Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Richmond: Tiger dreaming

 

It is 1:25 PM. Friday afternoon, on a sodden synthetic court. I am here early, chucking a basketball in ever-receding hope of getting the bugger in that tattered, tired net.

 

There are six hours and change left. Less than half a day to go.

 

And I feel absolutely sick to my stomach.

 

I’ve struggled through a Legal SAC with nothing but possible forward match-ups on my mind. I’ve retched my way through Maths, pondering Lachie Henderson’s height at the back. I’ve hyperventilated through Science, weighing up whether the mental scars of yesteryear will impact on skipper Cotchin’s output.

 

Ollie has his scarf on, his jumper beneath his uniform. I have my hoodie underneath mine, yellow and black, again and always.

 

Nervous. We are joined by a neutral Blue, a quiet Catter and another Tiger. He has a seat, a scarf, a jumper and hope.

 

Hope is what we collectively own, what we are united by. Tonight we dare to hope.

 

Because then it’s 3:30, and now 3:35, and there is a car chock-full of delirious Richmondites, two cubs and a terrified Tigeress. Our people, friends from footy and from life. Ollie and I lumber on in, through a clutter of schoolbags, raincoats and scarves.

 

Go Tiges, we squeak, through chattering teeth, ripping off blazers and donning beanies. There are nods and affirmative grunts.

 

The cubs, Danny and Lena, were tarred by our elimination failures, having made two heartbreaking ventures to Jolimont and the long journey to Adelaide. Gabe stood on a terrace in ’95, cheered from a roiling army in ’01.

 

But this is new.

 

We agree that this is different.

 

We agree that today feels inherently right.

 

Victoria Street starts apocalypse-esque empty as we roll our way ever down, filling as the clock hits 4:30, 4:45. Our discussion is tense, revolving around Twitter and Game of Thrones.

 

We agree Dugald Jellie is our messiah.

 

We agree Titus O’Reilly is one funny man.

 

We agree that Tormund Giantsbane and Nick Vlastuin are uncannily alike.

 

We agree that somehow, Ollie is terrified of the Telletubies. We laugh, kind of.

 

And then we are parked, Dad has a scarf fed around his neck, an aged cap perched jauntily upon his noggin. Two Tiger families embrace, our nerves one, our hope one.

 

This evening is moving, too fast, too fast.

 

We are walking, through the city that has been painted bright yellow, matt black. We are exchanging “go Tiges” with strangers, taking photos, soaking it in, attempting to soak it in.

 

Finals are not our gig, have never been our gig. We are aware of failure and plenty of it. We are reminded every day that we have never stood up.

 

But, we have agreed.

 

This is different.

 

Pizza, a nervous lemonade, checking for late changes. I haven’t eaten since breakfast, and while the hunger is there, my stomach has shriveled. Between our team of six, we make eight toilet visits.

 

Outside, rain threatens. Dan Butler, Kane Lambert, somewhere, are dusting off the long-stops with glee.

 

And we are walking again, down Clarendon. There are young Tigers with Dusty’s ‘do, chanting the name of their hero, yellow, black and the number 4 painted on their grinning cheeks. There are old men with Tetley on their scarves and overcoats draped over shoulders who’ve seen this all before.

 

Seldom are the white and blue hoops sighted.

 

We agree that tonight is a very, very, Richmond-y night, as we bounce, we are bouncing now, past Wellington Parade, as the trams expel a building yellow and black horde, as the cry of “getcha foo-ty rec-ords” builds, as the Tiger swarm builds and we are One, converging on six light-towers and a patch of sacred turf.

 

We are here. And there is a lot of We.

 

To our gate. Our Tiger sextuple is split. Hugs, nervous back-slaps, “go us”. And then around the concourse, filing through our fellow Punt Roadians, and though the light is blue and white, the billboards displaying Joel Selwood and the Geelong logo everywhere, there is no advantage given. Not an inch.

 

70 000 voices are powering their cause. 20 000 others are trying to support theirs but just can’t.

 

I am a Tiger so my mouth is perfectly, smugly shut.

 

We are in before we know, bags open, tickets out, amongst it all. Through the turnstiles and we breathe. Up the stairs, eyeing the masses, tickets out again. We sit, seemingly a kilometer away, but happy to be there. And we shake, because we are here.

 

We are here, and we are not ready, and we are not sure, but we are yelling all the same.

 

Trout is up here, somehow, saying g’day, soothing the nerves. We shake hands. We exchange pleasantries. We ask cricketing questions, he gives me advice, worth weight in gold. We say go us.

 

And we settle.

 

Brad Ottens is on the big screen. He is booed. Dad’s jaw noticeably tightens.

 

“Gave us nothing, apart from Richo’s broken foot.”

 

Our neighbours are here too, decked out in rare hoops, badges, scarves, jerseys, beanies. Good luck, we say, but not too much luck. They laugh.

 

A last look on the phone. Harms, the wisdom gravitating through the screen – “may the best team win.”

 

We aren’t ready, but the anticipation is killing me.

 

And then the Tiges are out, and the noise is something unheard. I’ve been here in 2015, but this has a different tone. It is deserving. It is righteous. We belong, we don’t know it, but we believe it with every bone in our body.

 

“Yellow and black” echoes in a way I’ve never heard it. Every sound, lingering, reverberating.

 

Out come the Cats. Boooooooooo.

 

Throaty. Visceral. Richmond.

 

Dad’s eyes are wide. He says no.

 

No, this is different.

 

No, this didn’t happen last time.

 

The roar after the national anthem shakes the stands, shakes souls. I look for Jack Graham, for Dan Butler, for Jase Castagna, for Dan Rioli. I look for signs.

 

This is moving too fast.

 

The ball is bounced, and the siren has gone, and we are yelling and screaming and shaking all at once. And we are forward, tackling, harassing, tugging and pulling. Pushing.

 

There is a man in the goalsquare, with red hair. The ball spills, toward him, toward his foot.

 

Towna.

 

Goal.

 

Tigers.

 

It is a blur, of sound and colour, of yellow and black. Jack Graham is tackling everything. Zac Smith is smashed. Caddy is everywhere, Cotchin belts Dangerfield, then Scott Selwood, clearing the ball, pointing, directing. Leading.

 

This didn’t happen last time.

 

But: we aren’t scoring.

 

But: Dusty is being well-held by Guthrie the Older.

 

But: this is September football, and if you leave the gate open you are never, ever safe.

 

Then, Jack snaps it to Martin, who finds Caddy.

 

The Army at the Punt Road End rise, like a wraith from the dead, his kick true.

 

Geelong kick four points in the first. They are smashed, belted, shanghaied by a thirsty Tiger outift that have lifted, dominated, but have kicked only two goals.

 

And in the second, they kick one. But they are killing the Cats. Prestia mows down Joel Selwood. He looks stiff, sore. But Prestia slices the kick into woodwork. Groan.

 

Rance has torched Taylor. Astbury has Hawkins by the neck. Tormund Giantsbane in #1 is marking everything. Houli is composed, Edwards busy, Lambert always accumulating.

 

Butler snaps one and we say surely, that’s starts a run. Surely.

 

No. The Cats are living a dangerous life. They should be six majors down. But, aren’t.

 

Motlop has done nothing. But he gets the pill. At 40.

 

And then, Selwood. A handball.

 

Not Dangerfield.

 

And it’s nine points, where it should be thirty.

 

Heads in hands. Fingernails worn to nothing. A measly lead which could be nothing, and we feel it.

 

Not again. Please.

 

We are begging you here.

 

And in the third, the Cats come home. The Tiger swarm is still around, yet the Cats are composed. They kick through. They run. And through James Parsons, they have the opener.

 

And when Zach Guthrie takes a monster grab, 45 metres from goal, directly in front, he can kick to return the Cats to the lead.

 

And he misses. Daniel Menzel would be pulling his hair out. We breathe again. And Dad doesn’t have an aneurysm.

 

But the Tiges move forward. A rushed kick from the Hoops finds a tattooed monolith in Nathan Broad. He finds Vlastuin. He’s been everywhere, and for a crazy moment, I wonder how he deals with spit ends in his magnificent beard.

 

He settles, at 55. Boots it.

We know its home. And we say, “yes”.

 

“Yes, Tormund”.

 

And then, Shedda. Another. Two goals up. We need a few more. But it is Hawkins who bangs his first through, clenches a fist, slaps hands.

 

He is attempting to enflame. I remember 2011, a Saturday afternoon. I pray Rancey does.

 

Astbury boots to a wing. There are fifty seconds left.

 

And a moment swells, builds, surrounds Tom Stewart and his opponent. A man with his family history proudly inked into his neck.

 

Dustin doesn’t mark. But he gathers. Pushes Stewart to the turf. And runs.

 

Run, you good thing.

 

Run because you must.

 

And kick it long.

 

Riewoldt has body on Tuohy. He sinks into the Sherrin, and it is Prestia, goalside.
Yes.

 

Siren and we’re ready. Finally.

 

Bring this bad boy on.

 

And the fourth begins, and the Tigers are ready as well.

 

Dustin, away again, like a fish, twisting, twisting. His right boot, to Grigg, another. A chip, to Butler, who misses. We say, “good kick, Dustin,” as he jogs off. The crowd stands, as he drags himself to the bench. They are tackling, the Tigers. They are hunting. Geelong aren’t. Where is Joel Selwood?

Someone points out that Cam Guthrie is off, has been off for a while.

 

We agree that we aren’t there yet.

 

Jack Graham has handballed to Kane Lambert. And he has snapped.

 

Dad tries to roar, tries to growl, tries to stand with his Tigers, our Tigers, but finds no voice and a flood of emotion.

 

And when Jacob Townsend pulls down a grab and snaps another, and when Jason Castagna pulls down a one-bite hanger and nails the set shot, we are out of our seats and hugging strangers and wondering how, how have they done this, we are there and we’re here again in a fortnight, come as you are, come as you are.

 

This game seems done, but we aren’t, won’t call it.

 

But when Cotchin grabs a hard footy, spins, dances, goals, we do.

 

We’re there.

 

The siren sounds at one point, but all we hear is a roar, and a chorus.

 

Yellow and black.

 

We sing the song. And we sing it again.

 

Yellow and black.

 

We are within the bowels, we are embracing those who are ours, there is beer on my beanie and we’re singing, singing all night.

 

“Oh Dustin Martin, you are the love of my life”.

 

We are within the cheer squad and we are chanting, because we’ve won. Because we won.

 

We meet Gabe, Dan, Lena. We hug. We dance. We sing.

 

Most importantly, we dream.

 

Tigers.

 

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: Dangerfield, Duncan, Smith, Tuohy.
Richmond: Martin, Prestia, Vlastuin, Cotchin, Rance, Lambert, Edwards.

 

VOTES
Vlastuin (Rich) 1, Prestia (Rich) 2, Martin (Rich) 3.

 

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

Comments

  1. Perfect Paddy.

    How about we try hope and trust instead of fear and disappointment and see what happens …?

    Go Tiges!

  2. Joe De Petro says:

    Great stuff, Paddy.

    Hands up all the Tiger Tragics who had no voice on Saturday?

  3. Ninth No More Paddy.

  4. And Joe, I was still gargling on Sunday morning.

  5. Peter warrington says:

    Awesome.

  6. Great stuff Paddy.
    It definitely felt different. Nervous, yes, but excited, positive nervous, not the feeling of impending doom that we felt before the final in 2015.
    And yes, no voice on Saturday morning.

  7. well done Paddy x

  8. Wonderful writing Paddy, worthy of the messiah.

  9. I wasn’t there but I feel like I was – your well written piece has dropped my right there! Hope I can be part of it next week. Fingers crossed for tickets…

  10. Paddy, Great energy in your piece. You carried me along in a just tolerable reminder of what happened. It was a memorable night for good and bad reasons. But ultimately it was a memorable night.

    Of course we have a different view of Brad Ottens.

  11. If you were a Geelong player, what an opportunity this week! A lot of people give them no chance against the swans, but I certainly give them a huge chance. They have to believe in themselves number one. They have to really take them on, number two.
    Last year must stay in their minds when the swans kicked them out. The cats cannot allow this to continue against Sydney, because this is a matter of pride. They simply cannot, under any circumstances, let Sydney push them around any longer. It’s time cats, you have centre stage and you have to deliver.You must stand tall. For self-respect, for personal pride as footballers and as men, you must really take on Sydney this week, you have to really let them have a taste of the feral cats, not the social cats. This is a huge opportunity for Geelong to get them at last. This is not a chance to fail, this is a time to succeed, and I expect the cats to finally get one back on Sydney, repay them for last year, and kick them out of the MCG and out of the competition in 2017. Can’t wait cats, Rip those swans to pieces! Like true hunting cats, this week,they will, hunt down, the swans.

  12. John Butler says:

    Great stuff Paddy.

    There are those occasions when fans, players and club all seem in perfect simpatico.

    I still remember the day of the 1999 Prelim. I saw behaviours from Carlton crowds I have never seen before or since. It was like a collective resolve had been reached – yes, we can do this. And we did.

    It feels like Richmond had that on Friday. Bulldogs 2016. Why not Tigers 2017?

    Cheers

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Glad to see that Dugald is paid his due Paddy. That photo of him with his Tigers sign in the Members is priceless.

  14. Love your observations, Paddy.
    It’s really what this supporting is all about.

    “We are here. And there is a lot of We.”

  15. Paddy great to see I’m not the only one ‘tiger dreaming’ !!!@!

    Your writing reflects the energy of that night.

Leave a Comment

*