Richo

By Tim Pekin

“Bloody Richo”, growls Nick, rising to his feet.   Followed immediately by “YOU ARE A GOOSE”, yelled at the top of his lungs.   Each word is clear and coherent.   If he doesn’t hear that, thinks Nick, resuming his seat, he really is a goose.

Richo looks up, then down, and once more up again.   Sure he listens, as he lines up for goal. But with the crowd exceeding 50,000 individuals, hears no one.   He concentrates.   He’s been in this position before, many times, he knows what to do, but knows it doesn’t always work out the way he wants.   He practices, of course, most days, but it seems nothing’s certain. Who knows whether it will be a goal, a point, or a poster?

Nick watches Richo saunter toward goal, 20 metres out, directly in front.   He could kick into the man on the mark thinks Nick gleefully, he doesn’t look confident, he’s under too much pressure, he’ll miss for sure.

As the ball slews off Richo’s boot Nick smiles, or rather smirks, which instantly recedes as the ball slips uncannily around the goalpost for a goal.   Surrounding Nick, Tiger fans cheer and sigh in relief, and sigh in relief and cheer.   For their team, for themselves, for Richo.

Nick puts his head in his hands, leans forward, sees a potato chip ooze out from underneath the side of his Doc Marten boot.   A sign? He feels anxious.   The Swans have been up all day, in control. Richmond, and Richo have been down all day. They just haven’t been good enough, the Tigers, they’ve had no system, yet now the margin is closing.   Nick despairs.   Anything could happen, especially with that dickhead Richardson coming alive. The proverbial sleeping giant!

The ball is bounced in the centre to get play underway.   Nick follows the action fretting, fidgety.   He sees Richo lead down the wing where the ball isn’t.   “You idiot Richardson”, he mutters absently.   And adds brightly, sardonically ,“That’s better, more like you, ya big ugly troglodyte”.

Nick had thought the Swannies a certainty to win today, or at least Richmond to be rabble.   He’d planned this Saturday for a while, had bet money on the game, a lot, with a mate.   He has a party tonight where he could celebrate, if they win. The Tigers, at the MCG he’d thought a gimme.

“C’mon”, he said gathering himself.   “C’mon Swannies, let’s smash ‘em”, he snarled.

The ball fluffs and flurries like it’s aflame. Some would say it’s tight in the clinches. Then fizzes out the side of the pack, like a hot coal, into the waiting mitts of a Tiger player, who hurriedly shanks the ball high into the forward line.

In his peripheral vision Nick sees Richo charging diagonally back across centre half forward.   He’ll never make it, thinks Nick, followed by a burst of poetic wit, Sir Mathew the Marvellous galloping to glory on his golden goose.   Nick guffaws at this bizarre thought.

Yet Richo, undaunted, launches, pole-vaulting over his jousting lance, if you will, sideways, and out of position, floating across the pack to pull in a screamer.   The crowd rises, unified, transcended in the instant. And Nick, he’s flabbergasted and even angrier, because he felt himself rise with Mathew Richardson, momentarily brothers, soaring above the shallow waters of winning and losing.

Recovering from his incredulous lapse, Nicks dislike intensifies a hundredfold,  and as Richo has his shot on goal, Nick drones like a dysfunctional `dialect’ from Dr Who,“miss, miss, miss, you idiot, miss, miss, miss, you idiot . . . “ Yet the ball wobbles off Richo’s boot and keeps wobbling on through the goals.

The Tiger fans roar with approval, a deep resonant sound reverberating around the MCG.   Nick sees Richo clap his hands together,, arms straining, muscles bulging, neck elongated, voice urging.   “C’mon, one more.   One more Tigers.   C’mon”.

It was too much for Nick.   He vaulted vigorously forward, found himself trapped between seats, thus relegated to pointing at the number 12 Tiger jumper, 200 metres away. Accompanied by wild gesticulating, Nick lambasted obscenely Richo’s entire family and their heritage, revealing scandals, secrets and shames.

Having finished he groans exhaustedly, “C’mon Swannies”

Indeed the Swannies did push down into their forward line, but the Tiger defence was admirable in their desperation.   Out of bounds, no score, it became a stalemate.  Nick knew the Swans were good at consuming time, and there wasn’t much left.   They were a chance to hang on here, he thought. Kirk was enterprising around the stoppages and could trek deep onto the wings to nullify any potential Tiger forward thrusts.   Yet a dubious free kick to the Tigers on a half back flank gave time to out manoeuvre the Swans captain.

Subsequently Richo leads hard down the wing yet is ignored.   He waves his arms frantically in frustration, before swinging back to the goals.   Meanwhile the ball is chipped to the middle of the ground.   Richo leads again, this time to the boundary, “That’s right Richo, way out there is real smart”, thinks Nick sarcastically.   Richo is overlooked once more and runs hard back to the goals while the Swans push back and clog up the corridor in front of goals.

Richo leads again, toward the opposite boundary, and this time the ball is kicked high in his direction, not perfect but it gave him a chance. Richo, being Richo, an aerialist who waits not for perfection, leaps gracefully and athletically around and over a jostling pack, to take a strong mark, though landing awkwardly with an opponent crashing into his back.   “Hurt him”, mutters Nick hoarsely.

Tiger fans rise and boom wildly in applause and apprehension.   Richo emerges heroically from the ground, hugging the ball to his broad chest, face cast with responsibility.   He is outside the 50 metre arc on the boundary.   Nick watches as he walks gingerly to the top of his mark, turns and strides in without lining up for goal and thumps the ball long.   It shoots forwards, flipping backwards, arcing along the curve of a yellow and black rainbow and sinks beyond the goals into the crowd.   Richo flings his arms in the air, elated. A chant breaks out pulsating with one name “Richo,   Richo…,” as he high tens and high fives teammates and grins.   A giant’s grin.

Nick is beside himself, cannot stand the sight of Richo, wants to box Richo’s ears inside out, but cannot reach. If only he could get Richo by himself… Nick feels violated, cheated, by Richo.   He knows they are gone, the Swannies.  He sinks within himself, feels a wrath, a murderous wrath, overcome him and is stilled by its fierceness.

To Nick the sirens arrival is like a train in the distance. He stays seated and sits for a long time, planning revenge.   He contemplates ambushing Richo as he comes out of the change rooms, wild thoughts fuse with wild deeds, but the beep beep  on his phone sees the train pull in at the station and rearranges his derangement.   [Cheer up.   Party tonight, don’t forget.   Butch]   Bastard, thinks Nick.

* * * * *

When Nick arrives the party is swollen with people.   He nods and says hello to familiar faces and squeezes toward the bar.   He’s not feeling talkative, not yet. He’s still brooding over the day’s loss, but knows that’ll go if he finds interesting company.

He’s relieved to see music on the TV screen in the corner, not football, or a replay of the day’s game.   He relaxes further and lets the hubbub of the party press in beneath his skin.

On the tram ride home all the talk was about Richo and the Tigers’ win.   At home, before slamming it off,  the radio swooned with people commenting admiringly about Richo. And the TV news gave highlights of bloody Richo kicking those winning goals. Nick nearly put his thumb through the remote control switching it off.   He felt at last though he could relax.

“Ah Nick, thanks for coming.   How are you?”  says  Cate.

“Hi  Cate, Happy Birthday,” says Nick. handing her a small gift. The noise is loud where they stand. “Come with me”, she says, taking his hand and leading to an alcove.   “There’s somebody who wants to meet you”, she says, interrupting some people sitting in the corner.   “There you are? Nick, this is Mathew, Mathew, Nick”.   The light is dimmer here.   Mathew stands to shake Nick’s hand.   He’s tall thinks Nick, he’s, . . . he’s  effin Richo. This cannot be, thinks Nick. No, Oh no.

Crushing reality slaps a conscious blow across Nick’s brow. Nick reels, staggers.   Richo grabs his arm, holds him steady.   “You all right mate”, he says, with concern.

“Yeah, been a big day”, answers Nick, embarrassed, sickened, feebled, as  his arch enemy Richo shakes his hand and smile’s. “I’m pleased to meet you anyway Nick.   Hope you don’t mind I asked Cate to introduce you”.   Nick shakes his head and mumbles “No, no”. He feels stunned, trapped, a rabbit in the headlights. He waits for anger to arise, it doesn’t.  He looks at Richo towering over him,  with a kindly face and modest demeanour, and reminds himself that this is his nemesis, his enemy.

“I really wanted to let you know,” says Richo,  “I’ve enjoyed your music over the years and your last song especially”.   Nick nods, smiles weakly, while inside cringing.   He feels sweat appear on his upper lip, on his back.   This is persecution. This is pressure. It couldn’t get any worse, thinks Nick. Richo was being friendly, sincere even.

Cate, sensing Nicks discomfort, interjects brightly, “Nick follows the Swans, Richo” Nick looks for a hole to be swallowed up in, he feels ambushed, but is blocked from the bar by Richo who says affably “Ah , bad luck today, the Swannies were unlucky, they probably should have won.” Nick looks closely at Richo, thinks, ‘is he for real’.  Though Richo appeared straight faced and genuine. A conversation ensued, mostly about music, with Richo convincing Nick to teach him a few chords on his guitar at a later date. Nick relax’s, eventually, realises Richo was probably not all those things he said he was throughout the day.

Later, after coming to a completely new view of Richo, Nick caught up with Butch.   “Gees Butch, I’ve just made a dickhead of myself, Richo seems to be a nice guy, I mean a really decent bloke. I’m an idiot.”

Butch rolls his eyes and growls “Bloody hell, Nick, you’re a goose, I’ve been saying  that for years.”

Comments

  1. Ripper of a story Tim, perfectly demonstrates Richo’s brilliance on the field and humility off it.

    What year was this match?

  2. Richard Naco says:

    Outstanding tale. The game is poorer and a tad more monochrome for Richo hanging up his boots, but I am enjoyed his commentary of the game on Friday night so he isn’t totally lost after all.

  3. johnharms says:

    Brilliant Tim. And great to hear from you.

    By the way, are you coaching this year?

  4. Martin Reeves says:

    And I always imagined Nick Cave to be a Saints supporter.

    Enjoyed this Tim, good stuff.

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