Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Richmond: From nervousness to pure joy

 

Sixteen years ago, I met my newborn nephew at the Mercy Hospital in East Melbourne, just down the road from the MCG. Although it was summer, I wanted to stake my claim to the football allegiance of the next generation of our family so I took a Richmond scarf and beanie with me.

 

Back then I was full of hope. Richmond had finished 9th the season before (as they had every second year since 1994), but apart from a top three finish in 1995, there had been no finals joy since 1980 and 1982. We were due for success. And I was right. That year, the Tigers were a permanent fixture in the top eight, finished fourth but lost the preliminary final to Brisbane, the eventual premiers. But not to worry, this was surely the beginning of a golden era for Richmond. Or not…

 

The next eleven years were dismal for Richmond, and when my nephew was old enough to come to the footy each week, we saw some pitiful performances. But the tide slowly turned and we regained hope in 2013, lost hope in 2014 and were jaded by 2015 after the third successive elimination final loss. After a dismal 2016, our expectations were low for 2017.

 

Fast forward to the end of the regular season. Richmond have been a permanent fixture in the top eight and finished third to earn a spot in a qualifying final at the MCG against Geelong, a team we haven’t beaten since 1999. When the finals schedule comes out, my nephew (quite rightly) makes the difficult decision to miss the game to go to his own team’s grand final celebration. I make the dubious decision to take a Geelong supporter as a guest but also take my Essendon-supporting sister for moral support.

 

The pre-finals bye weekend was buoyed by Dusty’s mega-deal to be a Tiger for life, but as we got closer to Friday night, my nervousness increased dramatically. So much needs to go right. The Tigers must prove that they are the real deal by winning a final. Trent Cotchin needs to shake off the previous three finals losses and show he can perform on the big stage. The young Tigers with no finals experience need to perform under pressure in front of a massive crowd. By Friday afternoon, my ability to concentrate at work is non-existent and at 5 pm I put on my scarf and beanie and leave the office to unsuccessfully distract myself with window shopping in the city.

 

After two and a bit hours that felt like an eternity, I’m at the MCG and ready for action. The MCG is packed full to the top of the Level 4 stands, and while this is a home game for the Cats, the predominately Richmond crowd let out an almighty roar as the Tigers run onto the ground. With the first quarter underway, the tempo of the game is quickly established. This is a tough contested scrap. An early goal to new hero Jacob Townsend raises Tiger spirits but the game is tight for all of the first half with the Tigers kicking two more goals through Josh Caddy and Dan Butler. There are no easy possessions for either team and Cotchin is leading by example with ferocious tackling. In the dying minutes of the second quarter, Geelong kick two quick goals to avoid the ignominy of being held goalless until half time.

 

Geelong kick the first goal of the third quarter to bring the margin back to three points and eventually draw level half way through the quarter through inaccurate kicking. The Cats supporters are becoming more confident and my nervousness has returned. This is where the Richmond of old would fall apart under pressure. But not these Tigers. Goals to Nick Vlaustin and Shane Edwards regain some breathing space and re-ignite the Tiger supporters’ roar. The noise becomes deafening late in the third quarter when Dusty wins the ball in a one-on-one contest and runs down the wing, kicks to Jack Riewoldt who then kicks to Dion Prestia who is waiting unattended in the goal square for an easy goal. One more quarter to go.

 

The quarter of pure joy begins with Dusty, yet again, beating an opponent in a one-on-one contest and then kicking to Shaun Grigg in the goal square who then plays on to put the Tigers 20 points ahead. The Tigers then go on a four-goal rampage to the roars of delight from the Tiger crowd. A late goal to Geelong is met with a quick reply through Cotchin who gathered a loose ball just inside 50, did a 360-degree spin on the run and kicked truly. A late goal to Riewoldt pushed the final margin out to 51 points. When the final siren sounds, the joy and relief around the ground is palpable. Very few Geelong supporters are left but the ground is still almost full as the crowd sing the Richmond song in full voice.

 

Early in the second quarter I’d received a simple text from my nephew “We playing good?” Sensing that this was not the time for an impromptu English lesson, I replied without any great confidence: “Yup. Really good pressure”. After the final siren, and after years of hoping and waiting, I was able to text him again: “We’re going to a prelim!”

 

Geelong          0.4         2.4         4.9       5.10        (40)

Richmond       2.4         3.7       6.10     13.13        (91)

GOALS

Geelong: Motlop, Dangerfield, Parsons, Hawkins, Taylor

Richmond: Townsend 2, Caddy 2, Butler, Vlastuin, Edwards, Prestia, Grigg, Lambert, Castagna, Cotchin, Riewoldt

BEST

Geelong: Duncan, Tuohy, Dangerfield, S. Selwood, Lonergan, Smith

Richmond: Martin, Rance, Cotchin, Prestia, Vlastuin, Lambert

VOTES

3 Martin (Richmond); 2 Rance (Richmond); 1 Cotchin (Richmond)

Crowd: 95,028

 

Check out the rest of the coverage from the Geelong v Richmond game HERE.

About Gill

As a youngster, Gill thought that frequent Richmond premierships were assured, but in the many years since 1980 she realised her folly and distracted herself by crunching numbers at a university. The magnificence of the Tigers’ 2017 season has restored her faith in Richmond and all of humanity.

Comments

  1. Joe De Petro says:

    Yup, Gill. We done good. Hope you both get there for the next one.

  2. Love it. Gill.
    Ride on; ride the wave.

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