Grand Final Reflection: Finally, it’s Tiger time!

Artwork: Zelko Zelac

 

Finally, it’s Tiger Time!

 

 

What are Richmond fans going to complain about now?

 

Every year since 1981, we’ve had to dissect our disappointment and console ourselves with the fact that “there’s always next season”.

 

We’ve whinged about wooden spoons, poor recruiting, self-interested officials, unfulfilled promise, heartbreaking losses and plain bad luck.

 

In the mid to late 1980s, Richmond was a shambles on and off the field. Good wins were rare and I was literally happy if we weren’t 10 goals down at half time.

 

Those were dark days, with stars such as Geoff Raines, David Cloke and Bryan Wood leaving the club. Despite their best efforts, those who remained were unable to drag our club out of the doldrums.

 

The 1990s weren’t much better, with one finals series for the decade – 1995.

 

We did see a brilliant come-from-behind semi-Final win against Essendon, which I watched with my cousin Kate, whom I brainwashed with her sister, Bec, to follow Richmond when they were young.

 

But a week later Geelong thrashed us in the Preliminary Final by 89 points and it was back to the old drawing board.

 

I met my husband and fellow Tiger, Brian Roy, at the end of that year. For the next 17 seasons Richmond made one finals series in 2001, when our daughters, Jess and Bec, were aged just two and six months. Our son Ben wasn’t even born.

 

In 2013, when we next made the finals, Jess was 14, Bec 12 and Ben 10. We finished in the top eight for three years running, but each series ended with a heartbreaking elimination final loss.

 

I never gave up and turned up every week. At times it was hard, with endless Richmond jokes and other Tiger fans refusing to attend games after years of torment. Sometimes I went alone.

 

When the kids did come, some people half-jokingly accused me of child abuse for dragging them to Richmond games.

 

After driving Jess and Bec to Adelaide for the 2014 Final against Port, only to see the home team pile on about eight goals in the first 15 minutes, I thought they might be right.

 

There were memorable wins, like Sam Lloyd’s goal after the siren against Sydney last year, and the club’s administration has been on an upward trajectory since Brendan Gale and Peggy O’Neal took over.

 

The signs had been promising on and off the field for five years, but when the frustrating losses continued in 2016 we continued to wonder why we put ourselves through it all.

 

Finally, this year was different.

 

After winning our first five games, we knew the Tigers had come to play this season. Richmond was a close unit and quickly bounced back after losing a string of matches by less than a goal.

 

The players clawed their way into the top four and, unlike previous years, won games they should have. Apart from shockers against Adelaide and St Kilda, they played consistently good footy.

 

Something special then began to build towards the end of the season after we lost to Geelong at Simonds Stadium.

 

A huge win over Fremantle and a solid victory over St Kilda saw Richmond enter the finals with confidence and self-belief. Luck was also on our side, with few injuries or suspensions.

 

Strangely, I and other Richmond fans who often attend games thinking the worst, were quietly confident as we took on Geelong, despite not having beaten the Cats since 2006.

 

Our MCG record was even worse. Last time we’d beaten them at the `G in 1999, Jess was a baby.

 

After turning things around and smashing Geelong by 51 points, we knew that if we replicated that form the following week we could beat GWS.

 

When we did, by 36 points, the question became: Can we do the same to Adelaide? After so many years of disappointment, we genuinely dared to dream.

 

The Crows were rightly favourites, but I knew we could break them if our boys demonstrated the same self-belief they’d shown in the first two finals. I was quietly confident that we’d do it.

 

After lapping up Grand Final week, which we’d never experienced in the modern era of huge parades and a massive multi-media build-up, it was one for the ages.

 

Richmond took control in the second quarter after a nervous start and once our noses were in front, there was no looking back.

 

When the Crows kicked two quick goals in the last quarter, for a few minutes we worried that the old Richmond might emerge. But the doubt was soon laid to rest and victory was ours by 48 points.

 

We’d done it! Tigers fans were long-suffering no more!!

 

Being at the MCG with Brian, Jess and Bec to see our team crush the Crows and break that 37-year premiership drought made all that pain worthwhile. Words can’t describe the pure joy we felt.

 

My team had earned it. The fans had earned it.

 

Days later it still feels surreal. But I know I’ll float through this summer safe in the knowledge that that Richmond are premiers and deservedly so.

 

When it counted, we beat the other three top four teams – by six goals or more. It really was one for the true believers.

 

Our only problem now is finding something to sook about. For almost four decades we’ve been conditioned to talk about what could have or should have been, looking ahead to next season.

 

How good it is, Richmond fans, being able to sit back and tell ourselves, “We won the Grand Final”?

 

Go Tigers!

 

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Comments

  1. Isn’t it good Cheryl? I just don’t want this feeling to leave me. Like you a true believer- and we did it our way. Enjoy the moments – shall we count the ways?

  2. steve todorovic says:

    Cheryl, you’ve been living my life for 37 years! There must be hundreds of thousands of us who have gone through exactly the same milestones, or is that millstones? Like you, I was lucky enough to be at the MCG with old friends and you could literally feel the weight of 37 years of expectation lifted from the shoulders of the Tiger Army. The meek Crows did their part by never challenging in the second half so we had the added bonus of being able to bask in the sheer joy and exhilaration of winning a Premiership for most of the last quarter. The Tigers played an amazing brand of finals footy throughout September. I can’t recall a similar dominance of three successive finals for a long while now. The Crows may have been the best team of the first 21 rounds but the Tigers were clearly the best and most dominant team of the last 5 rounds of football. When it really counted, no team got near them. Strange how it took so many football pundits until after the final siren on Saturday, to appreciate how good they were. A Crow mate of mine, very confident before the game, suggested on Saturday night that finals footy wins finals. The thing I’m most looking forward to? Is that there will be a day in the middle of summer, when I’ll be doing something in the garden or out with the kids on the beach or maybe I’ll just be washing the dishes, and my mind will wander back to September 30th. And with it will come that glorious inner glow that comes with realizing that my Tigers are the reigning premiers. We dared to dream and our dream came true.

  3. Joe De Petro says:

    Love it, Cheryl. This win is for our kids as much as anyone.

    Now we can sit back with smug looks on our faces as other teams line up to sack their CEOs, coaches and even change Presidents. Even their players are walking out.

    It’s like one Tigers’ flag is all it needed for everybody else to become the new Richmond.

  4. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks haje and Joe and well said Steve. I think it’s still sinking in. It became very real for me today when Richmond tweeted a photo of the Cup engraved with the club’s name on it. How good is that? I’ve already ordered a replica :-). Anyway let’s bask in it and revel in the fact that when it mattered our team was better than the rest!! Go Tiges!!!

  5. murray walding says:

    I don’t think we are long suffering at all- to me its like reading the complete works of Shakespeare- you wouldn’t say that was long suffering. There’s no club like Richmond…none that are so Shakespearian in style- comedy, drama, and pathos, and all in equal measure. (There’s been times when all of those three were key ingredients in just one game, much less a whole season). We can all recall times when in a flash, joy has been turned into despair but I’ve come to love that sense of what emotional swings we can expect to befall us next, so, no. I’m not long suffering at all….its been a long, and eventually exciting ride…Good on you Cheryl.

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Good onya Cheryl. You’ve stuck with them through thick and lots of thin. Enjoy !!

  7. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Phil and good point Murray. We had a lot of highs along the way, but not related to finals. I’ve really enjoyed the ride, even though it has been so frustrating at times.

  8. Hi Cheryl,

    It’s a good read and I sense you and your fellow Tiger supporters were so patient for 37 years. It must be so frustrating in the 1980s and 90s…

    After finishing at the 13th last year, your boys improved well and Richmond formed a good team. Hardwick has done a great job. And patience on the coach brought you the flag, I reckon.

    St Kilda’s win over Richmond this year is so memorable for me. But unlikely your Tigers, we had a big gap of ups and downs. And missing the win over Port Adelaide was so frustrating. We have to kick accurate goals to show attacking footy.

    But your premiership this year is what my Saints can learn.

    I really hope the Saint Time comes in 2018.

    Thanks

    Yoshi

  9. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Yoshi.
    Wouldn’t it be great if the Saints could do the same in 2018!
    You would have loved the big win over Richmond. That was a shocker! I was caught on camera that night sending tweets when I should have been watching the game. I had to distract myself somehow :).
    Anyway let’s hope we get another close season next year.
    Cheryl

  10. Ron Issko says:

    Great article Cheryl. You encapsulate how tiger fans have suffered for so long and how joyous it is to be premiers for 2017.
    We started the season with 5 wins in a row and we ended the season with 5 wins in a row!!
    The best part about being premiers is that it transforms all Tiger fans into Superman. When other jealous fans make jokes about the old Richmond they just bounce off us like bullets do to Superman!!
    Tigers Premiers 2017?
    Now for back to back!!!

  11. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Well said Ron. It is funny that some people can’t give us credit for beating the other top three teams by at least six goals each! If they were good enough they would have beaten us :-).

  12. Robyn Meggs says:

    Brilliant Cheryl! It’s so hard to put into words the many emotions the past few weeks have engendered in us all…. I’m just so very, very grateful to have been able to share that pure, unadulterated joy with my darling daughter Emily, who has suffered so many slings and arrows in her 26 years as a Richmond supporter! No matter what happens in the coming season and beyond, 2017 has been immense reward for all of that angst! Go Tiges!

  13. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Robyn. It has been an amazing ride that hopefully our kids will always remember. I know we will!

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