Roos was seen as one of the best players in the league, capable of repelling attacks with supreme aerial judgment, or moving forward to kick some important goals. Named Fitzroy captain in 1988, he led the club capably until he departed for Sydney in 1994. Roos was named All Australian seven times, and captain of the team twice, to go with his five best and fairest awards for Fitzroy and leading the goal kicking in 1990. In 1996, he broke the record for most games played before playing in a grand final, with Sydney unable to mark the occasion with a win. However Roos remained a favourite son of the Swans, coaching them to the 2005 premiership. He was named at centre half back in Fitzroy’s Team of the Century.

Max Richardson (Collingwood 1969-78, Fitzroy 1979-80)
241 games, 199 goals
Max Richardson was a consistent presence for Collingwood over a decade, rotating through the half back line and midfield. Although he was seen as the plus-one to brother Wayne, his courage and disposal were second to none and won him plenty of respect within the Magpies’ walls. Richardson was named as the best first-year player for the club in 1969, and finished second in the best and fairest in 1974, before being named as captain in 1977. It was a surprise when he lost the captaincy the very next year, and he played one more year before shuffling to Fitzroy to see his career out.

Centre line

Peter Riccardi (Geelong 1992-2006)
288 games, 286 goals
Throughout the 1990s, Peter Riccardi’s raking left foot and blistering pace would launch many a Geelong attack. He maintained a high level of play throughout his career, taking part in three losing grand finals and being among the best in 1995 before his hamstring went, and won a best and fairest award in 1998. The most memorable moment of Riccardi’s career came in 2002, when he kicked a goal after the siren to seal a Geelong win over Carlton. As his career wound down, he was a valuable elder statesman for the younger players and helped lay the groundwork for the club’s success in later years. Riccardi was named on the half forward flank of the Italian Team of the Century.

Brett Ratten (Carlton 1990-2003)
255 games, 117 goals
Brett Ratten started his career as an unremarkable back pocket, but given his knack for finding the ball and clearing it to a teammate in much better position, found himself starring in the midfield for a decade as a Blue. He was a vital part of the 1995 premiership, winning the best and fairest for the first of three occasions (and yet, not polling a single Brownlow vote!) and being named All Australian in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, Ratten was named captain as Carlton slid down the ladder, and retired in 2003 after a shoulder injury. His effectiveness was highlighted by Champion Data naming him as the player with the highest average ranking points in the 2000-09 decade. Ratten returned to coach the Blues with middling success, and is currently leading St Kilda to their best season for some time.

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St Kilda coach Brett Ratten looks on

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Geoff Raines (Richmond 1976-82, Collingwood 1983-86, Essendon 1986, Brisbane 1987-89)
254 games, 101 goals
Much like Brett Ratten, Geoff Raines won a premiership (1980, where he was considered almost best on ground but for Kevin Bartlett’s seven goals), a best and fairest in that year, and scored no Brownlow Medal votes. He was a classy wingman who could shift into the centre, and was noted for his great balance and ability to stay on his feet. Raines won best and fairest awards in 1978, 1980 and 1981, also finishing second in 1979. After the 1982 season, he was traded to Collingwood where he struggled to regain form, as he also did at Essendon. Moving to Brisbane rejuvenated his career, and he finished second in the Bears’ best and fairest in 1987 and 1988. Raines was named on the interchange bench of Richmond’s Team of the Century.

Ruck line

Barry Round (Footscray 1969-75, South Melbourne 1976-85)
328 games, 293 goals
Barry Round started his career at Footscray operating as second fiddle to Gary Dempsey in the ruck, but it was at South Melbourne that he came into his own. Winning best and fairest awards in 1979 and 1981, he also tied for the Brownlow Medal in the latter year. Round was named captain in 1980 and led the Swans in their first years in Sydney, before returning to Victoria with Williamstown in the VFA where he won three straight best and fairests and a JJ Liston Medal in 1987. Round was named as ruckman in both Sydney’s and Williamstown’s Teams of the Century.

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Mark Ricciuto (Adelaide 1993-2007)
312 games, 292 goals
With immense courage and plenty of skill, Mark Ricciuto is one of the most accomplished players in the Adelaide Crows’ history. His career was dotted with awards, including an incredible eight All Australian selections (twice as captain), the 2003 Brownlow Medal, three best and fairest awards and leading Adelaide’s goal kicking in 2006. Ricciuto’s physical play was an inspiration to the team, and he was named captain in 2001 until the end of his career. He missed the 1997 premiership, but made up for it the following year by featuring in the Crows’ second straight flag. Ricciuto was named on the half forward flank of Adelaide’s Team of the Decade, as well as being named the Player of the Decade, and was named as ruck rover in the Italian Team of the Century.

Dick Reynolds (Essendon 1933-51)
320 games, 442 goals
Such was the esteem that Dick Reynolds was held in across the league that the nickname ‘King Richard’ was the most apt possible. As a clever and creative rover who was strongly built, he was conspicuous not only for his brilliance but his fairness. Reynolds was the second player to win three Brownlow Medals, and won seven best and fairest awards for Essendon while also leading their goal kicking in 1943. He was named captain-coach in 1939 and retained the role until his final year, 1950, when he transferred to off-field coach only (barring an appearance in the 1951 grand final in an attempt to win a third straight flag for the Bombers). During his time in charge of Essendon, the team won flags in 1942, 1946, 1949 and 1950. Reynolds was named an official Legend of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, the number one Champion of Essendon, as a half forward flanker in the AFL Team of the Century, and as rover in the Essendon Team of the Century.

Half forward line

Wayne Richardson (Collingwood 1966-78)
277 games, 323 goals
Wayne Richardson was hot property in WA, so much so that the WAFL blocked his transfer to Collingwood for a year. When he did step onto the field, he immediately announced himself with 31 touches and three goals on debut. He continued in this vein for the rest of the year, ending up in fourth place in the best and fairest and being almost Collingwood’s best in the grand final of that year. For the next 12 years, Richardson was a remarkably consistent rover respected deeply within the club, being named captain in 1971 and winning best and fairest awards in that year and 1974. He was dropped controversially in 1976, but returned to the fold for two more years before spending time with the reserves in 1979. Richardson was named on the bench of Collingwood’s Team of the Century.

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(Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda 2001-17)
336 games, 718 goals
A centre half forward who could run all day and often did, Nick Riewoldt was a pillar of strength for St Kilda over his career. After a quiet first season, he rose to prominence in 2002, winning the first of six best and fairest awards and the Rising Star Award. In 2004, Riewoldt was a key part of St Kilda reaching the preliminary final, leading the league for marks for the first of seven times and being named All Australian for the first of five. Doubts lingered over his kicking for goal (in 2005 he kicked more behinds than goals) but his aerobic capacity and link work proved his value. Four times Riewoldt led St Kilda’s goal kicking, and he was named captain in 2005 as well as from 2007-16. He retired in 2017 having taken the most marks of any player in the history of the league.

Cliff Rankin (Geelong 1915, 1919-28)
153 games, 399 goals
The Rankin family was one of the most prominent in Geelong footy circles for the first 30 years of the league, with patriarch Teddy being the first player to play 100 games for Geelong, brother Tom representing the club in 47 matches, son Bert beginning his career only two years after Teddy retired and rising to captain the club until a controversial dropping in 1923, and Cliff Rankin as the best of them all. Although he didn’t play a full season until 1920 after serving as a Gunner in the AIF during WWI, he quickly showcased his skills as a forward by leading the club goal kicking on four straight occasions, including the league award in 1921. Named as captain-coach in 1925, Rankin led the club to its first premiership, kicking five goals in the grand final. Rankin represented Victoria on 14 occasions, kicking 30 goals, and was named as an emergency in Geelong’s Team of the Century.

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Forward line

Cyril Rioli (Hawthorn 2008-18)
189 games, 275 goals
Although he never won big possession numbers, Cyril Rioli had a knack for making things happen. Whether a clever knock on, a timely tackle or somehow finding space where none existed, he was a crucial part of Hawthorn’s success over the past decade. One of six Hawks to play in all four premierships, Rioli won the Norm Smith Medal in 2015 with a dominant display. He was named All Australian three times, and won Goal of the Year in 2009. Rioli retired midway through the 2018 season to return to his family in the Northern Territory. He was named as rover in the Northern Territory Team of the Century.

Cyril Rioli has announced his immediate retirement from the AFL.

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Matthew Richardson (Richmond 1993-2009)
282 games, 800 goals
Matthew Richardson was a supreme athlete, capable of the sublime and the ridiculous – often within the same minute! A prodigious mark and endless runner, he led Richmond’s goal kicking on 13 occasions despite twice missing huge chunks of seasons with injury. Richardson was named All Australian on three occasions, and won Richmond’s best and fairest in 2007. The following year, he spent most of his time on the wing, and was successful to the extent that he finished third in the Brownlow Medal. Richardson retired in 2009 after another season-ending injury, and finished his career having kicked the most goals at the MCG of anyone. He was named on the bench of Tasmania’s Team of the Century, and the half forward flank of Richmond’s Team of the Century.

Bob Rose (Collingwood 1946-55)
152 games, 214 goals
A legendary figure at Collingwood and Wangaratta, Bob Rose was a courageous and tough rover who could sniff a goal any time he moved forward. He was the first player to win four best and fairest awards for Collingwood, with his last coming in the premiership year of 1953 (a year in which he also topped the club’s goal kicking). After the 1955 season, he moved to the Wangaratta Rovers, winning two OMFL premierships, two Morris Medals (the OMFL Brownlow equivalent), and four best and fairest awards. Rose’s standing in the league is highlighted by the award for AFLPA Most Courageous Player being named in his honour, and he was named in the centre of Collingwood’s Team of the Century.

Interchange

Lou Richards (Collingwood 1941-55)
250 games, 423 goals
Louie the Lip. The Kiss of Death. The Lou of Bob, Jack and Lou. With such a prolific media career after he finished playing, it can sometimes overshadow the brilliance that Lou Richards showed on the field for Collingwood. Part of the famous Pannam/Richards family (the only family to play 1200 games of league footy), Richards was a tough and cheeky rover who would stop at nothing to rattle opponents or to move the ball forward. He was appointed captain of Collingwood in 1952, leading the club to the 1953 premiership. Richards led Collingwood’s goal kicking three times, and four times finished either second or third in the club best and fairest. He retired just before the 1955 finals series after a drastic loss of form, and had actually been appointed coach of the reserves squad before Jack Dyer’s trip to London meant that there was a vacancy at The Sun that he fit into perfectly.

Maurice Rioli (Richmond 1982-87)
118 games, 80 goals
In only six years in the VFL, Maurice Rioli packed enough action and accolades to fill a much longer career. He was one of the first Indigenous players to have a lasting impact on the VFL, after starring with South Fremantle in the WAFL. In his first year with Richmond, he won the first of two straight best and fairest awards, as well as the Norm Smith Medal in a losing side (the first of only four to do so). His uncanny ability to evade trouble, shoot off a fast hand pass or hit up a leading target saw him displace Geoff Raines from the centre (which saw Raines move to Collingwood for the 1983 season). Rioli finished second in the 1983 Brownlow Medal, and was named All Australian three times. After his career was over, he served as member for Arafura in the NT Legislative Assembly from 1992-2001. Rioli was named in the centre of the Indigenous Team of the Century, and the half forward flank of the Northern Territory Team of the Century.

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Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn 2005-19)
283 games, 578 goals
Jarryd Roughead could play at either end of the field, but was most often the Robin to Lance Franklin’s Batman up forward. A strong runner and marker, he could also pinch hit in the ruck when needed. Roughead played in Hawthorn’s four premierships, and led the club’s goal kicking three times including the 2013 Coleman Medal. He was twice named All Australian, and captained Hawthorn in 2017 and 2018, a remarkable comeback from a 2016 season devastated by cancer complications. In his final match, he went out on a high by kicking six goals.

Jarryd Roughead and Lance Franklin of the Hawks celebrates with the Premiership Cup after the hawks won the 2013 AFL Grand Final match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Fremantle Dockers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 28, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.

(Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Allan Ruthven (Fitzroy 1940-54)
222 games, 442 goals
One of Fitzroy’s finest players, Allan Ruthven was a creative and skilled rover who followed in Haydn Bunton’s footsteps at the club – being given the latter’s number seven in recognition of his potential. He lived up to the potential, with five best and fairest awards and a Brownlow Medal in 1950. In 1944, Ruthven was one of the best afield in the premiership win, and his skill around goals gave him three club goal kicking awards. He was named captain in 1948, but lost the role in 1949 due to a clearance dispute before winning it back and holding the role to the end of his career. In 1952-54 he served as captain-coach, and in 1953 saved Fitzroy from the ignominy of going scoreless through a whole game by kicking a goal with seconds left in a mud heap at Footscray. Ruthven was named in the forward pocket of Fitzroy’s Team of the Century.

Emergencies

Saverio Rocca (Collingwood 1992-2000, North Melbourne 2001-06)
257 games, 748 goals
Blessed with a prodigious left foot and solid hands, Saverio Rocca was one of the top full forwards of the 1990s. His effort in the inaugural Anzac Day match of 1995 went down in folklore, kicking nine goals. This was part of a season in which he won the club’s best and fairest, and only just missed out on the 100-goal mark. Rocca never quite hit those heights again, although he led Collingwood’s goal kicking in every year up until 1999 and finished second in the 1997 Coleman Medal. After injury and form saw his career at Collingwood draw to a close, North Melbourne took him on and he rewarded them with three goal kicking awards and a solid 100 games before venturing to America as a punter in the NFL. Rocca was named as full forward in the Italian Team of the Century.

Brady Rawlings (North Melbourne 1999-2011)
245 games, 62 goals
A consistent presence in the North Melbourne midfield through the 2000s, Brady Rawlings was equally capable of locking down an opponent and winning his own ball. His career started slowly, but from 2003 onwards he never played less than 20 games in a season. Rawlings won three best and fairest awards throughout the decade, and had a career-best year in 2010 when he averaged over 28 touches a game. The only time he won higher recognition was when he was named in the 2004 International Rules squad, but he was generally a respected competitor. Rawlings retired in 2011 and began his off-field career at West Coast before returning to North in 2020.

David Rhys-Jones (Sydney 1980-84, Carlton 1985-92)
182 games, 112 goals
David Rhys-Jones made sure the tribunal was never bored, being reported 25 times in 13 seasons at the top level as well as visiting as a victim 17 times. This didn’t distract from his quality on the field, as a versatile and balanced player who most often strode along the wings with a touch of flair. In 1985 Rhys-Jones asked for a clearance from Sydney, and Blues fans looked on with trepidation as he joined the club given his proclivity for crossing the line a little too often. By the end of 1987, all doubts were excised as he performed an excellent stopping job on Dermott Brereton in the grand final, being rewarded with a premiership and a Norm Smith Medal. Rhys-Jones finished third in the best and fairest that year, and continued to play good footy until a knee injury forced his retirement.

Next up is the S team, with no fewer than five members of the VFL/AFL Team of the Century in the squad.

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