Dreamtime at the ‘G
For the first time in living memory it is raining when we leave the house. We make a great decision and switch from the tram to the train at Northcote. There is a brief break from the rain and when we make the switch we don’t get too wet. At the station there is a good crowd of footy folk although the start of the game is well over an hour off. We hope we’ll be in time to get in with our general admission memberships.
At Jolimont it’s raining again and we’re very glad we’re not stomping all the way across the gardens, as we would have been had we stayed on the tram. It doesn’t take too long to get in to the ground and we find a good spot in M9. Not perfect- that would be against the fence, giving us something to lean on – but one row back from there.
It’s less than an hour before the first bounce and we’re very glad to be out of the wet. We eat hot chips which are not too bad at all and then we’re told that the pre-match ceremony will be cancelled on account of the rain.
Then the Long Walkers begin filing into the ground and around the boundary. They look like ghosts in their shimmering ponchos. Michael Long leads the way with a tall man next to him who frequently drapes his arm across Longy’s shoulders. It turns out to be Gillon McLachlan. Longy and the other walkers get a good reception and soon enough the game is about to start and there is in fact a bit of a ceremony which is very good, with dancers representing each team facing each other, in front of the players, as they all line up in the pouring rain. Sydney Stack joins in the Richmond dance.
After this very moving celebration of Indigenous culture the AFL or the RFC does what it does so well and shits all over it. We will rock you, by Queen, booms over the PA. Other loud, stomping music takes us from the end of the dance to the first bounce, lest we absorb too much of this moving ceremony and give voice to our own take on it. I don’t know why this corporate atrocity still gets me down – shouldn’t I be used to it by now?
It has rained all through the preliminaries and it’s teeming down still as the game starts. With everyone’s hair plastered down it’s hard to tell Grimes from Broad or Caddy and Garthwaite. Nor does it help that all play very well. In the wet Richmond’s ferocity and skill is something to behold.
Essendon’s sole highlight is when McDonald-Tipungwuti runs down Dusty in a terrific tackle. Dusty’s reaction is telling – he gets up and gets on with it. Despite what some commentators say, he does get caught with the ball quite often, but it doesn’t seem to bother him or his team. He takes the game on and more often than not he gets away with it. That’s what matters.
Goals are very hard to score and the quarter produces just one, by Higgins. I’m feeling that the smallness and the skill of our forwards could be telling in these conditions. Houli and Edwards have been very good.
It’s been very good to keep Essendon goal-less for a quarter, but it would have been better if we’d kicked more than one.
Quarter time score 1.2.8 to 0.3.3
In the second quarter Stringer snaps and misses and we’re pleased. It’s the first of four points and nothing else for the Bombers for the quarter and I feel like we’re getting on top. Liam Baker finds the footy, gathers, makes room for himself and snaps from 45 for a goal. Any one of these steps is hard on a night like this, but his movements are as fluid as the rain.
Prestia out-does him a bit later with a snap from the 50, then he and Rioli miss gettable ones. Liam Baker takes a superb overhead mark as the Tigers move out of defence. The ball simply sticks in his hands as he falls backwards. This on a night when easy chest-marks are dropped by champions. Where did we get these young players from?
Half-time score 4.7.31 to 1.7.13
Vlaustin, who is having yet another good game, gets a very lucky 50 but misses from 45 out. Balta grabs the ball and bombs it from 55 but misses. We don’t care too much, we love how he has a crack at it.
Under siege in the Tiger forward line, Saad is pinged for deliberate-out-of-bounds – the umps have been strict on this tonight – and Castagna kicks a very tricky shot from the pocket.
Houli is involved twice in a brilliant Richmond counter-attack that leads to a Lynch mark and goal. He is now 18.8 from set shots for the year and we love how he goes about things.
Luck is going our way. Saad sprints out of defence and is about to set up a Bomber’s attack when Bolton runs him down. Saad actually gets a fist to the ball but this after he’s bounced it, Baldock or Bartlett-style, just as he’s tackled. The ump is having none of it and whistles for a free. But with all the noise and confusion the Bombers have played on and cop a 50. A bit harsh, but that’s footy. At least when it goes our way, it’s just footy.
Richmond are up by 37 points and the Bombers have kicked one goal and it’s almost three-quarter time and things get even better. Edwards passes perfectly to Castagna who marks in the pocket and will kick from 45. The loudest and most expert barracker in M9 shouts for him to play on. “He’s a hopeless set shot, he should have played on!” More gracious supporters are calling out encouragement to George.
Someone calls out “The sea was very angry that day my friends…” This is a Seinfeld reference from the episode where George had to pretend to be a marine biologist and ended up rescuing a whale. Re-telling the story later in the coffee shop George says, “The sea was very angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to order soup in a deli…”
But I digress. This player who is so hopeless at set shots, apart from the very tricky one he got earlier, goes back and kicks from 45 on a tight angle on a wet night and nails it. Of course he does. “The sea was very angry that day my friends…”
Richmond lead by 43 and Essendon have kicked 1.10 for the game. I have a great desire for us to hold them to one goal for the game. “Even Melbourne Victory scored two goals!” someone yells out.
With six minutes left Caddy passes to the debutant, Callum Coleman-Jones who marks and hits the post from 25 out on 45-degree angle.
Garthwaite is doing well as our new tall defender and Houli has his 31st touch before the last break. Stack, also having a good game, sends a good kick into the forward 50. “Mark of the year!” our loud friend calls out. Bellchambers rises and marks it for Essendon. “Not you, you dickhead!” the loud man calls out.
Essendon rebound and score their second goal just before the quarter ends, although Bolton was unlucky not to hold what would have been a great grab at full-forward not long after. Richmond still lead by 37 points.
Three-quarter time score 8.11.59 to 2.10.22
The weather has cleared up quite a lot and Essendon are suddenly very quick and clean and Richmond start to wobble. Langford kicks off the ground and it’s 30 points, but Higgins marks 40 out and scores and it’s back to 36. That should snuff out the Bombers but the bastards keep coming. Grimes saves us again before Bellchambers marks close in and goals and it’s down to 29 points with not much of the quarter gone.
Grimes is pinged, a bit unluckily, for holding-the-ball and Merrett gets the football to Laverde who marks and goals from 40. The Bombers are starting to believe they can win this and their supporters are finding their voices. Until now I had thought there were actually no Bombers supporters in the ground at all. Well, apart from Longy, I saw him come in.
“Brownlow Hair” Heppell gets the footy to Langford who marks with one hand and goals from 25 out. Our lead is under three goals and we’re seriously panicked with only half the quarter gone. Then Essendon miss their first shot for a while and maybe they won’t do every single thing right from now on. Ambrose misses and it’s 15 points.
Edwards kicks beautifully, again, into the 50 and Menadue almost marks, but doesn’t. Guelfi out-marks McIntosh and Bolton is pinged for running over the mark. Guelfi kicks from outside the 50, across the goals and it goes out for a boundary throw-in. Essendon press hard but Richmond defend well and clear the 50. The loose ball is gathered by Zaharakis who is run down magnificently by Ellis who wins a free.
Richmond attack and Rioli snaps to seal the game for us, but misses. Essendon kick out, Macintosh wins the footy, sends in a huge kick and Rioli soars and marks. Only 28 minutes have gone but the siren sounds already and we’ve won. I’m disappointed for Rioli – I really wanted him to seal the match before it was over. Instead he ices the cake with a very straight kick after the siren and we’ve won by 23.
Full-time score Richmond 10.13.73 to Essendon 6.14.50
A very good win by the Tigers. Essendon did have two players injured – Stringer before half time and Shiel in the last quarter. They also went into the game without Joe Daniher who is done for the season. But our skill and ferocity out-did them when it mattered. And in the last quarter Lynch was on the bench the whole time, as a precaution, Dimma said. The old Tigers would have been over-run in the last, but our boys can take a bit of punishment, sort themselves out and steady the ship.
Houli won the Yiooken award for best on ground and made a lovely speech about how much the game means to him. He is too much the gentleman to say “and thanks to Essendon for letting me go and win a flag and avoid the Drug Scandal.” I suppose some things don’t need to be said. The players all lined up to make a Stand Against Racism, because some things do need to be said.
Houli certainly deserved to win the Yiooken, but I find it very hard to pick outstanding Tigers. They all try so hard and do their jobs so well. Grimes was great again, and Astbury. We just get used to how reliable they are. Ellis had another good game. And the small, new players – Bolton, Stack, Baker – they’re amazing. Sheds led again and I will be genuinely sad when he’s not our captain tomorrow night against the Roos.
Benny Votes by Chris
Houli 5, Martin 4, Edwards 3, Baker 2, Prestia 1
Houli, Martin 15
Stack, Ellis 11
Prestia, Nankervis 5
Cotchin, Broad, Lambert 3
Rioli, Castagna, Balta 1
Blair Hartley Appreciation Award:for players who have joined Richmond from another club
(Eligible 2018: Caddy, Grigg, Houli, Lynch, Nankervis, Prestia, Townsend and Weller)
Prestia, Nankervis 5
Anthony Banik Best First Year Player:for anyone who was yet to debut before round 1
(Eligible 2019: Balta, Coleman-Jones, Collier-Dawkins, Miller, Naish, Ross, Turner, Stack)
Joel Bowden’s Golden Left Boot:for left footers
(Eligible 2019: Chol, Grigg, Nankervis and Houli)
Greg Tivendale Rookie List Medal:
upgraded from the rookie list during the current season
Maurice Rioli Grip of Death Trophy:
For the Tiges top tackler in 2019
Baker, Higgins, Nankervis, Lambert 28