It was ‘A Hard Year’s Plight’

I wrote this piece last year during Richmond’s ‘winter of discontent.’ Losses to Port Adelaide and the Gold Coast had overshadowed some good early form in the season, and we were facing another lowly finish….

It’s been a long cold lonely winter.”

These words, penned by the late George Harrison, the ‘quiet’ Beatle, have been bouncing around my head in relation to Richmond’s season thus far, as the ‘winter of discontent’ has settled upon Punt Road once more. Below, I have combined two of my great loves- it’s the Richmond Football club’s season in the words of the “Fab-Four!”

After a promising and lively start to the season (2011), a period where Tiger fans really got to see how they run the ball from defence when they’re up and about, the season has truly become a long and winding road for the Tigers. With interstate trips to Darwin, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and Perth grinding our campaign to a halt, the ultimate test was a  Magical Mystery bus tour home from Sydney after all Tullamarine-bound planes were grounded. When asked how the team was holding up through this tough period of travel, all that captain Chris Newman was able to mutter was ‘I’m so tired’, before curling up in a ball for some hard-earned kip.

Of course the media began to circulate, casting a critical eye over Tigerland. One scribe stated that “this past month has seen Richmond play toe-jam football, Miller is playing like he has feet down below his knees, and Riewoldt has been flying for the most ridiculous of marks when completely out of position. It was rumoured that he asked Ty Vickery to “help me get my feet back on the ground!” at one stage.

Mitch Morton fell out of favour at the selection committee, defensive coach Justin Leppitsch commenting that “Suddenly, he’s not half the player he used to be.” Morton responded that “Everybody seems to think I’m lazy, but it’s just my running gate that makes me look that way! The club decided that this was best settled behind closed doors.

Luke McGuane’s discipline has also been called into question, with a record number of 50-metre penalties conceded so far this season. When the media quizzed coach Hardwick about the issue, he informed them this was because  McGuane “always shouts out something obscene, but he is getting better. Look with Lukey, half of what I say is meaningless!”

Injury has also plagued Richmond’s season, prompting assistant coach Wayne Campbell to comment that “It’s all too much!” The match in Sydney claimed promising youngster David Astbury, who dislocated his knee with an awkward twist and shout of agony! “I will return” Astbury later confirmed, a steely determination in his eyes.

A more public injury was in round 2 against St.Kilda, when Jack Riewoldt came down upon his head. Jack pleaded with Doctor Robert.Doc, it’s only a scratch, I’ll be better as soon as I’m able.” But he wasn’t allowed back on due to a concussion, and was subbed off, the doctor telling him that “You might not feel it now, but when the pain cuts through you’re going to know”.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has endured a frustrating period since the clubs win in the Dreamtime at the ‘G match against Essendon. “Don’t let me down!” Hardwick was heard to plead at three-quarter time against Port Adelaide, his plea clearly audible to media covering the match.

He was later seen in the rooms, long after the players had left, spending some quality one-on-one time with the magnetic board, pondering Richmond’s defensive struggles. The focus at training that week was on fixing a hole where the ball gets in, with skipper Newman, a general down back saying that sometimes it seems they’re trying to plug “four thousand holes!”

Pushed further on why the defence lacked cohesion, Newman was at a loss. “The communication was good on field, we were talking about the space between us all, but the opposition was still able to find a way through!”

But coach Hardwick is calling for patience. To the Richmond faithful, who are as restless as a wind inside a letterbox, he pleaded “Wait, you stick around and things might show some real improvement, and it won’t be long before you can celebrate anything you want!”

Yet after another embarrassing loss to Gold Coast in Cairns, a crowd of people turned away. “Here come the Suns” read the headlines in the dailies. Hardwick became more philosophical, informing journalists that “When we get to the bottom we go back and we play for some pride. Look, there’s a chance that we may fall apart before too long, but we’re taking the long term approach with this footy club.” Dimma then posed his own question to the media throng. “Have you got a good reason for taking the easy way out? No, this club needs a long term approach. We’ll sit down at the end of the year and say look, everybody had a hard year, and everybody needs to pull their socks up.”

The coach maintained that morale within the playing group was still high, and revealed some of the techniques he’s been using to keep the players up. “Look I just tell them to get back to basics. Sometimes we strip back and simplify the game plan, and I’ll just say the only words I know that they’ll understand. All the boys are talented footballers, but sometimes we just need to remind them that there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. And for the young guys still learning the ropes, there’s really nothing they can do but they can learn how to play the game, it’s easy.”

It has not been all doom and gloom however, with many positives coming from the season so far.

Matthew White, in his sixth season has purely been instructed to run for your life, and has busted his gut up and down the wing. Lively forward Robin Nahas has taken his game to a new level, no longer anchored to the forward line, he is now running everywhere at such a speed.

Daniel Jackson has remodelled his aggressive game style due to a series of suspensions. “Man he was mean but he’s changing his scene and he’s doing the best that he can” Hardwick said of his number one tagger, while when asked about Trent Cotchin, Hardwick paused, a glimmer in his eye. “There’s something in the way he moves, he’s just a special talent.”

New Tiger Bachar Houli has also had a standout year across half back, and has relished Hardwick’s direct coaching and simple game plan. Speaking about his time at Essendon, he responded “The teachers that taught me weren’t cool, filling me up with their rules!” However, while Reece Conca has had an outstanding debut season, skipper Chris Newman was concerned about his ego, after hearing a radio interview in which Conca was heard to say “They’re gonna make a big star out of me!”

A tough pre-season is in store for young Reece” Newman said bluntly.

The club has had nearly as busy a year off the field as it has on, with the Fighting Tiger Fund launched to eradicate the clubs debt, the Punt Road redevelopment and the opening of the ME Bank Training facility. The club has really come together under C.E.O and former player Brendan Gale, who had been away so long he hardly knew the place.

Gee it’s good to be back home.” he mused upon his appointment in 2009. Gale has a simple philosophy on where the club is at. “Money don’t get everything it’s true, but what it don’t get, we can’t use.” Gale sees it as imperative that the club no longer should carry the weight of debt that it has since the early 1980’s, and has asked members and supporters to dig deep, so that the Richmond footy club can be competitive in the future.

Usually at this point in a season, we Richmond supporters are busy preparing for the barrage of jokes about finishing in position number 9, number 9, number 9, year after year. However, it seems even our traditional ninth-spot is beyond us for season 2011. I am now resigned to a lowly finish on the ladder, however the breaking point for me was after a loss to Essendon, having led at three-quarter time. In frustration I blurted out “you could find better things to do than to break my heart again!” But once I regained my equilibrium, I looked to Dimma Hardwick, in whom we trust, and feel that the future still looks good, and we’ve got time to rectify all the things that we should.

*This article is dedicated to the day that Richmond’s Bruce Lennon lined up on Collingwood’s Jason McCartney in round 14 of 1993! Also, there are 54 references to Beatles songs in bold, some well-known, some obscure! How well do you know your Fab-Four?

About John Carr

First and foremost, I'm a Richmondite- 5th generation and dyed in the wool. I love the club, but also have a love for the game itself, and love to explore the cultural and social aspects of Australian Rules football. I am married with 4 kids, and also have a love of music, and run a small recording studio http://theholybootsfootballemporium.wordpress.com/

Comments

  1. Would have been much better without the references bolded. Why spoil the hunt?

  2. Yeah Daniel…thought about that but some of the phrases seemed too obscure. Sorry to spoil the fun! If you’re keen you can name all the songs the quotes are from! That’s the teacher in training in me….always make sure work can be extended for the bright kids!

  3. John
    As I life-long Beatles fan, I had a crack, and reckon I got the lot!
    Some of them were ones I had not heard for years. Where’s the ipod?
    Great stuff!
    Smokie

  4. Hey John

    Got the lot too … looking forwrad to you’re one on their solo careers!!! I agree with Daniel …don;t spoil the hunt next time, but a wonderful tapestry all the same

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