How the Queen changed Aussie Rules forever when first Sunday game was held to mark Australia visit – Daily Mail

By Josh Alston For Daily Mail Australia



While Sunday afternoon footy is a staple on the sporting calendar today, it took a visit from the late Queen Elizabeth II back in 1970 to inspire Aussie Rules to start playing on the sabbath.
Prior to then, Sundays were still regarded as a day of rest and businesses remained shuttered while footy grounds including the MCG  remained firmly padlocked.
That all changed in the opening round of the 1970 season on Sunday, April 5 at the code’s most famous ground when the then-VFL created history to accommodate the royals.
RIP Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Reigning premiers Richmond played Fitzroy to open the season that day with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne in attendance.
In another first for the code, players were told to wear fresh jumpers, comb their hair and wash their hands at halftime so they’d be presentable when they met the royals during the main break in play. 
Former Demons coach John ‘Swooper’ Northey was playing for the Tigers that day, with his team red-hot favourites after winning the competition the year before.
But not everything went to plan as Fitzroy overturned a five-point halftime deficit to record a 20-point victory in front of royalty. 
‘I think we were more interested in meeting the Queen than playing football,’ Northey said.
The cover of Football Record featured the Queen when she attended the match in 1970
The royals arrived in a cavalcade and strict instructions were followed – for the most part. Northey explained how Richmond president Ray Dunn was a bit overawed by the occasion when introducing the players to the Queen and her companions.
‘When he got to me he forgot my name and you were not allowed to put your hand out until the Queen does,’ Northey said. 
‘He said, “Your Majesty this is, is, is …” and Billy Brown was standing beside me and little Billy said, “He is John Northey, I’m Billy Brown, how are we today?”‘
However, a 19-year-old Princess Anne seemed more interested in the gladiatorial aspects of the sport than protocol. 
She reportedly asked Tigers star Billy Barrot: ‘I understand there have been a couple of punch-ups before we arrived. Will there be any more?’
Anne also kept asking the umpire Jeff Crouch who admitted some blood had been spilled during a second-quarter brawl. 
Roger Dean was the Tigers captain that year and remembered how flustered he got when tasked with introducing the players to the royals one-by-one. 
‘I thought, I hope I remember all the players’ names,’ Dean said.
‘They don’t look real somehow. I don’t believe I am talking to royalty.
‘I used to play in a favourite old jumper and it had gone a navy blue, not black, and they made me change into a brand-new jumper, so I’d look decent to introduce them all around.
Best wearer of guernsey #3 – Roger Dean. Dual Premiership player who captained the team when it was a powerhouse. Richmond Life Member; ToC; HoF Immortal. Roger was a favourite player throughout my childhood. A big game player who was so versatile and strong! #TalkingTigers
‘He [Prince Charles] seemed nice enough, he didn’t say much, just being courteous to the players, “Enjoying the game?” and “It’s a very hard game, isn’t it”. It was pretty formal. It probably bored him to snores.’
Richmond premiership defender and the club’s 1980 premiership coach Tony Jewell actually blamed the presence of the Queen and other royals for the shock loss.
‘We trudged into the rooms at halftime far from pleased with ourselves as we led by only a few points, when we were expected to wipe Fitzroy almost at will,’ Jewell said.
‘We just could not concentrate on the job at hand and, instead of being able to gather our thoughts during the break, there were all sorts of people running around the rooms at halftime.
Queen Elizabeth II on walkabout in Launceston, Tasmania, during her 1970 tour of Australia
‘Some were trying to explain protocol, others were explaining how to line up, and others were handing out instructions. For example, we were told not to say anything – not a word – to the Queen, unless asked a question.
‘She didn’t say anything to me, so my meeting with the Queen was nothing more than a very quick shake of her gloved hand.
‘I also remember that we had to change into clean guernseys and wash our hands at half-time.’
Richmond would ultimately miss the top four that season, finishing sixth while Fitzroy finished ninth. 
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group


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