In April this year, our colleague Andy published a footy zine. He says in the introduction; “I’m interested in matters relating to fan activism, the experience and aesthetics of going to games.” He spent about 4 weeks writing it, and then put it together it at home while listening to Beethoven. The end product is beautiful, thoughtful, academic, artistic and very human. He has since put out two more issues. There are hidden corners, pockets and fold-outs. While Andy is an academic and brings that rigour and vocabulary to his writing, he has made his zine fun. Each issue has Richmond-related artwork in it, photos from around the suburb and old newspaper clippings. Issue 3 had a clipping from exactly 100 years back, featuring an interview with an 82-year old Richmond resident. She remembered when the paddock next door was an aboriginal camp, and Bridge Road was a customary track.
Andy’s academic discipline is Indonesian literature; and he brings that interest to his footy in surprising ways. I started by asking about his research.
TTBB: Do you enjoy the research process as well as the results?
Andy: Yes. One of the reasons why I started doing my writing on RFC is that I wanted to approach the Club from a relatively distanced perspective. RFC lives strongly in the minds and imaginations of its supporters. But, I wanted to retrace a range of moments – both trivial and important – in the Club’s recent history through going through newspapers of the 1980s and 1990s. This period is interesting because it marks the decline of the Victorian Football League and its transition into the Australian Football League: there were the threatened mergers, new clubs, new tv deals, and of course, an increased number of Aboriginal players coming into Victorian based clubs. Things move so quickly in the footy world and we’re always being enticed to look forward to next week, or ‘wait till next year’. My aim is to have a critical reading of the recent past and to factor these learnings into how we consider current developments.
What inspired you to make RAUM?
This could be a long answer. Websites and blogs and podcasts are great, but I also felt that it could also be nice to have something papery. And, I didn’t want to only buy the official Australian Football League Record. Although I still buy the Record, I wanted something home-made; something independent. Because I couldn’t find a Richmond related fanzine, I thought I’d just make it myself.
One of my favourite books is Georg Perec’s novel, Life a User’s Manual. It is a detailed description of an apartment block in Paris: he tells the contents of the apartments and the occupants. Although my project is on a very small scale, I want to tell the stories of Richmond: many of which use the Club as its starting point and some of which are only partially related to the club. The Club though is of course more diffuse than just ‘Richmond’. It has supporter groups throughout Australia: this has been smart strategy. Footy clubs have to reach beyond their ‘traditional’ supporter base and get new fans on board. Richmond, the suburb, has also changed significantly over the last 10-15 years. I’m interested in where the two trajectories, of club and suburb meet.
How long does each edition take, and how many copies are you producing?
It’s difficult to say. I would say about two months. When I first started I thought I could do one a month. The problem is, the writing itself takes about one month. Of course, the pieces of writing are not necessarily complex or draw on too much research. The challenge is to be able to combine a variety of discourses and writing styles into the one edition. I’m currently working on the 4th edition: which will incorporate some of the finals related hype.
Are there other Richmond zines being made now? Are there earlier examples anywhere to be seen, eg RFC Museum?
Cheryl Critchley used to make a zine. I think it was quite successful and, if I am not mistaken, she (and her collaborators) were able to raise money for the club through the zine. I haven’t seen any copies of it at the Club’s museum, but, that is the kind of material that should be in the museum. The Museum has scrap-books made by fans, inclusive of clippings etc, but I haven’t seen any zines. It would be great if we could get a better idea of what fans have made over the years.
[I contacted Cheryl to find out more about the Zines Of Old. She confirms they raised $5000 for the club from the six issues of Roar they produced in 1998 and 99. She has sent me so much great stuff I am going to do a post on Cheryl and Roar during the week.]
Does living in Richmond give you a deeper sense of ownership of the club, and a stake in it’s direction (over and above blow-ins from interstate for instance)?
I like this question. My straightest answer is to say ‘no’. The Club belongs to its members, wherever they live. Over the last few years, the Club has significantly grown its membership through very strategic marketing and engagement with Cardiniashire, in the southeast of Melbourne. So, although Swan Street, Lennox St are always rocking after a big Richmond win, and these are the places where the Club has its history, ‘Tigerland’ is dispersed. There is a Richmond diaspora so to speak ☺ Whenever I go into the Museum and am asked by one of the staff, ‘where do you live?’, they always raise their eyebrows when I say, ‘Richmond’.
That being said, my own narrative in being a Richmond fan is very much linked to living in Richmond. That is, I changed to Richmond from another team a while ago. That Richmond is not my first team (nor only team) is not a problem for me. Living in Richmond gives me an ease of access to the Club’s history: I lived in a house that was used by the Club’s players (on Richmond Terrace), I had a suit made from the same tailor as Royce Hart (and no doubt others); I can hear the players’ training from my front door. And, now and then, I bump into players – most of the time I totally ignore them and pretend that I don’t spend a large amount of my nervous energy worrying about their performance. One of my highlights of everyday interactions was Dimma saying to me, ‘sorry mate’ as he got out of the way as I was riding home on my bicycle. He absolutely wasn’t in my way; he was unnecessarily polite ☺
We all have our own narratives as supporters. Some years we follow the Club intensely; sometimes we tune out. Living in Richmond doesn’t mean that I am any more authentic than someone who lives interstate and rarely attends a game. What is most important for me, is that as ‘fans’ or ‘supporters’, is that we support the Club in general, rather than just the team. Players, coaches, administrators come and go throughout our life as fans; the ‘Club’ remains.
A few years ago, you mentioned in an article that there was a culture of casual privilege the other way – of the club over the suburb (players parking on footpath etc). You think that has moderated recently?
Yes. There were times when the players would park their cars on the footpath and in no standing zones. If they were in a group, there was a tendency for the behaviour to be worse. But, this was several years ago; probably during a time when things were a little less well run at the Club. At the same time, though, I occasionally had very relaxed conversations with players such as Shane Tuck and Nathan Foley. The bad behaviour of some players is no doubt an outcome of the tremendous amount of media attention they receive, the huge salaries and the amount of ‘free time’ they have. Fortunately, many of the Clubs within the Australian Football League are doing a lot to moderate this culture. At the same time, many players have no interest in the celebrity culture; they just want to play footy as best they can. And good on them.
Last question: who do you think is the MOST INTERESTING current Richmond player. (I say Houli).
Well, because you have already mentioned Bachar, probably I also shouldn’t in the name of recognising the diversity of Richmond’s playing list ☺. But, let me say, Bachar is a very impressive individual and someone who I would love to have a coffee with, or preferably, dinner with. He is very grounded and presents himself very well. He has brought a lot to the Club: his family and friends, and of course, his Bachar Houli Cup which has been endorsed by the federal government and, I think been given $1 million. Not bad, eh? He speaks so well about what the Club has given him; and in return, he has given back so much. I’m pretty sure he’ll be a supporter of Richmond, long after he has retired. Being a player in such a well-moneyed sport, presents all of sorts of opportunities; not all of which are taken up by players. Bachar fully understands the role he can play in mediating tensions between Melbourne’s diverse communities.
I guess the corporate speak for what he has done, is ‘leveraged’: but I don’t think this is how Bachar himself would describe it. The word in Indonesian, ‘niat’, comes from Arabic, and is also related to the word ‘maksud’ (which also comes from Arabic): it is about having good intentions and making a vow to God. He does it (both playing and his other work) with a great degree of sincerity: ie, keikhlasan – coming from ‘ikhlas’, which also means ‘whole-heartedly’.
I have got a lot out of following Shane Edwards’ trajectory. I admire him as a player and individual. He answers questions honestly and openly: he speaks in his own terms, and doesn’t stay ‘on message’ – whether that be the Club’s or AFL’s official line. In the same manner, I very much enjoyed Jacob Townsend’s speech after he won the Liston award in the VFL. I loved how he answered the questions appropriately and then went off track and would finish with ‘I’m not very good at talking’. It was so honest. But he neither said too much or too little. I empathise with his discomfort in public speaking ☺ and also have a tendency to leave sentences unfinished. He came across as a very gentle individual, and also very focused. This is in contrast to his toughness as a player. So many players contrast with the stereotyped image of footy players as macho, alpha males – Edwards, and Townsend among them.
Although he is no longer a Richmond player, Chris Yarran has shown tremendous resilience in over-coming his drug addiction. I find it interesting that he described how the very expensive, professional treatment he was in for a month, didn’t cure him in the slightest. It was only when he bought-in to his recovery, that he was able to get over it. He was a very good player and most likely an admirable individual, who made a serious mistake by starting to take drugs.
The club is putting an emphasis on developing the players as individuals and as footballers. This is how it should be. Peggy O’Neal, Dimma and Cotch all come across as very balanced and measured individuals and are the right people to set an example. I love the way the team plays the game on-field: they’re increasingly hard and focused, without engaging in rough or violent play.