It may be cricket season, the first forays of summer, but yet in my peripheral vision I can see it.
Tragedy and comedy.
Or in this case, Tragicomedy. For I can remember in glorious, painful detail every emotional adventure Richmond has dragged me along to in the past year and, unfortunately, not too many of those experiences seem to have been too enjoyable.
A sliver of yellow and black has worked its way quietly, carefully into the background, and is now wiring itself ever so gently into the everyday life. After an absence caused both by calamity and joy (on the part of those Sons of the West), that irksome presence has made itself apparent.
So, what to do?
Embrace and overcome the horror and the heartbreak, ever in search of a story as pure and as tear-jerking as the Doggies’?
Dive head-first into a Trump-esque campaign to Make Richmond Great Again, and join the legion of keyboard warriors?
Do I become quietly bullish, or definitively pessimistic?
Or shall I forsake the call of the Tiger altogether?
It’s an interesting dilemma this off-season. Like the past three, the disappointment and disbelief is all too real, yet both factors are compounded somewhat by an almost shy rumble of optimism.
Because things are a bit different this year at Tigerland. Since the final siren blew on Richmond’s annus horribilis, the brains trust that seemed to have taken the entire 2016 season off suddenly swung into gear.
The entire board of assistants, excluding a now very lonely Ben Rutten, went out the door. Going the other way were sacked Lions coach Justin Leppitsch (who’d spent a couple of years at Punt Road preceding his stint at Brisbane as Head Coach), Blake Caracella and Andrew McQualter. Then Neil Balme was brought in as the new Manager of Football.
That’s the coaches all sorted – now with the players. Brett Deledio, once Richmond’s vintage Rolls-Royce, was sent to GWS while Ty Vickery was gifted to Hawthorn. Richmond also brought Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis into the fold while acquiring a second first-round pick for 2017.
The National Draft was soon to follow, where Richmond acquired small forward Shai Bolton, inside midfielder Jack Graham and tall backman Ryan Garthwaite, three players which, for the moment at least, look to be capable top-level players. Another small Tyson Stengle was also added in the Rookie Draft.
It wasn’t exactly a fire sale, nor a mass exodus, yet Richmond went about renovating its stricken and rudderless football department in a surprisingly subtle manner not usually applied to the football club.
Add Trent Cotchin’s 2012 Brownlow Medal in, and you already have a busy off-season for those down at Punt Road. The question will be whether or not the Tiges can pull everything together.
And that is the moneyball, isn’t it? Our history is built upon mediocrity and failure, punctured by short, blissful periods of hopefulness and excitement. For the last few years Richmond had the group they wanted, the coaches they targeted and the gameplan they believed would satisfy. However, they failed to pull everything together, lingering on the doorstep of success for too long, eventually bundled roughly aside by a host of new challengers.
The oldest question in Richmond’s colourful history. Can they pull it together?
And you know what? I reckon they might.
Because they’re creeping at the back of my mind, whispering into the northerly, occupying a space where they wouldn’t, couldn’t and shouldn’t occupy.
Richmond of 2017 will be very, very different to the toothless Tigers of yesteryear.
So, I’m excited? Oh yes. Will I actually be able to watch? That’s a whole different ball game.
I’ll ride this train again but it will kill me.