Saturday night 3rd August 2019
Saturday was my birthday but I was not at the ‘G but at the Recital Centre for a performance of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. This is a piece of music I cannot tire of and, it being my birthday, I had to go. So far as I can remember this was the second time I’d been to see a professional orchestra. You can see why tickets are expensive – the crowd is under a thousand and there’s fifty players on the stage. So many mouths to feed.
Anyway, the music moved me to tears and I had no regrets about missing this game of footy. When we got home, I settled on the couch and watched the second half on the tape. Days later I re-watched the whole game and now, having written about Handel and having tried, and failed, to link him to my beloved Tigers, I had better get down to business.
This is Tom Lynch’s 150th game and it so happens that Richmond’s ladder position, games won, points for and against, are almost identical to how they were in round 20 in 2017. Melbourne have won only five games all year. What’s happened to our fellow prelim final losers?
A clue to the dysfunction of their club is the strange rock guitar which sounds out as their players gather before the banner and run through it. It’s not until the banner is in tatters and the players are warming up that “It’s a Grand Old Flag” is belted out over the PA. If you can’t get the song to play at the right time…
The first VFL game I ever went to was this fixture in May 1973 when my family came down from Canberra to buy a brand-new Falcon 500 station wagon with a dual action tailgate. It was the biggest and the brownest car ever made in Australia. We stayed one night on Lygon Street and the next night with some friends in Burwood or somewhere. They barracked for Melbourne so they took us to the ‘G to see their boys take on the likes of Hart, Bourke and Bartlett. I was fickle and barracked for whoever was winning. Richmond won and they became my team and won the flag that year the next and this was perfectly normal.
So, things could have turned out differently. I like Melbourne’s colours and I love their song and I’m so glad they lost that game 46 years ago and that I don’t barrack for them. I would take our years of pain over theirs any day.
Back to Tom Lynch. Does he have a good nick-name yet? For want of anything better I’m going to call him Bluey, for this reason – his initials are TL which sounds like “teal” which is a shade of blue, if I’m not mistaken.
Bluey has played every game this year after missing most of the pre-season and I’ve liked every game I’ve seen him in. He’s big and skilful, works hard, does what he has to do and does it bloody well. And for such a big player he’s incredible in the rain.
This is also the 500th game for the umpire Shane McInerny. He is 48 years old and is ageing well in a stressful job. So 500 games is quite an achievement and his family have made a banner for him – yes, a banner for an umpire. Now that’s going straight to the pool room.
The Tigers score first when Houli passes well to Riewoldt who finds Bolton who hits the post from 30 metres out. Then Riewoldt marks on an angle and centres to George 25 metres out. He goes back and kicks it because his terrible set-shot days are a distant memory. Five minutes have gone and we lead 1.1 to nothing.
Grimes is playing on Lewis except that it’s the other way around. Lewis is playing on him, the commentators say, to keep him quiet. People are waking up to what a champ Grimesy is. Early in the quarter he gives away a free for a hold and Lewis kicks the goal. After the hold against Betts in the second quarter of the GF which he got away with – he practically had him in a half-Nelson for several seconds – Grimes can never complain about umpiring. And so far as I can see, he never does.
Then the Dees get another goal after a goal-mouth scramble and it’s 1.1 to 2.0 and Melbourne are having a good spell. Jones gets the ball to Bayley Fritsch who scores and it’s 1.1 to 3.0.
Bolton lays a great tackle on Jones to show he’s no show-pony but a real Richmond grafter. Castagna weaves through the defence and sets up Martin who misses. Then Lambert – I’m almost certain but the commentators don’t name him and multiple replays on the telly don’t reveal his number – finds a bit of space and passes perfectly to Chol on a strong lead. He goals from 30 out on a 45-degree angle. Chol’s set-shots are very good.
The set-up was classic Lambert. My daughter says he is the most under-rated player in the AFL. He was picked up by the Tigers in his fifth draft, or something ridiculous. And he’s just worked and worked and worked and now he’s a bloody good player in a bloody good team.
The Dees get a point and Martin kicks a point after gathering well. Riewoldt is held but doesn’t get a free and doesn’t sook about it because he just doesn’t. That’s not the Richmond way. From a boundary throw-in Rioli smothers the footy, Graham gathers and goals and it’s 3.1 a piece with a couple of minutes left.
Richmond attack again but with too many handpasses and Bolton kicks another point and we’re a point up at the first break.
At the start of the second Riewoldt wins a down-field free and misses the easy shot. Viney is very composed at the other end and passes to Kyle Dunkley who goals from 45 out. The Dees have so many very good players and their ladder position is a mystery.
Edwards is very composed as he clears the ball from defence. I get a lot of pleasure watching him play, he’s another of the great under-rateds. Bolton marks and kicks to Lynch who marks and goals from 51 meters out, almost on the boundary. He’s our Bluey all right.
Grimes takes a big mark on the wing and Baker takes a highly unlikely contested grab in a pack of players. He’s five-eight in the old money, one of the smallest players going around. Riewoldt spills what would have been a very good mark, Martin gathers and handpasses to Caddy who snaps from an angle and goals. Caddy’s happy knack of kicking goals when we need them – all right, when don’t we need them? – is returning.
Bluey gets another for us after a scramble in the forward line but Fritsch gets one back for the Dees from an out-on-the-full free. With five minutes left Angus Brayshaw takes a very brave mark and goals and we’re only two points up when we had seemed to be running away with it. Bolton marks from a Prestia kick but misses from 30 and he doesn’t have his goal-kicking boots on tonight.
At half-time it’s 6.5 to 6.2 and Gawn is very happy as well he might be. He’s playing a blinder and his team-mates are doing well and going in hard. Shedda says in a half-time interview that he thinks Richmond are being beaten.
At half-time it starts to rain and as everyone learned last week from the Collingwood game, the Tigers love the wet. At the start of the third Houli passes to the beardless Lambert who marks and goals from the 50. He’s having another good game and another good season to go with many before. But Lewis pulls one back for the Dees with a Higgins-like bicycle kick in the goal-square and there’s only a half a goal in it.
Edwards glides past three defenders and kicks into the behind post, but not on the full. From the boundary throw-in Soldo sees the ball dropping short, steps forward and soccers it, on the full, through for a goal. Take that Dees! You thought Lewis was clever!
Another perfect pass from Dusty finds Riewoldt who kicks a point from the 50. Gawn takes yet another mark and is having a big game. Then Dusty gathers and kicks to Bolton who marks and kicks to Graham who marks in the pocket. The young feller – Graham that is – goes back and kicks from about 45 out on a tight angle. It’s almost, but not quite, as hard as Lynch’s earlier effort but Graham can do anything and he kicks it. He’s back to his late 2017 form which is a good thing for us.
Richmond lead 60 to 44 and the inside 50s for this quarter are nine to one. In the teeming rain Grimes soars for a great defensive mark on the wing. Presti sends the ball forward laces out to Lynch who marks. He kicks from 40 and the kick is high, straight and long and suddenly the Tigers are 29 in front with the third term nearly over.
Three-quarter time score: Richmond 11.9.75 to 7.4.46
At the start of the last Fritsch is gifted a goal for an Astbury “strike” against a Melbourne player. I love Astbury and discovered the night we beat Collingwood that I’m related quite closely to him. He goes out with the daughter of my brother-in-law’s cousin. Yep, we’re family. So I’m glad that the ‘’strike” had, as they say, “not much in it” and he doesn’t get reported.
Halfway through the last quarter Richmond are 25 points up and inside 50s for the game are 60-30 our way. The game feels lifeless. The crowd is small at the ‘G on this wet night and the result seems to be foregone. Rioli wins a free 35 out for a good tackle, but misses. Dusty marks a long way out as the Dees clear from defence. He goals from 55 out. Our marking and kicking in the wet weather is simply amazing. It’s as if it has to rain for the players to show how truly skilled they are.
Dunkley wins a free for high contact against Grimes and kicks the goal. We’re 28 up and there’s seven minutes left. Houli passes to Butler who marks and passes to Bolton. Shai kicks from 25 and finally gets one and we’re five goals up again. We get a rushed point just before the end and win by 33.
There’s a little ceremony at the end as the players form a guard of honour for McInerney the umpire. This is a nice touch and I love how much chit-chat – of the friendly kind – there is between players of different teams. It is just a game, after all. Interviewed by Richo, Houli agrees he’s playing the most consistent footy of his career, which is saying something, really. But what’s really heartening is to hear some booing as McInerney walks off between the lined-up players. I may be immature, but that strikes me as funny.
It’s been a solid win against the Dees. As everyone keeps saying, they’re a lot better than their ladder position and they beat us in the first half. Had it not rained, who knows what might have happened? It would have been good to have won by more and boosted the percentage but at the end of the day I’m proud of the boys, happy to get the four points and still taking it a week at a time.
Best players: Lynch, Houli, Lambert, Edwards, Grimes, Prestia, Vlaustin, Astbury. But as usual, very hard to pick them out.
Benny Votes by Chris
Lynch 5, Houli 4, Lambert 3, Martin 2, Edwards 1
Stack, Prestia 18
Cotchin, Bolton 7
Baker, Broad 4
Astbury, Ross, Naish 2
Graham, Rioli, Balta 1
Blair Hartley Appreciation Award:for players who have joined Richmond from another club
(Eligible 2019: Caddy, Grigg, Houli, Lynch, Nankervis, Prestia, Townsend and Weller)
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)
Ross, Naish 2
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