This, as always, is a personal account of the match. As you know by now it was a win for the ages by our Tigers, but this report won’t end the way you want it to. Sadly, our day didn’t end the way we wanted it to and I can’t pretend otherwise.
This begins like a close Grand Final with a long period of massive pressure by both sides. I think of Sydney v West Coast in 2005 when nobody scored for hours. GWS attack from the centre bounce but Broad takes the first mark of the match and send them back. Riewoldt takes an excellent mark at the other end but it’s not paid.
Caddy kicks long and it’s knocked through for a point. The Giants win a holding-the-ball free against Dusty in the goal-square. When he gets up, he seems to have a problem with his eye. Cotch makes a massive tackle against Mumford in the middle of the ground but somehow the Giant wins the free. There’s a solid chant of “bullshit…bullshit…” but on the telly you can see that Presty sort-of elbowed him in the face well after he was tackled. I’m worried that we’ve dominated for four minutes and have no goals to show for it.Embed from Getty Images
There’s plenty to whinge and worry about. But why whinge and boo when you could just get behind your team? I haven’t spent days chasing tickets and two hours waiting at the gate and five hours in here before the game to stand here in silence. And so I get the whole bay going with “Richmond! Richmond!” and that’s all it takes and we’re all chanting our lungs out.
Mumford tackles Caddy and returns the facial contact. “A little bit of unfriendly behaviour…it’s good to see isn’t it?” says Brian Taylor, clearly wanting to cement his grip on Boofhead of the Year Award.
Castagna runs onto a good chance but misses and we have three points for our trouble. The Giants attack and Pickett gets his first touch. We can’t clear the ball and eventually the Giants get their first point. Half the quarter has gone and it’s 0.3 to 0.1. Pickett gets a handball on the backline, Shedda wins a free and we can clear the footy. But then Greene marks, on an angle. He kicks from the 50 but misses, which is a great relief.
The thought of him running rampant and kicking six goals has kept me awake at night.
With only four minutes left the quarter Cameron out-marks Grimes and kicks it from 55. He’d better not kick too many more of them.
But we get another attack going after Lambert makes a great tackle in the middle. Advantage is paid and Martin out-marks Shaw, plays on and goals and we roar with relief. Soldo has a chance for a mark right in front but misses it. There’s a boundary throw-in and he grabs the footy and loses it but no free is paid against him. Pickett gets the ball to Rioli who gathers and kicks from the 50 and the siren sounds as it splits the big sticks and our relief is great.Embed from Getty Images
At quarter time a big, older bloke, already quite drunk, says I must give him my name and he’ll put me on Facebook “Because I think you’re great.” My team are winning the GF at quarter time, my daughter and I are here to watch it and an old drunk bloke is telling me I’m great.
Quarter time score: Richmond 2.5.17 to GWS 1.2.8
Riewoldt wins a lucky free for a push and kicks the goal. From the centre bounce Soldo gets it to Pickett who takes our collective breath away with a blind turn for the ages before passing perfectly to Castagna who leaps and marks with great courage between two Giants and a giant Tiger. It’s very similar to his mark against Geelong from Bolton’s pass, but this time he fluffs his lines and kicks another point. It doesn’t matter because Pickett’s Blind Turn will be talked about forever.Embed from Getty Images
And in quick time Vlaustin wins the footy on the back flank, gets it to Castagna who gives it to Pickett who goes on a little run before kicking into the 50. He looks like he plays in a GF every week, because he does. Well, this week and last week at least.
Dusty has a couple of opponents as he gathers the ball but it doesn’t matter. He needs a bit of room and he finds it and dribbles the ball in for another goal and a huge roar and a chant of “Dusty…Dusty…Dusty” goes up around the ground and we’re starting to enjoy this.
Houli makes a massive spoil on the boundary and follows up with a big tackle. Rioli gathers, passes to Lynch who kicks straight as an arrow from the tight angle. We’ve kicked five in a row and lead by 26 points. Can we keep this up? Could we have a handy half-time lead?Embed from Getty Images
From a stoppage Caddy kicks quickly and Riewoldt marks and goals from about 35 and we’re 29 points up. Jack gets his third a bit later after marking easily and kicking from well outside 50. At half-time we’re 35 up and my brother texts me “You’re home.” I tell him not to jinx us but that I like kicking four goals to none against an interstate team in the GF. That’s what we did to Adelaide two years ago, but only later do I realise that this time we actually kicked five.
It’s hard to imagine how much better this first half might have gone. The Giants still have only one goal and our defenders are marking everything. Vlaustin and Houli have been braver and tougher than ever, Toby Greene has hardly bothered us.
Half-time score: Richmond 7.5.47 GWS 1.6.12
Castagna has his fourth shot on goal but misses again. He’s having a great game but can’t buy a goal. The Tigers hold up the Giants’ rebound and Lynch is set up with a perfect pass from Edwards but his kick is way off target. Cotch passes to Riewoldt who flies and holds the footy, goes back and kicks a point. The Giants can’t get past the half-way line though and Presty passes to Lynch who marks straight in front and kicks straight from 35.
I’m more relieved than happy. There’s a little scramble on the boundary line in front of us, Rioli gets it to Dusty who kicks as he’s tackled and we’re up by eight goals. Eight goals! The second half has barely started.
Pickett has only just got going too. He gathers the ball in the centre square, runs between two rapidly-approaching Giants and passes perfectly to Martin. Martin could kick it but he passes instead, back to Pickett who goals from about 30 and we erupt. We’re nine goals up and every Tiger on the ground gets around the debutant and in the crowd we’re chanting “Marlon…Marlon…Marlon…”’Embed from Getty Images
And then the Pride of Preston, Kane Lambert, gathers a Shedda handball and goals and we’re ten in front. Ten! What has happened to the fearsome Giants?
We try to get a new chant going – “We’ve got the best Toby, in this game/ We’ve got the best Toby, in this game/ And he won’t poke you in the eye!” – but there are no takers and we chant alone. We don’t care.
Next to me, watching the game through the mesh of the barrier we lean on, is a boy of six or eight. I show his dad my biscuit tin with the ’74 Premiership team on the lid. “Would your boy like one of these?” I ask. His dad says, “I think he’d better have one, I was born in 1974!” The young boy is called Jack, after Jack Dyer, and is standing up to the rigours of standing room.
Hopper gets the Giants’ second goal – their second goal of the game – with two minutes left. Baker, who is having a very good game, fires off a handball that finds Astbury and is flattened for his troubles by the much larger Cameron. But when you’re nine goals up the bumps don’t hurt and Baker smiles as he gets to his feet and takes the free.
In the last minute of the quarter Richmond’s pressure forces yet another turnover. Short gets it to Caddy who passes to Soldo who kicks the set shot straight and high and we’re 62 points up at the last break.Embed from Getty Images
Three-quarter time score: Richmond 12.9.81 to GWS 2.7.19
Himmelberg kicks the first goal of the quarter which is disappointing. My dread now is that the last quarter will turn into a junk-time snooze fest. The Giants might get a few back, the result will be a respectable thrashing and we’ll never want to watch this quarter again.
That’s not how Richmond play though. We break well downfield, Picket handballs to Castagna who goes on a little run and kicks another point. It really doesn’t matter. The Giants’ rebound is thwarted as Shedda spoils, Lynch kicks to Bolton who marks and goals and we’re over ten in front again. People are singing the song and Pickett kicks another bomb into the 50 which bounces off Dusty’s chest for a point.
The big, old, drunk bloke who wanted to put me on Facebook, is now standing where he shouldn’t be, blocking the view of young Jack. Jack’s dad asks him to move and he does, eventually.
Pickett goes again, to Rioli and Jack in the goal-square, the ball spills lose and Jack gathers and goals. The quarter isn’t half gone and the flag is ours. Can we keep up the chanting and singing to the end?
We try our Toby chant again, to no avail. We still don’t care.
What happened to the monsters of our nightmares in this past week? We’ve woken up in the morning and they’re nothing but fluffy toys.
They’ve kicked 3.7 for the day and they won’t score again. Not so much as another rushed behind.
Cameron takes a grab and could easily score but a free is given to my brother, David Astbury, for a hold. People in their tens of thousands are singing Tigerland. Not like at the end of the prelim in ’95 when Geelong slaughtered us. But now because we’ve won another flag and we’ve still got minutes of footy left to enjoy.
There’s a bit of a flat spot in play before Rioli kicks well into the middle and finds Cotchin, who plays on, takes one bounce and kicks a goal from the 50. The crowd erupts and my daughter hugs me. Our cake is iced and Astbury takes another mark in defence and we sing the song again. Vlaustin gathers and kicks yet another long one to the 50. Martin collects the footy and goals and this can’t get any better, we’ll all die of happiness.
“Dusty…Dusty…Dusty…” we sing.Embed from Getty Images
The big, old drunk bloke is back in front of us and he grabs a woman sitting alone and gives her a big sloppy kiss on her face and he gives her friend, sitting a little distance away, an equally sloppy one. They both laugh it off, because who would want to spoil this party?
He approaches the barrier we lean on and comes towards my daughter who is next to me. I lean towards him as she leans back and I say “Fuck off!” I feel like he’s coming in for another go and I put my hand to his chest and say “No, fuck right off!” and he does, sort of, and takes up position a yard or two from us.
The moment is spoiled. It shouldn’t end like this but it does. From the bounce our Toby kicks long to Jack who marks, goes back and kicks his fifth. Everyone goes nuts again and my daughter tries to join in but she’s shattered by what the big, old, drunk bloke just tried to do to her. She sings and cheers through her tears, which are not of joy but of fear and anger.
The ball goes back to the middle and is bounced. We don’t hear the siren but just hear the crowd erupt and see the players explode with joy and my daughter and me are in an awful dream where something horrible has ruined this special moment.
We sing the song, again and again, and people see her crying and think it’s because she’s so happy. And I ask, do you want to go? And she doesn’t. But she doesn’t want to be here, either and is scared that the revolting man will come back.
Which he does, by which time we’re packing up to go, and he leans on the barrier and says “Sorry mate,” to me. And I think I might have said “Fuck off!” again, and I hope that I did, but maybe I just ignored him. And he drops the bit of paper I’d given him at quarter time, with my name and the Tiger Tiger Burning Bright address on it.
My daughter doesn’t know what to do. But eventually she finds a policewoman who listens attentively and takes a statement and says it will be investigated and finishes off with “I’m glad I could help you. You’re a good person and it’s good to help good people. You did the right thing to tell us about this, it’s wrong what happened and women shouldn’t have to put up with this.”
By now we’ve met up with my partner and my other daughter. The party on Swan Street is not for us. We find a cab and are glad to get home and see our beloved Wolfie in his Tom Lynch jumper. We watch the first half on the tape but I’m the only one still awake by half-time.
▰▰▰▰▰▰▰Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Full-time score: Richmond 17.12.114 to GWS 3.7.25