Charlie Richardson very nearly never pulled on a Blacks jumper. Moving down from Sydney in 2010, Charlie joined his cousin Nick Hildebrandt for a training session out at Old Scotch. Whether the traffic that night from Carlton North to Camberwell was heinous, or crossing South of the Yarra made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck in a bad way, we’ll never truly know why he never went back.
What we do know is that the next training session Chuck attended was with the Uni Blacks and he’s never strayed too far from the Main since. In his tenth season with the club, Charlie will bring up game 150 on the Main against Old Haileyburians.
Before coming to the Blacks, Charlie starred with Pennant Hills in NSW. In 2007, at just 20 years of age, he was awarded the Phelan Medal, being adjudged the best and fairest player in Sydney’s premier division where he also won senior flags in 2006 and 2008.
The move to Melbourne proved an absolute bounty for the Blacks. In his first year with club, Charlie won the Cordner Medal as the Senior best and fairest player. He was also selected to represent the VAFA and finished 5th in Premier B’s best and fairest player award, the G.T Moore Medal.
Close friend and teammate of Charlie’s, Dan Costello, said that in 2010 Charlie set the competition alight.
“I often watched in awe as Charlie effortlessly collected the mongrel pass I’d sent his way, turned to smile his thanks, changed his course in a flash and burst away from the scrambling pack,” he said.
His turn of speed, his willingness to win the inside ball, his poise in front of goal and his ability to hurt opposition players with bone crunching hits were the traits that struck Dan the most.
Above: Dan and Charlie in their playing days together
Charlie’s coach in 2010 was Marc Woolnough.
“Charlie was certainly one of the first picked every weekend for good reason. I loved the fact that he put his club and his team mates first,” he recalls of the time.
Charlie loves his teammates and they certainly love him in return. His affable, buoyant and jovial personality is infectious. Since he commenced with the Blacks, he has been a big-time player on the social scene and the places he’s resided, particularly 247 Station Street, have become unofficial club rooms, hosting many after-hours events.
But, no matter how well he equipped himself socially, he let his football do more of the talking. The Blacks narrowly missed finals in 2011, but in 2012, under new coach Matt Kempton, Charlie’s game went to another level.
“Chuck was the kind of player you let play, with as few guardrails as the game plan allowed,” Kempton recalls.
On his presence around the club and his impact on the success that came, Kempton says “Charlie has an infectious love of the game and the Blacks. He was integral to the success we experienced. The rare ability to influence a group’s mood on and off the field - always for the better. Tagged often, never complained.”
Charlie’s freakish skill and his mop of blonde hair didn’t go unnoticed and so brought about a tag from opposition players week after week. But it wasn’t just the opposition that noticed Chuck, he’d also caught the attention of 2012 Premier B scribe, Di Langton, who dubbed him the ‘Lemon Drop Kid’ and squeezed plenty out of that name. Her weekly reports in The Amateur Footballer glittered with references to the Lemon Drop Kid.
The Lemon Drop Kid also wasn’t missed by the umpires either. In 2012, after a sensational season, Charlie was awarded the G.T. Moore Medal for the best and fairest player in Premier B, the first Blacks player to win the award since his Coach Matt Kempton took it out in 2006.
Charlie’s magnificent 2012 season ended fittingly when the Blacks won the premiership, beating Beaumaris and securing promotion to A Grade. It’s champion players who step up in finals and fittingly, Charlie was adjudged best on ground that day, winning the Ian Cordner Medal.
Above: Charlie winning the Ian Cordner Medal for his Best on Ground display in the 2012 Grand Final
In 2013, Charlie was crucial to the club’s drive into Premier A. Playing the 2013 season where the Blacks narrowly went down to St. Bede’s Mentone in a preliminary final, Charlie travelled abroad in 2014, which unfortunately saw him miss the Premier A flag.
Returning in 2015, Charlie recommenced duties and was voted in the Senior’s best players eight of sixteen games he played that year.
Cam Roberts, a previous teammate of Charlie’s, coached him for the first time in 2016.
“As a player, he is without doubt one of my all-time favourite teammates I have had the fortune of playing alongside and now have the absolute pleasure of coaching. As a footballer he is a purest - tough - a ball hunter - like a dog on a bone - even now his eyes light up when he sees that ball like I can only imagine they would have when he was a kid playing. The brilliance of what he shows with ball in hand is only surpassed by his want and effort to make his teammates better,” Roberts said.
When asked about Charlie’s character, Cam said “Charlie is one of the most endearing people I've come across in my time from any walk of life. He is a keeper. A loyal and loveable friend.”
When asked where Charlie sits on the list of players he’s coached and about his milestone, Cam continues;
“None more spirited, passionate and selfless has donned the Blacks jumper in recent times than Charlie. 150 games is a significant achievement that again reminds us what we all already know - he is one of the best - on and off the field."
Above: Chuck and his good mates (L-R) Steve Flight, Tom Napier, Adam Pitt and Bede Mahon
Looking at Charlie, it’s easy to think that it all just comes easily to him. His friendly, laid back attitude away from the field allows you to think that he succeeds effortlessly. But while he might make it look easy, his success comes down to his incredible drive and passion.
“Chuck gives everything with his body, week in, week out, at training and during the game and what he reaps from that effort is not derived from luck. He gives with his heart, it’s the size of Phar Lap’s and it’s obvious in everything that he does in football and beyond, ” says teammate, ex -housemate and at times best mate Mitch Aitken.
Beyond football, Charlie is the man. He loves a beer at the Pavvy and The Clyde after the game and people are undoubtedly drawn to him. Such is Charlie’s pull that in coming to the Blacks in 2010, he brought along Scott Myers with Mitch Aitken and Tommy Angel soon following suit. Eventually, even his cousin Nick who’d he first trained with out at Scotch came and played at the Blacks.
Chuck’s Mum and Dad, Keith and Jan have been long term sponsors of the club and Keith flies down from Sydney most weekends to see Charlie play. It’s an incredible act that the club are extremely thankful for.
His partner Carleigh regularly watches games at the Main and has dealt with more house parties, impromptu gatherings and unexpected disappearances of Charlie than any one person should.
Charlie’s cousin Jette has been enormous around the club for many years and his brother Joel (when in Melbourne) and sister Thea can often be found at home games, which demonstrates what a family affair it’s become for the Richardsons.
For all Charlie’s football ability, perhaps the greatest trait he possesses is what many people have come to know as, ‘the Richardson gene’. The Richardson gene is multi-faceted. It guarantees popularity, success and rallies all others to his cause, however great or small. It’s seen Chuck escape situations that might have otherwise brought about his demise.
Good genes aside, his laughter is loud and contagious, his story telling is captivating (although at times repetitive), his energy radiates and there’s not too many people you’d be luckier to meet than Charlie Richardson.
Carefully ‘managed’ after his 149th game, a week off ensured that Charlie would bring up his 150th at the Uni Main. It’s all so fitting, Charlie absolutely loves the Main and has revelled playing there, whether it be in the shin deep mud of a bygone era or the green grass field of modern times.
When you stack up his achievements and look at what he’s accomplished at the Blacks, it’s almost strange that you might consider that his contribution to the club off the field is even greater than what he’s given on it. But with Chuck, that might just be the case.
Without doubt, Charlie will very much dislike the attention that a milestone games brings. But if you’re able to make it out to the Uni Main tomorrow at 2pm, he’d love that you’re there cheering on the Blacks, something he absolutely loves.
All the best in your 150th Chucko. Give ‘em hell.
Thanks to Darren Collopy for his efforts in writing this terrific article.