AFL Elimination Final – Port Adelaide v Richmond: A long drive home

PORT ADELAIDE versus RICHMOND

2.50pm, Sunday, 7 September

Adelaide Oval

 

Cheryl Critchley

 

A black SUV with a yellow sticky tape sash on the bonnet and numbers taped to the doors.
A family sitting in the side of the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, decked out in Richmond gear and hand-made signs, waving madly at passing traffic.
Black and yellow balloons tied to trees on the way into Dimboola…
Such was life on the road to Adelaide for a rare Richmond final, against Port Adelaide.
Following a week of excitement about the Tigers making consecutive finals series for the first time since 1975 on the back of nine straight wins, the 750 kilometre trip to the city of churches and mullets was the perfect reward for true believers.
As soon as Jess, Bec and I crossed the Westgate we felt like a boy band in a room of 12-year-old girls. Cars tooted our Richmond scarves and stickers, locals waved from the footpath and shops welcomed us like long lost relatives.
Pubs, motels and cafes in the likes of Ararat, Horsham and Nhill made signs and hung streamers and balloons. Ararat welcomed us with a flashing road sign and Horsham McDonald’s posted a hand-made Go Tigers sign in the window.
The yellow and black disappeared over the SA border, but there was one last beauty probably crafted by Adelaide fans: Port road kill for the next 260 kilometres. Only when our North Adelaide hotel concierge told us we were in the wrong colours did reality hit: we were in enemy territory.
The next day Jess, Bec and I found ourselves four rows from the front in the Richmond Cheer Squad. The sun was shining and we were among plenty of friends in the infamous “Portress”.
About 10,000 Richmond fans had made the trip, including Mick Molloy, who wandered through the pre-game crowd amid rock-star cheers. With 50,000 crammed into the Adelaide Oval, the stage was set for a classic elimination final.

 

We watched as Port fans sang their Never Tear us Apart anthem and the magnificent Richmond banner was hoisted reading: At Richmond we don’t believe in fairytales. We write them.

 

It was spine tingling and we were so glad we’d driven for nine hours to see it.
Then the game started.
Just thinking about it is triggering PTSD, so the less said the better.

 

First, Richmond captain Trent Cotchin won the toss and inexplicably elected to kick against the wind. Then, by the 18 minute mark of the first quarter, Port had seven goals to zip. Game over.
At quarter time the Tigers were seven goals down and my daughters, who had been so keen to come, wanted to go home. I didn’t blame them. Jess, whom I’d just managed to wrest back from her flirtation with Gold Coast, was on the phone googling Melbourne-based Suns memberships.
The carnage continued in the second quarter – the road kill was us and not them – and the margin blew out to 69 at half time. Port had literally carved us up and spat us out. They had loose men everywhere, while Richmond players fumbled and lost their feet. We were a step behind in almost every play.
The second half wasn’t much better and I’ve already blocked much of it out. Whenever Richmond got a sniff the Power, back to their best after a late-season slump, snuffed it out – and then some.
While the media talk was about Cotchin kicking against the breeze in the first quarter, I didn’t notice it being that bad and didn’t hear anyone in the crowd discuss it. But it wouldn’t have mattered if it was raining, hailing, snowing or blowing a gale. Port was always going to win.
The post-game desolation could not have been further from the joy of the previous week’s three point win over Sydney – which I’d also travelled to see. After the Sydney triumph, which followed that awful 3/10 start, almost everyone had jumped on board the Tiger train. It was now a mangled wreck.

 

We all wanted the fairy tale to continue and Adelaide Cheer Squad even unsuccessfully tried to secure Richmond Cheer Squad tickets so they could help us barrack against Port. But it became an all too familiar nightmare.
Despite knowing the game was shot just 15 minutes in, Richmond fans cheered like troopers. Their hearts were ripped out with every Port goal, but most stayed until the end and clapped their boys off.
I was angered by the insipid performance after so many of us had come so far, but grateful for the ride. It’s not every day that your team wins nine straight to sneak into the finals.
The trip home was much more subdued. Plenty of Tigers dotted the road, some proudly wearing their Richmond gear, but no-one had scarves or flags flying. Some buildings still had the odd straggly streamer, but all the balloons had popped – like our hopes.

 

With nine hours behind the wheel to ponder what could have been, I arrived home trying to feel positive about that amazing run leading into the finals. But I was completely deflated. This loss was even worse than the 2013 Carlton final – weren’t we supposed to have learned from that?

 

It’s going to be another long off season for Richmond fans. But we’ll be there again next year. With bells on.

 

 

PORT ADELAIDE:  8.1 14.5 19.8 20.12 (132)

RICHMOND:          1.1 3.2 6.5 11.9 (75)

 

GOALS

Port Adelaide: Polec 2, Wingard 2, Monfries 2, Wines 2, Ebert 2, Boak, White, Gray

Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Gordon 2, Conca, Maric, Grigg, Deledio, Griffiths, Edwards.

 

BEST

Port Adelaide: Boak, Westoff, Neade, Carlile, Gray, Schulz, Wingard

Richmond: Miles, Deledio, Maric, Cotchin

UMPIRES: Farmer, Stevic, Mitchell

CROWD: 50,618

OUR VOTES: 3 Boak (Port Adelaide) 2 Westoff (Port Adelaide) 1 Neade (Port Adelaide)

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I admire your stoicism Cheryl.
    In 2005 the GF week flights from Perth to Melbourne were hard to come by. With friends we flew to Adelaide and hired a car for the drive across the Wimmera. The trip across was a party, it seemed over in 4 hours. Then the 3 point loss culminating in the Leo Barry mark. The drive back was the cart from the tumbrel. It seemed to take 4 days.
    We were so scarred by the experience that we didn’t take the trip across the next year when we won.
    Stick with it Cheryl and daughters. The worm eventually turns.
    Writing this reminds me of one thing that I keep thinking about the AFL Fans Assn. Interstate club supporters would dream of the things that Melbourne supporters complain about. I would sign up for Melbourne variable pricing in a heartbeat. We have full stadiums and memberships that keep our prices 40% higher than Melbourne clubs. Away games are on the other side of the country, not the other side of town, with all the attendant costs.
    The Victorian sense of ownership and entitlement is very grating to fans of the AUSTRALIAN game.

  2. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Peter. Sounds like an amazing trip you guys had. Losing does suck but I guess someone has to lose. On the weekend it was just disappointing that we had no fight whatsoever and within ten minutes you knew the game was over. We were stunned mullets! I’m really sorry that you missed the win but hopefully you got to watch it on TV among friends. As for interstate fans, I do agree they are an even more captive market and don’t realise that they pay more in many cases than Victorian fans. Maybe they just need to complain louder :-)

  3. CC

    Good on you for going there and for Jess to have semi returned to the fold.

    I like you was dumbstruck, couldn’t watch but couldn’t take my eyes off it.

    As bad as it was, credit to an awesome Port side. The pressure was amazing, especially early on, every tiny little fumble and mistake was capitalized on immediately. Reminded me of the first 15 minutes of the Australia Chile World Cup game, so many nerves and once you were settled, it was too late.

    Imagine the trip back gave lots of time for self relection. Overall, a season that started in the most terrible fashion, but the leadership of Rance, Maric, Ellis and Houli in his understated way have supported Cotchin, Lids, Dusty and Jack. Like teh uncovering of MIles and Lloyd. There’s upside, but clearly a gap, as there is for a few other teams, between the botton of the 8 and the top few

    What’s the atmosphere at the ground like? Seems amazing.

    Sean

  4. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Hi Sean. The atmosphere was great but there were a few idiots unfortunately. One Port guy came down to taunt the cheer squad and had to be escorted out before he started a fight. A few others were also kicked out. If they can control those nongs it’s a great footy venue. Their chants were huge but maybe not quite as loud as usual as there were so many Tiger fans. As for the season The nine wins were great but we essentially haven’t improved. Maybe next year…

  5. Luke Reynolds says:

    Cheryl, great effort to do 2 interstate trips in a row. At least you were there for that great win in Sydney. And it’s ALWAYS better to be in the finals than not. Love the last 3 sentences of your story. A true fan. Looking forward to 2015 and the (proper) first weekend in April start.

  6. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Luke. It was fun going interstate over two weekends. I was hoping for a third trip to Perth but it wasn’t to be. We just weren’t good enough. The day was so disappointing but when you look back it was always going to happen at some stage. Bring on next year!

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Love your passion and commitment , Cheryl there is a big gap between the top sides and the rest and the football karma bus went kapow to T Chaplin . As a crows supporter I have done the drive home amazing how it is ten times further when you have lost

  8. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Sure is Malcolm! I agree Chaplin was silly to make those comments. Those sorts of things always come back to haunt you. Best to be humble I reckon.

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