We wish them well; we wish them a safe journey.
We wish Tyrone Vickery to stand tall and resolute this season. We wish Anthony Miles further courage in the packs. We wish Bachar Houli’s left foot to be blessed forevermore. We wish all the best for fatherhood for our captain and his wife. We wish Lids to have a safe and healthy baby boy (purely for father-son considerations).
We wish Alex would commit, to us. We wish Jack to run amok. We wish Dusty – our football warrior, our very own Tiger dragon slayer – each week puts his opponents to the sword.
We wish for no injuries, we wish for their rude health. We wish Dave Astbury – a genial bloke from wheat and wool country, playing his junior footy in a land-locked league – we wish he had not dipped a toe into Port Phillip Bay and introduced himself to a stingray.
We wish for a season out of the box; for “our boys” to quietly go about their business in big games under lights, and for the whole city to again consume itself with the story of Richmond.
We wish each player who plays for us Tigers, for this fleeting moment of their lives when they are young and at the peak of their physical fitness, when they are asked to shoulder so many of our desires and expectations, when they become household names and objects of our wonderment – we wish for them to be the best footballers they can be. We wish for their fulfilment. We wish our joy brings them happiness. We wish them not to be burdened by fear of failure, but to be freed by the beauty of the game.
We wish them this winter to be angels on our shared field of dreams.
Truth is, us Richmond people do not so much mind every loss. Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to all the ways a game of football can be given up. This, for now, has been our lot in life. It is part of our story. It is who we are. If nothing else, it has taught us humility.
There was no shame last year, for instance, in losing to Gold Coast away in the warm tropics in March, nor in the loss to Geelong in the wet at the MCG. If there is passion in the losing, if there is courage and bravery in defeat, we cannot ask for nor expect anything more. All we wish for is that our boys love and honour the jumper as much as we do.
Our colours are our sacrament, and our belief in them is our belief in you.
We also understand and appreciate the sacrifices. So many of us think so often about the pain, exhaustion, fatigue and the doubt – always the doubt – that comes with such a brutal contest. On the railway line we see you training on Punt Road Oval under the blunt summer sun, and can hardly imagine the hurt that comes with playing this game at such an elite level.
We respect you, we admire you. Each and all of you can do things on that football field that raise our spirits and lift our hearts. Not all of you can turn a game like Jack can, but not all of you need to. A punch, a smother, a bump, a shepherd; we see these things, we take note, we know what it means.
Most of all we love it when you have the ball and the ball sings and all are involved and the team plays as one and you are untouchable. It is no time to gloat, but it is a time to savour. When the football is beautiful, life is beautiful. When we take on the game, and when all that we touch turns to gold, there is nothing more perfect than being a Richmond barracker.
We do not know you, but it doesn’t stop us wishing all the best for all of you. Let all of us have a year to remember; a season of pride and honour, and respect, and untrammelled pleasure in seeing what a group of 22 young men can do on a grassed field, where all of us gather to marvel in your exploits.
Olive branches have been offered to Tiger Tiger Burning Bright in this off-season, which is wonderful news. The club hierarchy have given me an opportunity: to write a weekly profile of a Richmond fan, to be published on the club’s website each Wednesday. Please look out for them and spread these stories to all Tigers you know.
My great hope is that in sharing these remarkable voices in the crowd, it somehow makes our football club an even better place. It makes it even more inclusive. It makes it even more accepting. It makes it even more understanding of what it means to be a Tiger.
A football game is nothing without the crowd, and the only crowd that matters for us is a Richmond crowd.
It’s a social project, a community project, that I hope brings people together. I hope also, in the smallest possible way, it may just help the football team we all hold dear.
Football is a game of numbers, and percentages, and set plays, and statistics. But it’s also a game of emotions; it is played in the heart as much as in the head. It’s a game of belief, a game of confidence.
Why couldn’t the stories of us fans make a difference? Why couldn’t our voices in the crowd – our stories of what it means to be from Tigerland – help inspire what happens on the ground?
Every little thing helps, and here is our chance to be in the spotlight, to be on a level playing field with those we go to such lengths to support and see play.
Thank you to all TTBB readers who submitted photographs of themselves as children, in their footy jumpers, republished on this blog post. Bob Murphy, the football sage and Footscray’s new captain, said he would find a childhood photo of himself in his Richmond jumper but, alas, none has been forthcoming. If any others have old photos of themselves in their footy woolknit to share (and we always do enjoy the yellow and black a little more, but it’s not essential), please do email them in. See the address below.
Chris Rees, a freelance graphic designer in Hobart who’s other significant half of TTBB, has been busy this past week reconfiguring the website that is our very homespun social project. Thank you Chris, for all your efforts, and for the continued glory that is his Virtual Duffle Coat (which over summer had vice-regal consent!). For both of us, of course, this is a labour of love. Our Tiger T-shirt and hoodie fundraising drive last year was a success (although still two XL hoodies for sale!) and reimbursed all our out-of-pocket expenses for running this website for the past two seasons.
To keep us going for this year and next, we’ve expanded our range of TTBB fundraising merchandise. Please keep us in mind when next buying a birthday gift for your favourite Tiger. But be warned, some of the items prrrrr.
Andy Fuller in the Netherlands will continue to contribute words this season, and other ‘players’ are likely to join the fray as the season unfolds. And of course, TTBB readers are always invited to submit any Tigerish writings, poetry, artwork, love letters, etc. We like to share (unless, of course, correspondence is offered in confidence).
This season I will write only the occasional match report. I’ve purchased a three-game membership, so it may only be three games I attend this year. The past two seasons are over, and with it a part of my life. I need to do other things. Find another way to help pay the bills. And I really ought to put my head down and write something that I hope one day our two young children might be proud of. Each of us have our little life ambitions.
So this season, my offerings will be a traditional ‘blog’; you know, one of those things where people post a few pics and a few words and keep it short and simple. I’m calling it The Tiger Diaries, and it’ll be my unedited musings and stream-of-consciousness about my travels on my bicycle through Tigerland this year.
I hope to find time to visit the cheer squad at its banner making, and see the occasional open training session, and explore a few of the old laneways of old Struggletown.
Please join me from time to time. And make contact with me, and become part of the conversation. We never know where it might lead.
Wishing all TTBB much happiness this season with whatever our Gods of football bring.
Tiger tiger burning bright (this Thursday night)
And coming soon to Facebook once I work out how it works.