Of Tigers, Bulldogs, Black Pots and Kettles

Recently I called bulldust on the lingering hype about the Western Bulldogs following their 2016 Premiership http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/dog-of-a-year/. I potted the media for its rose-coloured view of the Dogs’ playing group well after the evidence of their 2017 season indicated that they are actually a pretty ordinary team. I put the boot into the club for spinning a syrupy narrative about being some sort of champion of the battlers while being only too happy to pocket millions from Premiership merchandising. I even dared question the cult of “Bob”. I’m sure plenty of folk thought I was just envious that it wasn’t my mob that had done the Cinderella thing. Maybe I was. All I can say with certainty is that I never imagined that I’d be facing an identical scenario with Richmond just a couple of months later.


Hyperbolic outpourings about Richmond’s 2017 Premiership already exceed anything said or written about the Dogs of 2016. I’m sure the club’s windfall proceeds will easily top the Doggies’. The story of “Bob” has been eclipsed by the legend of “Dusty” (probably because he actually did stuff on the field). And as for cloying sentiment – well how many times have we read about the Tigers emerging from their “lost years” and the unfailing loyalty of TLSPRF?


So after my critique of the Dogs, should I be branded a hypocrite for my contributions to this “hype of the Tiger”, particularly as I’ve contributed enthusiastically to the already impressive flood of yellow and black (and purple) prose, primarily through The Tigers’ Almanac – an unashamedly smug, indulgent publication?


Well actually, my rant specifically exempted one group from a bake – the rusted-on fans. They’ve done the hard yards. They’re entitled to any amount of parochial, self-congratulatory celebrations over any length of time they choose. Same with the Tigers (myself included). If it happens that we’re a larger, louder, more obnoxious group and other folk are already sick to death of us – tough.


That said, my other barbs about the Bulldogs – the club, its fans and the media’s portrayal of these – apply just as much to Richmond. So even as our celebrations continue, here’s a few sobering points to bring the yellow and black revellers back to earth.


  1. The media. As the hacks move from dissecting 2017 to predicting 2018, get ready for plenty of warm, fuzzy unfounded sentiment about Richmond. I get that they need to sell papers and boost ratings, but as far as I’m concerned, the media would do well to confine their analysis of the Tigers to the following:
  • Premiership halos are huge distractions when it comes to predicting “the year after”, particularly when teams win Flags unexpectedly;
  • Everyone starts on zero wins in March and Richmond will have moved from “hunter” to “hunted”;
  • Our draw is, rightly, a tough one and there will be no easy wins;
  • Richmond is a “good ordinary” team, bolstered by a couple of genuine champions. The loss of Rance or Martin will derail us completely and we can’t count on being as fortunate on the injury front next year as we were in 2017;
  • We have a relatively young list with a number of up-and-comers. They might develop significantly and provide more depth and quality to the team but Premiership medallions come with no guarantees;
  • With a stable, fit and in-form group, the 2017 Tigers matched the best teams. However, as the Bulldogs showed (as does AFL history), repeating that effort is very difficult and I’ll be the first to admit that the Tigers rode their luck this year.


Anything more upbeat than this is B.S.


2. The fans. Yes, Richmond has a large, loyal fanbase and we’ve been stoic and passionate in enduring that 37-year drought. But we’re not that special. We enjoyed a wild, spontaneous party in Swan Street on 30 September as we buried the ghosts of seasons past, but were just as easily seduced by the marketing machine that cranked into gear at Punt Road the following day and has been humming away steadily ever since. The Premiership may well pave the way for Richmond to become the biggest and best-supported club in the competition. But it’s easy to go to games when the weather’s fine and the occasion is big. So let me throw this challenge to our fans: turn up to regular games. It was great that 94,000 folk rocked the G at the Preliminary Final against GWS, but 61,000 of you weren’t there two months earlier when we played the Giants in July. For a club that’s bragging about having 100,000 members in 2018, having just 33,000 turn up to a critical home game is just not good enough!


3. The club. After years of dysfunction and chaos, the Gale/O’Neal administration in recent years has been brilliant and never better than in the last 12 months. However, as much as Benny was in his rights to say “job done” after the Premiership, the way that the club reacts to this unexpected success will be its real test. It’s easy to trade on the romance of the Premiership after years of failure, but the worst thing we could do is elevate this achievement to a single special moment and not capitalise on the opportunity it has created.  So as much as I’m still in celebration mode, I want to hear about the $3-5 million in unforeseen revenue that the club will earn from its 2017 Flag and what this means for its future development. I want to see Richmond build a stronger, deeper list for the years ahead. If pushed, I will admit that I want Richmond to be so successful that it’s no longer news and the rest of the football world is bored with it. If the trade-off for success is that we sacrifice romantic, self-destructive glamour, then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.


So now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch another re-run of the Grand Final. But be sure, when Round 1 2018 begins, I’ll be under no illusion that the events of 30 September 2017 will make Richmond any different to the other 17 teams vying for those precious four points.


Presenting The Tigers’ Almanac 2017. Read all about it HERE.

Purchase The Tigers’ Almanac 2017 HERE.



About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.


  1. G’day Sam,

    Congratulations on your beloved Tigers’ premiership. I hope you are still enjoying the joy.

    As you mention, I sense the power of media reports. They are so desperate to get attention but they forget the golden rule of reporting reasonably.

    Sadly young people are still finding the way how to resilient against the much pressure. Unexpected win in the Grand Final can establish the pressure in the young team.

    I just can believe many Tiger mob didn’t turn up the MCG match at the home and away season. Your suggestion more supporters (members) should attend games is what I agree. But the club and MCG should offer reasonable tickets as well as on food and beverages.

    I really hope our coach Alan Richardson guides our young players well to the top soon and wish 2018 is the year of the Saints. I don’t want them to fear of the post premiership hangover.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and it is a good read.



  2. John Butler says:

    Remarkably clear-eyed considering what’s transpired, Stainless.

    Based on historical precedent, the Tiger lid will be harder to keep on than a Doggies one. A good test of how much the club and its fans have really changed.


  3. Thanks John – Round 1 against your mob will tell a story.
    I’m old enough to remember Round 1 1981 when a complacent Richmond lost by 10 goals to Carlton, beginning a painful 36 year journey. The Blues introduced a couple of newcomers that day – Ken Hunter and Peter Bosustow – who could play a bit. I think the Tigers just thought they could just turn up and repeat 1980 all over again.

  4. Hi Sam,
    I find there are couple of tensions in Richmond’s situation, which you point out: the selling of overpriced kitsch as Premiership merchandise and the opportunities this brings – further investment in the Club.
    My question, quite generally, is how the windfall will be invested.
    The Premiership success is based on the diligent work of the Club’s management, but it is us fans and members who have lapped up all sorts of goods on sale. (Richmond fans are known big spenders on their club) As an ostensibly member-owned club, and a club which has benefitted greatly from its members contributing to the Save our Skins campaign, the Fighting Tiger Fund and now the Premiership merchandise spending spree, I do think the fans/members should be rewarded in some way, rather than having, spaces such as the Museum being diminished.
    What the Bulldogs and even Carlton have going in their favour, is a cafe at which the public can enjoy the space of their clubs’ spiritual home.

  5. Andy or JTH – is the Tigers’ Almanac available for sale at the club?

  6. Stainless: I like your question. But, methinks not. I’ll use this question as an excuse to drop by the Premiership Club tomorrow.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    While you are there Andy, suggest to the club that they use their windfall to buy a copy for each member.

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