People and Memories – part 3: Gerard Egan

Richmond Cheer Squad Chairman, Gerard Egan

People and Memories

Gerard Egan – Richmond FC

With only three finals campaigns and equally exasperating off-field fortunes since Richmond’s last Premiership in 1980, why do Tiger supporters keep the faith?

For Gerard Egan, Richmond Cheer Squad Chairman, the answer is obvious.

‘Belief. We are eternally optimistic. Every year we turn up and think this is the year things are going to turn around. I can’t tell you any logical reason why. Richmond supporters have the ability to turn any little thing that happens to the club over the summer into a defining moment.’

One recent ‘defining moment’ occurred in 2008 when Ben Cousins joined the club. Gerard smiles, recalling the hysteria surrounding Richmond that summer.

‘Ben Cousins – yeah, that was going to be a turnaround…’ he says wistfully.

It’s lunchtime Friday in the busy food court under the Commonwealth Bank building in Melbourne’s CBD. In his late forties, with a friendly face and disarming manner, Gerard has been employed by the bank all his working life. Wearing a Richmond t-shirt for casual clothes Friday, his salad sits neglected as he reminisces about life with the Tiger Army.

Brought up in Keilor in Melbourne’s north west, Gerard’s grandfather introduced he and his brother to football with regular Saturday afternoon trips to South Melbourne’s Lakeside Oval.

For his tenth birthday, Gerard’s mother took him to the local sports store to buy his choice of football jumper. Instead of the red and white of South, it was the Richmond jumper that caught his eye.

‘The yellow sash on the black background stood out to me as something very powerful. I just love the colours.’

Gerard’s football allegiances were determined.

‘I walked into the MCG for the first time – 1976 – and looked around and went ‘Wow’! I saw the biggest group of Richmond supporters, the cheer squad, and joined them… and never left!’

These were good times for Richmond. A ruthless and professional club culture, led off-field by Graeme Richmond and Ian Wilson, and coaches Tommy Hafey and Tony Jewell, produced five premierships from 1967 to 1980.

‘I was part of the cheer squad in ’80. It was fantastic. We were partying at half-time,’ Gerard recalls, referring to the 43 point lead over Collingwood. ‘There was no way we were going to lose. Kevin Bartlett kicked seven and David Cloke, six.’

Captain Bruce Monteath, who carried an injury into the match, and Daryl Freame, came off the bench in the dying minutes. It was the first time Jewell had used the interchange all day.

Gerard’s favourite player during this period was John Coleman Medalist, Michael Roach. The famous number 8 adorned the back of his duffle coat.

It’s this period in the club’s history that sustains the belief for many Tiger supporters.

In the 1982 Grand Final against Carlton, Richmond was traveling well until streaker, Helen D’Amico, broke its momentum.

‘We lost it after that,’ Gerard laughs.

Richmond soon went into decline. A ‘pigheaded’ administration pushed disgruntled stars Cloke, Geoff Raines, and Brian Taylor up Hoddle Street to Collingwood, while Richmond’s renowned professionalism evaporated, replaced by infighting. Mediocrity was the result.

In recent years, the recruiting department has erred, passing up heralded youngsters like Buddy Franklin and Matthew Pavlich, preferring the short-term fix, drafting older players from other clubs.

Richmond launched the ‘Save our Skins’ campaign during the late ’80s. The tireless work of volunteers saved the club.

‘I was shaking tins, and on the phone trying to recruit members… Three or four nights a week… The thought of there not being a Richmond, I couldn’t fathom.’

The cheer squad hung tough during the dark times and relished rare September appearances. For the 2001 Preliminary Final, with the country grounded internally by Ansett’s collapse, Gerard and other members boarded a convoy of buses to Brisbane. Other fans flew via New Zealand and Indonesia.

Gerard became chairperson two years ago. Duties include liaising with the club, allocating seats to squad members, and making the run-through. With nearly 700 members, the Tigers’ cheer squad is the largest in the AFL.

Gerard’s three children from his first marriage are members, as is current wife, Nikki. A Hawthorn supporter when they first met, she realised there was little choice but to convert. The only Melbourne based game Gerard has missed in recent years was for the birth of their son, round 1, 2011.

‘The cheer squad has become my second family. Most of my friends I’ve met here. If I had to put my life on the line, I know they’d look after me… It’s about being with the people you know and love.’

Gerard believes Damien Hardwick’s arrival two years ago was another ‘defining moment’. He expects the coach, along with Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt, to deliver good times for Tiger fans.

There’s not doubt about that?

‘None.’

The belief lives on.

Comments

  1. A sign on the Wynyard Football Club changerooms wall succinctly says;

    “In order to achieve you must believe – in order to believe you must achieve”

  2. DBalassone says:

    They are a passionate breed, those Tigers. Most Carlton supporters will tell you that the Blues had actually hit the front just before Ms. D’Amico strutted her stuff.

    Really enjoying this series Andrew.

  3. Tony Robb says:

    Andrew
    I believe that he pre-game “entertainment” at the Royal Hotel on Punt Rd is the reason some Tiger fans keep turning up. A very Insightful ritual that “exposes” the soul of your die hard Tigers fans and much more
    cheers
    TR

Leave a Comment

*