The Tigers’ Almanac 2017 Extract: Richo the Hound and the after glow of the Grand Final

The minutes, hours and days which followed the Grand Final win were quite dreamy for Tiges’ fans. Writer James Weston recalls the feeling in his piece published in The Tigers’ Almanac 2017 (a new book of Tiger-love by Tigers’ fans the details of which are at the end of this article) in a section called ‘After Glow’.

 

He starts by introducing an important character in his life, Richo.

 

 

 

Richo, my ten-year-old greyhound, canters ahead in his daily Burnley Park outing, tethered to me by a retractable lead but joyous in his escape from the house. In his case that means hauling him off the couch, and for the first time since we won I decline to cloak him in his black-and-yellow blanket with #12 emblazoned on the side. It’s 23 degrees, after all, the Wednesday after the 2017 Grand Final.

 

My earphones are spilling out a replay of the 3AW call of the match, Tony Leonard’s Yin to Tim Lane’s Yang, or vice versa, and it feels like real-time but without the wrenching, unbearable tension. There is a lightness in my step, and I can’t help feel that even Richo can sense his owner’s deliverance.

 

Is this real? Is a tree branch going to thunder down on me, Seven Little Australians-style, so the universe can counter-balance my little boy joy? Or is this simply what we Tigers deserve after decades in the wilderness? I ponder as I pass the gum – it looks sturdy enough – near the pathway fork that winds towards the river.

 

I can’t process any flow of thought, only snippets of kaleidoscopic yellow and black from the four days that have passed since.

 

Section Q36 was akin to sitting on the roof of the Shell Building (for non-Melburnians: Spring & Flinders, the CBD corner nearest to the MCG) but the occasion quickly focused you, such that the surroundings mattered little compared to the cross-cut grass laid out below. Yes, they fluffed the song when my Tigers ran out, and I couldn’t help feel that the one time we KNEW we would today sing ‘Tigerland’ had been spoiled. On reflection, it didn’t matter – nearest the pin on renditions since? Fifty? A hundred? – but good God it grated on me at the time.

 

It’s all a blur. Eddie’s goal made my heart sink: please don’t do this to me, and us, my son looking at me equal parts worried about the score and his father’s perennial irrationality. His gaze then shifts to his mum – a third-generation Tiger tracing Palmer St lineage, and her mum frequented Jack’s and Tommy’s milk bars. Martine can barely stomach the stress of meaningless home-and-away games, so right now I can feel her heartbeat from two seats away, and see her reaching out to her mum and Nan, both departed, an ethereal back rub to calm her Richmond nerves.

 

Then Jack Graham kicks a goal, his first. Later, I reckon McAvaney got his call muddled on the telly and, having watched the replay five times, I think I’d know. I think Bruce meant that if a Jack kicked three goals in the Grand Final it would be the other one, the rock star. Even his ageing eyes, which had seen everything, had not seen everything.

 

But Bruce hadn’t pored over detailed PuntRoadEnd descriptions of Graham as he emerged ready-made from the VFL, an Excalibur from rock, ready to roll.

 

That first goal came from a Trent Cotchin handball, but really it was born in Shane Edwards’ hands a split second earlier; his wizardry and look-away skillset having taken outsiders 200 games to appreciate, and this observer, not a ‘Sheds’ early adopter, the last fifty games to forgive. Graham’s goal put us in front for the first time, a position that Richmond – known to every player and coach as ‘the Richmond Football Club’ – would not relinquish.

 

So, how big is this book, The Tigers’ Almanac? Can I ramble on about every player and my connection to them, my love for them? You bet I can. Can I include all those words I have read since the siren; can I find the words to explain the podcasts or radio replays I have been drinking in, or even the YouTube clips of crowd reaction, most of which move me far more than is reasonable for someone nudging fifty. The task is enormous. I know I will have to make choices. But there is no duffel coat grand enough into which I would stitch those words.

 

Backs to forwards spelt commitment. No weak links across the 22, an advent calendar from which I’ll pull a winner every day in my personal Tiger Christmas. Two Brownlow Medals, an All-Australian captain, a Jack with more Colemans than Coleman? I mean, the worst ever premiership team? Say hi to Grant Thomas for me.

 

I didn’t spot Thommo in Swan Street on Saturday night – too low rent? – just a trumpeter atop his mosh pit, which in this case milked delirium delivered by the inner-city streets. As a Richmond resident of 23 years, everything felt familiar… Coles, Dr Follicles, the Corner Hotel… but equally surreal, Dusty’s favourite word of the week which he unerringly used in the right place. Well done, Ralph. The walk back to the Rising Sun, joining the crew with which we started the day, was indescribable, at least to this writer despite a handful of attempts.

 

So here I am, four days later, shambling through the long native grass near the Corroboree Tree, when T. Lane informs me that Dusty marks and goals to send us into half-time nine points the better. Never mind that he clearly grabbed Luke Brown’s jumper in the process… if the Crows sported a lurid yellow jumper like ours, the umpires would have spotted it, no small irony on a day when we must have received half-a-dozen whistles our way for the same infraction. Clash jumper be praised.

 

I wanted the second half to end as quickly as possible, but never to finish. My admiration for Bachar grew by the minute, as it did for Astbury and Caddy, two other favourites who do the unheralded thing well. George fumbled his way into my heart, Jack has never been struck from it. And Dusty was influential, by which I mean he influenced everything, including where I was looking on the ground no matter where the ball was. A month earlier, I had been convinced he was leaving, and was preparing a ‘Dustin Iscariot’ banner which of course I would never make; the idea alone cheered me up. Now he is a rightly deified Tiger, even if I can’t shake the feeling he remains a stranger in his own club, capable of doing one single thing to an exquisite standard, and not much else, including interact.

 

(Sidenote: an email chain in Grand Final week hosted the subject ‘Dusty, Best Tiger Ever?’ For my contribution, I sent back KB’s resume.)

 

Somewhere in the distance is Cooper, another greyhound owned by another Tiger supporter, and he flashes through the grass, head down, a scrounger. Then close friends Mario and Nick emerge with beers in hand – nothing to celebrate, just a standard park Wednesday – and their dogs Buddy and Jack in tow. Carlton and Collingwood, they have shared my decades of RFC frustration, but after four days they’ve probably had enough of me, and I can’t blame them.

 

But neither can I take down the balloons at home, or the black Glad bags with yellow tape across the front fence, or stop watching another random ten minutes of the third quarter when I should be working. Because… I can’t believe it. In 1980, I watched the Granny in the back room at home, then celebrated by kicking the footy around the backyard until dark. Happy Tiger days would go on forever, I assumed, not deliver the once-in-a-generation joy my fifteen-year-old son and his sisters soaked up on Saturday and continue to see in my face whenever the conversation shifts that way.

 

Thirty-seven years. The balloons can stay up as long as they like. Faded but unmistakable, yellow and black.

 

 

The Tigers’ Almanac 2017 is out now. Read all about it HERE.
Purchase The Tigers’ Almanac 2017 HERE.

Comments

  1. steve todorovic says:

    Summed up beautifully, James. The line that I loved the most and which perfectly captures the thought bubble of every Tiger supporter that day was ” I wanted the second half to end as quickly as possible, but never to finish.” That sentence goes straight to the Tiger Almanac Hall of Fame!

    Ten weeks on and I still feel the same buzz you described so eloquently. In fact, right now, I’m watching the last quarter of the Prelim final v the Giants. Like you, I get just as much pleasure from watching the crowd reactions that night…and listening to that constant roar…as I do from watching the goals being kicked or defended. There is however, one play that I have on constant rotation on the hard drive. To me it’s the play that defined the Tiger’s imperious finals series. The first minute of that last quarter. With Cotch’s one handed mark over Whitfield on the outer wing, the leap by Danny Rioli to bring the ball to ground at the 50 metre arc, those exquisite hands and amazing reactions of Titch ( you’re so right when you talk of his wizardry, which many STILL , amazingly, haven’t recognised) who has his handball smothered by Giant defenders who then actually win the ball back, only to have it stripped off them again, in the same manic manner that the Tiger smalls had done all year. Titch has his second crack at threading the eye of the needle and doesn’t disappoint. Straight out to Danny Butler, whose typical little dribble kick into space, used so effectively by him all year, allows Dusty just enough time and space to completely wrong foot Adam Corr with that deft pirouette, and then kick his third in a row with a banana across the body. It wasn’t his might with the sledgehammer that put us into the GF, but his precision with the scalpel.

    BTW. What a beautiful dog your Richo is! And to think, he only had to wait 10 years for a Tiger Premiership!

    Hope to catch up with you on Wednesday evening. I’ll be the one in the Tiger polo!

  2. Joe De Petro says:

    Brilliant work, James.

    Never take those balloons down, mate.

  3. Lovely piece James.
    To continue Steve’s point but from a rather different perspective, now that we’re ten weeks on I reckon a huge part of the “dreaminess” that I’m experiencing is the realisation of “opportunity grasped”. As a seasoned attendee at finals series, generally not involving Richmond, I’ve seen many inexperienced teams falter under the pressure. Opportunities lost. A classic example that I re-watched the other day was St Kilda in 2009. Great season, but boy, did they botch their opportunity on the day. Too many easy misses, fumbles and key players MIA. The realisation of how easily and how often this happens only magnifies how impressive it was that the Tiges played so well with so little experience under so much pressure.
    Hope to meet all you fellow Tiger Almanackers tomorrow night.

  4. Joe De Petro says:

    G’day Stainless. Looking forward to tomorrow night too.

    That’s the history of the Richmond Football Club though, isn’t it? Traditionally, it has had long periods of total ineptitude where it has failed to make finals and shorter periods where it has terrorised the competition. Five flags and nine second placings between 1924 and 1943. Five flags and two seconds placings between 1967 and 1982. It hasn’t even been third that often. The rest of its history is easily the most forgettable record of any team in the competition. The 2013-2015 period is the only time it has consistently made finals without a result.

    That is why we love it so much, it is the Manic Depressive of the AFL.

  5. Mmmm….I’ve tolerated this manic depressive for nearly half a century and I’m not sure that I wouldn’t prefer to spend my remaining days with a stable successful type. My hope is that the “opportunity grasped” in 2017 will usher in a new era of calm, consistency and success. Something like Hawthorn 1961-2015. Yep, that would do me nicely!

    Perhaps a point for discussion tomorrow?

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