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Richardson, Victor York (1894–1969)

by R. M. Gibbs

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Victor York Richardson (1894-1969), by unknown photographer, 1928

Victor York Richardson (1894-1969), by unknown photographer, 1928

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B48269

Victor York Richardson (1894-1969), sportsman, was born on 7 September 1894 at Parkside, Adelaide, son of Valentine Yaxley Richardson, accountant, house painter and decorator and temperance union secretary, and his wife Rebecca Mary, née Malloney. Educated at Kyre (later Scotch) College, Unley Park, he joined the State public service, but devoted most of his abundant energy to sport—gymnastics, basketball, cricket, baseball, lacrosse and Australian Rules football. On Saturdays he played successive matches in different sports.

Richardson always lived in the Unley district, and was identified with Sturt teams. His early versatility lingered; he played State baseball and district lacrosse in 1921, and also tennis and golf; but cricket and football were dominant. A right-hand batsman, he entered State cricket in 1919 and toured New Zealand in an Australian second team in 1921; selected in the 1924-25 Tests against England, he made a fine 138 in Melbourne. He was captain of South Australia from 1921, and of an Australian team in New Zealand in 1928, Test vice-captain against England in 1930 and 1932-33, and Australian captain in South Africa in 1935-36. He also led a North American tour in 1932. His last match for South Australia was in 1937; for Sturt, in 1941.

Almost six feet (183 cm) tall, erect and confident, with light blue eyes and thin moustache, Richardson ('The Guardsman') was an impressive figure. Natural athleticism and superb reflexes made him a magnificent fieldsman—close to the wicket he was freakish, taking hard drives cleanly. (Reputed never to drop catches, he took five in one innings of a South African Test.) With a low grip and crouching stance, he batted aggressively; his on-side play, with its driving and hooking, and his willingness to loft the ball were features. In Sheffield Shield matches he made 6148 runs (average 43.6), and in all first-class matches 10,714 (37.5); his 19 Tests produced only 706 (23.5). His Test inconsistency puzzled many, while others pointed to weaknesses in technique; selectors omitted him, except notably in the 1932-33 'bodyline' series, where his fearless approach was valued. As captain he was demanding, respected, sometimes unorthodox, though his team in South Africa won four of the five Tests. About 'bodyline', he claimed he was 'the only Australian player with a say' to oppose the Australian Cricket Board of Control's cable alleging unsporting conduct by the English team.

In his league football career (1915-27), Richardson played in premiership teams and was Sturt and South Australian (1923-24) captain. Usually at centre or centre half-back, he was a clever player and a fine kick and high mark. He was runner-up for the State's premier award, the Magarey medal, and was later involved in football administration. His all-round sporting prowess, confirmed by an American Helms Athletic Foundation award, made him something of an idol. South Australia's press, arguing that his inspirational leadership and fielding were worth many runs, campaigned for his Test cricket captaincy, though locally his part in Citizen's Defence activities concerning a Port Adelaide strike tarnished his image with some.

Omitted from the last two Tests of the 1928-29 series against England, Richardson gave radio commentaries. Later, as a cricket broadcaster, he took part in Australian programmes relayed during Tests in England. His partnership with former England captain Arthur Gilligan was famous for its constant 'What do you think, Arthur?', 'What do you think, Vic?' In the 1950s Richardson was sporting editor of radio 5AD, then returned to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for sporting commentaries on radio and television.

At various times Richardson worked as a salesman and representative. He married Vida Yvonne Knapman (d.1940) on 29 January 1919; they had a son and three daughters. Richardson joined the Volunteer Air Observers Corps in 1941, serving in Australia, Burma and India and becoming a flight lieutenant. He married Peggy Patricia Chandler, née Herbert, a widow and nursing matron, on 30 May 1946; they had no children. He drew upon his fund of sporting stories for his reminiscences, The Victor Richardson Story (Adelaide, 1967), written with R. S. Whitington; it excluded some of his escapades. Richardson's sporting career brought him friendship with Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies, whose political views he shared; prominent as a local Liberal-Country League member, he unsuccessfully contested plebiscites for parliamentary endorsement. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1954, and was commemorated in the naming of the Victor Richardson Gates at Adelaide Oval. Richardson died while watching sport on television at home at Fullarton on 30 October 1969 and was cremated. His grandchildren Ian, Gregory and Trevor Chappell were in the early stages of distinguished cricket careers.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1959)
  • R. Robinson, On Top Down Under (Syd, 1975)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1982)
  • A. McGilvray, McGilvray (Syd, 1985)
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1931
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 31 Oct 1969
  • private information.

Citation details

R. M. Gibbs, 'Richardson, Victor York (1894–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/richardson-victor-york-8205/text14355, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 18 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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