AFL Round 4 – Richmond v Collingwood: Shaking the loser mentality and the return of the anti-supporter

I’ve never been comfortable with the culture at Richmond. A losing culture, it has to be said, should never gel well with supporters.

Over the years we have hoped to not finish bottom, we have gone into games hoping we don’t lose by more than 10 goals. That is our hope, to lose well.

Previous coaches haven’t helped it. I recall T Wallace claim after a string of losses, that surely nobody really expected us to win those games. When it’s at the top, it’s hard for the culture to improve.

Enter D Hardwick, a coach who has surrounded himself with success, a man from winning cultures.

It’s been great to have him onboard; the fans have been patient with him, they have to be.

It’s 2013 and the Tigers are 3 from 3. Not seen since 1995. Wow, where did those years go? Hardwick has allowed us to dream, and quite suddenly this losing culture has been shrugged off like one of Cotchy’s taggers. I can’t remember the last time I went to a Collingwood-Richmond game actually expecting to win. Today I do. I ponder this on the walk from Richmond station to my seat. The same seat I sit every home game, with the same crew of devout members.

We have learned how to lose, but not just that, how to accept constant losses. Demoralising thrashings. These are the tiger faithful, and for the first time in years I sit amongst them with this feeling. We, like our team, aren’t just making up the numbers. We are going to win today. The sun is shining and the crowd is massive.

One negative to come from a successful run like 3-0 is it attracts the tiger Anti-supporters. The kind who drop by every decade, when the team seems to have proven themselves worth watching.

They claim loyalty by the volume of their abuse, these Anti supporters know little about the tough times and are only here for the bandwagon, no matter how short-lived. There is no membership in Anti supporter’s wallet.

Somehow, eluding the strict MCG staffers, an Anti supporter has found himself in front of us, in our seats. We sit a little back from the tiger bench, a risky position for a loose cannon. His presence has sullied the vibe slightly.

The game starts well for the tigers, we kick the first 2, Jack looks fresh and quick, the midfield are up and about. The pies are making some early clangers. We take the first quarter, up by 11 points.

The feeling is good at quarter time. Anti supporter is quiet, happily throwing back mid-strengths. The faithful are talking 4 in a row. The dream is alive.

Quarter 2 takes off, and although we are matching it with Collingwood, that is all. The pies seem to be kicking in a gear, and the tigers, just desperately clinging onto their lead. Both team exchange goals, but ultimately the quarter closes and we are just 3 points up. I have a bad feeling. Is this the loser mentality creeping in. the game begun so full of promise but right now my guts are swirling. I am remembering what it feels to lose. We are still 3 points up but the sense of foreboding is immense. Outside a tiger fan just won a Jeep, she is elated. I am looking at her on the screen thinking, how could she be so happy? Isn’t she feeling this game being taken from our grasp?

From the opening bounce of the third quarter, everything falls apart. We drop marks, kick sky high to nobody, and ultimately don’t score for over twenty minutes. The Pies on the other hand, are decent enough to show us a few pointers. Eight unanswered goals. Every goal feels like a slap in the back of the head reminding me I support a club that loses, a lot.

O’Brien dashes, Sidebottom goals, and Swan becomes the most important midfielder on the ground. And Cloke. I have always struggled with his ‘power forward’ tag; a power forward does more than just take strong marks. He kicks bags, week after week. Cloke plays the best game I have seen him play. His trademark grabs, followed by stunning goals. He dominates the quarter.

Anti supporter becomes increasingly agitated. “They haven’t even scored” he stresses, “just give me a point,” he yells. It is a strange call, and it isn’t until Houli finally boots Richmond’s first for the quarter that those around him understand. “You beauty, we have a winner!” he screams, clutching his TAB ticket aloft. Looking back at our somber faces he declares with glee, “I had the tigers to score between 1 point and 12 points this quarter!”

I want to be sick. Somehow Anti supporter stands to capitalise from this horrendous quarter of football. What a fan. My quarter couldn’t get any worse.

Showing backbone, the tigers score again, bringing the margin back to 37. It feels slightly better; the quarter would have been a complete disaster if we didn’t get those back. Anti supporter is getting very anxious at this. Eyes darting around for help he asks, how long has this quarter got? It can’t be long can it?

Nobody answers, and remembering his bet, we all suddenly realise the cliffhanger his bet now sits on.

The ball finds itself in the hands of Chris Knights, who after receiving a free kick, receives a 50m penalty, bringing him inside 50. The siren goes.

“Just give me a point!”  I whisper in prayer. The footy God listens; we score a point. We score thirteen points for the quarter.

The Anti supporters spoilt bet, proves to be the only highlight of a sickening third quarter.

The last quarter see the tigers push our chances to the limits. Unfortunately our first two shots are misses; they could have put us within a sniff. We have a goal disallowed due to a lack of goal line technology, but all this is irrelevant. We are outgunned and outclassed by a sharper unit with an unstoppable force up forward. Cloke ends up with a bag of seven earning his power forward tag, absolutely. No tigers finish anywhere near best on ground.

The siren sounds followed by the pies anthem. As I turn to leave I witness Anti-supporter’s last stand. Following a gibberish attempt at abuse, he pulls a tennis ball out of his jacket pocket. In all his feigned fury he hurls the ball toward the tigers bench. His throwing effort, just like the Tigers today, falls short, and rolls along the turf ending at runner Kel Moore’s trainers. Non-plussed, Kel picks up the ball and tosses it into his bag. The real fans know not to give the incident oxygen. Anti supporter lurches off home. One positive we can take from the loss, we won’t be seeing the likes of Anti-supporter for a while, well for a few weeks anyway.

About steve exon

a rational tiger. week in week out, rain hail or shine. committed, obsessed, tragic. seen over a few five year plans, plenty of restructuring. alas, i believe this one is going somewhere.

Comments

  1. Stephen Cooke says:

    A tennis ball? It’s as ridiculous as the scene from Austin Powers: “Who throws a shoe?”
    Reminds me of the fools who flocked to the players’ race after the Melbourne-Essendon match to give the players a serve. Some of them were Essendon supporters. What’s the point? It’s idiotic. Fools.

    (Cracking piece, by the way.)

  2. I won’t bet on the footy for fear I will jinx my team – I could never imagine placing such a negative bet on my team. Glad to know that the extra point after the siren was worth much more than its scoreboard impact.

  3. DBalassone says:

    Nice work Steve. Also glad to hear the moron didn’t win. That’s one of my pet hates at the footy: people rushing off to the TAB in between quarters to place a quick bet. Footy is about barracking for your team, not about grabbing a quick buck. Go to the races if you wanna to that!

  4. just another drunken slob, not interested in the game, just interested in seeing some tiger glory! Then when it’s not delivered insulting every player as if they’ve never played a good game in their career! Got to ignore them – its not what you eat that kills you, it’s what eats you!

  5. Stainless says:

    Steve

    There’s nothing worse than these so-called fans. But can I just say that the ‘bandwagon hopper’ is not unique to Richmond. Plenty of fair weather supporters are on board at Collingwood, Hawthorn and yes, Geelong at present. The only difference is that the consistent success of these teams has meant they’re hard to identify as they haven’t had cause to turn on their own. But they will. One day. And the exodus will be fun to watch.

    The more pertinent point is the strength of Richmond’s real fan base, which after three decades of failure keeps turning out in extraordinary numbers. Far more so than the fans of the aforementioned clubs when times were tough.

    I share your views about losing culture but one of the characteristics of such a culture is the boom and bust mentality of the fans which creates unrealistic expectation on the one hand and outpourings of bitter anguish when these expectations aren’t met. This is still very much in evidence at Richmond and is the biggest threat to the gradual process of improvement that Hardwick, Gale and others are implementing.

  6. DBalasosne says:

    Go back and check Collingwood’s membership numbers and attendances during their pitiful 1996-2000 period, or how Hawthorn fans rallied during several dark periods b/w the ’91 and ’08 flags. You might be surprised. I know it’s not 30 years of failure, but it’s all we’ve got to measure against re loyalty.

    I don’t think anyone questions the loyalty of Richmond supporters. I think the one overwhelming feature of the supporter group is sheer unbridled enthusiasm after a few wins. Believe or not, many fans from rival clubs (including this Pie) want to see the Tigers do well. Imagine if they reached a GF. The city of Melbourne would come alive like never before.

  7. Barry Williams says:

    A fantastic summary by a true,loyal and realistic Tiger supporter.
    Yes—–no whinging about the umps or the fixture or the injury list just an honest appraisal of the game in question.
    It is guys like you and your Mum that I always think of first when the Tigers have a win and I for whom I couldnt be happier for.
    I am trusting in due course The Tiges will make their 3rd finals appearance in 30 odd years and for you guys I will feel most happiest.

Leave a Comment

*