DOB: 15 February 1934
Died: 13 November 2008
From: Jeparit/Hamilton Imperials
Number: 24 1954-1961
Premiership Player - 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960
Grand Final team - 1958
Team of the Century - Emergency
150 Heroes selection
Life Member - 1968
Seconds Leading Goalkicker - 1954
MFC Hall of Fame - 2001
MFC Hall of Fame legend - 2006
AFL Life Member - 1997
The co-winner of the 1953 Munro Medal for B&F in the Western Border Football League was recommended to the Demons by Fred Fanning. Despite the interest of five other league clubs, Ridley was a lifelong Demons fans and gave his signature to Jim Cardwell. His fellow medal winner Clyde Laidlaw also joined Melbourne.
Despite poor eyesight Ridley grew to be one of the most feared Demons of his era, and one of the best rovers in the competition. He'd never seen a VFL game until he played in his first, but after two games in the middle of 1954 Ridley broke into the side in Round 6, 1955 and kept his side all the way to a premiership triumph where he kicked the sealer. He never played in the Seconds again. From there he was a permanent fixture of the side, with his lightning quick handballs helping to form a lethal rover combination with Stuart Spencer. In 1956 he played in another Grand Final victory.
Ridley and the Demons bounced back in 1957. He kicked 33 goals in 21 games, culminating in the Grand Final victory over Essendon. It was the Demons' third straight win, leaving them just one year away from equalling the Collingwood record of four straight premierships.
Melbourne won through to the Grand Final with a semi-final win over the Magpies but when faced with the same opponents again in the big game the Pies defended their record with an upset victory. Ridley himself had a disappointing day, suffering a broken nose after being poleaxed by Bill Serong.
Ridley won two more premierships, in 1959 and 1960 - a year he was runner-up in the Best and Fairest - but retired after the Demons were bounced out of the 1961 finals series. He was lucky to make Round 1 that year because of a knee injury in the pre-season, but suffered another late in the season, and after playing through the injury during the finals was told by doctors to give the game away.
In total Ridley played in six grand finals for five wins, and was named as an emergency in the Team of the Century.
His brother Dudley was a long term umpire in country Victoria, officiating in 42 Grand Finals across the state.
After starting his coaching career with three seasons at Ringwood, where he won a premiership in 1962, Ridley returned to Melbourne as assistant secretary in 1965 before becoming an assistant to John Beckwith and reserves coach from 1968 where he delivered premierships in 1969 and 1970 before graduating to the senior side. He was unanimously elected coach just two hours after the deadline for applications had closed. Players had already promoted him to the committee as the man they wanted.
One of his first innovations was to allow anyone who could fit to see the team in the dressing room before games. On his return to the club in 1965 he'd been disappointed by the atmosphere in the rooms, so on ascending to the top job he made the change. The team's tactics were discussed in a closed door session before players ran out through the fans.
In 1971 he won eight of his first nine games as coach, and it seemed that the Demons were on the verge of breaking their then six season finals drought. From there they won three games, drew one and lost nine to finish well back in 7th place. 1972 saw the introduction of the McIntyre Final Five system, but the Demons slipped to 8th after losing their first three games. Despite the recruitment of star Saint Carl Ditterich in 1973 the side went backwards again, losing ten of their last eleven to finish 10th.
Ridley was dismissed as coach at the end of the year which led to a brief player revolt. Peter Keenan, Greg Wells, Barry Bourke and Ray Biffin temporarily announcing that they'd be leaving the club. Bourke was the only one not to rejoin the club and retired.
A fiery, passionate speaker it was rumoured that during one passionate three-quarter time address Ridley had scream "You've kicked the supporters in the guts, you've kicked the club in the guts, now you might as well kick me in the guts". Ridley admitted the words but denied the story that he had thrown himself on the ground fully clothed when he yelled the words. More than once his false teeth came flying out his mouth during a spray at the players.
Ridley served on the committee from 1975 to 1981, and again in the 80's until resigning before the 1985 season. He had been deputy chairman in his last year with the Demons before serving as a Victorian selector and member of the VFL Tribunal.
Ridley served as president from 1991 to 1996, convinced reluctantly to take up the position days after Stuart Spencer lost his position in an election. He remained on the board until resigning midway 1997 and dropping out of the game.
Close friends said that he never really recovered from the intense Melbourne Hawks merger campaign, especially a heated meeting where he was booed loudly and abused by an anti-merger crowd. Though he argued for the merger from a position of economic necessity, and the chance to ransack the Hawks superior list, the rank and file members treated him as a traitor. Nobody knew at the time that Ridley's wife Jude had been rushed to hospital the same day and that he faced up to the torrent of abuse from the rank and file members with his wife in hospital.
Even though the vote ultimately came out in favour of the union it was clear that many held grudges. He remained on the board until midway through the next year but left soon after his friend Hassa Mann was sacked as CEO by Gutnick. Ridley did not return to the club again until his 2001 induction to the side's Hall of Fame.
After his death from emphysema in November 2008 former club secretary Richard Seddon remembered that his contemporary Jim Cardwell had declared Ridley the most courageous player he'd ever seen at the club.
Some sources say he 'announced his resignation' from coaching at the 1973 B&F dinner, and some say he resigned from the committee in 1979.