RICHMOND 2010

By Howard Kimber

A wise man once said, “there is nothing as over-rated as bad sex, or under-rated as a good shit,” and while some may argue the truth in that statement it none the less seems to perfectly sum up Richmond’s 2010.

While Collingwood, St Kilda, Geelong and the Bulldogs are seen as clearly the best teams of the year and the only true contenders, ultimately three of them are going to fail to climax. Meanwhile the Tigers finished 15th, half a win better than their miserable 2009, and yet are the big success story of the season – now that is a truly good shit!

The Highlights

Of course for this crude analogy to keep working a team has to first be in the toilet, and up until the 29th of May that’s where the Tigers dwelt. The first nine rounds, the talk of winless seasons and the betting agency early payouts on wooden spoon tickets served only to make the win over Port Adelaide all the sweeter.

The 45 point spanking in the pouring rain at AAMI, in front of about 27 Power fans and two timekeepers, was the lifting of an incredible weight from a mass of collectively hunched shoulders. It was like losing your virginity – suddenly you could go back to the pub and join in the conversations, you knew what it was like, how it felt, and your mates didn’t mind you hanging around so much.

The next five weeks extended the joy as we won five out of six and embarrassed the bookies on a regular basis, with the hard fought victories against finals bound Sydney and Fremantle especially gratifying.

This same period also had the individual highlight of Jack Riewoldt as he kicked 43 goals in 8 weeks, earning the Most Useless Stat of the Year award as this was endlessly pointed out as being the best two months of goal kicking since Matthew Lloyd in 2001.

True highlights from Jack were his ten against West Coast, where he elevated chest marking into the realms of the spectacular, and his eventual winning of the Coleman Medal with 78 for the season. At the beginning of the year the hole at full forward was looking like the hardest for the club to fill, but by round 22 it was one of many boxes well and truly ticked.

Another concern in March was whether Richmond would be able to build a decent midfield given draft concessions awarded to the two new clubs coming in over the next two seasons, but a couple of highly regarded but unproven kids put paid to many of those concerns.

The first was Trent Cotchin, a player considered as one of the best talents taken in the draft for many years but with a body somewhat akin to Mark Webber’s original F1 car. With the always dubious ‘individually tailored pre-season program’ under his belt it was most fans’ expectation that he would break down at some stage and eventually disappear into a rehab twilight zone from which no-one truly emerges.

By season’s end Cotch had shown that not only was he likely to become physically capable, but that he was fearless, gifted and a natural leader happy to put himself in front of a television camera or a collapsing pack, whatever the off or on field situation required. The next couple of years should see this guy go from promising kid to superstar faster than a Dustin Martin forearm.

Which brings us to the next highlight. Martin, an eighteen year old tank with neck tattoos and Robbie Williams’ 2002 haircut, burst onto the scene from the outset of the season and put the trademark ‘Don’t argue’ palm of his left hand in the face of anyone who thinks he may be less than magnificent.

Can you imagine this guy with a pre-season under his belt? Six months in the gym? Sheesh, you might as well rip his pants and paint him green, he’s going to be that scarey.

While the form of various other youngsters could be listed as highlights, plus moments such as Andy Collin’s kicking two late goals while unconscious against the Swans, I personally thought the retirement of Ben Cousins was a gold star moment. Yes, there was the actual occasion, the fanfare, chairing off the ground and all that hoo-hah, but I’m referring more to the overwhelming sense of relief that he had come and gone and somehow the club had not only survived but seemingly thrived from the experience.

I had barely exhaled during Benny’s two year tenure at the Tige’s, just waiting, as the old joke says, “for the other boot to drop”. No matter how good the intentions, the management and the manipulation, we were always just a Mickey Finn away from media meltdown. That we had the sleeping tablets, the stomach aches and ultimately the documentary, and survived, was testament to a communications department fit for federal office.

I enjoyed Ben’s on-field contribution and believe the line about what he did for developing our kids behind the scenes, but when he disappeared down the Docklands race after round 22 I finally breathed out of every orifice God gave me. Now I need to find new friends to go to the footy with next year.

Lowlights

The biggest lowlight for 2010 happened in 2009, when Matthew Richardson announced his retirement due to a body that was, well, old. To be honest it may have done the club a favour, as Jack Riewoldt’s accelerated development would suggest, but to have the big guy leave without a farewell game was cruel to him, to the Tiger community, and to all other football fans alike.

A lap of honour was slotted in before the opening game against Carlton, hundreds of kids in yellow and black with 12’s on their backs lined the ground, and a ridiculous over-supply of unnervingly realistic ‘Richo’ masks were handed out, but something was missing. A speccy? A pout? Imploring hands pleading on a long lead? A wayward shot at goal or a glorious snap from the boundary? Just something.

‘Richo’s’ departure was like losing a partner without the comfort of ‘breakup sex’, but rather just coming home to find your clothes on the nature strip and your scale model of the Cutty Sark painstakingly made from 227,346 matchsticks now lying in 227,346 pieces on the driveway. But like Chinese food, as good as the man was half an hour later we were looking for another ‘Richo’, and it seems we may have found him.

It’s hard not to find a litany of lowlights from a six win season, but to mention them would seem irreverent to the spirit of the year, so suffice to say that obviously they were there but I’m not going into them. To return to where this piece started, no matter how good a shit is, it’s still a shit – we don’t need to stick our noses too close.

The Improvers.

Where does one start? About thirteen paragraphs back with Jack. And Cotch. But who else?

Chris Newman had a great year off the half back flank, but more impressively really came into his own as a captain. After the trials of his first year in command including a club in upheaval and the sacking of Terry Wallace, Newman settled into the role with maturity and capability, suggesting that he doesn’t have to worry about handing back the number 17 guernsey just yet.

Daniel Connors and Shane Edwards were two that took particularly big ‘next steps’ after promising much for the past three years. In Connors’ case it came after putting his career and jaw in jeopardy after a drunken carry-on in Sydney, while Edwards’ improvement seems to be directly correlated to every kilogram he adds to his frame. If the club can get him on a doughnut-only diet he could yet take home a Brownlow or two.

But the most unexpected and rewarding improvement was that made by the wee-man, Jake King. The overriding perception of King going into this year was that the recruiting team had gone to a dark and dingy shop down an alleyway in Chinatown and bought a small, hamster-like creature from an old man with half a dozen foot-long white hairs hanging from his chin. Under strict instructions not to get the guinea pig wet or feed it after midnight the Tigers proceeded to throw it in a bath with a Happy Meal on the side half an hour before game time, then dress it in an RFC jumper and let it loose.

King started the year at Coburg and many thought he would stay there, but his determination and commitment were eventually rewarded. Even then it seemed like no more than a “give everyone a run at some stage this year, except for Jordan McMahon of course” strategy, but the mad midget refused to be dismissed, and by season’s end he had not only stayed in the side but had overtaken all others in the race for the vacant ‘defensive small forward’ role.

The Sliders

When players slid this year it was pretty much all the way out of the team. Richard Tambling had a shocker after what seemed to be his breakout in ’09, but considering he had preseason surgery on both hips that eventually led to him going back under the knife in July, and was played as a small forward which Damien Hardwick later admitted to being a bad decision on his behalf, it seems harsh to put too much derision Richie’s way.

Relton Roberts was given a chance in the first two games and showed some of that indigenous magic that somehow makes you feel racist for acknowledging, but his game was far from complete, he was unhappy, and eventually he slid all the way back to Darwin.

Robin Nahas burst onto the scene last year like a very small ball of excitement, but it seems that he took two little steps backwards and now hides in the late afternoon shadow of King for the forward pocket job.

It looks like Dean Polo’s career may be over, and remembered for little more than three Brownlow votes on debut and one of the worst hairstyles ever to grace the ‘G’. Unless Missus Hardwick is a fan of the golf ball ‘Do it’s probably fair to assume that his football could be to blame.

And then there’s Jordie …

Giggle Moments

Okay, it’s totally unfair and cruel, maybe even libellous, to call Jordan McMahon’s year a ‘Giggle Moment’, but the fact that he was the only senior listed player not to get a game is just something that makes you involuntarily chuckle. Like someone getting hit in the nuts on Funny Home Videos! I mean I know it’s not actually funny, but what are you going to do? You’re going to give a little guffaw, even if it’s only because it didn’t happen to you.

I’m sorry, Jordie, truly I am. On so many levels. In so many ways. I’m sorry.

Let’s move on.

Lament

That we ever traded for Jordan McMahon! No, there I go again. Totally uncalled for and not even what I think, I’m just glad the kid with the cricket bat didn’t hit me in the Jatz crackers.

2010 at Richmond was an exercise in not lamenting anything. It was like one of those weekends where they lock you in a hotel convention room with padded pink plastic furniture, and you have to think positive thoughts and not about going to the toilet. We were all very lovey this year and refuse to be down. We’re Hare Krishnas. We’re Orange People. We’re fundamentalist Christians smashing Tom Cruise videos.

Besides, lament suggests something lost, and let’s face it, we had nothing to lose in the first place.

What’s Next?

The only way is up, as Yazz sang in 1988, but then in 1988 Tiger fans truly believed that things had to get better. They didn’t.

This time around there is much more reason for optimism. The core of any top team is the midfield and with Cotchin, Martin and a hopefully fit Nathan Foley as the mainstays it is a centre square to beware of. Add in the grunt of Daniel Jackson and Shane Tuck, the improving Edwards and Collins, the ball magnetism of Connors and the luxury of Deledio twenty meters away and it seems to be a third of the ground sorted for the next decade.

Riewoldt has provided a heavy anchor for the forward line to be rooted around, although elusive small forwards continue to elude us.

The back line is solid, built around a bevy of six foot two guys who can play big or small, although ideally it would be good to actually have someone of genuine size to take on mobile toilet blocks like Barry Hall and Jon Brown. The class of Newman and Deledio gives the back half a real edge that can be the little bit of difference between bottom eight and finals.

‘Dimma’ Hardwick has proven that he knows how to blood youngsters and give entertaining press conferences, but in 2011 he’s going to have to show that he also knows how to coach a football team. I have a feeling he does, but there’s a lot of sunscreen and cricket before he’ll get another chance to convince us.

So while one would expect next season to be better than the last, raised expectations may make it a less enjoyable ride for the players, coach and fans. If 2010 was a good shit then 2011 is likely to be our year of bad sex (and we’ve all had one of those, eh? No?). Ultimately we’ll all feel a bit guilty, a little ashamed, inadequate and quite frankly wondering if we’ll ever get it right – but hey, at least it’s sex! And if we keep on practicing, by about 2014 we’ll screwing everyone over good and proper.

Comments

  1. Howard – This has to be the most hilariously accurate assessment of our season I’ve read so far!

  2. John Mosig says:

    Great stuff Haggard. You may have overlooked the Man Who Cost Terry Wallace his Coaching Career. Mitch Morton is going to win us a Flag one day. And Mitch Farmer is one who caught my eye. Angus Graham weighed in too. He took a few hits over the season and was up against some pretty accomplished followers. He’ll only get better.

    I thought Moore, Thursfield & Tucky all showed improvement under Coach Hardnose, which says as much about the new regime as it does about the individual players.

    Not sure about Tiger Tambling? As you say he’s had a rough trot with injuries. But he has some class, but he never seems sure about wht to do with thw ball when he gets it. Maybe some good games will have him playing instinctive Football. Look at Andrew Krackouer after he toughened up.

    I reckon next year is going to be a real roller coaster ride for The Tigers. Lots of character building. Can hardly wait for the Long Dark Summer to end.

    BTW, your comments about bad sex. You don’t realize how much of it is out there until you get onto some of the real stuff, eh?

  3. Howard,

    did you hear about the young Burnie bloke who got Jack R at 500 to 1 to win the Coleman after round three?

    I certainly did.

    I will let you do the sums on a $50.00 bet.

  4. May finally be able to clear your tab at the Burnie Bowls Club, Mister W.

  5. Germaine Greer had a version of that first quote Howard.

  6. Haggard, twern’t I. Some young whipper snapper.

    Further I haven’t been to the new state of the art BBC.

  7. LOL!!!

    Funny stuff Howard :)

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