Kevin Bartlett played 403 games and kicked 778 goals in a golden career that spanned from 1965 until 1983. Bartlett played 150 or more consecutive matches on two separate occasions (173 matches from 1975 to 1982, and 150 matches from 1966 to 1972). No other player in league history has achieved this and only Michael Tuck of Hawthorn and Brent Harvey of North Melbourne have played more games.
As a boy, Bartlett barracked for Footscray but lived not far from Richmond’s Punt Road Oval and was tied residentially to the Tigers. He walked into the club and asked for a trial. The rest is football history.
Bartlett was a natural rover, a great reader of the play and uncanny in his ability to steer clear of trouble. He had tremendous courage and relied on pace and skill to avoid crushing tackles. Many opponents tried to ‘retire’ him from the game, but Bartlett very rarely was ‘nailed’.
A prolific possession winner, Bartlett was particularly dangerous near goal. This earned him the nickname ‘Hungry’ and it was claimed he would rather have a shot for goal from 50m than pass to a teammate.
Bartlett achieved almost every honour in VFL except winning a Brownlow Medal. He won Richmond’s best and fairest five times, in 1967, 1968, 1973, 1974, and 1977, was leading goal kicker four times, in 1974 (47 goals), 1975 (42), 1977 (55), 1983 (equal 37), and was captain for the 1979 season in an era in which Tigers skippers rarely lasted more than a season.
Bartlett was a Victorian representative throughout most of his VFL career (20 appearances, 32 goals) and captained the team in 1980. He played in the 1967, 1969, 1973, 1974 and 1980 Richmond premiership sides and was always one of the best players on ground. He kicked seven goals in the 1980 grand final win over Collingwood. This effort won him the Norm Smith medal as best on ground.
After his retirement from the ground, Bartlett coached Richmond from 1988 to 1991 (88 games, 27 wins, 61 losses). He also featured in the media as a commentator and had a morning sports program on SEN 1116, called ‘Hungry for Sport’, as well as programs on Fox Sports.
Bartlett was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996 and was elevated to Legend status in 2000. He was inducted into the Richmond Hall of Fame in 2002, elevated to Immortal status in 2004, and is part of the Richmond Team of the Century. Bartlett was made a Member of the Order of Australian (AM) in 1981 for his service to Australian football.