The Theatre of Football

I’ve been dying to put into words my day at the Richmond v Hawthorn match two weeks ago, but a swag of uni assignments saw to it that last week’s writing consisted of essay’s, not the footballing type! And though the heights of Friday nights win against the Saints have all but obliterated the memory of the Tiges thumping of Hawthorn, I still felt the need to put metaphoric ‘pen to paper.’

It was a big day for our household. Miss ‘five’ was finally off to see the Annie production with mum, the tickets being bought by doting grandparents for last year’s birthday. Thinking long and hard, she finally decided to take mum, freeing me up for the footy with Miss ‘ten’ and Master ‘one.’

In fact, this was the first time Master ‘one’, Richie, or Richmond, was coming to me with the footy. A nagging question of ‘how long will he last?’ hovered over me, but I was willing to take a risk. I’d been burnt before by Miss ‘five’, who was then three, resulting in the first and ONLY time I’ve left a Richmond match early. Yep, that’s right, Jack Riewoldt’s 10-goal match! Such is life. (ping Cuz!)

We headed our separate ways, each party excited and slightly anxious, the theatre going duo shelling out for a program, and I for a footy record. I’d decided upon the Western stand or the ‘quiet end’ (other than at Collingwood matches) to give us the necessary space and atmosphere for the little fella. The atmosphere isn’t great down there, but I just wanted to see the match.

We took our seats as the game began at 1:45, the back section of the lower deck, where the Western and Southern Stands join. At the same time miss ‘five’ and mum took their seats for the 2pm matinee of Annie. Then my phone buzzed. It was dad asking if I was going to go to the footy. Poor guy must have missed a memo about the start time, he was still at home! Can’t win ‘em all.

The game commenced and the Tiges looked sharp, and thankfully, Richie was captivated by the noise, the flags, and the ‘bup-baw’ taking place on the field. He loves football….sitting him on my lap at night and watching footy is sometimes the only way to calm him down. He can spot a footy a mile away, and loves lugging around my full size Sherrin, double the size of his head!

We were dominating the game early without getting the rewards on the scoreboard. Teams like Hawthorn can make you pay for that, and to avoid ‘honourable’ losses, this needed to be rectified! Early in the second quarter, with all manner of rain descending upon the MCG, I got another message. Dad, upon hearing the Tiges kick the first goal on the wireless, couldn’t take it anymore. Grabbed his scarf and headed for the station. This game reduces men to boys, and that’s what I love about it.

Dad just missed Steven Morris, son of Tiger premiership player Kevin, boot his first league goal off half back, opposed to another great Richmond name in Rioli, sadly representing the gold and brown. It was a beautiful moment as Morris danced around opponents and slotted a checkside goal in the rain.

So there we were, three generations of us watching the Tiges, who had a handy lead at half time. We felt that Hawthorn would certainly come, but we couldn’t help but like what we’d seen thus far.

Half time consisted of keeping Richie occupied. I decided to head down to the food court, a luxury not afforded me in my early days at the footy, and let him run around near the indoor cricket nets. This lasted for a few minutes before taking him for a spin in his pram. I was hopeful yet not filled with confidence that he’d last the distance. It had at least helped quell the incredible nerves I often feel at the footy, especially when Richmond holds any sort of a lead. I only feel comfortable when the margin gets out to, say, 80 points.

Meanwhile, across town, the girls had their own ‘half-time’ or ‘interval’ as they call it in the theatre. It’s still half-time to me. Both the ‘theatre’ and ‘footy’ parties were excited with what they’d seen in the first half, and were eager to see how the second half would play out.

It was a tense old quarter of football the third. The Hawks pegged us back, Brad Sewell dominating out of the centre, and Cyril appearing as though he may take the game by the scruff of the neck. Rance was doing a sterling job curtailing and frustrated Buddy Franklin, and though he conceded the odd free kick, Franklin did the right thing by young Alex, finding new an interesting methods of missing. The match was now goal for goal, Hawthorn getting close, the Tiges putting some space between the two. We were in a very quiet area and I had to somewhat stifle my barracking. Besides which, each time I overdid it, Richie started to cry! My old man was tensing up, as miss 10 was lost in a world of colouring in and footy snacks!

Maric! Ivan! Twice in the dying moments of the third term, the mulletted cult hero marked. The first he converted, the second he passed off to the lively Nahas. Had Richmond broken the Hawthorn back? It was too early to tell, but I just enjoyed the moment along with the deafening silence of the Brown and Gold fans. The rain came down again. The boy was just hanging on. So was I! Across town, Annie was in the grips of despair, fleeing from the awful Miss Hannigan…we each sat on the edge of our seats.

The final stanza. It turned out Maric’s late quarter heroics had broken the Hawthorn spirit and resistance. This final quarter is now sits up there with our 1995 last quarter over a sluggish West Coast at Princes Park and our first quarter 9 goal blitz against North in the same year. The Tigers put the foot to the floor, the midfield unstoppable, the boys playing as if in dry conditions, though the rain had now set in good and proper.

As Dan Jackson picked up a loose ball in the pocket, I leant to my dad, as I had a thousand times before, and said ‘full’, as in ‘out on the.’ He slotted it. When Jacko is slotting impossible goals from the boundary, you know it’s your quarter. Your match. The crowd erupted…or at least I could see the crowd erupting around the ground. I was in the Western stand, yet happily my little man joined in the festivities of the last term, even if he did clap as Franklin finally slotted a major. Perhaps Richie understands the finer points of the “Bronx” cheer?

It’s amazing how your outlook on a football match can change. Through the week, I just wanted to be competitive. The morning of the game, hopeful of a win. At half time, happy to win by a point. And now, as we pulled further away, here I was hopeful of a ten goal victory. As Hawthorn drew the margin back to 59 points, my dad screwed up his face and looked at me as though we were going to lose. As I said, you can reset your goals very quickly at the footy.

And Jack. Whilst my daughters inability to cope with loud or ANY noise at the footy cost me my chance to see Jack kick his ten, I was able to this time see him not kick ten, but have a four goal quarter, where he appeared to get his zing back. Three consecutive goals killed the game as a contest, the third from a towering mark in the greasy conditions which warmed the hearts of the shivering Richmond masses. The few Richmond fans around us suddenly gave knowing smiles, nods, high fives and the like, a quiet Hawthorn fan near us suddenly erupting into a frustrated tirade at his team that Barassi himself would have been proud of. The siren went, and song was put on repeat, much to the joy of my little Tiger man, as dad leant to me to point out that Richie has never seen a Richmond side lose; he’s batting at 100%! In turn I sighed and said to dad, who’d experienced the ‘glory years,’ that it often skips a generation. But hey, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves just yet.

We parted ways with my dad and happily headed out onto the concourse. Jam doughnuts? Sure, why not. We had a fair old walk back to the car in the backstreets of Richmond, and it was lightly drizzling. But that couldn’t wipe the smile of my dial. We reached the car and headed in to pick up the girls from the theatre, darkness falling upon a wet and glorious Melbourne. Now I’m not sure who was the most excited, me or miss 5, who’d had the ‘best day I’ve EVER had!’ So had I, I smiled back at her. We hummed down Little Collins street, hardly another car to be seen. We traded excitable stories of our days out, and happily headed into Barkly Street Footscray to pick up a pizza on the way home.

Days don’t get much better than that.

About John Carr

First and foremost, I'm a Richmondite- 5th generation and dyed in the wool. I love the club, but also have a love for the game itself, and love to explore the cultural and social aspects of Australian Rules football. I am married with 4 kids, and also have a love of music, and run a small recording studio http://theholybootsfootballemporium.wordpress.com/

Comments

  1. Another wonderful piece! We can feel we were there ourselves when you write. I was nearly as excited being home by the radio, just knowing that 3 generations of my family would be soooo happy. You learnt loyalty from a very young age (when Hawthorn was in their hey day, Essendon’s enemy…grrrrr), wearing your Tiger jumper to school win ,draw or lose, when so many others donned the brown and gold in those years. Glad you were repaid at that match.

  2. John Carr says:

    Thanks mum! Thought you’d like that one. And yes, nice to get one back over those bloody Brown & Gold kids that gave me hell. Hasn’t quite erased the scars of Dermie’s 11 goals with broken ribs or Dunstall’s 17 goal rout-but a few more of these matches will help!

  3. John

    Your story made me smile. And any time you finish ready something with a big grin on your face is a good thing.
    Loved the images, both during and pre game.
    Had an ivision of your kids with sugar all over their faces from the post game donuts.
    I started taking my son to the footy at about age 5, with day games at the G vs interstate sides, so smaller crowds and easy get aways if he crumbled. That’s grown into a passion for the game that makes me happy.
    Hope Master 1 is a good luck charm.
    Really lovely piece, well done and thanks for sharing the family experience

    Sean

  4. what a beautiful story and OH what a memorable game, it was my tiger highlight for the year!

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