Tigers vs Roos: An Abu Dhabi Perspective

At 7.00 am on a Sunday in Abu Dhabi it is 34 degrees and the humidity is rising. My aim today is to survive working, as well as get a good live radio stream of the last game of the last round of AFL football for 2011, that of my beloved tigers and the kangaroos.

This morning whilst I went for an early morning run I reflected on the significance of this game.  The Tigers had shown us loyal supporters something over the last few weeks.  The Kangaroos had lost vital games in the lead up to their potential (now defunct) finals campaign, but with a new coach Brad Scott the Roos had shown spirit during the year.  They always do.  As I wheeled back to head home on my gallop, I see believers going to the mosque nearby. Hope is what keeps supporters following their teams.  As Richmond supporters we live in hope.  It could be well argued that this game is totally insignificant, or it could be argued this game could give teams and supporters hope for next year.  I want to believe we can win four in a row and finish strong, but something inside me knows not to believe that. Part of the territory of following the tigers is that you can live with frustration of having hope squashed time and time again. I have lived like that since 1980, in five different countries.

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick had said this game is about keeping a winning culture going (some suggestions were that if we lose we would get a higher draft pick- so what I thought- I have no faith in the tigers recruiting over the last 15 years). I want to believe in the new Benny Gale- Hardwick mantra. I so much want to.

I remember that winning culture well. When I was growing up the tigers were ruthless. I used to go to “Chips” Alozios fish and chip shop in Bright when a bag of chips cost 5 cents. One night he told me “I hate Richmond so much…. they get all the good players…. they have all the money”.  The Alozois family was much loved in Bright and participated in the local community admirably, and they made great food as well. Tucking into my vinegar and chips walking back home I was proud we were that tough fearless team built on success.  I also must say I admired the Kangaroos then. They had the Ovens and Murray league covered as their recruiting zone, we saw a lot of them, and they were an emerging team. They sought ways to build that culture with great recruiting, great coaches (Barassi and co) and a glamour type professionalism led by Allen Aylett. My school principal the late great Jack Bourke loved the Kangaroos and he would go down to Melbourne weekly to do the stats for them. We talked often. I had a soft spot for the Kangas.

Back to Abu Dhabi. How was I going to listen to this game? School had just started; we had been on a massive break. The game was on Sunday and we work on Sundays.  The weekend is Friday and Saturday. It takes a bit getting used too. One has to now the time differences to get footy live. I would grab streams on the computer when I was not teaching in between saying hello to kids and teachers.

Today a parent came in and wanted to talk to me about her son smoking and the footy was on live on the computer. The check of her to do that…My good tiger mate Mike Honeychurch would text me scores as well. I have got it covered I thought.

The game turned out to be an arm wrestle. The shin-boners led by retiring club champion Brady Rawlings started well and meant business. The tigers made a strong play in the second quarter and stirred the masses. Young Gun Brett Delidio was playing his 150th.

Much had been talked about the young guns of Richmond (Cotchin, Martin and Vickery), but it was the youth of the Kangaroos and the ageless legs of Boomer Harvey that kept the Kangas in it. In the third quarter, the arm wrestle became a rugby tackle.  In a phone call during the third quarter Mike was saying the pattern of the play was that the tigers would look strong offensively but defensively were weak to react to fast breaks, and our turnovers were not helping us at all. “We have blokes that are clueless,” he would say.  The last quarter the shin-boners had that bit more spirit, and made more luck, and deservedly they reaped those rewards.  Interesting stats were that the tigers had more center breaks (45-33) and more inside 50s (61-43). “It’s the same old story”, Mike would say to me after the game, “Our turnovers kill us and we have blokes there that are not up to it”. I throw my 5-cent winge in, about bad mistakes by Jackson and Farmer that I heard on the radio.  It is important to winge as a tiger supporter, it is both cathartic and part of the territory.

For believers of teams like these there is next year. I have learned to live with that. My frustrations are as real as when they are at home when I see them live. When we win it is beautiful- when we lose it is ugly. I take a walk outside and nod to new coming kids that are walking around school with their parents. Inside I am still thinking about the game. My sunglasses fog up with the humidity. I will believe again next year.

About Haje Halabi

Born in Bright Victoria and went overseas for 2 years and stayed 18, back home now, keen observer of life and obsessed with sport. Tiger tragic, father of 2 boys who are growing too fast into young men.


  1. Matt Zurbo says:


    Honeybunch! There was a name to cry! Is he still lying in the back of a station wagon to protect his hammies when he gets around?

    I have few quick theories on Richmond.

    1. Their ‘youth policy’ officially turns 30 next year. That’s old! I think they should retire it and replace it with a talent policy.

    2. Richmond are a tease. They try hard, they promise, then when it comes down to it, 9th place eludes them!

    3. North have finished 9th twice in a row. How wanabe Richmond!

    4. If the AFL divide the roster into two divisions, Tigers and the Roos will be arch rivals! It’s ’74 all over again!

    5. A ruckman would be handy.

    A super ending to your piece! May the call to prayer sweep gently across your dusty footy oval!

  2. Hi matt

    all plausible comments! true richmond are on a cyclic 5 year plan every 5 years. what this means is htat as supporters we all go in the washing machine cycle, reach heights and lows and we do it all over again.we are currently stuck in perpetual motion. haje..

  3. Alovesupreme says:

    I hope that you’re able to inspire some interest in the game over there. If you do embark on a missionary program, you should be able to draw in some supporters to the Tiger ranks, given Bachar Houli’s arrival at Tigerland.
    Such missionary work for game and club is worth doing (notwithstanding my regarding the Tigers with a mix of hostility and derision).

  4. thanks Alovesupreme- we need more than divine intervention though. we need a total planetary revolution

  5. Haje,

    I was at this game, and the Tigers were at a serious disadvantage as North were playing with three extra players for 90% of the night: The umpires were shocking to you guys. I’m not complaining though.

    Good report.


  6. Amanda Maher says:

    Great to see that you are still as passionate for your beloved Tigers. Such a small world, I was surfing through this website when i saw a post by a Haje Halabi and thought ” I know a Haje Halabi” so was compelled to look at your post, and yep it is the same guy i knew. My PE teacher that was also my footy friend. I remember the day in the PE hall when Matthew Knight’s came to do a talk, whilst he was still playing for the Tiges at the time. Who would have thought then, he would go on to coach Essendon. Keep up the posts.

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