Wednesday Night Book Club: Yellow and Black

 

Richmond’s Premiership win is leaving a long wake. Piles of Premiership slabs remain stocked high in alcohol shops affiliated with supermarket chains. Richmond Tweeters send photos of themselves watching replays of said Grand Final. Scarves remain slung over front doors. Cut outs of paper Tigers and cardboard Premiership cups remain stuck up on the inside of front rooms. ’37 years’ takes on a new meaning: becoming inseparable in a supporters’ mind as the time between Premierships. ’48 points’ is that magical distance, between Us and Them and indicates the superiority of an unheralded and unlikely team. The victory makes a mockery of those who had previously mocked the Tiges: Treloar and Cornes amongst them. The trajectory of a footy team can’t be predicted; such a reality is no doubt keenly felt by Brett Deledio who left for, what he imagined to be, a more realistic shot at on-field glory. Richmond’s Premiership win has also been a boon for Konrad Marshall and Slattery Media in the promotion of his book, A Season with Richmond: Yellow and Black.

 

Konrad Marshall, Caroline Wilson and Geoff Slattery, at +39 Pizzeria, in an event hosted by My Bookshop by Corrie Perkin, discussed some of the stories linked to the writing of the book and the rather peculiar success of the team. Caroline Wilson was the impeccable host and could have easily been the sole source of the narrative. Wilson, well-known for her critical take on the Australian Football League and the varying Club Land protagonists, had some mild misgivings about the embedded and ‘official’ nature of the book (the book has the Australian Football League’s and Richmond Football Club’s logos on the back). Marshall’s love and knowledge of the Club, however, was well-backed up by the progress made within the Club in turning around its off-field practices between 2016 and 2017. Geoff Slattery praised his writer enthusiastically in his negotiation of any sensitive moments with the Club. If Marshall’s book focuses on the wonders and positives of the RFC’s story of the past 12 months, it is indeed because there has been so much which is positive and worthy of emphasising. It may also be because, when there were uncomfortable moments, Mr.Marshall was asked ever-so-politely to extricate (!) himself from the room.

 

One of the key contributions of Marshall’s book is his documenting of the now-famous HHH sessions. These were sessions in which players shared stories about Hardships they had faced, a Highlight they had experienced and a Hero of theirs. Brandon Ellis’s story, of growing up tough, and the illness faced by his father, is one that has received the most public attention. Not only does Ellis have a strong story to tell, he has also transformed himself as a player. He went from being a promising player in the early Hardwick years, to a disappointing player (2016 in particular), to now, being a hard-nut, whom his teammates can trust. His taking of a heavy knock against Dangerfield in the Qualifying Final perhaps best emblematic of his on-field turn-around. Through these HHH sessions, the players opened up about their vulnerabilities. This acknowledgment and sharing of emotional fragility, became a means to establishing greater empathy between the players. In a League in which the physical capabilities between each player and each team are so minor, what seemingly separated Richmond from the rest, was the degree to which they were to play for one another. They won the Premiership, not only through smart tactics, but also through conviction in themselves and each other.

 

Marshall had been with the Club also in 2016: but, his writing project was aborted in the face of Richmond’s unwatchable season. A new agreement was struck with the Club and he was promised access and that whatever happened on-field, the book would be published with the Club’s endorsement. One of the main differences Marshall saw between 2016 and 2017 was that of Trent Cotchin’s demeanour: someone who had been previously perfunctory and clichéd in his conversation, had become someone who expressed clearly and honestly how he felt. Cotchin became a more enjoyable person to be around and expressed and received love far more openly. Yet, despite initial optimism, Marshall didn’t get up close and personal with Mr.Martin. Dusty may well be the most outstanding player at the Club, but, his don’t argue, is also matched with his reticence to engage with the media, even if they’re wearing a Richmond polo shirt. Good on him. He is not obliged to talk with the media.

 

During the discussion time, I would have liked to ask Konrad about the dynamics of Chris Yarran’s unfortunate time and also to get his view on the impact of Deledio leaving. I would also like to know if Marshall discovered anything he didn’t like about the Club.  But these are minor points in a year punctuated by so many good stories of the Club fulfilling the hopes of its legions of fans.

 

Marshall’s book is an insider’s account of a professional Australian Football club. The Club got lucky that he wrote it during a remarkable, brilliant season. The Club though found itself in this position thanks to the turn-around in the Club’s administration and management and the dedication of staff and coaches in sticking to their guns. This Club is one of the most storied clubs in Australian rules football and its myth has been richly amplified. This book, is likely to be the second-best book published on Richmond this year. But, at least it will be the best sole-authored book.

 

Here’s the multi-authored book:

 

Presenting The Tigers’ Almanac 2017. Read all about it HERE.

 

Purchase The Tigers’ Almanac 2017 HERE.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Stainless says:

    Interesting report, Andy.
    How lucky was Konrad Marshall to be at the club this year! From the excerpts I’ve seen, it looks like a cracking read. The HHH account about Brandon Ellis was actually very moving and I couldn’t help thinking about all the fans who’d taken pot-shots at him in the past. I wonder if they had any idea how much he’d been through just to get to this level.
    As you note in your summary, the biggest message from this book, and from the Richmond Premiership generally, is the significance of the psychological and emotional dimensions of the team’s performance and the edge it gave the Tigers with what otherwise appeared to be an inferior playing group to at least a couple of other clubs. But as much as the insights from Richmond in 2017 are fascinating, you wonder how many other clubs are trying similar stuff and, therefore, how effective is really? The most notable example here of course is Adelaide, which all year appeared to be on track to deliver a Flag with much being said about their great team solidarity in the face of adversity. But their spectacular failure on the biggest stage raises some interesting questions about whether this psychological stuff is just noise or whether the cold hard truth is that Richmond did it genuinely and Adelaide mucked around with gimmicks like their stance during the national anthem?
    Whatever the case, the challenge for Richmond in 2018 and beyond will be to maintain this strong mental focus on “team” when the surrounding sentiment is “we expect you to win” rather than “you’ve got nothing to lose”. Fascinating times ahead.

  2. David Hughes says:

    A most enjoyable read and hard to put down. It has made me laugh and cry and even though it has a happy ending, it is a great read for any tigers fan. Thank you KM

  3. Thank you Stainless and David for your comments.
    I don’t think we should view Adelaide too harshly, even if their Power Stance was well and truly looking comical by Grand Final day. They were pretty awesome for most of the year.
    It seems that the HHH sessions were pretty powerful in lifting a weight off the players: they no longer had to conform to the male stereotype of being invulnerable, tough, macho etc. The prevalence of mental health issues amongst players indicates that something is not quite right within the A.F.L.. If Richmond were able to prevent issues from developing and give players a greater sense of pleasure in their career, then, they’ve done a good thing.

  4. Sounds like a great night with a top-notch panel. I’ve read the book and it was extremely well written with great insights into the club.

    One thing I’ve noticed from watching replays of the Tigers’ games from this season is how much Trent Cotchin smiles when he doesn’t realise the camera is on him. From reading the book, I understand why.

    Looking forward to the launch of the best book about Richmond this year.

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