Occasional pieces by guest authors from other blogs.
|Malcolm McKinnon||Corbo||Lapsed Tiger|
|Kate Birrell||Tess Pryor||Brendan O’Reilly|
Australian Rules football can be a beautiful game: fast, skilful and gloriously unpredictable. Unfortunately none of these adjectives apply to the dispiriting spectacle of Tiges vs Saints at the MCG in the penultimate round of an underwhelming 2016 season.
When I was a kid my mother used to caution that if you had nothing nice to say, then it was best you said nothing. Were I to heed her advice in this instance I’d be hard pressed to write a match report any longer than a haiku, which might go like this:
Light up the Fitzroy Gardens
Best play of the day
Because, really, it’s difficult to find many redeeming features from what was undoubtedly one of the worst game of footy I’ve ever seen.
I think it has to be said that, in 2016, the Tiges play a brand of football that is excruciating to watch. We present a style of play that’s entirely un-playful. (Alas, I don’t think there’s any deliberate irony in this game plan.) No-one seems to be having much fun, on either side of the fence.
How does our beloved football team infuriate its long-suffering fans at the MCG on this particular crisp and breezy winter afternoon? Let me count some of the ways:
– We habitually chip the ball around ineffectually, losing ground and momentum until we eventually cough the thing up through an unforced error;
– For some reason, we love to handball to a player who’s under pressure;
– We have no fluency in moving the ball out of defence and no apparent plan for receiving the ball into our forward line;
– We don’t run and block and tackle and inspire each other anywhere near enough;
– On the rare occasions when we do have control of the ball in our forward line we’re usually incapable of kicking it between the big sticks.
Much of the difference between a good team and an average team at AFL level is about confidence and belief. The Richmond team of 2016 seems sadly lacking in this department. Our skills look decidedly second-rate, but I reckon this is largely because the players don’t have a game plan that they properly believe in.
Of course, all of this is just the opinion of one bloke sitting on the side of the fence from which it’s easy to criticise. Aussie Rules footy is a brutal game, and I don’t like to be too harsh. But the truth is, as much as I love the Richmond jumper, I’ve got to the point where I no longer want to watch a team playing such a frustrating, boring and unproductive style of game.
Fortunately, I can at least report a couple of redeeming moments. One of these was the bloke sitting behind me observing that whoever was taking official stats on unforced errors was probably the hardest working person at the game. (It was hard to disagree.) On a more positive front, the other was the display of young Daniel Rioli. Here’s a player growing in confidence and looking capable of developing into a genuinely exciting talent. From my point of view, he produced nearly all of our best on-field moments.
Some final comments:
I wish to exempt Mr Alex Rance from my general criticisms above. He has played all year with a passion and flair that’s beyond reproach. (I think that Jack Riewoldt has generally done likewise, but not in yesterday’s game for some reason.)
Dreamteam points ratings are bullshit. The number of times a player touches the ball matters far less than the quality of what they do with it. Dustin Martin had a lot of the ball yesterday but did nothing much of note. (This is also a criticism I’d make of Brandon Ellis most of the time.)
I wish I understood what has happened to Shane Edwards this season. He’s a player of exquisite skills and lightening reflexes, and I can’t understand why he’s suddenly dropped so much off the pace.
I also wish I understood what Ben Lennon has done to offend the selection committee. He might be a good footballer if he ever got a decent run of senior games. But I guess we’ll never know.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who prays that a miraculous lightening bolt might incinerate those on-field dickheads who parade around with microphones before the game and during the breaks. Their prattle is inane and their enthusiasm is entirely confected. Enough already!
Trudging home through the Fitzroy Gardens after this misspent afternoon, I could at least be grateful for the host of golden daffodils (as Willy Wordsworth once did say).
Malcolm McKinnon has been a Tiger from birth, which is surely a mixed blessing. He often wishes that he cared less about football.
Into the dark
of God’s own.
with DING, DING, and
kids in the back,
iridescent light, flashing scarlet,
the night pauses,
for a bit.
Turn it off.
22 tickings, chances
a little one over the top
a good bounce,
a long boot
to where ….
Don’t turn it off
as a shadow looms, somewhere
as breathless rumbling, pummels
with tickings, somewhere
a holy spirit, now
The outside din
and a siren, shrill
Oh, for a kick
Turn it up,
Turn it up,
Lloyd for goal
at an angle, odd
through the middle.
A rising fever,
with a maddened crowd
and BT’s bellows, and
as panes, wound down
to remove the stifled heat
from the air,
and the air from the stifled heat;
and the dark from the dark, darkness
of a season
Melodies flung, da de da
Spreading a ripple, wide
across the sharpened shadows of northern abodes
and all around.
now bright and clear night.
– Kate Birrell 2016
First published by the Footy Almanac
A post from Tiger guest Brendan O’Brien. You can read his regular posts at theinternetatemyblog.wordpress.com
Apart from my team travelling badly and apart from loathing the experience of live Richmond matches, I was also extremely tired by Saturday evening. A few hours of door-knocking for the Greens in Preston and a couple more at a party where I knew very few people was enough to wear me out. Oh, and I’d had a big week too. So I was never very likely to go last Saturday night.
I wish that I had and I take my hat off to the 36 thousand who did. Sydney, many commentators were saying, were the best team in the competition. Richmond were not the worst, but they were certainly in the mix. So how likely was it that we could beat them? Sure, we have a good record against them: beating them in Sydney last year after being five goals down at half time, beating them in an excruciatingly close finish in the last round of 2014 to make the finals, beating them at the ‘G a year or two before that. But that’s when we were quite good. And Sydney rested half their team in the 2014 game…
In any case the Swans began well this time and had three goals on the board before we knew which way we were kicking. But then an odd thing happened and we actually started to play quite well. Franklin was rampant but Rance stuck with him and limited the damage. We fought and scrapped and got the ball into the forward line and set up countless chances. Most of these we squandered. From near and far, tight angles and straight in front. Through for a behind the ball went. In no time we had our first “point goal” – six behinds for our trouble. But despite all the misses, at quarter time we were only ten points down and at the half-time break – this we could not believe sitting in comfort on the couch – we were five points up.
The breaks are when I’m really glad I’m not at the ground. Even at home you can hear the spruiker and the music obliterate the crowd noise. Tiger fans were not doubt roaring their heroes off the ground, but nobody could hear them, not at home on the couch, not in the outer at the ‘G.
In the third term our terrible kicking reached another level. We added 1.5 to the Swans 5.4 and trailed by three goals at the last break. Football’s oldest and truest clichés surely applied – bad kicking is bad football and the third quarter is the premiership quarter. Lose that and you’re stuffed.
But something truly bizarre happened at the start of the last term. The Tigers burst from the blocks and kicked goal after goal. Rioli got two of them – how many years have we needed a Rioli? – and we were right back in it. But Sydney steadied and kicked away again and there were only a few minutes left and they were two goals up. Then Jack won the footy in the maelstrom much closer to the Swans’ goal than to ours and kicked it perfectly to the advantage of the helmed Griffiths. For a big man he moved like the smallest gazelle, chased by his equally helmed and large opponent. The ball bounced, Griffo grabbed it and took off, one bounce inside the 50 and then kicked it, along the ground, straight as the road to Lockington, right through the big ones.
Five points now and four minutes to go. Sydney attacked, Richmond attacked. Twice Rance performed heroics to save the game for us. Or was it thrice? Still, it was not enough. Sydney had the ball and attacked again. We won it again, Sydney won it back. Only a minute left. Then less than a minute.
Sydney had the footy, forward of the centre and chose, in the most sporting way imaginable, not to kick it wide or backwards to one of several un-marked team-mates but instead into attack again, into a contest from where it was wrestled free by the much-maligned and poorly-pronounced Vlaustin who roosted it out of the back-line.
It landed close to Riewoldt and took what Dimma would call “the bounce of God” straight into his lap. But, as Dimma said too, you make your own luck sometimes. Jack saw Griffo again running into the forward line and kicked an inch-perfect kick to him. The helmed one took it easily, 65 meters out. Seconds left could be counted on my fingers. Should he roost it? He’s a big kick but the angle was bad. Should he go for another run? But the Swans were getting back and it would be tough for him. One tackle, one mis-step and the chance would be gone.
Three facts might have occurred to the pessimist at this point, not that any of that ilk have a place at Richmond: we haven’t won a game since March; we have an awful record in close games; our set shot kicking is abysmal.
But our heroes did not have time for such maudlin rubbish.
Sam Lloyd, the boy from Deniliquin, loped into the forward 50 and called for it. Griffo kicked over the man on his mark and Lloydy marked, 45 from goal on a worse than 45 degree angle. Seven seconds left.
On the couch we were beside ourselves. I think I was sobbing already. Griffo walked over to Lloydy and said – so we learned later – “three deep breaths and keep your head over the ball.” The young feller settled himself, wasted no time, walked in and kicked from the 50.
A straighter, higher, truer, more beautiful kick has never, ever, in any sport, at any time on any planet ever been kicked. It went high and it went handsome and split the big sticks as elegantly as if they’d been a block of straight-grained red box beneath your grandfather’s axe.
I was openly sobbing by now. Lloyd was buried beneath an avalanche of team-mates. The Tiger supporters went nuts. The song rang out and the supporters were allowed to sing it once, as they are allowed to now, not twice like before. Who cared? All was right with the world. Rance said in a one-minute interview “I love this team!” three times. We said it to ourselves and to each other many more times and are saying it still.
A wheat-belt Feudal lord, controlling the centre of Subiaco with a seeming indominable power. A young, brave, wild Pinjarra clansman steps forward.
“Come in”. Dimma had heard that knock before. A single strike of trepidation and unbridled confidence. If it wasn’t for the trepidation, he would have said “come in jack”, although he wouldn’t have had to.
“Kmac! whats up brother?”
“I want Fyfe.” Young Kamdyn strove to maintain eye contact and keep his lips pursed. He looked at the bridge of his bosses’ nose and his ears, and kept things moving forward.
“Yeah?” Dimma gave nothin’.
“Yep” Kmac tried giving nothing back. He didn’t do bad.
“He had 28 contested possies on Danger on Sunday”. Dimma leant back on two legs of his chair and joined his fingertips in slowly scratching the back of his head.
“So Ive got nothin’ to lose. You saw me shake Daisy’s shoulder out of its socket. I’m your man. I got the size, the strength, the tank.”
Dimma was seriously impressed. He’d already thought of it. Last night, he’d crept out of bed and quickly poured over the numbers.
Fyfe 190/88 KMac 192/89. Fyfe’s first season averages 16 disposals 4.6 marks 3 tackles and point 8 of a goal. Mac’s first 9 games 17 disposals, 4.6 marks, 2.7 tackles and point 6 of a goal. Jeez.
When he’d snuck back into bed, he’d lied about salty puttanesca and thirst.
“You reckon?” suppressing grins was one of Dimma’s strengths. The rare times when one escaped, he could dull his eyes in an instant, to make the grin seem mean.
“I’ve got 8 brothers and sisters. Ive been getting contested possessions since i was 6 months old” Kmac sensed that Dimma had thought the same thing, except from a different angle.
(‘Kmac stops Fyfe, tigers probably win, we go to the bye 6 and 4. I could take the wife and kids to Noosa for the weekend’)
(‘I stop Fyfe in front of half of Pinjarra, They’ll forget who Harley Bennell even is. I’d probably win the rising star and renegotiate $1.5 for 3. I’ll be set’)
Both came to know exactly what the other was thinking. It didn’t get much more symbiotic. One of those things that works whichever way you look at it. The kind of decision a jelly fish can make.
“Alright son”. Dimma loved having arrived at the age and level of experience that licence you to call broad, tough men ‘son’
“I was gonna ask you if you’de like the job tomorrow” He set a grin free. The kid had confirmed himself as tough and self-assured in one knock and 3 words. That, combined with the rack and the tank, was why he’d drafted him.
“I would of said yeah” Kmac had a sense of humour as alkaline as bauxite tailings.
By Lapsed Tiger
I have no idea why I was drawn to Richmond.
It would have been about 40 years ago, so a few key suspects have always been prime in my mind as to why Richmond became part of me.
The early 70’s were part of the Hafey era. Of back-to-back Premierships, and finals seemingly all the time. The ‘Ruthless Richmond’ driven to attack the footy and opposition with full gusto, and the “Eat ’em alive” desire to win.
They must have been on the TV every week. And would have been ‘match of the round’ on 3UZ and 3LO.
And for a small lad, they would have seemed like the ultimate footballers.
Being with the winners is where you wanted to be. Is that what drew me to them?
I grew up in a family that liked football, but were never fully into football to go week in week out. Nor to commit themselves wholly to the local club, and to the weekly training and playing grind that hundreds of thousands of families and kids of the era did.
“Mugs game” was my father’s favourite rebuttal to my every seasons request for new footy boots, or to be taken to training for the local team.
But I would try footy… train, have a run and get a kick. But never get an actual game, bar one time.
There was no greater feeling in my fleetingly brief football playing experience, than picking out of the box the number 20 on the back of the Primary School team jumper, and putting it on.
My first team jumper earned.
And in choosing the number 20, for fleeting moments, I was ‘The Ghost’, albeit decked out in green with the ’20’ in white.
Breaking into the local club team was touch harder.
And the term “Mugs game” would come back to ring in my ears. The clashes and bumps, mud and rain and the bitter cold of training nights would come to haunt my football experience every cold winter.
I was never prepared for the hard, dirty graft of footy in winter in Melbourne. I am sure my Dad told me the same. And I was quite a shy kid, so doing the whole ‘social’ thing that is club footy was hard too.
But cockeyed optimist was I, blindly drifting off to that oft-imagined childhood footy dream.
The reality of football had me out of the local club quickly. Tired, cold, wet, and most importantly, without that first team jumper.
And pummelled from pillar to post, being built as I was back then, in the ‘David Bourke’ mould.
All I really aspired to was being at the club until ‘Pie Night’.
There was only, at best, a very tenuous link to Tigerland. A slender silver thread between our family and one of the greats. The magic of that association, and the mythical deeds of one of thee greatest, drew me to the Tigers.
Royce Hart was my first football hero, and also to thousands of others no doubt. The flame that drew this moth to the MCG.
I only have vague memories of him playing. I am pretty sure as a 9 year old I saw him play, perched in the top deck of the Southern Stand with my dear Dad. To this impressionable lad he played with an ease and grace that normal ‘good ordinary footballers’ could only dream of. Or was it just my adulation that gleaned only the good moments and dispensed with all else. Surely in those twilight years he was dogged with niggling injuries. At such a young age I was blind to that detail.
And that name!
To a kid from the sprawling western suburbs of Melbourne, where most boys were Shanes and Daves, Jeffs and Paulos, Christos’ and Zorans, the name Royce lit-up the imagination. It was a name that seemingly could only be bestowed upon someone destined for immortality.
Better still was to hear it being called through the speakers of the little window to the world in the corner of our living room on a Saturday night, or via the radio with the live call of the play.
” Royce!! ” would be the cry from Harry Beitzel or Ian Major on the radio… and you would wonder what spectacle was unfolding to have that name shouted down from the ether.
Royce and the early 70’s Premierships stamped my card in Melbourne life with the word “Tiger”.
Even through the years when I stopped going to games, or even joined in the office footy talk on the Monday.
And even today… where the Tiger momentum under Hardwick and Gale now is becalmed and drifting.
Still a Tiger.
Still backing the club, even at a distance.
You don’t ever lose that deep-seated love for Richmond. True Tigers don’t ever leave.
“These are not dark days… “
‘The Bull’ has died, long live ‘The Bull’. Richo turned 40 – and the footy, it’s started. Good football is good football, and good writing is good writing. Richmond fan Tess Pryor last year wrote this piece and published it in The Footy Almanac. It needs sharing; as a tribute to Richo and his father, but also to further honour the shared respect we have for once-were footballers.
Tess is a Tiger woman who 21 years ago, inexplicably, married a Shinboner. He’s a Painter and Docker (from the Melbourne rock band, not the former waterfront union), from a third generation North Melbourne family who’ve never strayed too far from Errol Street. But he does have a soft spot for the Tiges, just as Tess has a “huge maternal crush” on Anthony Miles. (Nothing wrong with that).
We’re also big fans on the shared football conversation that is the www.footyalmanac.com.au. It was established by one of Australia’s best sports writers, John Harms, as an arena for others to voice the way we think about football. It is a collective storytelling. John is a historian by trade, with a generous spirit, and a wide smile. But he does have some personal issues we must warn you about. He likes Cats. He barracks for Geelong. He knows not what is best for him.
He needs to talk to Tess.
I loved Richo at first sight. I loved his youthful flush, his passion, his tantrums, his gazelle-like grace and his enormous cock-ups.
Having him in the side guaranteed that the entertainment would exceed the admission price. He would either bring us to glorious rapture or get himself tangled up in a comedy of errors. Or both. In the same quarter.
He was Richo. He was ours, he had breathtaking talent but at the same time, he was one of us. He was fallible but he tried his guts out over and over again to make it up to us.
And in doing so he would either kick a bag or kick it out on the full. He’d do his knee, come back and make All-Australian. He never shirked, never played dirty and never ignored the kiddies.
The 2008 Brownlow count nearly changed everything. It was the best telly ever. Everyone wanted him to win. We all cheered every vote and screamed when he hit the lead. In our hearts we knew what was going to happen –we are used to finishing ninth afterall – but he was Richo and he didn’t need a medal around his neck. We all already knew – he was and always would be fairest and best.
I inadvertently stalked Richo for ten years. And I’m pretty sure he had no idea.
In 1995, my husband and I made an unexpected move from St Kilda to North Carlton. Our sudden relocation to Blues territory did not sit well with me. But, the Universe has a funny way sometimes of putting you in the right place at the right time.
Our housewarming coincided with my birthday – Grand Final Day 1995 – Carlton thrashed Geelong, Greg Williams won the Norm Smith and the area was jumping.
Weeks and months went by and we fell in love with Carlton and surrounds. We walked around Princes Park every day and loved the proximity of Optus Oval for pre-season and real games.
One Sunday night we saw a pony-tailed, coltish Richo outside La Porchetta’s in Rathdowne Street with his mates (one played for Carlton can’t remember his name). I couldn’t believe Richo was in my ‘hood!
Shortly after, he popped up regularly in various places at various times in the area. I even saw him playing golf once in boardies at dusk at Royal Park.
These random sightings were just like Richo – always unpredictable but always a tonic for a weary heart.
One day, walking to the shops, the world as I knew it, changed. I noticed a man in shorts and a singlet sitting on his front porch. His knees were swollen and he moved gingerly like a bloke whose body had been smashed around in a younger life. He had a very distinctive face and huge lips. I knew immediately who he was.
It was Bull.
He literally lived around the corner from us. I had never known the Universe to be this kind.
Over the next few years I had to walk past Mr and Mrs Richo’s house daily for work and play. I saw Richo many, many times. Mother’s Day. Christmas Day. Some Sundays. Probably his birthday.
Once I saw him kissing his mum goodbye at her gate. I was walking about 50 metres away laden with groceries. I panicked and crossed onto a traffic island to avoid having to walk past them as it would have been too overwhelming to be that close to him. He got into his (Richmond sponsored) Nissan Pathfinder, drove around a roundabout and tooted his mum. At the exact time he tooted I was directly lined up with him, on the traffic island.
It looked like he had tooted me.
He saw me and looked mortified. I saw his reaction and looked mortified. In a locked look that lasted all of two seconds he tried to let me know he hadn’t tooted me and I tried to let him know that I knew who the toot was intended for.
I ran home balancing my groceries, my heart was racing. Richo hadn’t tooted me and only he and I knew it! Richo and I had shared a moment!
Time went by and we eventually moved just west of Princes Park. I heard the Richo’s moved out to the ‘burbs.
Today, there are no Richo street sightings. But, in his honour we have a vine on a brick wall outside our bathroom window festooned with the cardboard Richo masks the Herald-Sun produced in 2010 for his send off in the season opener against Carlton.
In this way, without him knowing, he is always with us.
I really loved Richo the footballer. But over those years I got a tiny glimpse of Richo the son, the friend and the man. Loving him got even easier.
P.S. We have a confession to make. We’ve got a Richardson old golf putter – we “souvenired” it one local hard rubbish night.