“My lover’s got humour,
She’s the giggle at a funeral”
After sitting through an abysmal game, I sit in the car to begin the nearly hour-long trek to the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Sopping wet, my already-tight jeans plastering themselves to my legs and having found several new holes in my well-worn boots, I declare to Dad that there is no way on earth that we are listening to talkback.
I bought Hozier tickets earlier today, and so that’s what we’re listening to. The first lines of the first song are a low blow to the stomach. I know that humour. I live that humour. The black humour Richmond speciality. The giggle at a funeral. That’s what we witnessed tonight.
Halfway down Batman Avenue onto the Monash, where two lanes go to one and traffic is at a standstill, I clamber over to the back of the car to grab my laptop as inspiration (or desperation) strikes. Writing is the only way I’m going to get through this one. Dad had asked earlier over dinner whether I had any Almanac pieces in the pipeline. I do now.
I get a text from a friend, who I’d been messaging with most of the match until the rain came and the goals stopped – “They were piss weak. That’s all”. Brutally honest and full of pain. I can guarantee that’s how 99% of Richmond supporters are feeling right now, at 11.30pm on Friday night.
Richmond were as poor as I’ve ever seen them play. Ever. I’m a nineties baby, I got the tail-end of the Frawley years, the “five year plan” of Wallace and the painful 0-9 start of Dimma’s coaching career. And this was the worst.
“’We were born sick,’
You heard them say it,”
And classic Richmond, they started so full of hope. Nathan Gordon, who always reminds me of a puppy with his big eyes and manic running, kicked the first goal inside a minute. Griff was up and about, taking speckies and getting involved. But he missed his first two shots dreadfully. The first crack appeared, and the smart-arse who sits three rows ahead of me against the railing provided the first instance of the Richmond humour we employ to get through the whole grieving process. “Vickery would have kicked that one!” he said to knowing sniggers.
We swing from the Monash onto Eastlink, heading, in a strange way, back to the city. I break the silence that has lasted since I picked up my laptop back on Batman Avenue. “I got Hozier tickets today.”
“Where is it?”
“The Palais. Second show. He sold out the first in two minutes.”
“Who are you going with?”
My youngest sister is a St Kilda supporter, and has been in mourning ever since they lost the 2010 Grand Final, but has a new “bae” in Josh Bruce. Conversation over, back to writing. This is cathartic.
“What have you got in the stable?
We’ve a lot of starving faithful.”
Melbourne were outplaying us, but by some weird quirk of nature (probably just a continuation the Richmond rollercoaster storyline that has developed over so many unexpected losses), we were up at quarter time. Melbourne got on top in the second quarter, yet went into the break only two points up. Shane Edwards, my new favourite player following the double retirements of Jackson and King, has kept us in the game – his class shining above the dismal display of skills currently on show. The ball pinballed back and forth in a display more suited to an under nines netball match, where the girls are physically unable to catch or throw with any power whatsoever.
“Every Sunday’s getting more bleak,
A fresh poison each week.”
“Use care when roads are wet”, the sign on Eastlink reads after the Boronia Rd turnoff. If only someone told the Tiges that at half time. When the rain came, all hell broke loose. Got another text from my friend – “We’ll lose by 5 goals now”. It was a disbelieving type of hell, where everything goes wrong in some sort of painful slow motion. It hurt so much. The rain came down, the wind blew, and people left their seats, glad of an excuse not to watch the horror show that they’d invested so much emotion into. One supporter asked the general mass who we had next week.
Groans all round.
Some wag – “It’s ok, I think we’ve beaten them once in the last 10 years.”
Off Eastlink and onto Maroondah Highway, where it seems like the rain has just passed through. The roads have a sheen of water on them, and the streetlights illuminate the water collected in potholes and cracks. It strikes me that I haven’t even thought of the pre-game ceremony, which was eerie and exciting and even spiritual.
770 words later and I’m home. More tomorrow, when I don’t feel like my heart resides in the general vicinity of my stomach.
“Take me to church,
I worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
…. Good God, let me give you my life”
Monday morning, catching the train into the city for uni. Excursion day today, we’re off to Channel 7, where hopefully I can avoid all mention of football. Dream on, Sarah. Channel 7, the self-proclaimed “home of football” and a class full of media-savvy students, with half of them mad football supporters, including the teacher. But it’s funny how quickly losses can be put into perspective after a full round of football. A third GWS win, a fourth Gold Coast loss, an Alastair Clarkson loss (of temper), Hawthorn and Geelong both losing in the same round for the second time this season, and perhaps most exciting of all, a Bulldogs win over the previously invincible Adelaide Crows. People have moved on from Friday night. I haven’t.
“No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human”
We’re sitting ninth again, and Robbie Nahas, the crumbing forward we so desperately needed on Friday night, was a match-winner for North Melbourne against our next opponents, Geelong. The black Richmond humour was out in force over the weekend. The injuries piled up, with the news that debutant Nathan Drummond had “done” his ACL. Full knee reco. Nathan Jones had been alone on the wing, camped under a high ball, waiting for it to drop. Drummond was the only Richmond player near. As one, every Richmond fan around me said “He’s gotta go”, and leaned forward in anticipation to see what this boy could do. You could almost see him pause and take a breath, before he ran and leapt and spoiled and fell. Jones ran on, oblivious to the young boy he’d left behind, curled in the foetal position, clutching his knee, motionless.
One more thing about being a Richmond supporter – some things are just too painful for black humour. Then we just rant and rage and cry.
“I was born sick but I love it,
Command me to be well.
Amen. Amen. Amen.”
*All quotes from the song “Take Me to Church” by Hozier*