Fred Swift

Date of Birth: 06/07/1938
Height: 183 cm ( 6-0 )
Weight: 83 kg ( 13-1 )
Guernsey: 15
Debut: 12/04/1958, Round 1, South Melbourne
Last Game: 23/09/1967, Round GF, Geelong

Seasons: 1958-67
Total Games: 146
Total Goals: 41

Honours: Premiership 1967, Captain 1967, Victorian Representative Team 1961 Games 2 Goals 0.

Seasons: 1963, 1966
Total Games: 5
Total Goals: 3

Swift played in two practice matches with Richmond in 1957 but was not given a clearance; and he consequently returned to Sandhurst for the 1957 season. In early March 1958, Richmond were able to come to an agreement with Sandhurst and Swift was allowed to travel to Melbourne to train with Richmond.

He starred in Richmond's 1958 pre-season practice games – "he marked well, played on with determination once the ball hit the ground, and frequently sent his side into attack with long, driving kicks into the goal mouth" — and, by mid-April 1958, nineteen years old Swift, regarded by Richmond as the "recruit of the year", was finally cleared to the Tigers.

Debut with Richmond
At nineteen, he played his first senior game for Richmond against South Melbourne in the first round of the 1958 season on the half-forward flank. Richmond unexpectedly beat South Melbourne, and Swift kicked one goal. One of the football writers of The Age commenting on his debut, said that, "Fred Swift was strange early but in the last quarter showed good football sense and ability on his half-forward flank. He should develop into a useful player.

1962 Night Premiership
Richmond played its first match against Fitzroy on Tuesday 4 September 1962 with Swift at full-back. Richmond beat Fitzroy 12.9 (81) to 9.10 (64).

In the semi-final match, on Friday, 14 September 1962, Richmond played against the strong favourites North Melbourne. Swift played at full-back, and was best on the ground. Richmond beat North Melbourne 12.13 (85) to 9.8 (62).

The final match of the series was originally scheduled to be played at the Lake Oval on Monday, 24 September 1962, but was moved to Wednesday, 26 September 1962 because of bad weather.

In the Grand Final, Swift was again best on the ground, playing at full-back against Hawthorn's John Peck, and as the team's captain in Richmond’s only ever Night Premiership victory: "Swift played a superb game at full-back repelling Hawthorn’s forward thrusts and marking everything that came his way" (Hogan, 1996, p.300) and, according to the press, "his superb defensive play, in that game, was the difference between victory and defeat" (Hogan, 1996, p.224). Richmond 8.16 (64) defeated Hawthorn 9.6 (60).

Injuries in 1966
In the first four matches of 1966, Swift played at full-forward, kicking a total of 10 goals. His knee was badly injured in the last quarter of the round 4 match against Collingwood, and it was feared that he might not play again that season.

However, his knee did eventually come good; and, whilst playing a couple of matches in the Second Eighteen, to get back his touch and his match fitness, he broke a bone in his hand. This meant that he was not fit to resume his place in the senior team until the last round match against Fitzroy. He was selected at full-forward, and he kicked 5 goals.

Although playing with a suspect knee for his last few seasons at Richmond, Swift always gave his best; and, considering his knee problems, he had a surprising turn of speed. He ended his career at full-back, having played as a half-forward flanker and ruck-rover for his last few seasons, and only moving to full-back in the last half of his last season, in place of the injured Mick Erwin. Jack Dyer had suggested the move, on the basis of his own experience with a similar sort of knee injury, Dyer argued that, of all the positions on the field, full-back was the best for Swift, because he would have almost all of his play in front of him, and almost all of his running would be straight ahead, with a minimum of turns and sideways movement. In his first full match in 1967 at full-back, in round 16 (16 August 1967), against Hawthorn, at Glenferrie Oval, despite fears that he was too short to play against Hawthorn's champion full-forward, Peter Hudson, who was 3½ inches taller, Swift held Hudson to three goals, and Richmond won the match, thrashing Hawthorn 23.30 (168) to 7.12 (54).

1967 VFL Grand Final
In his final game, the 1967 Grand Final against Geelong, he not only captained his team to a premiership, but he was one of the best on the ground, somewhat nullifying the impact of the temperamental Geelong hairdresser and champion full-forward, Doug Wade, who was nearly five inches (11cm) taller and more than two stone heavier (14kg), and was widely expected to out-class Swift. Wade, the season's top goal-kicker, who had scored 79 goals during the home-and-away section of the season (including 6 goals against Swift, and Richmond, in round 18), and 8 and 5 goals in the semi-final and preliminary finals against Collingwood and Carlton respectively, was clearly outplayed in the Grand Final, and was held to just 4 goals by Swift.

Although Geelong was the first to score, Richmond was a goal in front by quarter time: 4.3 (27) to 3.3 (21). By half time, Richmond had increased its lead to 16 points: 9.10 (64) to 7.6 (48). Geelong fought back during the third quarter and, at one stage, led by 14 points; however, Richmond counter-attacked and the scores were level. And, then, two rushed behinds right at the end of the quarter, saw Richmond two points ahead at three-quarter time: 12.15 (87) to 13.7 (85).

In one of the most exciting last quarters ever, Richmond was in front, then scores were level, then Geelong was in front, then scores were level, then Richmond was in front, then scores were level; and then it was time on.

Richmond’s John Ronaldson kicked a goal (his third for the match) to put Richmond six points ahead, and then a goal from Kevin Bartlett, backing out of the pack, increased Richmond’s lead to twelve points. Geelong then ferociously surged back into the game when "Polly" Farmer (playing his last game for Geelong) handpassed the ball to Wayne Closter, who kicked the ball goal-wards towards Wade (Geelong’s no.10) somewhere between centre-half forward and full-forward.

An almost exhausted Swift (Richmond’s no.15; and, as always, with the 5 askew), with great anticipation, leapt high in front of Wade and palmed the ball away to his right from in front of the pack. He raced back towards the goal square, just in time to intercept a kick from Colin Eales and, to add insult to injury, ran across the face of goal, bounced the ball, with Wade in hot pursuit, and calmly passed the ball to John Perry.

Both Tony Polinelli and Bill Ryan kicked poorly, each scoring a behind, placing Geelong ten points behind; and then, with plenty of time for Geelong to get another goal, and breaking out of a pack, Goggin punt-kicked what seemed certain to be a goal (which would have reduced the lead to a dangerous four points).

The tenacious Swift – already greatly tired from having to captain his team, counteract the stronger, heavier, and taller Wade, and kick the ball back into play after the eight behinds that Geelong had scored up to that moment in the last quarter), single-mindedly concentrating on his task, took one of the finest marks of his career at the Punt Road end of the MCG.

With the strong September afternoon sun shining directly into his eyes, without any opposition (with the goal umpire crouching in a perfect position to determine its legality), he first caught the ball perhaps ten feet above the ground (3m), right on the goal line, to turn Geelong away, and retain Richmond’s lead of ten points. He played on, and his clearing drop-kick almost hit the centre.

"It's the biggest thrill in my life. It really makes it worthwhile playing football after today's win. It was close, and at times I thought we might not win. But every player pulled his weight and I have never felt so happy. I'll never forget the thrill of running around the ground holding the premiership cup. It's a thing you dream about – but today it came true." – Fred Swift after his team's win.

Moments later, Polinelli surged up the ground kicked Geelong’s ninth behind for the quarter; and, as Polinelli's kick went through, the siren sounded, with Richmond finally winning by nine points 16.18 (114) to 15.15 (105).

Retirement from Richmond
Immediately after the Grand Final, he announced his retirement.

In the following week, Swift was made the Lord Mayor of Richmond City for the day; and a photograph appeared in the Melbourne press, entitled "The day Richmond belonged to him", with Swift, in full mayoral regalia, looking down over the City of Richmond from the roof of the Richmond Town Hall.

Richmond did all it could to induce Swift's to stay in the following week, but he was adamant that he would not change his mind, and they parted on friendly terms.

It is also significant to note that, although Swift tasted success as the captain of a premiership team, coached by Tom Hafey (who had played beside Swift in the Richmond first eighteen in the 1957 and 1958 seasons), in his last season with Richmond, he had also experienced Richmond being far from successful for most of his career; and, when examined year by year, Swift's career of 146 senior games clearly shows the extent to which he (and Richmond) had experienced hard times: 1958 season, he played 16 senior games (Richmond was 10th, out of 12 teams, at the end of the home-and-away season); 1959, 7 games (11th); 1960, 18 games (last); 1961, 15 games (10th) (in round 16, Swift played in the centre of a Richmond team that was beaten by St Kilda 12.19 (91) to 0.8 (8), the first time that a senior VFL team had failed to score a goal since round 11, 1921); 1962, 18 games (8th); 1963, 12 games (10th); 1964, 18 games (9th); 1965, 17 games (5th); 1966, 5 games (5th); 1967, 18 games (first), plus the second Semi-Final and the Grand-Final (premiers).

Swift was murdered during a home invasion at his farm at Lockwood, near Bendigo, Victoria, on 28 April 1983.

Sandhurst Thirds 1953-54 ( Captain, Best & Fairest ) ; Sandhurst Seniors 1955-57, Games 60, Goals 20 ( Honours - Best & Fairest 1957 ).

Corowa Captain/Coach 1968-69, Games 30, Goals 17 ( Honours - Premiership 1968 ) ; Morwell Captain/Coach 1970-72, Games 52, Goals 29 ; Kennington/ Strathdale Coach 1978-79.

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Bio compiled by Tigers of Old, Wayne Bird, Rhett Bartlett