Nobody hates us anymore

The problem for Richmond is that we don’t rate at all on the football hatred scale.

No-one even tells jokes about us. I am with my Magpie-supporting mate, Grant, on a crowded express train  jetting past Victoria Park on the way to the MCG for the Collingwood-Richmond clash. The voice of the train driver is heard over the intercom.

“Wanna hear a joke? How do you give a Collingwood supporter twelve months of pain?”

All conversation ceases.

“Here we go,” says Grant. “Another one.”

“How do you give a Collingwood supporter twelve months of pain? You buy them a membership!”

Nobody laughs. Twelve months of pain? The Woods have made the finals for the past six years and played in three Grand Finals. They won the flag in 2010 and were runners up last season. They will in all probability make the top four again this year. A black and white membership ticket seems like a pretty good investment to me.

As for Richmond, how does two finals appearances and no premierships in the past thirty years sound?

The driver continues his Melbourne Comedy Festival routine by making everybody wait for a minute for the doors to open after the train arrives at Jolimont.

How they used to hate us, when the Tigers ruled the football jungle with tooth and claw in the late sixties and early seventies.

Friends approached me several times at church on Good Friday. On this, the most solemn day of the Christian calendar, they were eager to offer their sympathy on the eve of Richmond’s date with its belligerent neighbour.

“How do you reckon they’ll go?”

“It’s a new season, they might win this time.”

Touching, but misguided. I would have preferred for it to be like the days of my youth. Something   like, “Those Tigers are gonna go down, dirty mob they are. I hate ‘em.”

The Magpie fans don’t waste their breath on vilifying Tiger players or roasting their supporters. They fully expect to open new coach Nathan Buckley’s account after being eclipsed by Hawthorn in the opening round. Instead, they direct their ire at one of their own, sixth-gamer Ben Sinclair. Grant directs my attention to his inability to position himself correctly at stoppages and kick outs.  After the fledgling Magpie is unlucky not to receive a free, one Collingwood fan scores a few laughs by bellowing, “See, Sinclair? Even the umpires don’t like ya!”

They have a go at the match officials, which is standard fare, and Jake King, who always seems to cause a fracas or get himself reported against Collingwood. The barrackers send him off in style when he is subbed off in the third term with an injured knee. But that’s as far as it goes.

Buckley was dismayed by the fact that his side conceded 20 goals against the Hawks. He flagged his intention to make his charges more defence oriented against the Tigers. Richmond was always going to play men behind the ball in a bid to mitigate the damage from a free flowing Magpie outfit, but when Collingwood follows suit and employs a tight defensive grid across the field the match quickly degenerates into a morass of short kicks, scrums and turnovers. Mistakes proliferate. It even spreads to prime movers such as Swan and Pendlebury. They  miss targets, spray shots at goal and lob the ball out on the full like everybody else. Tigers attempt to switch play, can’t find a way through, transfer play to the opposite side, run into a dead end, swing it across once more and cough it up.  Collingwood has more polish and makes fewer mistakes. At just the right time, Swan, Pendlebury, Ball, Blair, O’Brien, Goldsack or Cloke do something properly  and give their side the edge.

“Ha Ha!” roar the fans when Cloke hauls in another mark before kicking truly. The Magpies are up by three goals in the second quarter and their hordes are expecting a breakout at any moment.

But it doesn’t come.  A half time scuffle as the players leave the field is the only bright spot in an otherwise abysmal spectacle.

Things change rapidly at the opening of the second half. Dale Thomas, hitherto unsighted, bursts onto the scene like a fireball. It’s ignition time. He surges out of the centre after the opening bounce  and goals within 13 seconds. He seizes the ball at the next one, passes to Sinclair who dishes it off to Cloke. Another one. Thomas marks a pass from Toovey in the square and pops it through. Fasolo adds a couple more. That’s five majors in seven minutes and the Magpies have charged to an eight-goal lead. A little later Thomas takes possession near the fifty-metre line and slots his third.  Their supporters are ecstatic. This is what they’ve come to expect in their years at the top of the tree.

How far the Maggies? With their work done, the Woods lose interest and start thinking about scoring tickets for family members for the blockbuster against Carlton on the following Friday night. The Tigers stay on task, manufacture a few opportunities  and somehow contrive to land six of the last eight goals of the game. The Collingwood supporters grow increasingly sullen. Until Jolly waltzes in and scores their twelfth and final major in the last term there are a few anxious moments for them. Collingwood wins by an unexceptional  21 points. Hardly anyone bothers to sing the song after the siren. They don’t abuse the umpires or taunt their yellow and black rivals in the stands. Grant wonders aloud whether Collingwood can make the finals with performances like this one. He consoles himself with the thought that perhaps Buckley is wary of peaking too early.

As we file down the stairs I’m almost hoping that the Magpie fans will blame Richmond for dragging their stars “down to their level”. But there’s no gloating and no mention of our latest five-year plan, which is meant to see us appearing in the finals in 2012. Instead, Ben Sinclair cops it again and is given the entire blame for Collingwood’s poor showing  by one elderly matron.

It’s sad, but true. Richmond is no longer significant enough to hate.

Comments

  1. Oh so true! Since the demise of Fitzroy, Richmond seems to be everyone’s second team! My dad tells me of the 1974 season when it was us against them, we were hated. Now, all my non-Richmond fans love to see the Tiges win. Would love to be us verses the world once more!

  2. Danielle says:

    I don’t think Richmond’s performance had anything to do with them not being hated.
    Im sure when Collingwood loses it touch we will still be just as hated as we are now…

  3. I think it’s more the complete helplessness of our past 30 years….people want to see Richmond do well much like they’d like to see the Dogs win a flag. Graham Richmond would be most displeased!

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Don’t worry John, win and the hate will follow. The last time I felt an intenseish dislike for the Tiges was in 2001 when they had that bloody Roar o meter going at the G everytime they scored a goal. As the Pies got toweled twice that year, I couldn’t find much sympathy.

  5. Blame Richo.

  6. Ah the Roar o meter…thanks for reminding me Phil. I hated that thing too! Hopefully you’ll be hating us again some time soon! Love the Collingwood/Richmond rivalry

  7. Dave Nadel says:

    There is nothing worse than being patronised as gallant triers. I would have thought that that position belonged to Fremantle but even though their record doesn’t warrant hatred their choice of coach may lose them the gallant loser status.

    Richmond in the days of Graeme Richmond, Tommy Hafey and all star cast of tough and talented players were easy to hate but the sixties and seventies are a long time ago.

    Back in the early eighties, the people outside the grounds who sold badges, scarves and souvineers used to sell badges saying “I hate Collingwood”,”I hate Carlton” etc. I remember going to the footy with fellow almanacker Tony Roberts in 1982 and Tony asking me if I had ever seen anyone wearing an “I hate Fitzroy” badge. I replied that I never had. Tony responded “that’s Fitzroy’s problem “

  8. Matt Zurbo says:

    A life-long mate of mine and Collingwood fan, and I were having a beer in a pub full of Richmond stuff on the wall. We were looking at some of the old posters when he said, absent-mindedly: I wish Richmond would get good again. I miss hating them.”

    Great piece, corker last parra!!

    Fitzroy. Sniff. I hate missing them.

  9. I hate Richmond

Leave a Comment

*