By Lapsed Tiger
I have no idea why I was drawn to Richmond.
It would have been about 40 years ago, so a few key suspects have always been prime in my mind as to why Richmond became part of me.
The early 70’s were part of the Hafey era. Of back-to-back Premierships, and finals seemingly all the time. The ‘Ruthless Richmond’ driven to attack the footy and opposition with full gusto, and the “Eat ’em alive” desire to win.
They must have been on the TV every week. And would have been ‘match of the round’ on 3UZ and 3LO.
And for a small lad, they would have seemed like the ultimate footballers.
Being with the winners is where you wanted to be. Is that what drew me to them?
I grew up in a family that liked football, but were never fully into football to go week in week out. Nor to commit themselves wholly to the local club, and to the weekly training and playing grind that hundreds of thousands of families and kids of the era did.
“Mugs game” was my father’s favourite rebuttal to my every seasons request for new footy boots, or to be taken to training for the local team.
But I would try footy… train, have a run and get a kick. But never get an actual game, bar one time.
There was no greater feeling in my fleetingly brief football playing experience, than picking out of the box the number 20 on the back of the Primary School team jumper, and putting it on.
My first team jumper earned.
And in choosing the number 20, for fleeting moments, I was ‘The Ghost’, albeit decked out in green with the ’20’ in white.
Breaking into the local club team was touch harder.
And the term “Mugs game” would come back to ring in my ears. The clashes and bumps, mud and rain and the bitter cold of training nights would come to haunt my football experience every cold winter.
I was never prepared for the hard, dirty graft of footy in winter in Melbourne. I am sure my Dad told me the same. And I was quite a shy kid, so doing the whole ‘social’ thing that is club footy was hard too.
But cockeyed optimist was I, blindly drifting off to that oft-imagined childhood footy dream.
The reality of football had me out of the local club quickly. Tired, cold, wet, and most importantly, without that first team jumper.
And pummelled from pillar to post, being built as I was back then, in the ‘David Bourke’ mould.
All I really aspired to was being at the club until ‘Pie Night’.
There was only, at best, a very tenuous link to Tigerland. A slender silver thread between our family and one of the greats. The magic of that association, and the mythical deeds of one of thee greatest, drew me to the Tigers.
Royce Hart was my first football hero, and also to thousands of others no doubt. The flame that drew this moth to the MCG.
I only have vague memories of him playing. I am pretty sure as a 9 year old I saw him play, perched in the top deck of the Southern Stand with my dear Dad. To this impressionable lad he played with an ease and grace that normal ‘good ordinary footballers’ could only dream of. Or was it just my adulation that gleaned only the good moments and dispensed with all else. Surely in those twilight years he was dogged with niggling injuries. At such a young age I was blind to that detail.
And that name!
To a kid from the sprawling western suburbs of Melbourne, where most boys were Shanes and Daves, Jeffs and Paulos, Christos’ and Zorans, the name Royce lit-up the imagination. It was a name that seemingly could only be bestowed upon someone destined for immortality.
Better still was to hear it being called through the speakers of the little window to the world in the corner of our living room on a Saturday night, or via the radio with the live call of the play.
” Royce!! ” would be the cry from Harry Beitzel or Ian Major on the radio… and you would wonder what spectacle was unfolding to have that name shouted down from the ether.
Royce and the early 70’s Premierships stamped my card in Melbourne life with the word “Tiger”.
Even through the years when I stopped going to games, or even joined in the office footy talk on the Monday.
And even today… where the Tiger momentum under Hardwick and Gale now is becalmed and drifting.
Still a Tiger.
Still backing the club, even at a distance.
You don’t ever lose that deep-seated love for Richmond. True Tigers don’t ever leave.
“These are not dark days… “