Tuesday morning: drop Mr Six-year-old at school (forget his bag, return for that), catch a train to Richmond. Meeting Gavin Juchnevicius (Mr Digital) at Punt Road Oval, talking about fans. Players are on the oval, training. See a TV camera on a tripod on the platform at Richmond Station; filming surreptitiously? Carlton spies?
Hedgerow of black JEEPs in car park. I push stroller beneath English elms into Yarra Park, Mr Two-year-old sings “yellow and black” and “oh, we’re from Tigerland”.
Makes me smile.
Going up ramp into the offices, he says: “Dad, sing the North Melbourne song.”
An aunt of his has much to answer for.
And so seasons turn, and with it come new hopes and desires. From autumn’s equinox, through to a half-point of spring, we hope to travel on an arc that might be remembered forever.
Young men, a game, a shared belief; and Richmond.
Some things go without saying, but need now be said. These men who pull on the colours of our team and show us bravery, courage and honour, we want only the best for them, in football and in life. We want them to succeed at what they do, because in doing so they take us elsewhere. The narrow upset win that’s better than sex, the run for a premiership that might be better than anything we’ve known in our mortal lives. When “our boys” are on song, working as one, when all goes our way, when the crowd at the Punt Road end of the MCG roars in primordial delight, the football is king and nothing else matters. We float into the night, returning to our everyday lives, our feet unsullied by the mud of winter.
We think about what the players have given us; a pleasure, inspiration, the confidence to try and be who we want to be. The football is everything.
“For some this was a carnival of pleasure,” wrote Manning Clarke, an inveterate Carlton man (boo! hiss!) of the attraction of our code, in his epic saga, A History of Australia. “Two-and-a-half hours of excitement which lived on in the minds for weeks to come.”
This is how it is being a barracker, and how it is being Richmond.
Forget the last three years, and the three before that. On Thursday night it all starts anew. Don’t fear loss. Think only of all the possibilities of winning. Think of the beauty that can be had in the game.
Be proud of who you are, but also humble and magnanimous in victory. There is nothing more boring than a braggart – in the crowd, or on the field.
Think of Anthony Miles, the sort of no-fuss footballer he is, what he contributes to the team and to a cause. Think of Jack, and how he can rouse all around him, inspiring with his passion and courage. Think of Kane Lambert, and the road he’s travelled to share a stage with household names. Think of where each of you has come from, and where you want to go; together, as footballers, as young men, as family.
You share this time in your lives, as we share our time with you. The bond is of mutual benefit.
News from the Tiger tiger burning bright home office: I’m half-way through a non-fiction book manuscript about barracking, and Richmond, and belonging. When I told my brother of this book project, his response: “great, it’ll come ninth on the best-seller list”.
He barracks for Essendon. Pity his year.
Many who have shared their stories with me are part of this book. It is, in many ways, a collaborative project; a group effort, as a game of football must be. On Wednesday I rode my bicycle to the Fitzroy Gardens to meet with historian Geoffrey Blainey (a Cats man) to talk about football. The other month I caught a train to Footscray West and walked to Joffa’s house (Collingwood, of course) for a cuppa tea and more footy talk. It is a broad church, our game. But mostly, I preach Richmond.
I will try this season to write regular short blogs, but no guarantees. We have two young boys, and I need to complete this book manuscript, and blog writing is – sigh – a labour of love. If any benefactors wish to support this project, please let me know. I have approached our football club to see if they might publish a blog – support a writer who supports them – but it’s not in their business plan. I’ve not heard back.
Still, I’ve a handshake agreement to write the fan profiles again – ‘Oh, we’re from Tigerland’ – so that’s good. They pay me for this work. It makes me happy. I hope it makes others happy, too.
I’ve not abandoned my colours, and I’ve certainly not given up on our team. In Nick Vlastuin I have complete faith, and when Dusty or Lids get the ball my heart still skips a beat. And I love seeing how the new blokes go about it; seeing if they can find a way into the team, and then keep that spot.
It’s a ruthless business, football, survival of the fittest.
Close my eyes and I dream of what might happen. It is a long road, but it must be taken. There is no valour in giving up, in opting out. Others have come before you and tried, and the opportunity has come and gone. Chris Newman spoke with tears in his eyes when announcing his retirement. His ache was real and true. Think of Kingy and Jacko and Tucky and Nathan Foley, and how each of them has hurt for the cause, with hearts filled with desire, but how for each the dream fell short. They no longer have the chance. Best they can do now is to join us, in hoping for the best for you.
Our lives are short. Play with a passion and respect for the game; play for each other and in doing so you play for us. Think of the opportunities you have created for yourselves and do not squander them. Make the sacrifices, and all the rewards will come. Put your hand up if you need help. All of us hope for no injuries. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance in the most unlikely places. Seek inspiration not just from the football, but from all around you. Find beauty in the game. Play with an open heart.
And all season long we will be on the other side of the fence, barracking, believing in you.
Close my eyes and I think if each plays his part, if so much goes our way, on our day none can beat us. All of us know this, and think this, and trust in this. We have seen if before, in the rain and the dry, at home and away, under lights and in the lowering of the winter sun.
Now it is time for us – Richmond – to show the whole city what we can do, and then do it in late September.
We would walk to the end of the earth and back again for you, Richmond.
We will get down on our knees for you, Richmond.
On Thursday night you will mean everything to us, Richmond.
Do us proud Tigers, do us proud.
Go forth and vanquish.
Tiger tiger burning bright
Need a graphic design job done? Contact Rees Design