I had a really good feeling about the Tiges travelling to play Freo. We’ve been good on the road, we were on a small winning streak, and it seems like unbeaten seasons usually cop their first loss around now, and often from mid-ladder teams. I mistakenly thought Freo had a bye the same week as us. I imagined that while it gave us a no-tomorrow grand-final kind of attitude, for a team at 9-0 there may have been a bit of going on holiday early. I was wrong about the bye but correct about Freo not coming to play.
The Tiges in their winning-away strip of predominantly yellow looked a treat manning up their purple opposition at the first bounce. Proposal; could this fixture be called the Passiona Cup?
The purples started with two minutes of sustained attack that ended when Fyfe, the 2015 Brownlow Medallist, dropped the ball. It was the first of dozens of drops, slips and fumbles that peppered their game. The second was from unbeatable-so-don’t-even-try ruck freak Sandilands. A ball roosted forward sort of slid off his hands, down his face and bounced off his ridiculous chest to Lids, who hoisted it through the welcoming uprights.
This first goal on 2 minutes was followed by Richmond goals at 7, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, and 20 minutes. There were one or two heave ho way to go goals in there too but that 18 minutes of sweet mayhem won the game. After kicking eight goals to the 20 minute mark the Tiges changed gear and kicked seven more all day.
Reiwoldt’s role is intriguing. He was 3rd man up, often in the back half. There were sometimes 4 “ruckmen” around the bounce. Far from conceding, Ivan seemed to giving it 100% at every centre bounce against Sandilands, and killing him around the ground, joining in passing chains and making space for the Mosquitos like Snipper Miles and Sheds.
Steve Morris had his best ever AFL game. It’s not often going to work out this well, but you could see Dimma’s dream of playing him forward coming to life before his eyes. Like most of his mates, Fyfe was ineffectual in the first quarter when it mattered. His mark over Snipper was pure art, but like art was quite seperate from real life, having no impact on the game. He racked up stats and his goal later on was tasty but it wasn’t one of his better games.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Chaplin poleaxed Ballantyne, which was one I could tick off my bucket list for the day. We all hate that little bugger but credit where it’s due, he got up and kicked the goal when he must have been seeing stars.
The umpires seemed to be having a seminar through the quarter about the high tackle/ducking the head issue. One put forward the Selwood Thesis, that sagging at the knees at the key moment so the tackler gets you round the ears was just clever footy. Another proposed the provocative view that the players in yellow didn’t need heads. Also “clever” was Pavlich who lost his footing in a contest with Rance and responded by entangling their legs, which resulted in a goal to Freo. This is the sort of thing that has seen Fletch reported for tripping. We were way down on free kicks at half time (standard for visitors at Subi) but we got the “rub” of the “green” after the long break.
The list of Tigers who beat their man in the first quarter is basically everyone. The Ellises, Cotch, Dusty, Grimes, Rance, Morris, Miles and Sheds were all magnificent, while up forward Griff was bursting with confidence, Lids seemed to be permanently loose, Ty was delivering and Reiwoldt was contributing despite spending a lot of time way, way up the ground doing grunt work.
Kicking straight is the best way to thank your fans for their commitment. To have eight straight on the board, 3000km from Punt Rd, must have been delirious joy for the travelling Tigers, who unfortunately were up the far end. When we did miss at last, Dennis called the kick out “… Dockers look a little shell-shocked … Sheridan short …” I believe Mrs Sheridan sells seashells by the seashore.
Freo finished the first term with a couple of goals and the second term was more even but we extended the lead. Then the game tightened right up. Brandon Ellis took an amazingly brave mark in the very centre of the ground running backwards, not as classical as Fyfe’s but the sort of thing to lift the team. Fyfe’s will make a good footy card. The other Ellis nipped in and intercepted a kick out, then coolly slotted the goal. You get the feeling Ellises is a plural that is here to stay.
I sat bolt upright throughout the game. Our remote is broken so I couldn’t record it, and hence my thirteen year old fellow Tiger Marcus was allowed to sit up to the end. In fact he couldn’t stand it, he spent most of the 2nd half downstairs quivering until I called him up to see Vickery kick the final sealer.
The consensus on Twitter is that we Tigers don’t enjoy games like this, we endure them. But I loved every minute of it, and I think that sprang from my optomistic take on it during the prior week. The commentary was farcical, attempting to impose the “Freo class will out” comeback narrative when to my eyes it never looked like happening, they were just coming from so far back. Having said that I did drink a fair bit so nerves were deadened.
I have never in my recollection seen a Tigers side that can change gears like this. It’s a huge tick for Dimma, and during the next dip in his fortunes, we should remember the guy can really coach.
Our defence as seen in previous weeks was ironclad. Those boys are a bloody marvel. If premierships are built on defence as they say, the sky is really the limit for this side. I anticipated this game like few I can remember outside finals, but to have more teams in the top four coming up suits me down to the ground. Bring them on while we are in this form. The hard part for Richmond might not be climbing that mountain, it might be safely getting down the other side without dropping silly losses to St Kilda etc. We have Freo again in July, if you can believe that.