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Swans Songs - with Rick Quade

In Jim Main's series, 'Swan Songs', on great players from the past, this week he talks to former Swans captain and coach, Rick Quade...

Rick Quade
Born: August 26, 1950
Played: 1970-80
Games: 164
Goals: 111

It is doubtful if any individual has given the Sydney Swans greater service than Rick Quade.

His devotion to the club, as player, coach, official and die-hard supporter, runs to almost half a century and, over that period, his love of the red and white has never wavered.

Yet Quade barracked for North Melbourne before he joined the Swans in 1970 as brothers Tom and Mick had played for the Roos before their respective VFL careers were cut short by knee injuries.

Although the Roos also wanted to sign Rick, the VFL introduced country zoning and the 19-year-old, a prolific goalkicker in country football (130 goals in one season), became residentially tied to South Melbourne.

Despite original reluctance, Quade eventually signed with the Swans, but ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in his Swan debut in 1970 and therefore missed the club’s first finals appearance since 1945.

He returned to action the following season and developed into one of the best ruck-rovers in the competition, racking up 40 possessions in one game at the Lake Oval.

The big-hearted Quade captained the Swans from 1977-79 and, on his retirement in 1980, became coach Ian Stewart’s chairman of selectors.

They were tumultuous times for the Swans in 1981 as the club announced plans to relocate to Sydney, splitting the red and white family.

With Stewart announcing during the season that he would be standing down as coach, Quade was his heir apparent, only for the warring factions still tearing at each other’s throats.

“I’d never want to go through that again,” Quade recalled. “In hindsight, I don’t think the move was properly explained to fans. The club was worse than broke and there were only two choices - move to Sydney or die. And I certainly didn’t want to see the death of this great club.”

The smoke of battle eventually cleared and Quade became the Swans’ first Sydney coach, given the task of guiding the red and white in its first home game at the SCG just over 30 years ago.

While the club this year is celebrating this momentous anniversary, Quade looks back on that first match in charge, against Melbourne at the SCG in the opening round of 1982, with a sense of enormous relief.

“The pressure was unbelievable,” he said. “After all the anguish, we finally moved to Sydney and the prospect of failure wasn’t worth thinking about.

“I was nervous to the point of almost being physically ill before the game because of the weight of expectation. I remember top VFL official Alan Schab telling me that nothing less than victory was acceptable. How’s that’s for pressure?

“Besides, there was a lack of emotional support for the Swans and, in reality, most Sydneysiders wanted us to fail because of a perceived threat to the rugby crowds.

“This put us pretty much on our own, but it steeled us for a big effort. I therefore guess I was the most relieved man in the world when he won by 29 points.”

Relieved, but also thankful! Quade still heaps praise on his players for their efforts in that match and over the next couple of seasons.

“We had great leaders in Barry Round, Mark Browning, Steve Taubert, Steve Wright, Dennis Carroll, Rod Carter and others in that era and I doubt if we would have been able to overcome all our initial difficulties if we had not had so many players with such tremendous character.

“In fact, their leadership legacy has been passed down over the years and we have had fantastic leaders in Paul Kelly and Stuart Maxfield, right down to Adam Goodes and Jarrad McVeigh.”

Quade resigned as coach because of serious health problems during the 1984 season, but returned to the club as chairman of selectors under coach Col Kinnear in 1989.

He held that position until 1993 and, the following year, started the first of 14 years as a club director. But, since resigning from the board, has served the club on the Team of the Century and Hall of Fame panels.

Quade remains as passionate as any Swans supporter and declares: “I am immensely proud of how the club now is perceived - successful and well run, with that 2005 premiership the icing on the cake.”