A post from Tiger guest Brendan O’Brien. You can read his regular posts at theinternetatemyblog.wordpress.com
Apart from my team travelling badly and apart from loathing the experience of live Richmond matches, I was also extremely tired by Saturday evening. A few hours of door-knocking for the Greens in Preston and a couple more at a party where I knew very few people was enough to wear me out. Oh, and I’d had a big week too. So I was never very likely to go last Saturday night.
I wish that I had and I take my hat off to the 36 thousand who did. Sydney, many commentators were saying, were the best team in the competition. Richmond were not the worst, but they were certainly in the mix. So how likely was it that we could beat them? Sure, we have a good record against them: beating them in Sydney last year after being five goals down at half time, beating them in an excruciatingly close finish in the last round of 2014 to make the finals, beating them at the ‘G a year or two before that. But that’s when we were quite good. And Sydney rested half their team in the 2014 game…
In any case the Swans began well this time and had three goals on the board before we knew which way we were kicking. But then an odd thing happened and we actually started to play quite well. Franklin was rampant but Rance stuck with him and limited the damage. We fought and scrapped and got the ball into the forward line and set up countless chances. Most of these we squandered. From near and far, tight angles and straight in front. Through for a behind the ball went. In no time we had our first “point goal” – six behinds for our trouble. But despite all the misses, at quarter time we were only ten points down and at the half-time break – this we could not believe sitting in comfort on the couch – we were five points up.
The breaks are when I’m really glad I’m not at the ground. Even at home you can hear the spruiker and the music obliterate the crowd noise. Tiger fans were not doubt roaring their heroes off the ground, but nobody could hear them, not at home on the couch, not in the outer at the ‘G.
In the third term our terrible kicking reached another level. We added 1.5 to the Swans 5.4 and trailed by three goals at the last break. Football’s oldest and truest clichés surely applied – bad kicking is bad football and the third quarter is the premiership quarter. Lose that and you’re stuffed.
But something truly bizarre happened at the start of the last term. The Tigers burst from the blocks and kicked goal after goal. Rioli got two of them – how many years have we needed a Rioli? – and we were right back in it. But Sydney steadied and kicked away again and there were only a few minutes left and they were two goals up. Then Jack won the footy in the maelstrom much closer to the Swans’ goal than to ours and kicked it perfectly to the advantage of the helmed Griffiths. For a big man he moved like the smallest gazelle, chased by his equally helmed and large opponent. The ball bounced, Griffo grabbed it and took off, one bounce inside the 50 and then kicked it, along the ground, straight as the road to Lockington, right through the big ones.
Five points now and four minutes to go. Sydney attacked, Richmond attacked. Twice Rance performed heroics to save the game for us. Or was it thrice? Still, it was not enough. Sydney had the ball and attacked again. We won it again, Sydney won it back. Only a minute left. Then less than a minute.
Sydney had the footy, forward of the centre and chose, in the most sporting way imaginable, not to kick it wide or backwards to one of several un-marked team-mates but instead into attack again, into a contest from where it was wrestled free by the much-maligned and poorly-pronounced Vlaustin who roosted it out of the back-line.
It landed close to Riewoldt and took what Dimma would call “the bounce of God” straight into his lap. But, as Dimma said too, you make your own luck sometimes. Jack saw Griffo again running into the forward line and kicked an inch-perfect kick to him. The helmed one took it easily, 65 meters out. Seconds left could be counted on my fingers. Should he roost it? He’s a big kick but the angle was bad. Should he go for another run? But the Swans were getting back and it would be tough for him. One tackle, one mis-step and the chance would be gone.
Three facts might have occurred to the pessimist at this point, not that any of that ilk have a place at Richmond: we haven’t won a game since March; we have an awful record in close games; our set shot kicking is abysmal.
But our heroes did not have time for such maudlin rubbish.
Sam Lloyd, the boy from Deniliquin, loped into the forward 50 and called for it. Griffo kicked over the man on his mark and Lloydy marked, 45 from goal on a worse than 45 degree angle. Seven seconds left.
On the couch we were beside ourselves. I think I was sobbing already. Griffo walked over to Lloydy and said – so we learned later – “three deep breaths and keep your head over the ball.” The young feller settled himself, wasted no time, walked in and kicked from the 50.
A straighter, higher, truer, more beautiful kick has never, ever, in any sport, at any time on any planet ever been kicked. It went high and it went handsome and split the big sticks as elegantly as if they’d been a block of straight-grained red box beneath your grandfather’s axe.
I was openly sobbing by now. Lloyd was buried beneath an avalanche of team-mates. The Tiger supporters went nuts. The song rang out and the supporters were allowed to sing it once, as they are allowed to now, not twice like before. Who cared? All was right with the world. Rance said in a one-minute interview “I love this team!” three times. We said it to ourselves and to each other many more times and are saying it still.