Summit Fever

 

The football world really ought to give Richmond supporters more credit. “Keep a lid on it Tiger fans”? Even Mick Malthouse is getting in on the act. People think we’re like little kids sighting a bit of tinsel in July and getting all excited because Christmas has arrived. But things look good. Scintillating victories over Hawthorn and St. Kilda. Four wins from the last five games, poised just outside the eight, a percentage over one hundred per cent and matches against Fremantle, in Melbourne and GWS before the bye. The chance to kick back with some chicken noodle cup-a-soup in the middle of winter with seven wins and a place in the top flight to be consolidated courtesy of an easier draw to follow. That’s right, the hard stuff done. We’ve conquered the Hillary Step just below the summit of Everest and we’re on our way to the top of the world.

Sure, it’s a long hike up from base camp and we’ve been stuck down there amidst the rubbish dumps, discarded oxygen bottles and latrines for three decades now. We’ve ventured gamely up the slopes and been deceived by a few false summits before tumbling down to where we started from.

But can you blame us for getting excited today at the MCG? It’s only the Dockers we’ve come to play. They’re coming off three consecutive losses and a hailstorm of criticism over Ross Lyon’s “boring” style of game. The Dockers have lost their last ten matches at the peoples’ ground. In their last outing here in 2011 they were beaten by Melbourne, yes Melbourne, by 89 points. Richmond has won four of their last five against the Dockers in this city. It’s cold and wet and not a bit like Perth. The unwitting Dockers have wandered down to the river into Tiger territory. Here’s the opportunity to urge our boys to go for the kill. We can also give them a dose of their own medicine by ganging up on the umpires and ensuring that we win the majority of free kicks through sheer intimidation. It’s what their own fans do at Subiaco.

The game starts in a highly satisfactory manner. Within four minutes of the opening bounce Edwards  pops it through from the square and Riewoldt snaps truly after a ball up. There is a mighty cheer from the stands at the news that Aaron Sandilands has been subbed out of the game.

“Sandilands is out,” I gleefully tell my daughter. “Fremantle can’t possibly win without him. Maric is gonna  kill ‘em.”

But things don’t go to plan. The comfortable quarter time lead worth double in wet conditions that I confidently predicted never materialises.  I had never lost too much sleep over our selection of Aaron Fiora in preference to Matthew Pavlich in the 1999 draft. After all, Pavlich has never played well against Richmond on this side of the country. In fact he always seems to leave his best form at Perth Airport. Yet here he is outpointing Alex Rance and booting three by quarter time. The absence of Sandilands is offset by Riewoldt leaving the field with what appears to be a rolled ankle.

Much to the frustration of me and my fellow partisans, the game is being played on the Dockers’ terms. Lyon is pushing everyone behind the ball, leaving no room to move in Richmond’s forward line. The run, spread and rapid movement of the ball which was so effective in their previous two matches is being stymied by the greasy conditions, Fremantle’s fierce tackling and their propensity  to win key contests. The game descends into a series of massive rugby scrums with goals at a premium. As soon as the Tigers make a disposal error the Dockers pounce and attack into an open forward line where Rance is often stranded with only Pavlich for company.

Maric has reverted to his SANFL status and is being countered by ex- Adelaide teammate Jonathan Griffin. Crowley is blanketing Deledio. Martin is unable to barge his way into space. I curse the absence of the suspended Jake King and the injured Nathan Foley, both of whom  would have revelled in these conditions. Riewoldt returns to the field but can’t get into the game, constantly flying against McPharlin, Johnson and a host of others.

My daughter has had enough of the frigid conditions and departs for the station.

The umpires’ sense of geography is hopelessly wrong. We’re not at Subiaco, but the free kick count   mounts in favour of the visitors. Richmond supporters are soaking wet, cold and getting testier by the minute. This isn’t how it is supposed to turn out. Not for legitimate contenders like us. Lyon is dudding us again. We couldn’t beat him once when he was at St. Kilda and now he’s sinking us with what seems to be a much inferior outfit. And yes, it’s terrible to watch.

The Tigers attack relentlessly in the final quarter but can’t break through for the brace of goals that will put us in front. When Pavlich marks again and calmly slots his sixth at the six-minute mark to put his side up by 15 points I know the gig is up. There is no way the Dockers are going to surrender  their lead in these conditions. Lyon is in his element and will surely be gloating over how he has ruined the weekend of 40,000 sodden citizens fuming at the injustice of it all.

It’s a cruel game, football. When you feel like you’re getting somewhere at last there’s a sudden slip and you’re grasping at thin air once again. Down you go, back to the bottom. This is what happens when you lose the games you expect to win. Sure, we’ll probably beat the kids from the western suburbs of Sydney next week, but a return of six and six before the break is neither here nor there. We’ll be no closer to knowing whether Richmond is the real deal and heading for its first finals appearance in eleven years.

Onward and upward. Sometimes the summit seems so near when there’s a break in the clouds.

Comments

  1. Peter_B says:

    Good report JC. Pity about the result. I have been trying to sort out the wet trackers from the dry trackers in the AFL. Geelong are definitely the best wet trackers, and I suspect the Pies will go OK in it. Hawks and Blues are definite dry trackers, with leg speed and precise ball movement. I had the Perth teams down as dry trackers because we see so few muddy grounds. But Freo disproved that and the Eagles gang tackle style should go ok in the wet. Bombers I suspect are dry goers. Dunno about Crows, Saints and Swans. Your mob may go better in it with the outing and your tough nuts back. I thought it was notable how much better the Blues looked Friday night under the lid. Brissy and Power are not very classy, but go OK in the mud. When its wet you throw out the form book, and go back to the breeding. Cats are by Good Brandy out of a Staincross mare.

  2. Neil Belford says:

    Heave Ho – lids back on

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