[img2=left]http://richmondfc.com.au/cp2/c2/webi/article/221756bc.jpg[/img2]Tracing the history of the Tiger lace-up jumper
12:49:52 PM Thu 11 August, 2005
Rhett Bartlett

It is illegal to wear a lace-up guernsey in an AFL match these days . . . Those rules, however, will be relaxed slightly when the Richmond players wear a replica of the popular 1970s-early 80s lace-up jumper in Sundays big Heritage Round clash with the Western Bulldogs at Telstra Dome.

The famous black guernsey with yellow sash and laces running down the middle, has an unique place in Richmonds history.

Its origins be traced back to a training session in early 1971, when new Tiger recruit Craig McKellar, walked down the Punt Road players race wearing a lace-up Woodville guernsey, manufactured by 'Vic Hill' in South Australia.

The uniqueness of the lace-up strip quickly attracted the attention of other Richmond players. McKellars subsequent discussion on the benefits of the lace-up guernsey prompted some of the Clubs players to approach then Secretary Alan Schwab about getting a similar design for the Richmond jumper.

Schwab agreed, and by late in the 1971 season, two or three of the Tiger players were wearing a lace-up guernsey. The popularity of the lace-up increased the following season with five players Kevin Bartlett, Kevin Sheedy, Michael Green, Dick Clay and Brian Roberts wearing one in the 1972 Grand Final loss to Carlton.

By the time the 1974 premiership photo was taken, seven Tiger players were wearing lace-up jumpers, Robbie McGhie and Barry Richardson joining Bartlett, Sheedy, Green, Clay and Roberts.

Basically, the guernsey made it harder for players to grab you. It was made from a canvas-type material, so it didn't feel heavy on very wet and rainy days, Bartlett recalled this week, 22 years after he last wore a lace-up jumper, in 1983. It contained lambs-wool, too, on the inside, to help you keep warm.

From 1972-83, Bartlett wore the lace-up guernsey in the majority of his matches. Only during wet weather, would the old, long-sleeved jumper appear. The lace-up enabled him to place his mouthguard between the second and third laces during quarter-time and three quarter-time breaks. He also had sewn into the left woollen interior of his guernsey a small handkerchief, which he would use to towel his hands and face during matches.

In 1983, when he became the first player to reach the 400-game milestone in league football history, Kevin Bartlett ran out on to the MCG wearing his lace-up guernsey only this time it had actually been laced up in the middle with a shoelace!

The lace-up guernsey didn't last too long into the 1980s . . . Melbourne champion Robert Flower ruptured a tendon in his finger after it became entangled in the laces of an opponent during a match. The league subsequently ruled that the laces were potentially a hazard for all players, and banned them.

This weekend, however, the lace-up returns (albeit in a replica form). Wonderful memories of the 1973, 1974 and 1980 premiership triumphs, along with the images of KB in his 400th game, are bound to come flooding back to those Richmond supporters old enough to remember . . .

Rhett Bartlett