A football club is an enterprise in hope. And for another week, at least, our hope remains solvent.
I want to believe anything is possible. I want to believe this run of wins knows no end. I want to believe in fairy tales, in myth-making. Why shouldn’t our football team string together more wins than any of us have known for the longest time?
If our football club wants to win a premiership, it needs to start breaking records. Why not start from now?
It is a curious state of affairs. After such crushing despair – compounding losses to Melbourne, Essendon, North Melbourne, and all the others – I can’t help but look at the games remaining, and hope we might keep winning, and hope results go our way, and hope that on the last weekend in winter there is value for all us Richmond fans in getting ourselves to Sydney.
Anthony Miles has given us hope, and thrown up all sorts of questions with his every game played. Why did GWS delist him? Plaudits to our recruiting staff for putting him on our rookie list, but when upgraded, why did it take so long for him to get a chance?
Jake Batchelor has given us hope. He looks the footballer he once promised to be. A dour defender, as defenders ought to be. Upright, upstanding, and floating up the field to kick the odd goal. Feathers in his cap. Good luck to the man; he’s a likeable fellow.
Nick Vlastuin is all about hope. Since his first game, in a pre-season that offered such tease, he danced among men, always with his head over the ball, with such perfect balance that all who witnessed knew here was a boy-man ready to play. He is a leader, before his time. As long as the Richmond Football Club has young men like Nick Vlastuin on its list, it’s in capable hands.
Dusty is our hope. He is our one true love. Oh, those hips, tell me about those hips, show me what his hips can do.
NEWSFLASH: The first batch of Tiger Tiger Burning Bright merchandise has arrived, and is now on sale. They’re ‘TIGER’ tees, cost $40, and all proceeds will help fund this blog for this season and next; then hopefully the one after that. Details below. Please share this news on social media, messenger pigeon, with Chinese whispers, or however you can.
Early last year I hoped to write about my football team and make of it a job, but it wasn’t to be. Never mind. I tried, and sometimes that’s enough. Rewards came elsewhere; in the experience, in the shared stories, in knowing that I contributed and for a while may have made others happy.
And at the end of last season, in the first days of spring, something wonderful happened.
Through contacts at The Age newspaper, where long ago I worked when there was good business to be had in such things, I was asked to write a story about what it meant to be a Richmond supporter on the eve of finals. The brief was open, the page blank: I had a day to fill it with words.
I wrote about 75-year-old Gwen Harris from Morwell, who has a Tiger logo tattooed on her bottom; and about Graeme Upton, 73, whose father used to go duck shooting with Jack Dyer; and about Jess Pannam, 24, from Mount Macedon, who I had met one night at the MCG in the “grog squad” and who told me that in football she found family.
I wrote words that in the morning ended up curled in plastic, on front lawns everywhere, inked on the front page of The Age. It was a thrill.
But what pleased me more was this: when I filed the story on a Wednesday afternoon I contacted the newspaper’s picture editor, telling him about the cheer squad and its banner making exploits that night in a little hall in Coppin Street. When I awoke the next morning, the Richmond Football Club’s cheer squad was one the front page of one of the city’s daily papers. They were the news, and I’d helped make it.
I was paid $600 for my work, and for that fleeting moment I could call myself a professional sports writer. I had joined the ranks. I had gotten paid for something that had given me great joy. I had hoped it might be the beginning of other opportunities, but nothing was to come of it.
The dream was short lived; then it was over.
For a heartbeat, this season began with such promise. Remember the pre-season win at Punt Road against Essendon? Remember our season’s first goal, up at the Gold Coast, with Bachar Houli cartwheeling and Nick Vlastuin overlapping to finish off a delightful string of possessions? For a moment, we were champions-in-waiting; the top-four beckoned.
Before the season I contacted Chris Rees in Hobart, and asked if he would like to collaborate in this thing we call Tiger Tiger Burning Bright. He is a Richmond man. He has a gentle demeanor, and a fine eye for creativity. I was chuffed when he said yes. The possibilities seemed endless.
All along, for us, and Andy Fuller who writes from The Netherlands, it has been a labour of love. Here is our place in the hierarchy of the football media: in the outer, as voices in the crowd. We are but barrackers.
I would like to write more about the football, more about Richmond, more about the recent wins, more about Jack and Cotch and our memories of Kingy, who so delighted us and made us smile with his showmanship on Saturday, skolling a beer in the cheer squad. It will go down as the stuff of legend. Those around him will never forget. His was a gesture of togetherness. It was a last hurrah; an acknowledgement that he’s now one of us, sitting on our side of the fence.
Good on ya Kingy! All hail the King!
I would like to write more about Tyrone and his intemperate swing in Perth, more about Troy’s goals against his old side, more about Whitey’s run-and-goal, more about the folly of Hampson, more about the dependability of Alex Rance, more about the great-white-hope of Brandon Ellis, more about the quick hands and quick-step of Titch, more about the pleasures of Bachar Houli’s left foot, more about the opportunity opened-up for Big Griff; more about the value of Nathan Foley, more about where our club has lost its way.
But for now, I have no time.
I have needed, again, to find work; I have needed to fulfill my commitments to family.
It is a true story that the other week the newspaper called and they want to send me to an end of the world, so I may write about what it is like.
When I am not following football, these are things I’ve done. I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, then higher mountains still, to write about it. I’ve skied into the back country, with tent and map, gone for days on end, to write about it. I’ve walked the highlands, to find solace in the wilderness.
So this week I’ll find myself at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, with snow shoes and pack, gone for eight days, walking the Overland Track. I will have no mobile phone. I will have no contact with the outside world. When Richmond’s crucible comes this Friday night – 7.50pm, at the MCG, against Essendon – I will be blissfully unaware.
On Monday morning I step out of the wild; I hope only for good news.
So this is unfortunate timing. I have a box of freshly-minted ‘Tiger’ t-shirts under my desk, and would like to sell them to good readers of TTBB. It is a fund-raising effort: to pay for the cost of hosting this blog, and to help keep it going for next year. Trust me, what Chris and I and Andy have done is no profit-making exercise. In fact, as with Richmond for the best part of this past generation, it’s very much a loss-making enterprise.
Each of us does it because we enjoy it; because, like others, we want to contribute to the social capital of what it means to be Richmond.
The t-shirts are an original design that I crafted at my kitchen table. Results from clinical tests await, but it’s believed that wearing these ‘Tiger’ t-shirts makes you 32 per cent better-looking, appear 19 per cent slimmer, and at least 64 per cent more accomplished in bed. I wear mine nightly. I sleep the sleep of the innocent.
As a matter of public disclosure, all proceeds from the sale of the t-shirts will be reinvested into the upkeep of the blog. I hope also to raise funds for my long-awaited trip to Tatyoon, to visit the birthplace of Dave Astbury, and for a trip to Mildura to join the Sunraysia Tigers Supporters Club on their road trip to Adelaide to see Richmond play.
Available sizes are S, M, L, XL and 2XL. Cost: $40, which includes postage within Australia (if you live overseas please contact me and we can work out the postage rate).
And please note, when I get back from my little walk in the snow and ice, his-and-her HOODIES should be ready (they have the ‘TIGER’ on the back). Price yet to be determined.
I’m afraid this is a very organic fundraiser. At this stage, if you’re interested in a t-shirt you’ll need to contact me directly (via email, email@example.com), and we can arrange delivery and payment, etc. As it’s a fundraiser, I’d be happy to acknowledge all benefactors on the blog – or if you wish to remain anonymous, that’s fine, too.
Remember, wear the ‘TIGER’ tee under your daily wear and it gives you inner strength.
And remember my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you get no reply for a week you know it’s because I’ve gone for a long walk. In the snow. To think about life, and fatherhood, and football.