Lid Removed

One of the major concerns with pressure cooking is that the lid must be secured tightly. If it manages to break the clamps that tether it to the pot, all hell breaks loose. Yes it’s a pretty obvious metaphor but for once the cliche about the lid being off down Punt Road way is uttered with less irony than normal. It has been all too easy of recent times to tease Richmond’s rusted-ons by sticking the tongue firmly in your cheek and asking if their excitement about a big win had lifted the lid off. The routine has been wearing thin of recent times. Sick of hearing the gentle sound of patronisation, the Tigers fans I know have been very careful to deny any knowledge of there even being a lid that needs removal.

Post 4pm Saturday afternoon though, the lid hit the ceiling and the pent up frustrations of too many idle Septembers were showered across the kitchen. The Tigers made a mess of a finals fancy, but more profoundly – the Tiges have confirmed their finals ticket. The impossibility of Richmond missing the finals every season since 2001 is hard to comprehend. It is as close to an enigma as football can get. A series of missteps and missed opportunities, mixed together with poor judgement and bad choices. To miss the finals in a competition that is structured in such a finely balanced mix of draft picks, salary caps and equalisation measures, is bordering on careless. It is so much easier to make the finals in a ten year cycle than not. Everything is geared towards making sides competitive, so much so that you can sit comfortably in the middle of the pack, sneaking into the finals but never really being a threat to win it all for a four or five year stretch easily. The Western Bulldogs have made a habit of doing just that. In the finals mix over several cycles, they have teased their fans with glimpses of a final thrust over-the-top without ever getting there. Perpetually short of a key forward, the Doggies kept banging at the door but couldn’t crack open far enough to get inside.

How the Tigers have failed to see September for such a stretch is less important now that they’ve made it though. The problem they now face is the expectations of the fans that they drag along behind them. This is a finals campaign that breaks a drought and the thought of it ending in one swift week of sound and fury is unpalatable to the faithful. The stakes are high because the journey has taken too long.

That isn’t this team’s fault of course but it is their cross to bear. Chris Newman holds the unenviable record of the current player with the most games played without appearing in a final. It’s hard to imagine that not being a huge rallying point for this team. Newie is the classic team man. Every side has one, the player who quietly gets it done. No flash or fizzle, just assignment completed with minimum fuss. Within this new era of ‘leadership groups’, we have begun to see how highly rated players of Newman’s ilk are. There is no argument to be made against his standing when his team-mates elected him captain. When he then stands aside from the post so as to invest in the future of the club’s leadership, you understand why he is valued. Without trying to sound critical, I also found it fascinating that Trent Cotchin decided to keep his No.9 guernsey rather than wear the No.17 that had become a recent tradition for Richmond captains. Newman wore the 17 proudly. Cotchin wears the 9 as proudly. I suspect the only difference between their decision making is that most Tigers cubs have a number nine on their backs. Spying a number one has always been a harder job. The fact is, the choice of guernsey number is mostly predictable. Richmond have a parade of 8’s and 9’s at present. Hawthorn meanwhile, has an army of mini Buddys. There is an occasional 33 or 15 (and frankly nowhere near enough 5’s) but the sea of 23’s will drown all other numerals out.

Speaking of predictability, there is also an odd sense that this Tigers win belongs in that category as well. For reasons that almost always get explained away with terms like- ‘They match up well,’ and ‘There’s just something that suits them about their style of play,’ Richmond managed to put the Hawks to the sword. That they did it in similar fashion to last season’s victory creates a new paradigm. Hawthorn were on the end of an upset last season but a repeat dose this year immediately gets folks talking about trends. Of course the truth is always the first casualty on these occasions, mainly because there is never one fixed truth. What tends to happen from one victory to the next is a sense of purpose, brought on by a conviction within the Tiges that they have the measure of these blokes. If given its head, it can produce a one club momentum that is hard to counter if you’re the Hawks. Supporters of other teams have little knowledge of this head-to-head reckoning but those with vested interest know the score. Having touched up the Hawkers nicely last year, Richmond’s brethren are revelling in doing it again. Certainly, if the finals deem it worthy to repeat this match-up, there will be an oversized confidence coming from the yellow-and-black faithful.

Sure bragging rights do tend to preempt logic. If Hawthorn do face Richmond come finals time there is every chance that the hardened finals outfit will be too strong for the callow first timers. But since when has logic played any part in football come September? If there is enough belief to go with this two game swing to Richmond, we might witness a genuine finals coming-of-age by the Tiges. Thanks to this win there is now a chance to start dreaming such things – Welcome home Tigerland.

Comments

  1. Richmond need to play their first final, if it’s in Melbourne, at the MCG. Even if it’s against Port Adelaide, as the Tiger faithful will be out in force. I would expect a crowd in excess of 80,000. If they play a Melbourne-based club, then it will be a sell-out.

    So, who shouldn’t get an MCG final? Well, Hawthorn should either host a game at York Park (unlikely), or perhaps Geelong should play at Docklands. Or, play the Richmond final on the Monday night, and the winner plays a Semi Final on the following Sunday.

    Then again, if Richmond lose the next 4, they could mathematically drop out of the 8. It would be disastrous and unlikely, but a win against the Bears this Saturday and their fate is certain.

    The Tigers are back, and on the attack.

  2. Stan the Man says:

    You gotta love the club song….”Yellow and Black”. If the Tigers play the Power in a final it will be on with the connections of Hardwick, Lade and Williams vs their past. Nice scenario, I hope it eventuates.

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