Round 1 – Richmond v Carlton: No more winters of discontent

 

Patrick Carlyon perfectly summarised the new reality for Richmond supporters in the Herald-Sun on the morning of the game. ‘But even losing to Carlton tonight could not threaten a return to the eternal winter of Tiger discontent’. Carlyon refers to a friend who embedded a can of Richmond premiership special edition beer in an art piece on his lounge room mantelpiece without his wife’s knowledge. He calls it a fitting monument to the day the world changed and being a Tiger fan doubled as a shot at happiness.

 

If the world had succumbed to a zombie apocalypse on October 1, the day after the 2017 Grand Final and I was battling to survive in a world without AFL footy, I would still be content. Against all expectations we had achieved what was thought by many, including me, to be so unlikely as to be practically impossible. A Richmond premiership.

 

I had previously confided to friends that I would accept ten years of wooden spoons for one more flag in my lifetime. And here we are in the opening round of the 2018 season, raising the said ensign into the night sky and commencing our title defence against the Blues.

 

We have witnessed a turning point in history. Decades of frustration, disillusionment and humiliation have been erased forever. The possibility of failure holds no fear for me. Even if the fates were to conspire against Richmond again in the form of one-point defeats, winning leads surrendered in time-on and key players going down with knee injuries, the joy of what transpired in 2017 will never fade for me. Maybe this is what is meant by ‘premiership hangover’.

 

Tonight I have the opportunity to test this new epoch. Footy fans have marked this date on their calendars. Six months of hibernation have come to an end and there is a palpable sense of excitement in the packed MCG. The ball is bounced to initiate the new season and 90,000  spectators cheer. Dusty has the first clearance and Tiger fans, having just watched their premiership DVDs one more time to get in the mood, lustily roar their approval.

 

The Blues jump the Tigers. After 11 minutes they have five goals on the board to Richmond’s solitary behind, with Charlie Curnow booting two of those majors. It appears that coach Brendan Bolton’s promise of a more attacking style is more than idle talk. Kreuzer is on top in the ruck, Murphy directs the traffic on the outside and the formidably proportioned Patrick Cripps justifies his reputation as Carlton’s Great Navy Blue Hope for the future. Yet I am blissfully unconcerned. I reckon the Blues won’t be able to sustain their effort once the Tigers fire up their engine room and apply the fanatical brand of pressure that dismantled better credentialed teams at the business end of 2017.

 

Riewoldt opens Richmond’s account and the Tigers kick the next four goals of the game, nullifying Carlton’s opening burst. Martin, Cotchin and Rance impose their authority. The Tigers draw level half way through the second term, but don’t lead at all for the entire first half. Irate Richmond supporters believe they are on the wrong side of a lopsided free kick count. The biggest bone of contention is the number of 50-metre penalties that Richmond concede for infringing on the protected zone of opponents after they mark or take free kicks. This occurs even when they try to avoid the area by deviating from their course without obstructing or interfering with the player in possession. The umpires administer the rule with the zeal of North Korean air traffic controllers protecting their airspace from Yankee imperialists. Carlton score four majors as a result of these penalties and the Richmond faithful are outraged.

 

When Caddy finds himself on the end of a handball chain and pops it through in the opening minute of the third quarter, the Tigers lead for the first time. Charlie Curnow replies immediately and the contestants trade blows through seven lead changes in the next thirty minutes. The Tigers are up by four points at the final change.

 

The relentless Richmond pressure is beginning to achieve its purpose. Carlton find their exits from defence blocked as the Tigers go hunting. Kicks go astray and they start to lose possession. Kreuzer is hobbling and unable to replicate his early ruck dominance. The Blues are barely hanging on as the Tigers miss shots at goal. There’s only a point in it at the 11-minute mark when Martin pounces on a loose ball and rams it through. It’s the first of four goals in four minutes as the Tigers slam the door on their persistent opponents. Butler gathers a long ball without breaking stride and curls it home. Sharpshooter Jake Townsend, the Cinderella Man from 2017 with his late ascension to the premiership line-up, adds two more. Richmond barrackers enjoy the satisfaction of being a top team getting the job done after having your work cut out for you. In the end it’s a 26-point win for the title holders and represents the departure from base camp in the hope of another successful attempt on Everest.

 

The siren sounds, I sing the recently corrected club song with my fellow devotees and retrace my steps to Jolimont Station in a state of perfect calmness. Yes, the world is a different place to what it was at this time last year.

 

 

Comments

  1. bob.speechley says:

    What about a comment on Carlton’s “white” shorts!

    I think they distracted the opposition in the First Half.

  2. An impressive win to start off with, John.
    One Tigers flag was tough enough to endure. Not sure what I would do if there was another this year.

  3. I didn’t mind the newly recorded song; it sounded a bit better and has the correct lyrics. I don’t understand the hysteria from the masses when the songs were re-recorded.

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