A translator of Indonesian literature, researcher, marathon runner and compulsive follower of the fortunes of the Richmond Football Club, Andy grew-up barracking for another team. Then he saw the light. It was the yellow sash. This season, he’ll write from abroad about the curiosities of his footy-life, and what he finds around him, and the pleasures only found in footy. Pre 2015 articles are archived here.
- An Ignominy of Defeats
- Angry About Richmond
- Benny Round 6 v Port Adelaide, MCG
- My Club or My Team
- Crossing the Line
- Q by Q - Port vs Tiges
- Tiges vs Pies, Quarter by Quarter
- Dimma Exclusive
- Tiges v Cats, Quarter by Quarter Report
- Longing for Pretty Moves and Richmondness
- North Adelaide Dreaming
- Drawings, Richmond v Carlton
- Drawings, After the Dogs
- Footy in January
- What Matt Priddis Didn't Say
The Punt Road end of the ground level of the Southern Stand was as good as silent. The ball came down our end five times in half an hour. At the game’s beginning, Jack had won the toss and elected to kick to the city end, meaning we’d be kicking to the Punt Road End in the last. When the Cats drew within 12 points and the impending doom already on the horizon, Jack gave a small gesture to the cheer squad: come on, fire-up, he motioned with his hands. And respond they did with a chant of Richmond, Richmond. But the rest of the pro-Richmond crowd was already aflutter and the chanting was drowned out by general shouting and exhortations. The crowd was a rabble, just as the Team was. I was stuck numb to my seat. I wanted to shout. I wanted to be active: but this defeat was like watching a train crash in slow-motion. Slooowwwww mmoooottttiiioooonnnnn.
Apparently during the last quarter the ball was in Geelong’s forward half 77% of the time; a measly 23% in our forward half. Another damning statistic is that seven players had one or fewer possessions. Let’s not name them. Just don’t say our leaders didn’t stand up – no, that is a great taboo. Just say: we have too few leaders. Just say: we have ‘leaders’ because we’ve got so many ‘followers’.
How do we categorise this loss? Walking home with my friend, an Essendon supporter, I said to him this Club can invent new ways to lose like you wouldn’t believe. I had in mind the Gold Coast loss (aka ‘the worst 47seconds of football in the history of the game) and the Collingwood loss of Round Two. I said to him: this is what is unique about our Club. In Dimma-speak: ‘the one thing about our club…’. We can lose when winning seems absolutely completely inevitable. We can lose when it seems it is harder to lose than to win. We can deliver victory into the awaiting embrace of the Opposition even when they seem reluctant and embarrassed about accepting such a victory. We can lose a game of footy like no other. And management runs the club in the belief that: ‘Our fans are loyal. Our fans are patient. Our fans are passionate. Our fans have given their money and time. Our fans love our players.’ So, in the seventh year of this current re-building of a team, this loss sticks jarringly in our collective craw.
Our team has not mastered winning. But, losing, we’re pretty good at that. Some of the specialties are:
Implosion. The above described defeat. Games which we have had in the bag. Games in which Collingwood fans have been already at the train station waiting to go home when they’ve found out they have won. The Original Implosion of the Dimma Era was the Gold Coast game.
My favourite of the Wallace Era was the draw against the Dogs at Docklands. So, now we can safely add the loss against Geelong on 14th August 2016.
We’re Not Really Here.* The kind of defeat in which defeat is conceded before the game starts. I’m thinking of the recent one against GWS. Think also defeats against Adelaide, Hawthorn, West Coast, Melbourne. The list is pretty long. No effort. No fight. No mongrel. No hunger. In some cases, the team may as well have forfeited the game and saved money on the plane tickets.*This is a song sung by Manchester City fans in the Olden Days when they didn’t win. Methinks we should also sing it as our faux-anthem. A means to get us through a dreary loss.
We’ve Turned the Corner. Also known as the ‘honorable loss’. The loss in which the team played well but still lost. For example, the game against the Dogs, in which we only lost by ten points but most experts expected us to lose by ten goals. This kind of loss says more about the opposition and that they’re taking us lightly, rather than being a result of our own good skills. We usually get belted the week after proving that we hadn’t really turned the corner.
Too-Hard Basket. When the season is on the line and scores are still close going into the final quarter. I’m thinking here of the game against Port Adelaide of this season. The game was well-and-truly in reach at ¾ time. So, what did the Tiges do? Ah, scored one point in the last quarter. That’ll do it, won’t it? Port are not a good team and we proved to be even worse. The purpose of the loss was to only give Port a false sense of finals-worthiness. At least bowing out this early in the season meant the players could save themselves from the ignominy of losing another elimination final.
The Win that Feels Like a Loss. That rare moment when we play a team crapper than us. I’m thinking of virtually every win this year. But against Carlton, Essendon, Brisbane in particular. (The victory against Sydney surely is match-fixing in its purest form.) The win that makes losing seem more like the honest and more desirable trade. The kind of win when we don’t even have the zest for life to sing our Club Song with gusto. The kind of win when we’re not even bothered to dangle our scarves out the car window on the long and silent drive home.
Each loss, each defeat is its own story and the categories are endless. How the Team can endlessly author such defeats is nothing if not an art. The players and the Club we are told ‘do not ride the emotional rollercoaster’. And that is why we never see the players sitting dejectedly in the changerooms at the end of yet another heartbreaking loss. And it is why we never see them jumping on top of each other at the end of a miraculous win (against Sydney). It is why we never see them singing Our Song, arm in arm, lungs-bursting while the shower a new player with Gatorade. No, nothing emotional at all about playing footy. It’s just business.
And suddenly I realised that I have been a fan of the Tiges for 15 years. Probably this is only half as long as that of many, or even less for others, but, it is still long-enough to have some perspective on a club’s trajectory. I haven’t been a member every year for the last few years and I haven’t been to as many games as I would have liked. While living overseas, I’ve watched the games on live-streaming. I had tears in my eyes after that game in which we beat Hawthorn and it meant that Captain Newman would finally play in a finals series. These were games I would have liked to have watched live – in the traditional manner: in a crowd full of shouting and with the ability to hear the players colliding with one another.
I returned to Melbourne recently and the first game I attended was the one against Brisbane. Never had I imagined that I would feel like leaving early during a game in which Richmond was winning comfortably. I sat on the lower deck in the southern stand; warmed in brilliant winter sunlight. I sat alone and occasionally talked with my neighbours: we laughed at the mistakes of our Club and the Formerly Fitzroy Lions. Richmond were terrible. The Lions were far terribler. I was struck by the half-heartedness of the cheering for the Tiges. I don’t blame anyone: I too couldn’t get excited. Not even in the slightest. And this was my first game for years.
The Richmond faithful are not fools and have witnessed their fair share of false-prophets over the last few decades. There were fleeting moments of optimism under Frawley and Wallace; but the down-times were far longer. Dimma: has brought us three failed finals campaigns and now here we sit: 7-11 and not even the faintest flicker of the finals. While watching the VFL game against Box Hill, I heard someone say about Richmond’s list: ‘Dimma is deluding himself’. Perhaps. Probably. Maybe. On Wednesday, at a local footy game, I spoke to a proud man wearing a Richmond Football Club ‘Member’ jacket. He said, ‘at least this year we have failed miserably and we can’t pretend that we are better than we actually are. At least we know we’re crap.’ For all our opinions, comments, discussions in the outer: I know they count for nothing because we are outside the ‘four walls’.
I wandered into the Club’s fanshop the other day: I saw a Richmond woollen jumper for $200. I saw a t-shirt for $40. I saw poorly-made, mass-produced jumpers for $120. I saw baseball hats for $40. I’ve got no cash to throw about, but I thought I probably wouldn’t buy any of those products even if they were half the price. I told the guy working at the store: ‘everything seems way over-priced’. And then we both muttered something about ‘AFL…licensing.’ Needless to say: the store was empty, apart from me and it was stuffed full of yellow and blackish ‘merchandise’. Stock hardly seemed to be flying out door.
I love the Club. Or, rather, I love the idea of what the Club can be and what the team and its players can achieve. Perhaps of this year’s team, only three can stand proud and satisfied: Dusty, Alex and Jack. Right now, I’m of the strong feeling that us fans of the RFC are being taken for fools. Our loyalty is being taken for granted. We cannot have another summer being sold hope by the same old false-prophets. The Club’s off-field stability is reflected in the stability of the team’s under-achieving on-field performance.
Yes, in theory no player should receive any votes for the horror show that was performed at the MCG on Saturday 30th April. But follow protocol I shall. The reality of the performance is not in the number, but in the comments that follow.
5: Castagna. He looked up for the game. He looked like he wanted to make his mark for the team. He looked like a footballer. I remember him getting the ball on a number of occasions; just trying to do his bit.
4: Jack. Well, it has to be Jack. The shame is, it was probably his worst performance of the season. The thing is the 5,4,3,2,1 system is relative, so, votes go to the least-worst players. Jack deserves votes for willing himself into the team, into selection in the first place. In other circumstances the coaching panel could have said, ‘no, we have x,y,z to replace you. You, Jack, take a week off, get yourself right.’ He played well; not brilliantly. He played for the jumper and for the pride in his own work.
3: Now it gets really difficult. I’m going with Miles. He missed out on receiving a number of free-kicks and I think was penalised for something ridiculous. But maybe not. I haven’t looked at the replay and have no intention to check for details. I saw the number 26 running around and said number seemed to be industrious.
2: C.Ellis. Very light framed; he seems like a mild-tempered man. Seems like a guy who has a cup of tea when others are going for the harder option of an espresso. He had the ball occasionally and didn’t fluff it every time. I’m not the coach, but, I’d say to him: ‘run harder, impose yourself more. Then, you’ll be a player.’
1: I really don’t want to give a charity vote. I’m tempted for Bachar or Brett or Shedda. But the problem is these three players should be fighting over the 5-4 votes not squabbling over the crumbs. Okay: Bachar it is – even though he did a nasty turnover in the last quarter, kicking on his left when he should have kicked on his right. The game was lost by then, it was just that we still could have mounted a comeback to go down by 12 rather than 30 something.
I watched the game to the bitter end, but I was in the luxury of my own home. To those who went, it must have been awkward watching ‘our’ team play so poorly and have so many, many passengers throughout. We are the summertime specialists. The club boasted of its depth throughout the pre-season oh yes, we have ‘depth’ but it is not a depth of quality. It’s a depth of mediocrity.
*I dedicate this post to JR8; he is one player who is hurting as much as us supporters.
11: Cotchin, Rance, Houli
5: Lambert, Castagna, Miles
3: Townsend, Short
2: Rioli, C. Ellis
1: Hampson, B. Ellis
Blair Hartley Appreciation Award
Anthony Banik Best First Year Player
Joel Bowden's Golden Left Boot
Greg Tivendale Rookie List Medal
Next week’s votes will be calculated by an anonymous algorithm so no human has to go through what Andy just did Joe Crawford, Launceston-based long-suffering Tiges man and glutton for punishment.
I arrived at the Lipsius Cafeteria at Leiden University with around five minutes to go in the second quarter. Hopes were dashed immediately on checking the score: hmmm, down by 50 something points. I had been fearing such an outcome, but hoping that our Tiges would at least still be in it at half-time and be showing some resolve. During half-time, I quickly sent some emails and made notes for small tasks. I tried not to watch the second half and instead get on with my work. But the second half had all the attraction of a ghastly smash on the highway: and I couldn’t look away. I wanted to see how the team would respond. I wanted to see who stood up when there was no hope of winning. Three players: Jack Riewoldt, Alex Rance and Trent Cotchin. The bully-boys of the media, the bully-boys of the crowd get off on criticising individuals and teams when they are at their lowest point. The Richmond Tigers played poorly on Friday night and have been playing poorly for the first month – we don’t need to gloss over that – but nor do we need to beat up on our team through social media.
I want to say a little bit about Jack. My first impression was that he was a bit of a galah. A little bit too chirpy, a little bit too flamboyant, a little over-the-top. I can remember seeing him jump into Matthew Richardson’s arms after Richo had scored a goal and Richo seemed irked by his puppy love. During Hardwick’s first season as coach, I was sitting behind the goals in the Southern Stand and was watching Jack jump about. This time I bemoaned him for his light frame and lack of musculature. The game was close and the young Tiges did themselves no shame that sunny afternoon. Jack ended up kicking a lot of goals that season. He perhaps took himself for a natural media star, but it took a few loose comments and wild-on-field gesticulations for him to realise that perhaps he is at his best when he lets his actions do the talking. Over the last few seasons he has stopped the wild celebrations and the angry gestures towards his team-mates. He has played in a variety of positions and performs a range of tasks for the team. He has simply become a team-player, who regularly scores or sets up goals. He might not be in the team’s leadership group, but he must be one of the few whom supporters expect to stand up each week.
In January 2015, I met with a Richmond fan who had been to all but one game over the past 30 years. I asked if he thought we would make the finals: he said, ‘no, I don’t think so’. He was so confident that the Tiges would belie the expectations of expert and not make the finals, that he had booked his first trip to Europe with his wife during September. He didn’t have any bad words to say about the team. He spoke highly of many of the players; some he knew and would have casual conversations with. He just thought that other teams were slightly ahead of us Tiges and would push us out of the eight. He stood proudly wearing his Richmond yellow and black polo in the middle of summer; the season still months away. Did his cautious pessissism detract from his love for the Club? No. Now, at one win and three losses, Dimma is telling us we will still make the eight. If the team continue to play like this, no, the team will not make the eight. But let’s hope our resolve as fans and supporters is stronger than those who merely attend Richmond games for some vicarious (albeit fleeting) glory.
“My club” or “My team”. On the rfc_tigers Instagram account, a post was made with the statement: “if you don’t support when we lose, don’t support us when we win”. This is a basic principle of being loyal to a club: as Titus says, it is non-negotiable for real fans. Our Club, Richmond, is in a stronger position than it has been since the competition became the AFL. The administrators at RFC, Peggy and Brendan are principled leaders aware of the Club’s and football’s important social role in broader society. The Korin Gamadji Institute has achieved national recognition for its leadership in Indigenous engagement. Dimma is an astute coach who has dragged the team up by its boot straps and given the Club three (albeit disappointing) finals series in three years. Our support for the Tiges will outlast the careers of the players. Our resilient support for the team and the club will ensure that ex-players too maintain their respect for the club and its supporters.
I found the loss against the Eagles thoroughly galling. The four key words for the first four games are something like this: (v. the Blues) frustration, (v. the Pies) shock, (v. the Crows) detachment and (v. the Eagles) despair. I am in no mood to watch the game against Melbourne. It chills one to the core to see the Dees making strides while we go backwards. I can’t help but think back to my favourite memory of post-2010 Tiges: Dusty’s goal against Melbourne, I think some time in 2010. It is in this clip, at around 1minute40.
More of this, please, and less, ‘east-west’ ball movement. Goals like this; the saving graces of Jack, Alex and Trent – and Rioli – cut through all the well-intentioned comforting words in press-conferences. We need to see our team play footy, not try in some awkward manner to implement the theories devised over summer.
Caroline Wilson asked Damien Hardwick, on Tuesday’s Footy Classified: “what do you say to Adam Goodes tonight?” He responded in his typical manner: trying to take the heat out of the issue and focus on the people who are involved at the most critical point of the matter. He uttered one sentence that, perhaps unfairly condemned some members of ‘the footy community’. Footy coaches have the unenviable task of having to pretend that footy is the most important thing in the world, while also emphasising that it is just a game. It is a kind of work that is all-consuming; footy these days, devoid of the play that it derived from. Footy coaches, too, are asked questions in many matters beyond footy.
Dimma: “I was thinking about this [Wilson’s question] on the way in. It is an incredibly sad set of circumstances. I played against him for a long period of time. Now I’ve coached against him for a period of time. As a player – I still worry about him as a coach. … Unfortunately there are some moronic people, within society, within footy crowds. It is an incredibly bad look. Whether it is bullying, racism, I don’t know. It is just incredibly disappointing that Australian football people do this. We’re a family. I don’t understand why we don’t treat each other as family. The fact of the matter is, if my Richmond supporters are booing Adam Goodes, they’re booing Shane Edwards, they’re booing Nathan Drummond, they’re booing every single Indigenous player in the competition. And it is not on.”
Dimma remembers the good days
Dimma’s expression changed from cheerful at the beginning of his answer, to grim by the conclusion. Cheerful, while thinking of the qualities of Goodes as a footballer, grim while condemning the attitude to Goodes coming from the crowd.
Adam Goodes, 365 games, two Brownlows, two Premiership medals, Australian of the Year. To think of Goodes as only a footballer is to deny his identity and to deny his ongoing work to attain the appropriate place for Aboriginal Australia in the Australian nation. He doesn’t deserve indifference, let alone racist bullying; he deserves respect and love. He should be a figure of pride for the whole footy community, instead he has been – hopefully only for the very short term – pushed out of the game he has given so much to.
The position of the Richmond Football Club in this issue is clear. In terms of its current players, the Club has highlighted the story of Shane Edwards and his process of exploring his family’s story. The Club has played a committed role in the Dreamtime at the G game. Perhaps most importantly, though, the RFC is home to the Korin Gamadji Institute, which offers training for Indigenous youth to develop life-skills, such as ‘leadership, health and well-being and cultural pride and affirmation’. The KGI has been endorsed and highly recommended by Reconciliation Australia. The team on Friday, will again don the Dreamtime jumper: a proud moment to indicate solidarity with Goodes and the values he stands for.
Come on you Tigers.
*my preview is at Reading Sideways.
Overview: The jumpers are looking a little like a practice jumper and definitely like an away jumper. I don’t have a problem with them. I would prefer them with the black sash on the back. The bingle green somehow looks better against the yellow background. I can’t stand the bingle green against the black on the regular jumper.
Edwards had some nice touches. A very shiny Deledio kicked a nice goal. Jack is up. The Tiges are creating space well and cutting off Port’s run. One of their better quarters of the season, as they have nullified Port. They have shown, at least immediately, that they’re not intimidated. Scrappy to begin with but then the Tiges started to find their mojo.
Best Moment: Batchelor’s goal, after Edwards had kept his feet in a marking contest and then gave off a long-handball.
Tactic Talk: David King has the job. He says, “Richmond are prepared to play wide … they’re going to challenge Port on the counter-attack.” Ricciuto (Roo) added that other teams have realised that the best way to stop them is ‘down back’. Roo also says that Richmond are letting them kick wide, but, not letting them go forward.
Best Comment: A toss-up between: Mark Ricciuto, “a little oil on the arms there Huddo”. Huddo: [after Martin’s long kick forward into empty space wasn’t considered deliberate, Razer said, “it went straight on”] “the boundary line just happened to bend there…it does there on most grounds, you’ll find.”
What Dimma should say: “That was rubbish boys! Absolute rubbish! 3 goals to none! That’s nothing. We should be ten goals up. Keep it coming, though. Keep on giving us this rubbish. Okay, you done good. More of that. They’ve thrown in the towel. They haven’t come to play. They’re tired. They’re exhausted. I want more tackles, more chases, more interceptions. More deceptions, more improvisations and more imaginations.”
Hopeful-Despondent Continuum: Well and truly on the hopeful side.
Overview: The Other Team dominated the opening ten minutes. But, the Tiges were resilient and held on. They scored a couple of goals – Wingard (“unguarded”) and Monfries (the usual snap). Some goals to Us and it was a neutral quarter. The Hoff took a brilliant mark on Deledio and fluffed his kick giving an opportunity to Griff who goaled after taking out Pittard (haircut). Credit to the Tiges for absorbing the pressure.
Best/Worst Moment: B.Ellis’s roving off the pack in the forward fifty pocket, a centering kick to the goal-square and Dusty’s outmuscle-ing of his defender, his turn and goal on the right foot. A quick gesture to Ellis (I presume). Worst Moment: Ty’s injury. The horror of The Knee.
Tactic Talk: King – “That is the first repeat entry they’ve scored from. Richmond have been good at minimising the damage, considering the Port opportunities earlier in the quarter. It is a stoppage game at the moment. Whoever wins it out of the center looks like scoring.” A moment later, Ryder kicks it out of the center and it is marked by Batchelor, on the defensive 50, alone.
Best Comment: Gerard: “The backline are delivering rubbish for Port Adelaide. Until they get that sorted, it doesn’t matter how many goals they kick.” Ouch. Tell us what you really think.
Dimma’s Speech: We are in the game. We’re still in it. We have a chance. Okay, admittedly they have a really good fitness coach and we’re a player down, but, we’re still doing not so bad. I’m liking it. I’m having a nice time up in my box, watching you boys run around. What’s my favourite movie? Umm….let me think about it.
Hopeful-Despondent Continuum: Very hopeful. Tiges have showed again that they’re not intimidated. And, even with everything not going their way, they’ve managed to increase their lead. They’ve held on and looked like they’re up for a fight, too. Don’t fool us, Tiges.
Overview: Scarves draped along the top of fences. Ads advertising LED advertising. To write about nothing, you still have to watch it first. Nothing happened for 30 minutes. Okay, nothing in the scoring department and only One Proper One for The Other team. Hats off to our blokes for stopping them from scoring without it looking like anyone of our defenders was being an absolute star. Maric was good in defence after a lapse. Okay, I think I have to admit it: Edwards has been quiet today. Hunt has been defensively minded. Grimes okay. Bachar was injured for a moment, came back with his finger re-adjusted. Menadue is on for Ty; probably not in the ‘like-for-like’ category.
Best/Worst Moment: Maric’s finger tip on X’s shot at goal. Umpire’s decision upheld. Or, McIntosh doing some fancy stuff on the Other wing before kicking out on the full. Worst moment: Maric not getting a finger tip on Ryder’s goal.
Tactic Talk: There was a lot of talk this quarter. As indeed, there wasn’t much scoring to comment on. My pencil was working overtime trying to transcribe commentary. Ricciuto: ‘get Lobey off, use Trengove in the ruck, free up Ryder, get some run in the side…Aemon is itching to get on.’
Best Comment: Huddo: ‘Jones pokes it to Boak’. Nice rhyme. Gerard: ‘He seems to run quicker in a straight line.’ Gerard: ‘Just got him on the funny bone, which is never that funny.’
Dimma’s Speech: Wake me up when it is over.
Hopeful-Despondent Continuum: A little nervous, which means still in the hopeful zone. Thinking that we need to kick two goals in this quarter to win that game. That is exactly what I think, every time we cough up a lead.
Overview: Good play by Riewoldt throughout the quarter; including a great pass to Morris, whom, well, kicked a point. Wingard goaled with 12minutes left to get Port within 19. Great mark by Riewoldt after Griff fluffed his kick from 40meters out. The penultimate-sealer. Straight-kicking. Nice.
Best/Worst Moment: Menadue (in Jayden Post’s number) and his goal – it was straight and the game was still in the balance. Worst Moment: Jack being dragged down by an injured Trengove. Not an ideal way to score a goal; could there have been better communication between the Port players?
Tactic Talk: Roo: “very smart by Richmond not to give Port any opportunities to bring the ball through the middle, fast, so that their clever forwards can have an impact.”
Best Comment: Huddo: “the buck being passed here […] the ball pin-balling around.” Gerard: “Richmond need two more goals to win the game.” Wow. What vindication! Ricciuto: “Poor bugger he couldn’t move.” Hmmm, probably mixing pub-talk a little too closely with footy commentary. Gerrard: “they’re overcooking the ball.” Ricciuto: “oh, they’re done here, look at this.” (moments before the sealer-proper from Edwards – the ball was caught in one of the Tiger banners).
Dimma: We played brilliant ordinary football today. I’m happy to take all the credit for this one. I devised the tactics; the boys followed my orders and we won. Now, where is that journalist who asked me if I doubted I’m up for it?
Hopeful-Despondent Continuum: I’m hopeful. Not taking the lid off. The Tiges have righted the ship, for the moment.
The Tiges did well to suck the life out of this game. Initially by setting up a three goal lead and then by holding off Port during the ¾ when they were sort of coming. The Tiges’ lead was by no means insurmountable in the last quarter, but, Port and their crowd were well-dampened. I’m liking the look of McIntosh, most of the time, most weeks. He has got a mature body and athleticism. He is strong and reads the play pretty well. Grigg seems to be playing better – which may reduce some of the criticism coming his way. I’ve generally liked him, but, for one reason or another, he seems to stand out if the team loses – as does Morris. As Ricciuto said, this was an ugly game to watch. But, it was beautiful also to see the way the Tiges withstood the pressure and didn’t let Port find their mysteriously missing mojo. I would prefer not to see Richmond win-ugly every week, but, for this week, I’ll take it. The ledger has been squared. Two good wins over the past two weeks, somewhat balancing out the two ugly losses (to Melbourne and Footscray).
Richmond are still staring down the barrel. This season has been less than mediocre. Richmond is entering a tough run of opponents and the problem is that they haven’t been able to beat the supposedly more beatable teams: Melbourne, Western Bulldogs and the declining Cats. RFCRamble is excited about the inclusion of Liam McBean. Menadue isn’t making his debut. Newman is out and Astbury has been omitted. Griffiths too is out due to concussion. Will Ty Vickery stand up with this latest opportunity? Todd Elton and Ellis are back in the team. I do not expect Richmond to win. What I am dreading is that they lose by a point, after a goal kicked by Cloke after the siren. I am dreading the team loses by less than 10 points; I feel that will give too much ammunition to the coach to say that the team is improving. The time for improvement is just about up, no? It is time to win only. This season has been six years in the making.
After about 10 minutes I noticed that there was no Shane Edwards. Perhaps he had been on the bench. The Pies were having the game gifted to them thanks to creative moves such as putting Rance in the centre and leaving the backline to be lead by the master trio of Chaplin, Elton, Grimes and Batchelor. Perhaps Rance is being given a diversity of roles in order to convince him to stay at Tigerland. Richmond’s only goal bordered on the lucky; Collingwood very poor not to have kicked two more goals. Too often Collingwood players were without markers going into the forward line. At one great moment Cloke marked in front of Batchelor. Leigh Matthews, who bores me to tears, made the comment, “sometimes you outsmart yourself as a coach”. Liam took a neat mark but sprayed the kick. Cotchin had kicked the ball in boad and Riewoldt had passed it to him. A rare moment of Richmond players knowing what to do. Only 20 points down flatters the Tiges. I was watching on tenterhooks; tears welling. Tears not of losing but because this is a team that has had the lifeblood run dry from them. All bluster and no substance. The Upside: only 20points down. The Downside: Getting smashed. A random defence. Dimma says, “if you give a side like Collingwood a four goal headstart, you’re going to be paddling up the mountain for the rest of the afternoon.”
The Tigers kicked a few goals in the first few minutes: something shocking. The crowd roared in favour of their team. The forwards kicked goals rather than points. It was beautiful. Collingwood came back and took an 8 point lead. I felt it was all over when Elliot kicked that goal to steady the Pies’ ship. But, somehow, the Tiges got themselves together and played full of energy again. I watched and controlled my excitement. Being behind a computer screen makes getting excited a rather redundant activity. Oh the noise of the crowd. Beautiful kicks from Jack and Ty. Leigh Matthews: “McBean is still on Cloke”. And none of the other commentators corrected him; presumably out of fear or also not knowing the difference between Bean McLiam and Elton Todd. I can’t stand it anymore: Vlastuin doesn’t rhyme with ‘stone’. The ‘ui’ in Dutch pronunciation is more like an ‘ow’ sound. My Dutch is shabby, but, that is one thing I sort of know. I know the wrong sound, but, can’t make the right sound. It’s difficult. I didn’t think I’d see an eight goal quarter against Collingwood in my lifetime. Last time it happened was 1995, apparently. The Upside: maybe this will prove to the team they can actually play. The Downside: Still another hour in which to mess this one up. Dimma says: “on our best day we can beat anyone. Including ourselves. And by ‘beat’, I mean, be leading at half-time.” By the way, I liked the way Grimes played in that quarter; he won the ball and was awarded some free-kicks. Nice.
“Some funny things happened at the footy today: I saw Richmond lead a game by 25points.” Ah, beautiful, The Tigers of Old. “I saw Corey Ellis get shoved in the back and no free kick.” “Stop whinging.” Deledio is back and getting the ball but his kicks are going awry. Grigg is playing well and has kicked some nice goals. Cotchin’s left foot snap goal, good enough to make him captain. And Bachar is injured going into three quarter time. This is a problem. We need him healthy. Cotch yelled at Batch for not punching in a making contest with Swan, who, heavy with tattoos kicked a goal and gestured triumphantly. Lethal Matthews made another error, this time pointing out that Collingwood had got Crisps in the deal for Dayne Swan going to Brisbane. Again, no correction. This man is always right; he casts the jedi mind trick over his co-commentators. What the heck? The Tiges are down only by 1point at three quarter time. Nice of that Collingwood player to kick the ball out on the full to keep us in it. The Upside: Hello, it seems the Tiges can play football. The Downside: It is not being better and improvement that counts, what counts is being better than the opposition. May well lose this one. Dimma says: “I was proud of the way the boys stuck it out today. Injuries cruelled us, with Edwards going down before the game. Griffiths not having recovered from his concussion. And, we even had a couple of players not doing very much. You can only make so many subs. I think we were brilliant.”
It turns out Cotchin is a much better player when kicking the ball forward. Nice. Straight kicking by Vickery; nice. A couple of goals from the Deledio pocket by Deledio himself. Nice. A pity Ellis’s kick hit the post, that would have been a great sealer. Wonderful to see the Richmond faithful up and about and out of their seats and jumping up. This was a game that a neutral would have enjoyed, methinks. A relief. Some hard tackling by the boys. Nice. Varcoe probably thought he would never see the day of losing to the Tiges. I watched that last quarter in a state of numbness; but a pleasurable kind of numbness. Not the usual Tiger-numberness of 2015. A pity about McBeam having a fizzer and Elton not doing much. C.Ellis didn’t do too much too and Menadue could have kicked a goal but didn’t. They might not hold their places, but, I hope they had fun. They would have seen what it takes to get the job done. The Upside: Let us hope that this is the beginning of the season proper. The Downside: why did it take so long to play like this? Dimma says: “we won it because we played well for that 10 minute burst in the second quarter. After that, the game was as good as done and dusted.”
Richmond plays on the last game of the weekend giving us ample time to enjoy this weekend’s win. Port lost, so, they’ll be angry next week. We’ll hear talk about how well the team travels and likes to get away together. The game could have easily gone the other way, were it not for errant kicking on the Magpie behalf. I’m going to follow Damien Hardwick’s lead and not ride the emotional roller coaster. Dimma, I promise you, I’m going to be thoroughly depressed, win lose or draw. 🙂
Damien Hardwick, team jacket on, strode boldly into the press-room. He was relieved at having seen his team overcome the tough and never-say-die North Melbourne Kangaroos by 10 points. The Club’s membership was at a record 70,000 (admittedly, many of them only three-game members) and about 3,000 of them had come to Hobart for the game. The game had been a cracker played to a sell-out crowd. The Tiger fans are up-and-about and the game is healthier for it. The AFL are really pleased that they have given prime-spots to Richmond in this season, “the year of the fan”.
Dimma: Fire away.
Journalist #1: Well, Dimma. That was a great win. What was the most pleasing aspect of it?
Dimma: I tell you, North are a great side. We had to be at our best today to not only stick with them, but to win the hardball when it was there to be won. Injuries took their toll on them: Waite and Nahas going down – that really cruelled them. I tell you, for a moment there, I was regretting we let Nahas go and weren’t able to attract Waite to our team.
Journalist #2: That is all about North. What about, your guys? What was the most pleasing aspect of the way your players played?
Dimma: Dustin Martin stuck to the structure all day long. He kicked the ball exactly where I told him to. Griffiths really stood up. Clunked some marks and nailed the goals. I was also impressed with the way big Ivan was able to cover the ground – took some real important defensive marks, and that mark, late in the last quarter when he drifted forward and marked in front of Farrito to effectively seal the game was a moment Richmond fans will never forget.
Journalist #3: You’re sitting 4:2 now and are 4th on the ladder thanks to your healthy percentage. Are you starting to raise the bar on what you can achieve this season?
Dimma: We haven’t achieved anything yet. We’re only six rounds in. We’ve got Collingwood next week. Sure, they got tidied up by the Cats on Friday, but we’ve got no doubt they’ll come out firing this week. It is going to be a great contest and one that we look forward to. If we’re good enough, we’ll be able to take it to them.
Journalist #4: What did you make of Deledio’s performance? He seemed to have slipped straight back into the team after a month off with the calf?
Dimma: He actually didn’t have an injury. We just gave him some long-service leave. He’s played with us for ten or so seasons now, and barely been injured or suspended. We thought that he needed break. Plus, we wanted to see if we could win without him. It turns out, we’ve done relatively well over the past month, going 3:1 – having just dropped that game to the Bulldogs, who are justifiably premiership favourites.
Journalist #5: Cotchin has gone into the book for a late hit on Brent Harvey. What did you make of the incident?
Dimma: I didn’t see it. The one thing I will say about our captain is that he stands up for his team-mates. In virtually every game against North, Harvey has torn us a new one, over the past decade. Normally it is Dan Jackson’s job to attempt to take out Harvey behind play, but he selfishly retired last season to get on with his life and do something else other than kick an oval ball around a large field day-in-day-out.
Journalist #5: You mean to say, that you gave instructions to Cotch to take Harvey out?
Dimma: You’ve had your turn.
Journalist #6: Just picking up on Cotch, what do you think of Chris Rees’s comments on TTBB regarding his habit of all those short, barely 15meter kicks?
Dimma: Chris Rees? I’ve got one of his mugs. Cotch always bangs it up the guts and always hits a player bang on the chest. Don’t know what he’s on about. He should stick to making mugs and t-shirts.
Journalist #6: But …. er …. he does it over and over again…
Dimma: Same as with #5. You’ve had your go. And by the way that is not a question.
Journalist #7: Can you give us an update on Alex Rance’s contract. Is the Club making progress with his management?
Dimma: Alex Rance is a very important part of our team. He is tall, good looking and has wonderful musculature. He makes up for some of the shabbier members of the team, that is for sure. Alex Rance is intelligent, humorous and courageous. He’s got other things in his life other than footy. The world is his oyster.
Journalist #8: Sounds almost like you think he wouldn’t be losing much by leaving.
Dimma: Reverse psychology, mate. Heard of it? We need him. WE NEED YOU ALEX. And we need you too, Chappy. Don’t get any ideas about going back to Port – just because now they have the most beautiful ground in the comp and have got a proper jumper. STAY WITH US. WE’RE GOING PLACES. FAST.
Journalist #9: Dimma…
Dimma: Bloody long press conference this one. Don’t you guys have a plane to catch?
Journalist #9: We live here.
Dimma: What at the ground?
Journalist #9: Hobart.
Dimma: What’s that? Never heard of it.
Journalist #9: Forget it. Dimma, you guys have made a lot of progress since losing that elimination final against the Blues. When you see them in the position that they’re in now, do you have any pity for them?
Dimma: It is a very even season. Make no mistake about it, we could easily be sitting 2:4 at this stage. If we’re off by 5%, 10% or 50% we know that we’ll lose a game. We have to get better each game. We know that our best is good enough to beat any team. We also know that any other team’s best is good enough to beat any other team. We’re no different. The Blues? They’re a great team. They have a great coach who the whole football fraternity loves and adores like a dear-old beloved grandfather. He’s kind of like footy’s answer to Kurt Vonnegut; bringing laughter and philosophical insight at the same time.
Journalist #10: The Tiger Army. It must be a great feeling having them on board.
Dimma: I’m not sure if I can call them an army. They don’t bring weapons to the ground nor do they wear helmets. Our colours are Yellow and Black; soldiers dress in dark green, khaki…But, I get your point. They’re proud, passionate and paid-up. We’ve got their money. We’re paying back their loyalty one week at a time – or, in four week blocks, if you will. We know that they’d still be behind us if we were 2:4. This game can turn very quickly. It’s a very even competition. Evenly.
Journalist #11: Dimma, just one final one…
Dimma: Nup. I’m cooked. I’m outta here. Thanks you blokes. See you next week after we smash the Pies in front of 90,000.
Mr.Hardwick regarded last week’s performance against Melbourne as insipid. Would this week’s performance be any better? It has been a long time since the Tigers have beaten the Cats. There is a worrying feeling amongst Richmond fans that after several years on the slow-improve, the team has now reached a lowly plateau. Player watch: under-pressure, under-achieving forward, Ty Vickery has come back into the team; Corey Ellis makes his debut, Trent Cotchin – somewhat questioned captain, in the eyes of some, needs to be more aggressive and assertive. And, Shane Edwards, Richmond’s best player of the season.
The quarter ends goalless for Richmond. In the past against Geelong this could mean that they would have been at least 40 points behind. But, instead, the margin is only nine points. The delivery into the front-50 has been very disappointing from Richmond. The best and clearest opportunity for a mark close to goal was spoiled by Vickery; this was his low-light of the quarter. Riewoldt has taken a couple of good marks up on the wing; he laid a good tackle in the forward line that resulted in Miles having a shot which hit the post. Corey Ellis had a couple of kicks, one for a point the other for an out-of-bounds. These came late in the quarter and would have proved very handy for the Tiges. The narrow margin indicates not so much how Richmond have improved but how the Mighty have fallen. The Tiges’ structure has become a fraction more solid with the return of Chaplin and Newman. Houli has linked up with Martin a couple of times, coming out of defence. The holding the rule has been both fairly and unfairly applied – by different umpires, of course. Upside: only nine points in it. Downside: haven’t kicked a goal. Jack and Ty not looking like they’re cooperating. Hopes for the second quarter: at least go goal-for-goal with the Cats. Ideally kick four goals to at least show that they can run and work together.
The first 10 minutes of the quarter were positive: the Tiges had managed to get the lead back to two points. There were moments when the game suddenly seemed open for the Tiges; they ran and created. Geelong were stalling. And then, the Cats kicked the next four goals to get the lead to 28points. Vickery and Corey Ellis were as good as unsighted. Lennon took a good mark deep in the left-forward pocket but wasn’t able to convert it into a goal or pass it successfully. Morris did little. Brandon Ellis who was lively in the first quarter was also as good as absent. Houli and Martin linked up on a couple of occasions. Edwards got the ball, but was ineffective in his disposal – except for the goal that was largely a result of a Geelong mistake. 28points is a large margin given how difficult it has been for the Tiges to score. Upside: The Tiges are playing very poorly, let’s hope it doesn’t get worse. Downside: Geelong aren’t playing brilliantly, but have a winning lead. Hopes for the third quarter: to get the margin back to 12-16 points. The game still needs to be alive going into the last quarter, otherwise the fans may well leave. I could be wrong but the Tigers players who are standing up are Vlastuin, Houli and Maric.
Again, the Tigers start with relative zip. They look like they want to play well and tough. But my only conclusion is that I don’t think there is a single team that fears the toughness of Richmond. Cotchin plays well; gets a lot of the ball and scores a goal and misses the captain’s goal that would have brought the game within 14points – my ideal margin. There are moments of proper football; a centre break that leads to a goal. A lucky goal from a lucky bounce (Cotchin’s) and Houli’s poise. Selwood gives a freekick away; something I think I’ve never seen before in a Richmond-Geelong game. There are moments of spite. This quarter has been a stalemate; neither Geelong nor Richmond would be properly satisfied. Richmond was perhaps the better team, but have only managed to bring the margin back a little. Over their past seven quarters, Richmond has scored 12 goals. Now, they must outscore Geelong by four goals if they are going to win it. Upside: despite playing poorly, they are still, still in it. Downside: neutrals would have turned off five minutes into the first quarter. Reality check: If Richmond win it from here it will be a great turnaround. If not, the fans will be angry and justifiably angry. This Club is lacking some passion at the moment. Vlastuin, Houli, Cotchin playing well. Edwards too. Vickery has gone out of the game. Riewoldt has been there-abouts. All need to lift.
It is already past midnight and I’m not sure how long I can hang on for. Geelong have kicked the opening goal and it feels like it is as good as over. I skip forward about ten minutes. Corey Ellis kicks a goal and then, it is Miles who gets another after being taken high. Miles plays decently and toughly. The Tiges have left their run too late. Their hunger for the contest, again, too late. A spectacular win could have eventuated if the players had more polish. The nine point defeat is not honourable; this is a game that the Tiges should have won to prove that they are improving. Upside: None. No major injuries? Downside: 2:3. Reality check: likely to be 2:7 after the next four games.
The heat should now be well and truly placed on the coaching staff. During the last minute or so Richmond had a chance to get the margin to within a goal, but couldn’t do so. The coverage showed the Richmond coaches’ box and all looked mute and stunned, as if they had already accepted the fact that the team was going to lose. It seems as if the team has run out of ideas about how to play and they have lost enthusiasm. The Club has a very healthy membership and supporter base, but, the passion has been exhausted for the moment. McIntosh again showed himself to be a player of enthusiasm and skill. Richmond needs boring wins; games that pass by with little or no fanfare, just chalking up the wins. But, instead, the Club is serving up very familiar style losses. Us fans have very little choice, but to stay on board, to stay positive and support the team. But, at the moment, my sense is that the support is being given with very little joy. The team is stuck in low-mid ladder mediocrity, with no clear path out of it. Hardwick and Cotchin’s press conferences and statements about the team are numbingly ‘on-message’ in which they speak about what can be rectified. Would be great if the club held no press conferences until a convincing win was chalked up. No, until three or so proper wins were chalked up.
Eduardo Galeano died on 13th April 2015 in Montevideo, the city also of his birth. One of his most famous passages is as follows:
Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself who I am: a beggar for good soccer. I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: “A pretty move, for the love of God.”And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.
Galeano’s passage above is an invitation to admire the beauty in sport; to give up on team rivalries and being biased, one-eyed. He transforms the position of supporter into that of appreciator; one who is blind to team jerseys and jumpers and instead considers only beauty.
Is it possible to watch a game without considering the score and while forgetting our allegiances, whether they stem from family, geography or ‘tradition’? I doubt for many it is possible. I doubt for me it is possible. I watch Richmond games and fret and look at the clock and groan at the errors or disruptions to attacks; I feel more relief than joy when the team wins. After all, I’ve played no part in it; just a spectator from a distance.
‘Pretty moves’ are more likely to be more common than victories for one’s team. A game, is made up of so many moments, each playing a role in victory or loss. Richmond too produced a moment of beauty in the match against Melbourne, in the second quarter. There is pleasure to be taken in watching a player play better than he has before. But, this is a team sport, and supporters are hungry for team success, which is virtually always a zero-sum equation.
Mr.Hardwick used the term ‘un-Richmond-like’ in the aftermath of the loss against the Bulldogs. The loss was disappointing, not because it was a loss against a team ‘that we are better than’, or because it was against a team coached by first-year coach. It was disappointing because the team had many opportunities to score goals and didn’t. Moreover, there was a sense that the Bulldogs players wanted to play harder than the Richmond team. They were hungrier; they had more appetite.
Perhaps there could be an app which fans could use to register their sensing of their players’ desire for the contest. This could complement all the very detailed numerical data provided by Champion. There could be the haven’t-turned-up-to-play-meter (brought to you by Nlyex Plastics); the Dusty-has-got-his-mind-on-other-things-meter (brought to you by Harley Davidson); the need-to-show-more-leadership-meter (brought to you by Flinders Bakery). The game is very much about impressions as well as numbers.
But, anyway. The comment ‘un-Richmond-like’ stuck with me. This term refers to the very essence of Richmond-ness. What is a Richmond-like performance? The mind boggles which Richmond one would like to use for evidence in defining Richmondness.
The jumper is the most iconic image of Richmondness. Even though it now doesn’t look like it used to – ie with advertising and logos applied all over it, the yellow-sash on black is unmistakable. It is a traditional footy jumper which undergoes minor alterations almost yearly. Regardless, each time the team comes out to play, us Richmond fans can see the team and agree, ‘yes, those are them Tiges.’ ‘Come on you fellers, eatemalive.’
After the Dogs loss and the Dees loss, I have wondered, which is more desireable: a Richmond-like performance in an un-Richmond-like jumper or an un-Richmond-like performance in a Richmond jumper?
It helped remind me of the qualities of rival teams. And so, I drew a few variations on a yellow-and-black theme, in the styles of other teams. Pardon my heresy. They are only drawings.
I have come to the conclusion that the yellow-sash on black is still the best jumper. But, please, a Richmond-like performance to go with it.