The balloons came down, withered, the streamers and signs put away. The cans of Richmond Draught have been drunk (a fine drop, a sweet aftertaste long on the palette). Suppose we need to make room around the house, in the fridge, for Christmas. Suppose. Premiership hangover? The party for us fans, it’s hardly over.
In quiet moments, we catch ourselves remembering what happened.
We won! They did it, which means by proxy, we did it! We are premiers!
We don’t want to let go, at least not until mid-March next year. We are proud, so proud, of ‘our boys’, of what they have done, have achieved. They rightfully ought to be proud also, for they are the best football team in all the code for all this year. It was remarkable, in so many ways. Thirteenth to premiers. No centre-half-forward. An emphatic win. Such a miserly defence. Highlights across the park. Messing with the whole concept of a ‘ruckman’. Beautiful stories about us, about our players, wherever you look.
Jack Graham and his five games, and three finals wins, and two goals in a granny, and a premiership, and how young is he?
Jacob Townsend and his late-season inclusion (five wins from five games, 16 goals from 32 kicks) in a new role up forward, and the public telling of his speech impediment, and he goes and wins the JJ Liston Trophy, and all his fears are realised, and his speech is wonderful, and we’ll all remember his tackle on Matt Crouch in the biggest game of our lives, and he is one of us and we are all the richer for it.
A ‘Dusty’ speech.
His name, in ancient Germanic languages, means ‘brave’ or ‘valiant fighter’, and in a few weeks of football he came out of his shell, looking more comfortable with all he is.
We love him.
We love them all.
It is true, I have been drunk on the winning. And maybe just a little hungover. There have been invitations to lunch (thankyou Ray and Tony Wilson), three courses, seated beside Michael Green and Peggy, clipped conversations about football, about what it all might mean, the Coodabeen Champions entertaining a full dining room at the top of Collins Street. A B&F. Photographs with the silverware. A lunch date with Valy Crowe at Caulfield, for a Tommy Hafey Club function. More beer and bubbles.
Never has my one suit had such a workout. And never has a man had to Google ‘windsor knot’ so often in two weeks.
Lunch with ‘Tommo’ and Skip at the London Tavern on Lennox Street on the Saturday after ‘the game’ (and Andy Fuller swung-by for a coffee) was more my style. I bought ‘Tommo’ lunch and his drinks (as recompense for his generosity on another matter). He bought me and Skip a takeaway six-pack each of the finest: Richmond Draught.
‘Tommo’ was flying back to Kenya on Saturday night. The bloke came from east Africa to be at the game, standing at the Punt Road end with his daughter, Emily. The bloke needs a round of applause.
Before he left, I took him to a laneway end by the railway, took his pic in front of Nick Howson’s latest addition to his prowling, straight-backed tiger: a cup.
Gab Turner, related to Jack Dyer, sent a photo of the stained-glass window at St Ignatius Church, on Richmond Hill. It is said to be a young ‘Captain Blood’.
“My kids and I went into St Ig’s during our ramblings around Richmond on GF night,” she writes.
“Lit a candle to say thanks to the guardian angels and had our usual coo on that wondrous piece of stained glass.”
All these months later and I’m yet to fully watch the replay. I’ve seen snippets, watched a quarter here and there of the other two finals, but yet to sit down and see the whole thing, alone, viewing with intent. Something for February’s to-do list.
Put a Richmond sticker on the car rear windscreen this morning. First time I’ve ever done that. I like to fly the colours, yellow and black, but I’ve been reticent to do it so overtly outside of football. A little part of me finds those premiership car stickers too boastful. I blame Hawthorn.
Looking for a Richmond-themed Christmas gift? Two options.
First is from co-TTBB conspirator, Chris Rees, and his post-premiership celebratory graphic image. Have you seen it? Have you read his considerations behind it?
I like to call it ‘togetherness’. All the players linking arms, shoulder to shoulder, the luminous yellow, an intimacy. It captures a moment in time, and a bond, we will never forget. It also captures the bodies of these players we know so well. The relaxed stance of Dave Astbury. The broad shoulders of Nank. The poised stance of Nick Vlastuin. Jack, always at the end.
In a perfect world, our football club backs Chris Rees, commissions him to do a design, puts it on some merchandise, stocks it online and in the Superstore, we all buy it. Our club needs to keep reinventing itself. It needs to keep trying new things. It needs to stand apart from the pack.
In the meantime, look-up Chris Rees’s website. The image can be reproduced on T-shirts, phone covers, tote bags, wall prints, almost anything. It’s guaranteed to bring happiness. And a greater sense of togetherness.
The Benny votes. (And apologies I’ve been so tardy).
[NOTE: the full list of final Benny votes and other prize winners is here.]
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No. 1, Alex Rance. From where I watched (the Cherry Tree Hotel in south Richmond for the first half, see explanation below) he was everywhere, and impenetrable, and a rock around which all Adelaide’s forward line needed to shape itself. At the other end, Jack imposed himself on the game in the very opening stages, leaping for the ball, fearless in big packs – bookended by Our Man Rance, imperious, as is his way, across the backline. Premierships are won with defence, etc. He was the keystone in a defensive set-up that physically and psychologically had Adelaide beaten by midway through the second term. Their jig was up. All their options were shut down. You get nothing from Vlastuin. Good luck beating Dave Astbury in the air. Good luck beating Dylan Grimes in any duel, at any venue, at any time, wearing whatever colours you like. But Rance was the man. A confidence player, as every player is, and his could hardly ride any higher. He buggered Adelaide, for this season and maybe next. Made them know who’s boss. 10 votes.
Quarter time, Mrs TTBB, at the ground, Level 2, N29, a plum seat, sends a text:
“Arggghhh. Tell me what to think.”
Me, in the pub, alone, one pint down, bicycle tied to a tree outside, making friends with strangers, replied:
“Last two goals hurt. Need to keep them to 2 goals this quarter. We’re well in the game. Need it tight at half time”.
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No 2, Bachar Houli.
Great pleasure in giving him votes. Where are my notes from the day? “Going to bar for second beer, Houli kicks a goal, double fist-pump”. That’s me doing the double fist-pumping; have no idea what Bachar was doing (see ‘yet to watch replay’, refer to ‘saving it for later’). Whenever Bachar kicks a goal, I reckon good things await. When he kicks one in the first quarter, we might be in for a treat. We were. Bachar was everywhere, all game. Eleven marks, five tackles, setting up the play, swooping on anything loose across the half-back line. It’s such an attacking position, and Bachar as our runner and ball-carrier, and Nick Vlaustin as our quarter-back distributor, both give us so much drive. Nick was at his best when it mattered most: the second qualifying final, against Geelong. Bachar saved his best for last. As he walked from the ground, into the players’ race, I gave him a hug. I’ve been told it’s on the replay. Must watch it one day. 8 votes.
Before the final siren sounded, I stood by the players’ race, took photos of the VFL team who assembled, in their suits and ties, and called-out to some of them, told them, “you are part of this”.
And it’s bigger than that. I reckon every Richmond player who has played any games alongside any of the twenty-two who represented the club on 30 September, is part of this. Dan Jackson in the stands is part of this. Matthew Richardson, crouching on the boundary, his face knotted in tears, who played his last game alongside Alex Rance and Jack Riewoldt, is part of this. Chris Newman, Nathan Foley, Joel Bowden, Shane Tuck, they’re all part of this.
A football team, a club, is a lineage, and this line goes all the way back to Round 4 of 2007, when an 18-year-old Shane Edwards made his debut. The twenty-one others in the team that day included Lids, the Gas man, the ‘Push-up’ King, Dean Polo, Captain Shulz, Greg Tivendale, Luke McGuane, Kayne Pettifer. They are all, in some small way, part of this.
Of those current players in the tunnel on that last Saturday in September, I reckon at least a dozen of them could have been out there playing, and we still would have won. Anthony Miles in the midfield, we still win. One or two of Sam Lloyd, Shai Bolton, Tyson Stengle playing in the forward line, we still win. Corey Ellis or Connor Menadue on a wing, we win. Jaydon Short or Oleg Markov running off the backline, we win. Reece or Batch given a role, we win. Run Steve Morris off the bench, we win again.
Depth, and a togetherness.
Christmas gift option No. 2.
The good folk at the Footy Almanac have compiled a compendium of Richmond’s season, as seen through the eyes and hearts of its fans, published as The Tigers’ Almanac. The book will be launched this Wednesday night at the North Fitzroy Arms hotel. Make it if you can. I’ll be there. Among all the other Richmond fans. Books will be for sale.
If you cannot be there and would like to buy a copy, see the Footy Almanac’s website for details.
For Richmond fans on Twitter, the Almanac are also giving away three books for a storytelling competition they are running. The challenge. Write a story about something/anything to do with Richmond’s season in 280 characters (which must include the hashtag #almanac280). Best three entries get the books.
It’s a wonderful community, the Footy Almanac, bringing so many people together through words and stories and ideas. It is open to all who wish to contribute. It is about the game, as a code, as a belief system, as an embodiment of who we are. It is about football, it is about us.
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No 3, Dusty.
I’ve wrote something about him, about our admiration for him, that is published in the Almanac. I will tell you all about it at the pub on Wednesday night, if you can make it. Six votes.
So after leading most of the year Dusty has wrapped up his third successive Benny award; full details of placegetters and other awards here.
Got a haircut a few weeks back on Swan Street and Shaun Grigg walks in to get his cut, too.
What are the chances?
I get my hair cut about twice a year. Our premiership player has his medal.
Bumped into Andy Fuller at Richmond’s public library on Church Street and he tells me about Jay Croucher’s piece published in The Roar. I read, retweet, etc. Got home and read John Carr’s heartfelt piece on his Holy Boot Football Emporium website. If you haven’t seen it, look it up.
Friday night before the GF I posted this on Facebook:
When I shower I do my best thinking. I don’t shower often enough, but I did shower tonight. I’m giving my ticket for tomorrow to my partner. For many reasons. My decision. Mostly, because I remember several seasons ago when I started unpaid blog-writing about Richmond, when I went out of my way to interview other fans, go to games with them, tell their stories, I remember how heavily I leaned on her. Me at the football. She, with young child and baby, in this foreign city. She has come to cherish the game, and Richmond, as so many outsiders do. She has continued to support my writing life, which offers a richness that is hardly financial. I am proud of what I have contributed to our football club. I like to think I have advocated for inclusion, for sharing its stories, for giving ordinary supporters a voice. I have always supported and encouraged our players to be the best they can be, in this part of their lives. I think football can be an agent for change. And should be an agent for change. I have checked our club when I think it’s warranted (gambling sponsorship, etc). I have barracked. I barrack with all my voice at the footy. I try and rally the players, inspire them. I held up a sign last week at the footy, to give them a smile, a little release from all that mental exhaustion. None should question my loyalty, or intentions. One ticket does not go into two. I’m so proud of Richmond’s gender equality. I’ve been to Grand Finals before – granted, not a Richmond one in my adult life, etc. I have been so blessed to meet so many remarkable people through the football, for them to share so much with me, and that is my reward. I am happy, so happy, for so many Richmond supporters tonight. These past two finals have given me – us – such pleasure. I wrote a story about this week, published on the RFC website today, and my happiness is if people read it and enjoy it. If the players read it, the parents of the players read it, and get something from it, an understanding of what it means for us. The game is a deeply personal experience. If anyone does have a spare standing room tix, please do let me know. Otherwise you’ll find me at the Cherry Tree Hotel, on the edge of the crowd, the flats of Richmond, the lowland, beneath the red brickwork, the peeling sign of the old Rosella factory, with a beer, wearing our colours, my homemade Tiger top, barracking. Eat em alive, Tigers!
The short story goes like this. I tied-up my bicycle outside the Cherry Tree about ten minutes before the bounce (our 7-year-old boy had had his tonsils taken out on the Thursday before the game, had been vomiting all morning, etc.). Step inside, check my phone. Text messages, about an old friend Simon Troon, trying to get in contact with me. He has a spare ticket!
I had been in contact with Simon earlier in the week. He said he knows someone who was selling a ticket for about $2000. I haven’t seen Simon for many years. He is eight years younger than I. When he was about 10, I coached a hockey team he and my brother played in. I told him I am no corporate high flyer.
I assumed the messages were about this ticket.
At quarter time I checked my phone again, and mutual friends were still texting, saying I needed to contact Simon. I called him. He did indeed have a spare ticket. A friend of his had to leave the game, before it began. Something about a new father, the baby at home, vomiting, him needing to leave.
His misfortune, my blessed luck. The ticket was mine if I needed it. The only condition, I needed to be wearing a collar. I was wearing a collar. I rode my bicycle to the ground at half time. The luckiest man in Melbourne. Thank you, Simon. He barracks for Carlton, but all is forgiven.
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No 4, Jack Graham.
Too young to play in such a high-pressure game? Ha! These young blokes don’t have the burden of history weighing on their shoulders. He has no memory of the 2013 Elimination Final. He bears no scar tissue of losses. Pick No. 53 in last year’s draft. He’s played more finals than he has regular season games. And he’s won the lot, and now a Grand Final. In which he kicked three goals. The future doesn’t look bright. It looks composed, poised, dependable. Four votes.
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No 5, Nathan Broad.
I had decided his game was worthy of votes before he took a photograph of his premiership medal between a pair of young breasts and diminished so many of us. Was so angry about that, now just disappointed, and I’m in the camp that says he should have been scrubbed-out for six weeks. Make a statement. This footy club of ours is about the respect of women. It does not treat them as trophies. It does not objectify their bodies.
But a young man must also be given a second chance, and an opportunity to learn, and an inappropriate photograph distributed on social media might just be the beginning of something better. Contrition, for one. Atonement comes next.
And nor should his misdemeanour detract from the game he played on the last Saturday of September. These votes, and this vote, could have been awarded to ANY in the team, so evenly was the load spread. This is togetherness, of all working for each other and it is a beauty to behold. But I gave this vote to N. Broad because he was probably one of the last players picked, and in his 12 AFL games I consider this his best. Always good to deliver a PB in the biggest games.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.
I hope to keep writing Richmond fan stories next year, but that is for others to decide. Thanks to all who have read them, commented on them, shared them, participated in them.
I threw a little Richmond party at our house a month after the GF win, and thanks to all who came along. Was fun. Hope we get to do it again next year.
This season was the end of something, but it is also a beginning. New opportunities, new connections, new ways of doing things, new experiences and emotions. It’s our moment to set the agenda. Others will chase us. Here is a chance to show them all how we shine, how we take nothing for granted, and how we include other people, share our success, open our arms, as we go along.
Hope next year brings us continued football happiness.
Facebook: Dugald Jellie