FRANCIS BOURKE was recruited from Nathalia ( Victoria) by the Richmond Tigers in 1967 and played 300 Games, kicking 71 Goals until his retirement as a player in 1981. The Bourke family has the unique record of providing 3 generations of League Footballers for the Richmond Tigers Football Club, with Frank (Father of Francis ) and David ( Son of Francis) contributing to the Tigers Tradition. Francis Bourke is highly regarded as one of the greatest Australian Football Players to have graced our Game. His AFL Hall of Fame Card and many cards of his Richmond team-mates are available at qualityafltradingcards.com.
It is hard to imagine that when Bourke debuted for the Tigers, he played as Second Rover to all-time superstar Kevin Bartlett, but, when the Club experimented with a major change to their game plan, Bourke formed part of the all-conquering Centreline of Bourke-Barrot-Clay. The tall, mobile and long-kicking wingmen revolutionised attacking football and led the Tigers into a very successful era in their Club History. Bourke’s dominance in the 1967-1970 period, in particular, is illustrated by the 1967 Premiership win, Victorian representation in 1968 and Richmond Tigers Club Best and Fairest Award winner in 1970.
Francis Bourke was athletic, mobile, agile and always focussed on the ball. His long kicking to team-mates was a feature of his play, however he will always be remembered for the many courageous contested marks he took under immense physical presence and danger. His fearless determination and outstanding ball-winning ability cut off many of the opposition Clubs forward thrusts and regularly filled his Tiger team-mates with positive adrenalin to tough- out close contests. Bourke played the later years of his career on the Half Back Flank, or in the major key defensive roles, as his speed and manouverability were hampered by debilitating knee injuries and the affects of other injuries sustained in high-speed collisions in previous seasons. He is credited with playing through the pain barrier on many occasions to the extent that very few other players could have managed.
Bourke accumulated many individual Awards and Honours throughout his Career, which included:- 1970 Richmond Best & Fairest Player ( also runner-up in this award on 4 occasions ), Richmond Premiership Player in 1967, 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1980, Richmond Club Captain in 1976-1977, Victorian State Representative on 13 occasions ( Captain in 1977 and 1980 ), Selection in the AFL Team of the Century in 1996, induction to the AFL Hall of Fame in 2002, Selection in the Richmond Team of the Century and Hall of Fame, and Honours of AFL and Richmond Life Membership. This impressive resume of a stunning Football Career is further enhanced when you consider that Francis Bourke was awarded Richmond Tigers ” Most Determined Player” trophies in 1967, 1972, 1977 and 1980 – the Annual ” Best Clubman ” Award for the Richmond Tigers is named in Francis Bourke’s honour.
Francis Bourke was forced to retire as a player in 1981 due to the accumulated impact of injuries and was appointed Senior Coach at the Rchmond Football Club for Season 1982. He was an immediate success by taking the Tigers to Minor Premiership winners, however, even after a resounding success over the Carlton Blues in the Second Semi-Final, the Blues came back to defeat the Tigers in the Grand Final. Bourke was an exceptionally hard task-master and many players revolted against his training regime and left the Club. Francis Bourke had no alternative than to resign his role at the end of the 1983 Season. It is unfortunate that Bourke’s fate as a Coach almost mirrored the demise of Royce Hart’s Coaching career at the Footscray Bulldogs, and one wonders if the Richmond Tigers Players inability to match the demands of their former playing great, has been the manifestation of their extended period of under-achievement since Bourke’s departure.
Bourke spent some time as a specialist Coach at the Melbourne Demons in the 1980’s, and returned to Richmond Football Club as the Chairman of their selection panel in 1992. He also enjoyed a successful career in the Hotel Trade. If you were to construct an epitaph to the Francis Bourke Football Career and his adulation as ‘ St Francis” within the Richmond Tigers Heartland Supporters, we only need examine his dynamic and inspiring performance at Half-Back in the 1973 Grand Final victory over Carlton, despite suffering a severe knee injury which was thought to have ended his career. To consolidate his Richmond Sainthood, Bourke was again one of the Tigers stars in their follow-up Grand Final triumph in 1974. These performances are indicative of the reasons why Francis Bourke was officially conferred as a Richmond Tigers “immortal” in 2005, an honour widely acknowledged by Australian Rules Football followers.