IT WAS HARD to loaf on the couch when Jack Dyer was on your trail. GEOFF POULTER recalls how his namesake drew the wrath of the Tiger titan:
MANY footy fans will find some connection with Richmond’s stirring premiership triumph. For me it is a namesake who starred with the Tigers more than 60 years ago.
Richmond forward Ray Poulter (1929-1999) was a distant relative. We talked about this at length at our only meeting, at a club history book launch in a Richmond pub in the late 1980s. By then Ray had retired to the Gold Coast and was making a rare, fleeting visit.
We discussed our family backgrounds and how it seemed pockets of the Poulter family, originally emigrating from England, had settled in Bendigo, Devonport and Melbourne’s outer northern suburbs. He was from the Greensborough “branch” where there has been, for several decades, even a family cemetery.
Ray Poulter was a prodigious left-foot kick. His father Joe (83 games, 1923-28) was a Collingwood premiership defender (1927) and played in its losing 1926 grand final side.
Ray was nicknamed Joe – and “Joe junior” joined the Tigers from Richmond Tech. He kicked 351 goals in 170 games from 1946-56. He played mainly at centre half-forward and full-forward. And occasionally in the ruck.
He represented Victoria in 1955, finished fourth in the 1951 Brownlow Medal behind a handy trio, Bernie Smith, Ron Clegg and Bill Hutchison, and headed Richmond’s club goalkicking three times.
Growing up in Tassie I learned of his deeds. When I arrived in Melbourne in the early 1970s I was often greeted with: “Any relation to Ray?”
Ray Poulter, at one stage, ran the Mountain View Hotel in Bridge Road. I made up for lack of early patronage by spending some time there when Ron Barassi ran the pub in the 1980s.
Poulter coached Castlemaine and later ran a hotel at Albury. There is a reference in John Coleman’s memoirs of the Essendon legend spending some time there.
His coach Jack Dyer considered he could have been a great centre-half-forward if he had trained harder. Dyer tracked him from work one day and found him at home relaxing on the coach. He was rarely late for training again and paid, on the track, for his tardiness.
Former Richmond premiership president Ian Wilson told me Poulter was the longest kick he saw at Punt Rd, left-foot drop kicks from the centre. He was also an accurate shot for goal with long torpedoes.
Richmond power-broker of the 1960s-1980s, Graeme Richmond, linked me too closely with “Joe”. On reacting to an anti-Tiger article in the early 1970s GR said: “And from Ray Poulter’s nephew!”
Ray’s close mate Des Rowe, who also coached the club, often talked about him. Max Oppy and Don “Mopsy” Fraser were other mates.
Ray was unfortunate to play in Richmond’s most unproductive period, wedged between successful eras. The Tigers had Roy Wright, Bill Morris, Des and Havel Rowe, Billy Wilson and other stars but, like a few battling clubs in that era, tailed off.
Only eight Richmond players have kicked more goals – Jack Titus, Matthew Richardson, Kevin Bartlett, Michael Roach, Dick Harris, Jack Riewoldt, Jack Dyer and Royce Hart.
I had an almost identical physique to “Uncle Ray” – 183.5cm and 95 kg. And I was an okay kick. Alas, that’s where the similarities ended.
When your weaknesses all start with S – selfish, slow, soft, scared -it’s clear you’re better off doing what Murray Weideman noted when he greeted me about 44 years ago: “You write it, don’t you?”
There have been about 15,000 VFL/AFL players since 1897 but only two Poulters – “Uncle Ray” and his dad. And 125 Smiths!