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.