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Richmond v Collingwood - The World’s First Great Football Rivalry


It took until 1919 for Richmond and Collingwood to establish their great rivalry, one that would have gone to another level had this round gone ahead. It’s now more than 100 years of what some call football’s greatest rivalry.

In 2018, leading political journalist GEORGE MEGALOGENIS penned a book The Football Solution which, among other things, explores how his beloved Richmond transformed itself from laughing stock to premiership role model. In the book he also touches on the origins of the Tigers-Magpies rivalry.

Below is an edited extract.

Richmond and Collingwood were neighbours in poverty, both of them on the wrong side of the Yarra River.

Connected to the rest of the city by their industries but isolated from it by their Catholic religion and working class, they felt the rest of Melbourne looking down on them.

Football united these two inner-city suburbs in a mutual search for respect. The two clubs began as the best of friends. If one was not able to win the premiership, it was their ardent wish that the other be the champion.

But it turns out that both clubs, and the game itself, were better off once they became fierce rivals.

Their falling out coincided with football’s greatest period of spectator engagement.

In the 1920s and 1930s, a typical round of VFL in Melbourne would attract between 10 and 12 per cent of the city’s entire population, figures that have never been repeated.

Home games at Richmond’s Punt Rd Oval and Collingwood’s Victoria Park would be seen by the equivalent of half the suburb.

The pattern held true in Geelong, where up to half the town would cheer their Cats at Corio Oval.

The more alienated the suburb or the town felt from the cultural and economic life of Melbourne, the greater the connection to their football club.

This would be the last time that who you barracked for was determined by where you lived or worked.


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