Round 4 – Richmond v Melbourne: Giggle at a Funeral

“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?”

“Mads.”

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.

“Geelong”

Groans all round.

Some wag – “It’s ok, I think we’ve beaten them once in the last 10 years.”

More groans.

 

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*

About Sarah Black

I'm a freelance sports journalist, primarily covering AFLW for AFL Media, but I have a passion for all sports. (Except rugby. Someone needs to explain the point of that game to me.) Having never grown past 5 foot tall, I've given up my dream of being the first professional dual netball/football player and I'm doing the next best thing - writing about it.

Comments

  1. Terrific piece of writing Sarah. Coming from a long line of pessimists myself, I love the self effacing humour of the dispossessed.
    I would say something vaguely optimistic about the Tigers and the future, but I don’t want to insult your obvious intelligence.
    Keep writing and barracking. Woody Allen and Billy Crystal built a career on sharing this sort of experience.

  2. Matt Watson says:

    Excellent Sarah.
    I love finding tangents to football in everyday life.
    I feel sorry for you supporting Richmond, but they have to get it right sometime soon.
    Cheers.

  3. Great article Sarah. As a fellow-tigers fan, I share your pain and the emotion evoked!

    We have a great capacity to lose games that we are expected to win, and vice-versa (excluding Geelong since 2006 of course). So naturally we are tantalizingly 2-2 and 9th and back in the Richmond ZOC (zone of comfort) instead of pushing Freo for top spot. Shane Edwards is a gutsy and often under rated player – it is a pity some of the others don’t take a leaf out of his book.

    Having said all that I am now optimistic that we’ll beat Geelong for the first time in 9 years on Saturday afternoon – that would be true to form for our beloved Tigers!

  4. neilbelford says:

    As bad as that game might have been from your very eloquently put point of view Sarah, it wasn’t as bad as the Saturday afternoon ‘Traditional Anzac day game’. That was unwatchable.

    I think you will beat Geelong – My prediction is the Tiges will have a dead cat bounce to get over a Geelong in a death spiral.

  5. I had a sore back. I watched it in the bath. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen Burnt by the Sun, but the final scene, that was me. No pain, because it was all so expected. Only sad I didn’t take my own advice to get on the Dees at $3.60

    And our Dimma had the gall to be surprised. Tee hee. Malthouse! Thompson! Sarah Black! Anyone…

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Love the song and the article Sarah. Becoming a fan of Hozier. Even though Richmond don’t offer much absolution, hang in there!

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Keep them coming Sarah.

    Hope you’ve had a good start at the new netball digs too.

  8. Sarah Black says:

    Thanks so much for all your lovely comments everyone!

    No need to say something optimistic about the Tiges Peter B, another characteristic of us fans is that the hope is always there (deep, deep down).

    I really hope we do win Jags and Neil – I actually missed the match on Anzac Day Neil, but I’ll take your word for it that the match was dismal! Jags, I am very quickly falling in love with Shane Edwards; I’ve always had a soft spot for him, but his form over the last two years has been excellent, and he always tries.

    Peter, I actually really like Dimma, even if his press conferences sometimes leave something to be desired – although in all honesty, imagine if he said he wasn’t surprised at the effort? The media would run Richmond-in-crisis stories all week!

    Thanks Phillip – there’s something really genuine about Hozier that attracts me to his music. Another sister of mine saw him live at the Corner Hotel recently and said it was the best concert she’s ever been to.

    And thanks for remembering the netball article Mark! The new courts are lovely, we’ve got so much space and even got a change-room for the umpires(!)

  9. Steve McP says:

    Thanks Sarah, this is the best one of yours I’ve read so far. The eloquent use of the song and the ‘trip home’ coupled with your black Richmond humour (It’s actually a therapy all footy supporters use to cope) make this a very accomplished piece indeed. I also never realised the rain-soaked Maroondah Highway could be so beautifully described and evoking of spiritual experiences. Keep them coming. I can’t wait for one written from pure joy and exhilaration.
    Cheers
    P.S – Tiges aren’t that bad – take Deledio out of any side and you’re hamstrung!!

  10. Peter O'Neill says:

    Fantastic Sarah – humour in suffering – a great combination. As some who supported the Swans through 70.s and 80’s wooden spoons, relocation and near collapse I lived to see brighter days. This is beautifully written and reminds me of those “character building ” days. Your tribe will rise again, sometime during your life and you will hopefully be able to write about it using more uplifting lyrics – well done Sar!

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