Dave Cuzens

Date of Birth: 11/12/1932
Date of Death: Oct 22, 2021
Height: 182 cm ( 5-11 1/2 )
Weight: 85 kg ( 13-5 )
Guernsey: 4
Debut: 22/06/1957, Round 10, Essendon
Last Game: 05/08/1961, Round 15, Fitzroy

Seasons: 1957-61
Total Games: 69
Total Goals: 2

Best & Fairest 1958-59,
Victorian Representative Team 1959-60 (4 Games, 0 Goals)

Seasons: 1957, 1961
Total Games: 8
Total Goals: 0

Dave Cuzens, the Western Australian who won back-to-back Richmond Best and Fairests, has died aged 88.
Cuzens passed away on Friday, Oct. 22, his son Steve told Rhett Bartlett.
“Our family would like to sincerely thank the club for the care and attention they gave Dad as a past player. Special thanks to Emmett Dunne and Bill Meaklim and the The WA Tigers.”

Competitive until the end, Cuzens regularly swam with the Beatty Park Bears Swim Squad, and competed in Masters Swimming competitions.

Although his Tigerland career only lasted 69 games in 5 seasons, the determined defender won the 1958 and 1959 Best and Fairests, finished in 7th place in 1960, represented Victoria 4 times, and was club vice-captain in 1960 and 1961.

He then returned back west and coached Subiaco from 1962-63, and played one season with East Perth in 1964.

In a 2013 podcast interview with Bartlett, Cuzens revealed that it was his dream to play in the Victorian League.

“Apart from being keen on football most of my life, I went to all the Interstate matches and watched the Vics. I did a year a Cowaramup and a year at Karridale, and from places like that and Kalgoorlie I travelled to Perth overnight sometimes to see the Vics play WA”.

“I realised that the best football was in Melbourne, and I started to win trophies and play well from the age of 16 through to 22, and I thought I’d start at the top and work down, so I’d go to Melbourne first.“

Cuzens recalled that he chose Richmond after avidly reading all Jack Dyer’s articles in the famous monthly magazine Sporting Life. “I thought well it’s a big tough team Richmond, sounds a bit macho, but I’ll try myself out there. It was the only team I really knew in Melbourne.“

A patron of his local club owned the Grand Hotel in Kalgoorlie and knew famed Richmond secretary Maurie Fleming who invited him over by letter.

But as was the case with many interstate footballers, Cuzens had difficulty obtaining a full clearance from his League to play at Tigerland.

So when he touched down in Melbourne, Richmond had organised his living arrangements at Committeeman Ron Garraway’s Junction Hotel (opposite Junction Oval), and found him employment as a crane operator on the Lorimer Street wharf, transporting Oregon timber and Redwood from America, and softwood from Indonesia.

Even as important during his clearance wrangle Richmond found him a club to play for in the 1956 season – the unaffiliated Glenhuntly.

Graeme Richmond would come watch him play and bring along then player Tom Hafey. Reflecting on those visit Cuzens felt it was used by Hafey to gather knowledge from GR and led to his interest in coaching.

Hafey looked after Cuzens on the field a couple of years later, squaring up Ted Whitten in the pocket one day in retaliation of EJ breaking Cuzens’ nose.

Whilst playing at Glenhuntly he still trained at Richmond, and it was that experience he felt highlighted a key reason for The Tigers lack of success in the late 50s and early 60s.

“I don’t think they trained hard enough. When I came back to W.A., my junior coach was still alive, and he was the one who taught me how to train, so I gave him one of my VFL guernseys.”

But Cuzens remembered that at Richmond training he’d be “galloping around the oval flat out and one of two of them (the senior players) would say to me, what are you training so hard for, you ain’t playing.”

When Cuzens was finally cleared to play for Richmond at the start of the 1957 season, he played the first 3 games in the Reserves but broke his collarbone bumping a South Melbourne opponent. He was sidelined for over a month.

Wearing No. 4, his senior debut happened in Round 10 1957 against Essendon. His opponent, another Western Australian in Colin Hebbard, would be his opponent again 7 years later in his final game for East Perth against West Perth.

As full-back, Cuzens won Richmond’s Best and Fairest in his second and third seasons and was appointed vice captain to Ron Branton from 1960.

Cuzens remembered by that stage Branton had been moved to the back pocket near the end of his career. “I didn’t think we played that well together, not saying anything against Ron, but I thought I was the boss down there, until he came and then that changed things a little bit. It seems silly but that’s how I felt about it. You can’t criticise his play, he was great, he was very attacking, and you knew he was going to support you as a back pocket player. He was a great player, I can’t refute that.”

Born in Cottesloe on Dec. 11 1932, Cuzens barracked for Swan Districts and still had a vivid memory of his keen mother shouting and screaming across the oval to him while playing for Bassendean Juniors. His father went one step further, collecting all the Sporting Globe articles about his son and proudly showing anyone who turned up at the local pub.

The majority of his time at Richmond was under the tutelage of Alan McDonald, a five-time premiership coach of South Bendigo.

Cuzens revealed a little-known story regarding Richmond’s appointment of McDonald.

The club recorded his halftime addresses up in the country and allowed the Richmond players to listen over them before they made the decision to sign him up.

Standing 5ft 11 and three-quarters - “I tried for 3 or 4 years in my young days to try and get that extra quarter of an inch”, Cuzens played on full-forwards Ron Evans (Essendon), Fred Wooller (Geelong) , Tony Ongarello (Fitzroy), and Bill Young (StKilda).

In Round 1 1958, South Melbourne Brownlow Medallist Fred Goldsmith (who had been moved from fullback to full-forward) kicked 2 goals 9 behinds on him. Cuzens read later in The Sporting Globe that Lou Richards felt he was too short to be playing full-back for Richmond.

But what Richards didn’t know was that Cuzens kept meticulous details of his stats that year which showed he only allowed on average 1.5 goals to be kicked against him.

He also represented Victorian four occasions though never took the field against Western Australia, despite being selected as 19th man in one contest coached by Norm Smith.

Softly spoken, Cuzens remembered meeting Jack Dyer for the first time at a dinner organised by Ray Poulter. “Jack and his wife walked in, and I couldn’t believe I was there. When he came strolling in, I thought to myself, is this real?”

An even earlier memory came from watching Victoria play at Subiaco Oval and spotting Richmond’s champion ruckman Roy Wright for the first time.

“I saw him running on Subiaco Oval on his toes. He had calves like footballs when I got to see him close up. They say he wasn’t rough and tough, but his bulk, they couldn’t shift him. He had the same boots on that he patched a thousand times over that he wouldn’t swap for anything. Those big feet used to send the ball down.“

Cuzens’ career ended in August 1961, brought on in his words “by his age” (he was only about to turn 29), and by a persistent stress fracture in his left foot from a practice game the year before.

His last game was against Fitzroy at the Punt Road Ground, a venue where he played over half of his League career.

“You didn’t have to look up. You knew what part of the ground you were on by the texture of the soil. There were about 6 different textures. Any sprinkling of rain and there was mud up to your boot tops.“

- by Rhett Bartlett

Bassendean Juniors 1949 ( Honours - Premiership 1949 )
Cowaramup 1950 ( Honours - Premiership 1950 )
Karriadale 1951; Kalgoorlie City 1952-55 ( Honours - Premiership 1953-54, Goldfields Best & Fairest 1954 )
Glenhuntly 1956.

Subiaco Coach 1962-63, Games 30
East Perth 1964 , Games 8, Goals 0
Brookton Captain/Coach 1965, Games 16.