Pessimism and Retrospect, those two ragged comrades in arms, walked in the later winter sun towards the Sporting Globe on Bridge St. The Globe, owned by the old Richmond defender Kel Moore, was hosting a screening of the match against Sydney for the Tiger Army.
“That is, all of the Army who aren’t deluded enough to fly to Sydney,” Pessimism muttered to Retrospect. Retrospect, starting across the street, didn’t hear.
Pessimism looked up to see Optimism, face shining with a bright grin, bounding towards them.
“Geez… haven’t seen you in a while,” exclaimed Pessimism.
“Nah, I’ve been around! You going to the Globe? Wait – ,” Optimism gasped. “You think we can do it, don’t you!?”
Pessimism snorted and Retrospect sighed wearily.
“No,” Pessimism sneered. “This is just the last time we’ll see the boys play for six months. This is Sydney, Op. We haven’t won up there for ten years. And don’t think they’ll go easy on us, a lot of teams really don’t want us to play finals –”
“Because we’re the form team of the comp!” Optimism said gleefully. “We’ve got guns all over the ground and nothing to lose! Did you read Mark Stevens’ piece in the Herald Sun–”
“Yes,” interjected Retrospect. “And it’s vain hope like that that makes us hurt. Come on, Op, we’ve been here before. 2008, 2006, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994… the last hurdle’s too great and then we fall the next year.”
Optimism shrugged, still smiling happily. “Well, I just don’t think you two would come to Richmond if a part of you didn’t believe…”
The Sporting Globe was crammed top to bottom, left to right.
“If we lose in a close one, d’you reckon they’ll be able to cover damages?” Retrospect grinned.
The upstairs room of the Globe was seething and breathing with hundreds of Tigers by the time the ball bounced on one of the small patches of grass on ANZ Stadium. Fifteen minutes later, it was a mass of panicked hysteria. “FIRST FIVE GOALS!” Optimism screeched.
“We have most definitely been here before,” groaned Retrospect. “This was how we lost to North.”
“We’re in trouble, we can’t keep this up,” Pessimism moaned, head in hands.
And so it seemed. Sydney spent the next two quarters wearing the Tigers down. Their midfield moved the ball quickly. After a while, the room groaned whenever Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker and Gary Rohan got their hands on the ball. Pessimism, Optimism and Retrospect, trying to hold onto their flagging hopes, had each found likeminded Tigers.
“It’s cost us that Jackson was suspended last week, we could do with more grunt –”
“Another free to Goodes? Typical. It’s not like this is hard enough already…”
“We can still do this. We will never give up –”
They were stopped as the room fell quiet. Adam Goodes, well held up forward by Dylan Grimes, had just goaled to put Sydney in front fifteen minutes into the third quarter. The Swans had kicked six of the last eight, with Richmond’s only goals coming from free kicks. Tigers everywhere were exchanging glances. Something had broken.
Suddenly, Pessimism roared, “Let’s show ‘em what we got, Tigers!”
The room was rocking all of a sudden. They had come this far. They would see it to the end.
A minute later, Deledio kicked the goal to put the Tigers back in front. The Sporting Globe was alive with nervous energy.
“I can’t remember Rance and Chaplin ever playing better,” declared Retrospect.
“And Newman’s having a good one –”
“NEWMAN!” The chorus rang out and several Tigers drained their glasses to the tough servant playing his 250th.
“Let’s do it for him!” roared Pessimism. Optimism couldn’t believe it.
Within two minutes, Jack Riewoldt had kicked his fourth. The Tigers held a crucial eleven point lead but were looking tired.
“Twenty more minutes!” screamed the Sporting Globe. However, with just nine minutes left, Hannebery won a soft free to goal with his millionth disposal.
“God….” Optimism groaned. “Don’t do this.”
The Swans pressed harder, but were repelled again and again. Rance was Hercules, Chaplin Achilles, Grimes a junkyard dog, but only Newman could hit targets and break the lines. Maric kept dishing the ball out to Miles and Cotchin but that final goal was elusive. Sydney seemed faster and taller, but Tippett, Goodes and Reid couldn’t hold marks up forward. Jared McVeigh and Dean Towers both missed to give the Globe a collective heart attack. The match had shrunk down to Sydney’s forward line. With six minutes left, the mighty Shane Edwards bundles the ball end over end from a pack.
It bounces across an empty wing to Dustin Martin and Ted Richards.
Richards slips! Martin has the fifty ahead of him!
Forty metres –
Thirty metres –
The room was deafening and packed.
“IS HE! THE GREATEST! HUMAN BEING! EVER!”
“Did it against Carlton,” gasped Retrospect. “And Adelaide, and now Sydney…”
There were no intelligible words, just screaming in tongues.
Finally, the inevitable happened: Sam Reid broke Sydney’s run of behinds to cut the margin to three points with less than five minutes left. With no room to pace, the Sporting Globe Tigers pulled at their own faces, sweated their hair and chewed their teeth. Goodes, surging towards goal, was brought down by the tiny Brandon Ellis and the room screamed delightedly. Rance marked again and again, but every clearing kick was directly returned.
“COME ON, YOU TIGERS! HOW MUCH YA GOT LEFT!?” The clock was running down. Three points. Finally, Ben Griffiths marked Chaplin’s roost with less than a minute left.
Chip. Chip – turnover. Luke Parker bombed the ball forwards. It was a two on two with the Swans storming back. Do or die.
Newman flung himself to desperately punch the ball away from Rohan and Vlastuin kicked the glorious final kick.
Siren. Absolute pandemonium.
The next ten minutes were delirium. Optimism, Pessimism and Retrospect jumped and screamed and hugged with complete strangers who they would never see again but had been family for three hours. They sang, they chanted, they celebrated. The impossible had been done. They poured out onto the streets of Richmond and it continued. People congratulated them and got a high five and a hug. Everybody was happy to see the Tigers fans in their ecstasy, having pulled off the greatest comeback in AFL history. A tram driver leaned out the window and yelled, “Go Tigers!” The streets were full of happiness.
Optimism, Pessimism and Retrospect flopped down in a Church St gutter, still panting and laughing.
“I… will never forget that,” exclaimed Retrospect.
“Talk about taking the hardest route to underachieving,” quipped Pessimism.
“There you are,” chuckled Optimism. “You were most uncharacteristic in there.”
Pessimism shrugged, still smiling. “What can I say? That was just amazing. I think I’ll send a letter to Kel Moore to thank him.”
They sat in happy quiet, hearing the singing streets over.
“Who have we got now?”
“Port, there. On Sunday.”
“We play well in Adelaide.”
“Will you guys be able to come?”
They exhaled noisily.
“Yes. Yes, we will.”
Pessimism looked over at Optimism.
Pessimism smiled. That smile was going nowhere.
“It’s good to have you back. Life’s a bit miserable without you.”
The Richmond supporter stood up and began to dance down the quiet back streets.
“God, I love this gig, but it’ll be the death of me.”
Richmond 5.3 6.4 8.5 10.8.68
Sydney 2.1 4.3 7.6 9.11.65
Best – (R) Rance, Chaplin, Maric, Grimes, Edwards, Miles.
– (S) Hannebery, Parker, Rohan, McVeigh, Goodes, Reid. Goals
– (R) Riewoldt 4, Deledio 3, Gordon, Martin, Miles.
– (S) Reid 2, Goodes, McVeigh, Towers, Rohan, Parker, Tippett, Hannebery
VOTES: 3. A. Rance (R) 2. T. Chaplin (R) 1. D. Hannebery (S)