Could two games be more different than the games in Sydney and Adelaide? One so tense, exhilirating and ultimately victorious, with many citing it as our greatest moment in nearly 20 years. Then yesterday – the hopes and tension gone so quickly, defeat so total, the whole second half a weird mechanical exercise in keeping up appearances. If it was a cricket match this is the point where the wicketkeeper would have come on for a bowl, doing impressions, before the captains had a little chat and called stumps.
I am speechless with admiration for the vast Tiger Armada who sailed across the oceans of wheat to cheer the boys. You can say you left it all on the park. You can look at yourselves and say, with honest exhaustion, “there was nothing more I could have done”. You are all heroes and if I could ease your weary trips home by taking a turn at the wheel, or carrying a Samsonite up another %$!@# escalator I would.
It was a horrible day for football, judging by a sneak preview of Dugald’s account – hot and dry. The surface looked flat and fast. Without knowing which way it would go, I felt that this was going to be no arm wrestle – this was going to be over by 3QT, one way or the other.
Having spent the footy budget in going up to Sydney last week, it was never on the cards that we’d be going to Adelaide. Marcus played in the u13 KO Cup soccer final yesterday morning (his boys did the right thing winning the semi while he and I were away beating the Swans). Unfortunately the soccer final was a bridge too far, but I am not one for omens of that blatant ilk. We came home from that and I buried myself in work with the ABC pre-match on the radio bubbling away.
I didn’t sit in front of the TV until after the anthem. Saw the clash jumpers – ugh. Saw Griff get ungracefully bumped on his arse before the bounce. But we won the first break and pumped it down towards Jack. Then it came back with interest, but we fearlessly dished it around and through gaps and underground, standing in tackles and backing ourselves. When we had it we looked good, sticking with the game plan. But then the next passage of play set the template for the next hour.
Hartlett-Wines-Boak-Gray. Gray stepped around Grimes and stepped around Chaplin. Pass to Westhoff and goal. How much talent in those five Port players? How 2nd rate did Grimes and Chappy look in that moment? I don’t want to be unfair to them; “setting the tone” is sometimes an overused metaphor. But to my eyes we failed to stick a tackle for the next hour, while our own famous “strong in the hips” young gun was really made to look ordinary once or twice. The other whack I am going to hand out is to Stevie Morris. Halfway through the second quarter, Westhoff toed it forward and Hartlett was always going to win the race to the ball. WHY DID MORRIS BUMP? Why? Use your arms and tackle son!! Hartlett rode the bump, handpassed to Westhoff who kicked a goal from 0 metres. Port players came from everywhere and mobbed the lightly tousled Hartlett.
As I write this I am eating the savs that were to come out at half time yesterday. Instead I took the dog for a walk and kicked a lot of rocks.
I feel like we are on the right track. Lots has gone right this year, the Tiger family is unrecognisable from how we were in June. I have just signed up for 2015 as I vowed I would when we did the impossible and turned our season around. [Confession: I have not been a paid up member since 2006. I have my reasons, as does everyone for joining/not joining. Chiefly distance and income].
The feeling today is nothing like how I felt after the Carlton debacle(s) a year ago. Richmond can play better than yesterday, but I think what we saw in the stark South Australian light was uncomfortable reality. That’s how good Port can be in September (frightening) and that’s how little resistance Richmond can put up in September at this stage (chastening).
As usual I will leave the debates about list management to others. Don’t be unkind, and don’t judge the year by the day. When the dust settles I will again back the 22 in yellow and black, whomever they be.