The Red and Blue mob are still be waving their Grand Old Flag in a state of delirium. And we don’t begrudge them the pleasure ‘cause we know what that feels like. There are so many apparent parallels between the Dees of ’21 and the Tiges of ’17 in their rapid rise and redemption. Simon Goodwin voices the same epiphany that turned Dimma around. The talk of team-culture, deep camaraderie and self-belief sounds very familiar. And Christian Petracca really did put on an amazing Dusty Martin impersonation in the big game, didn’t he?
This football season just concluded was another strange one. For the parts that coincided with Melbourne lockdown it did provide welcome distraction and entertainment, just like the one before, even if it didn’t offer the same exquisite pleasures for us Tiger supporters.
The velocity of our team’s crash back to earth took me by surprise. It is weird how quickly one adjusts to following a top-of-the-table team, and it’s not an easy thing to relinquish. A terrible run of injuries was a large part of the cause but, still, it was alarming to see the wheels fall off the juggernaut so quickly. And who can say whether season 2022 will bring resurrection or stagnation? Anything can happen. Aside from Gold Coast FC, which I still can’t take seriously, the competition is really quite even. Most clubs have potential to take the fast elevator ride from middling under-achiever to serious premiership contender. Barring another catastrophic injury run, I think the Tigers are well placed to bounce back. Some of our older blokes are close to the end but we have some great players in their prime years and some promising new ones coming through. I reckon that Ross, Collier-Dawkins and Hugo-Smith are the safest bets in this latter category but there’s scope for others to stake a claim too. The compromised second-tier competition this year and last made it so much more difficult for players to step in at the top level. Hopefully next year will be better in that regard.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
I managed to watch two games at the MCG in real-life in season 2021, encapsulating the good and the bad of our season. I saw the Tiges storm home with a wet sail against the previously undefeated Bulldogs in round 7. We still seemed vaguely like a champion team at that stage of the season, with the added bonus of Shai Bolton looking like a break-out superstar. But then in round 17 I witnessed the unedifying spectacle of demolition by Collingwood in the final quarter. Our team looked shot. And losing to the Pies hasn’t become any less horrible as the years roll on.
For me, the best game of the season was actually one that we lost narrowly, against Port Adelaide in round 4. Such a high-quality contest between two sides playing great football, and neither deserved to lose. The game that we lost by a mere skerrick against the Wet Toast later in the season was a cracker too, although harder to take pleasure in because of our team’s woeful capitulation in the final ten minutes. The win against Brisbane on the occasion of Jack Riewoldt’s 300th game was a season highlight too, although soured by Dusty’s ruptured kidney. And I shouldn’t forget to mention the final six minutes of our season, where we suddenly woke from our slumber and kicked several quick goals to snatch a draw with the Turd-birds. That was fun to watch.
The lows? The aforementioned capitulation to Collingwood is up there on the list. But I think that fortnight where our team was demolished by St Kilda and then trounced by Gold Coast was the nadir. Both those games were truly demoralising. And I think the game against Freo, where our only goal for the entire first half was one kicked by mistake by Rhyan Mansell, deserves a special mention too. Shocking. But then I guess we move on, preferring not to dwell too long on such indignities.Embed from Getty Images
We’ll miss David Astbury and Bachar Houli in season 2022. But we look forward to welcoming back Ivan Soldo, Noah Balta, Nathan Broad, Dustin Martin, Dion Prestia and Shane Edwards, all in better health. And then who knows what might happen? Hope springs eternal, in a yellow-and-black jumper.