I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest. I’d been at Manuka Oval last year, the last time we played this mob – the game where we’d kicked one solitary goal to half time, and scored our lowest score in over a half a century.
I travelled up with the Capital Tigers. We’ve been featured on these pages before and our regular trips to Sydney games have covered the best of times (two hundred point thrashings of GWS before they’d grown up, and that magical evening when we’d won the ninth in a row in 2014) and the worst of times (Round 23 last year). They numbers were slightly down this year, sadly, but it is nonetheless nice to travel to the game with friends and our trip to Sydney in a rented mini-bus was without incident.
The forecast rain never arrived and it was in fact a glorious afternoon, so I tucked into an ice-cream and with no expectations, hoped for the best.
We were up for it. Cotch stormed out of the middle and goaled with the first play of the game. Grigg followed suit soon after. After dominating the first quarter, we went in with a five goal advantage, the only dark spots being late misses from Grigg and Rioli.
After another two quarters, the margin was still the same. We were playing the better footy. We had them on toast. Rance and Astbury were stopping everything. Cotchin, Grigg and Dusty had the midfield covered. The only spot was in the forward line, without a viable second marking target, Jack was often swamped with defenders. But our 31 point lead at three quarter time was fully deserved.
I felt strangely calm as the final quarter commenced. We started it well. But Castagna missed a very gettable shot. Dusty missed an even more gettable one. We missed our chance to bury them…
Then they came hard, and the tranquillity in my heart was quickly replaced by a very familiar anxiety. They got closer and closer, the local crowd louder and louder as they scored each goal.
Yet, unlike the Geelong game last year, we were making them work for it. Yes they were on top, but as we went into each contest, there was a determination that we’d hang on. I kept thinking to myself. “It couldn’t happen again, surely. It couldn’t happen again!”.
De Boer goaled with 24 minutes gone. We groaned. They were within a kick. It was happening again.
A few around were asking “how long to go?”. I didn’t know of course. But there had been a lot of stoppages, and a few goals. “It’ll be a long quarter, probably over 30 minutes”.
Still we fought hard at every contest. The crowd squealed louder and louder with every kick. Nank popped up with some crucial marks. We kept entering our 50 only for GWS to repel the attack. We needed a goal.
Then it happened. 31 Minutes had gone. We were desperately hoping for redemption after such a painful loss. Then suddenly, the ball fell to none other than the debutant, who snaps a brilliant goal, to guide Richmond home. The sizeable contingent of away fans were ecstatic. We had shown the football world it had learned from the debacle of the previous week, and beaten the premiership favourites on their home deck. It was a moment so sweet, too sweet, in fact to be true.
Shai Bolton’s otherwise freakish snap had, unbeknownst to the Richmond players, the umpires and the crowd, had taken the slightest of fingertip touches on its journey through the big sticks. Our players, determined not to allow a repeat of last week’s finish, set up to defend the centre bounce. The tragedy is, we actually set up for it perfectly. The only Tiger forward of the ball was Jack, and aside from our four in the centre square, every other Tiger was either marking a GWS attacker or defending space – a set up which, I have no doubt, would have seen us home last week.
Then the heartbreak. It was announced it had there had been a score review and it was a behind. The ball, in the arms of the umpires in the centre, was quickly transferred back to our goalsquare. Our players scrambled to try to defend the kick in, but we were too far back. You could see it coming. The corridor was only modestly defended; the ball went over the back, Nank, after a heroic game, fumbled. Cameron strolled in, and it had happened again. Our poor hearts were once overcome with the all too familiar pain, a pain only us tigers understand.
The Capital Tigers trudged back to the bus, barely exchanging a word. Then we discovered the battery was flat, and we were stuck. I could just about have cried. It was that kind of night.
Despite the result, we had plenty of good contributors, most notably for me;
5. Rance – back to his all-Australian form, the best KPD we will ever see in Yellow and Black.
4. Astbury – a most worthy understudy to Rance, lacked his rebounding skills, but his equal this year as a stopper.
3. Cotchin – another solid performance from the skipper, and our only senior play to kick for goal accurately.
2. Grigg – long undervalued, combined well with Cotch and Dusty in the midfield. Would have been further up the list if he kicked straighter.
1. Nankervis – was a warrior in the ruck, a most worthwhile replacement in body and spirit for Ivvy.
The Benny Leaderboard:
7: Conca, Houli
6: Grimes, Nankervis
4: Rioli, Astbury
2: Butler, Vlastuin
1: Prestia, B. Ellis,
Blair Hartley Appreciation Award:for players who have joined Richmond from another club
(Eligible 2017: Caddy, Grigg, Hampson, Houli, Hunt, Nankervis, Maric, Miles, Prestia and Townsend.)
Anthony Banik Best First Year Player:for anyone who was yet to debut before round 1
(Eligible 2017: Shai Bolton, Dan Butler, Ryan Garthwaite, Jack Graham, Ivan Soldo, Tyson Stengle)
Joel Bowden’s Golden Left Boot:for left footers
(Eligible 2017: Batchelor, Chol, Corey Ellis, Grigg, Nankervis and Houli).
Greg Tivendale Rookie List Medal:
upgraded from the rookie list during the current season
Potentially eligible 2017: Castagna, Chol, Moore, Stengle and Soldo.
Maurice Rioli Grip of Death Trophy:
For the Tiges top tackler
To all our knockers, in the famous words of Tommy Hafey;
Nothin’ more Tigerish than a bloody Tiger, a wounded Tiger.
Beware the wounded Tiger, Essendon!
C’arn the Tiges!