Anzac Eve, 24 April 2021
I haven’t been to the footy since we flogged the Giants in the Grand Final in 2019. Mum was still alive then and we chatted on the phone in the long hours before the first bounce and she left me a voicemail at the end of the game saying she thought we’d played pretty well. She didn’t have her own team but liked her children’s teams to win. I still have that voicemail on my phone.
The build-up is good, the minute’s silence, the Last Post. The silence in particular is really good, we need more moments like that. As the solemnities end and the loud, crappy music fills the void I realise that I’ve forgotten to set the tape. So my notes will have to be good.
The loud music reminds me of something that I felt a lot of last year – relief. I didn’t have to think about going or not going to the footy. I didn’t have to endure this crap at the game I love. Still, there was a downside to the global pandemic and I mustn’t forget that.Embed from Getty Images
The game starts well for us. Melbourne’s first attack goes out on the full. Richmond rebound and Shedda kicks a point. Petracca tackles Dusty and pushes him out of bounds and wins a free. Then we get another point before Riewoldt soccers a brilliant goal. Toby wins a free for deliberate out of bounds and his kick manages to hit both goal posts but only one behind is registered. This seems unfair, although no doubt within the letter of the rules.
Riewoldt gets another and we’re looking all right. Cotchin sets up Graham for a likely goal but his kick falls short. Salem gets a point for the Dees, then they get another one and then a goal which is followed by an embarrassing light show, the whole stadium bathed in red and blue. Wow, I’m so impressed. This would make me come to the footy again. I feel in my bones that at the next RFC home game I go to I’ll have to suffer through the same thing, but worse, as it will be our club shaming itself in lights.
Shedda, who is playing well, bravely marks a clearing kick and goals from 30 out. But Melbourne are looking better and their Pickett kicks well to Fritsch who marks and goals. The light show again makes me long for lock-down. The quarter ends and the spruiker reminds us that we’re at the footy, tells us which teams are playing and what the score is. I’m so grateful to him. Contested possessions are 39 each.
Quarter time score: Melbourne 2.2 to Richmond 3.3Embed from Getty Images
Although we’ve paid $45 each to sit in the top deck of the Olympic Stands – not bad seats at all, really, but 20 rows from the front – the bays either side of the Richmond Cheer Squad at the City End are almost empty. I do not understand the AFL at all.
The scoreboard tells me that Short has had 8 touches and I’ve barely noticed him. That says more about me than him. But it’s a big ground with a big cast and it’s easy to miss things.
There is light rain at the break and we’re glad we’re under cover. The game restarts and Lambert misses with a set shot. Bolton seems to be very busy and our Pickett misses from 48. We are attacking a lot but can’t kick a goal. Short concedes a deliberate out-of-bounds from a good way out and Neale-Bullen kicks a very good goal. The quarter is half-gone and we lead by a point. Tom McDonald takes a strong mark and goals from 45 out on a tight angle and the Dees are in front.
Shedda misses from 40 after taking a mark and McDonald kicks another and the Dees are up by 11. They are using the ball better than us and their attacking moves are holding together while ours come unstuck. The Dees get another, making it five in a row and they lead by 17. Dusty has been very quiet and so are our supporters.
Half-time score: Melbourne 6.6.42 to Richmond 3.7.25
Early in the third Melbourne attack and an outnumbered Pickett almost pulls off a miraculous spoil. But he doesn’t and we’re 23 down. And then five goals down and I’m comparing us to Adelaide in the third quarter in the 2017 Grand Final. We just don’t know what to do. Nothing we try to do seems to work and Melbourne have the ball on a string.Embed from Getty Images
After 14 minutes Shedda kicks our first goal in about an hour of footy. Our last five minutes have been good. Our pressure has lifted and we could still do this. But we need another one or two before the last break.
Melbourne attack again. Pickett is again outnumbered and again nearly manages to pull off a great spoil but he gets Neal-Bullen high who goals from close range and we’re five goals down again. We respond well with one of our best moves of the night. Graham kicks into the 50, Toby handpasses to Aarts who goals.
But the Dees have all the answers and Tom McDonald marks almost on the goal line and it’s 30 points once more. They’ve matched our pressure and are killing us in execution. Well, of course they are.
Broad, who is playing well, kicks into the 50 and Shai takes a great mark and kicks a point from 30 out. It’s not our night.
Three-quarter time score: Melbourne 10.8 to Richmond 5.8Embed from Getty Images
I don’t think we can win from here but we could at least make it hard for them. My great wish is that the Dees don’t just walk away with it.
My wish is granted, more or less. We lose by 34 points, meaning the last quarter was close, at least. We kick 1.4 to 2.2 for the quarter. Petracca seals the win in the first minute putting us six goals down. People are talking about him being the next Dusty and tonight he is. Our Dusty has not been seen since the main break and we have to assume he is injured. But the scoreboard and our phones tell us nothing.
Aarts takes a good mark from Cotchin’s kick but misses from 25 metres. Broad and Baker continue to play well. Lynch kicks out on the full. He’s had a bad night, but he’s not alone. I’m beginning to worry that we’ll lose by a lot. Their Pickett kicks a point and we rebound and Lynch kicks a point. Finally Shai gets one after Lynch passes to him. We’re down 29 points and 13 minutes have gone. In the wet that is a mountain to climb.
Bolton takes another mark and kicks a point from 25 out on a tight angle. As seems to happen when we lose to Melbourne on Anzac Eve, there is an altercation on the Melbourne forward line which leads to a down-field free to their Pickett who goals from 25 out. The Dees supporters go nuts and there’s a second free, of course, before the ball is bounced. Luckily Oliver misses this one from 30 out.
I just want us to kick one goal so that we win the quarter but we don’t get it. Bolton has a chance but misses the lot. At last the siren goes and we’ve only lost by 34 points. And it’s only Melbourne, which doesn’t hurt half so much as losing to Collingwood and it’s only April, it’s not like a prelim final.
Final score: Melbourne 12.10.82 to Richmond 6.12.48Embed from Getty Images
Still, it hurts. We’re mortal after all. Dusty had been written up in The Age this very morning for his indestructability. He’s barely been injured in a dozen seasons. But he’s injured now all right.
Not time to panic though. We lost to Geelong by 12 goals in the middle of 2019 and looked like a non-finals team.
Best players for us had names starting with B – Baker, Broad, Bolton. Also Short might have played well but I kept not noticing him. Toby played well too, although from our high seats I may have mixed him up sometimes with Balta. Between them they played all right. Shedda too, he kept us in it for a good while.
Easy game against the Dogs this Friday night.
On Sunday night I drop my phone in the water while doing the dishes and listening to a podcast about the AIDS Angel of Arkansas.