Our bats are still out and the summer game may never be the same again, and for now we’ve almost forgotten what a football looks like.
Tiger Tiger Burning Bright has thank-yous to make, and seasons’ well-wishes, but firstly, a request. We want childhood photos of you (or your sister or brother, or son or daughter, or old school friend or love interest) wearing footy colours. No matter if they’re not yellow-and-black, but it sort of helps. It makes the heart skip a beat. It makes us smile.
And please, send in a little back story. A few lines about when and where, and maybe also why.
The photograph above – for instance – is of a young Tony Wilson, in his junior playing days with the Balwyn Tigers. He looks angelic; all mouth guard and arms akimbo and anointed in a paste of winter mud. Does anyone remember mud at football? Lakeside Oval, anyone?
Tony Wilson is part of my current All Australian footballer-writer centreline: Boyle-Murphy-Wilson. Timothy Boyle played for Hawthorn, Bob Murphy is now captain of the Bulldogs, and Tony Wilson was drafted to Hawthorn (where his father Ray played in the 1971 premiership). My former Australian history teacher, Brent Crosswell, the old ‘Tiger’ from Tasmania who I caught up with recently in Hobart, still has his place at centre-half-forward.
I first knew of Tony Wilson in Year 12 at school, playing kick-to-kick on the cinnamon earth of central Australia. He was two years younger, we were on a winter school holiday bus trip from Darwin to Alice Springs and everywhere we stopped – Kakadu, Katherine Gorge, the Devil’s Marbles, Tennant Creek, the Olgas, Uluru – the footy came out and a gang of boys split in two and all the unwritten rules of kick-to-kick came into play.
The tall blokes went for the marks.
Then there was this whipstick kid – a tall and skinny, all glasses and furrowed brow, with a mop of white hair – and he marked EVERYTHING! He was in Year 10 and wore a quizzical expression and he didn’t look like a footballer, but he played like one. He had the gift. He made it look easy, effortless. He drifted into the ball and jumped and took it with clean hands at the highest point of his leap with a carefree grin on his face.
Tony-bloody-Wilson, there was nothing we could do to stop him.
Many years later – after he entered the public realm through winning the second series of the ABC’s Race Around the World, and hosting the 3RRR Breakfasters, and through his writings – I watched him again play football. Visiting a friend in Melbourne who was good friends with Tony’s sister, we caught the No. 96 tram from Fitzroy to St Kilda on a Sunday.
The Sacred Heart Mission’s Community Cup was on at the Junction Oval and the day was immediately memorable for seeing a man on the ground before the game walking a billy goat.
Tony Wilson was in the twilight of his playing days. He lined up at full-forward for the 3RRR and PBS Megahertz – his body broken, his eyesight unreliable – and in clear winter dusk light his aura still burned bright. He could still play, he could still take those marks; he still looked a footballer.
If anyone knows Bob Murphy, please get him to send in a childhood photo of him somewhere in the dairy country of Gippsland, in his football jumper. Like Tony Wilson, his might also be yellow-and-black.
And please send in your own footy jumper childhood photos for our album collection. We need a name and a place and a year and any explanatory notes. We’ll share them with others before the 2015 season. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via @dugaldjellie
Belated thank you to all who supported Tiger Tiger Burning Bright during our inaugural fundraising drive. In no particular order, we thank Sonya King, Steve Macchi, Alison from Chifley, Jason Mariniello, Brendan Terry, Sue C, Clare Monagle, Cheryl Critchley, Dan Gilchrist, Andrea Hensley, Steve Lambert, Aaron Smith, Anthony Yeates, Neil Wedd, David Crowe, Michael Nichols, Sean Lockwood, Geoff Matheson, Brett Moorcroft, Eileen Monagle, Caroline Mallett, Richard Miles, Donnie Davidson, David Hoyle, Ben McAuliffe, Paul “Tommo” Thompson and Malcolm McKinnon for buying one of the limited-edition ‘tiger’ tees or hoodies.
If I’ve left out anyone – I think I have – please let me know. If anyone wants to send me a photo of them in their ‘tiger’ gear, again, we’ll publish it next year.
We still have three XL ‘tiger’ hoodies for sale ($65). Email me if you’d like to purchase one.
On 5 September, on the eve of the Elimination Final against Port Adelaide, I received an email from Matthew Frost, in England. It read, in part:
“I very much look forward to the TTBB emails, particularly the last 9 weeks [if others would like to be on our anonymous email list please contact me]. I think you capture it all wonderfully and the power of words moves hearts and minds.
My father is 80 in October and recently had a fall and broke his hip at home which was tough for him to take after getting cancer a couple of years before, and I was worried he wouldn’t be up for the rehab fight again. I spoke to him this morning, first day back out of hospital, pins and plates in the hip and he spoke of all the media about our tigers and it has inspired him to push on with the hip rehab and then get his plastic knee replaced again! He’s a tough old tiger and hasn’t seen them play like this for over 20 years (probably 30 but who’s counting). Mum remembers his face at the front door for many years returning from the ‘G’ after yet another loss. I have been a bit emotional about all this (dad and the tiger effort) but the tigers are pulling us all through. Your emails have helped get through the rollercoaster and inspired people for bigger fights. Dad told me that Dimma probably won’t need to say much before the game on Sunday as they will be ready to run through walls by the first bounce. He loves the tigers and knows about having to fight tooth and claw. He got a bit emotional in his voice telling me this although he would blame a dodgy phone connection to the UK. Anyway Dugald, you are what it means to be a tiger and please yell a bit extra for all of us who can’t be there on Sunday but we’ll be there in spirit wherever we are. Please send me your postal address as I want to send you a cheque to cover some costs for you so you can keep doing what you do so bloody well. I don’t want a Tiger t-shirt as my fashion sense is bad enough as it is 🙂
All the very best,
Stories like these need be shared. What our team and our game means to Matt and his father it means to us also. In football there is memory, familiarity, friendships, family, a continuum, a looking glass on who we are – a belonging. Our crowd is made up of so many but essentially when time comes to barrack, when our colours need be worn, all of us are one.
At times we dissent, but when Dusty gathered the ball against Carlton and Adelaide and Sydney and turned and kicked and goaled, our voices were united. Show me a Richmond fan who didn’t rejoice in the moment? Show me a Richmond fan whose spirits didn’t sing?
We are all Matt’s father. We all understand these bonds that Matt writes about; the emotions, the way the game makes us feel. It is from the heart. It is honest and true, and it needs to be acknowledged.
Incidentally, I never gave Matt my address. His words were enough.
The best off-season news has been Trent Cotchin re-signing, and for such a lengthy contract. One name on a dotted-line and it instils much confidence among us supporters. In this age of free agency and worthless contracts, it makes us pleased Cotch has committed to our cause. How must old Footscray supporters be feeling now, after a post-season of tumult when their captain wants out and their coach is sacked? Gutted, is one word. Heart-broken are two more.
Most pleasing in the Cotch announcement were his thoughts on Richmond players who might be looking elsewhere. “The reality is, they need to be comfortable in their own shoes”, he said. “We would hope we’re creating an environment where everyone’s happy, and feel that they’re getting the best out of themselves. “If we’re doing that to the best of our ability, they have no reason to be looking elsewhere.”
Gee I hope the Richmond players read TTBB, I hope they understand our appreciation and our love. Their happiness is our happiness.
Christmas well-wishes to all Tiger Tiger Burning Bright readers and all who’ve supported this project. These are people who’ve shared our blog, told others about it, posted comments, contributed stories, offered tickets to the football, and even sent us criticisms. All correspondence is always welcome.
Again, in no particular order – and there are many people I know I’ve forgotten – we thank Andy Fuller, Stephen Reade, Skippygirl in the forward pocket, James Taylor, Caz, Tommo in Kenya, Malcolm M (in Fitzroy), Cheryl C, Tiger Moz, Alison (Neil) from Chifley, Trout (from Woodend, of course), Yogi, Rod Miller, the “Twitter guy” at RFC, Sean Ross, Fran Doughton, Craig at Footy Maths Institute, John (Mr Holy Boot), Jimmy the Dragon, Zoe Lawson, Richard Byrne (and all other Sydney-based TTBB readers), Paul McNamara, Peter McDonald, Darren Crick (& the Canberra crew), Paul Allen (& his son Jack), Donnie D & the family (including Richo the dog), all “the Jellies”, Davey Hay (whose heart beats true), Brook Kilpatrick (& Boris), Tone Greenberg, Greg Baum, John Harms, Will Brodie, Michael Reif, Greg Watt, “Rosy” (whoever ‘she’ may be), Ian Lewis, Tiger in Adelaide, Kate McDonald (and all other ‘fans-of-the-week’), Lyndsay Wall, Chris Romeril, Ged Zochling, Troy Hancox, “Stainless”, Eric Thompson, Joe Crawford, Bill Birch, Rory Gibson, Kelda Murray, Anh Nguyen, Yeatsey, Brendan O’Reilly, Eileen Monagle, Konrad M, Tamara Doheney, Matt Corbet, Bill Barbagiannis, Dr Clare Monologue, Jason @ Richmond Painting, Verran Fehlberg, Richard Vaughan, Sean Nestor, Cassandra Hall (and her sis), Doug Miles, Greg Watt, Phil Jupp, Corinna Slade, Natalia (my favourite Colombian), Justin Sanson, Brett Moorcroft, Julian Collins, Damien Faithfull, Jenny Grogan (and her wayward son), Tara Pincott (bless her), Luke Goldsworthy, Matt Frost, Russell Holmes, Ken Bowes, Sarah Black, Gavin Smith, Martin Mayhew, the Bulldog Tragician (aka Kerrie Soraghan), Andrew Gigacz, Sue C, David Hoyle, Jonathan Green, Tony Wilson, Rhett Bartlett, Welton Marsland, Weedo, Leanne Henderson, Mel (and her sisters), David Ward, Pete Steinfort, Craig Winslow and all the Twitter tigers I’ve forgotten (like Lou and Katie, Edstar, Shelly Connors, JD, Trav, Rod, Sharon, Yellow & Black, Joannemcfaul, Paul Ager, and others, and others, and others).
If you have any clout at the Richmond Football Club tell ’em they ought to have TTBB back on their website in 2015. They should make this arrangement official. They should embrace us. Make it work for them. Share the love. Make it mutually beneficial.
Tell them our little project has vice-regal approval. It’s true, the Governor General has read TTBB and he’s sent an official-like letter to voice his appreciation.
Most public thanks for this season of all things TTBB go to my main collaborator, Chris Rees, and his family in Hobart. I couldn’t count the hours of voluntary work he’s put into the site, and his Virtual Duffle Coat has become an object of beauty and growing cultural significance. If the club could bestow Tiger knighthoods I believe he should have one. Or maybe a (living) sainthood?
Saint Chris, our patron saint of Richmond.
And, of course, there’s Mrs Tiger Tiger Burning Bright. None of my contributions are possible without her. She’s the best. It is a winter treat to watch the football with her. When I get a new duffle coat I’m putting her number on the back: No. 1.
I’m sure Dusty would understand.
Tiger tiger burning (forever) bright