Grand Final – Adelaide v Richmond: A week where Richmond went from a joke to kings of the AFL

They say a week is a long time in football. In 2007 Geelong broke away from the handbag tag to become a powerhouse of the AFL for the last decade. Brisbane Lions were the AFL’s problem child and then won 3 premierships in a row, and remember there was a time Hawthorn couldn’t win a chook raffle before they became the club everyone looked up to in the last 30 years.

 

So on top of winning a premiership comes the evaporation of a clubs perceived past. This week it was the turn of the Richmond Football Club – the mighty Tigers. I wrote an article last week of how by being in the grand final has allowed me to remove myself from having my life affected by the results of a Tigers game. The Grand Final victory against the Adelaide Crows may have also shattered the perception of Richmond as the basket case of the AFL.

 

You know when you have a week where nothing goes wrong and everything you touch turns to gold. It just happened to me on Grand Final week. Once I got confirmation I had got tickets in the ballot, and I was going to sit with my cousin as well, was the first sign.  We have been going to the football together for over 20 years – where we have sat through highlights and a lot of lowlights of Richmond. The number of times we have cursed the club and said we will never go see the rubbish again, only to be back the following week supporting the Tigers means we are very loyal or suckers for punishment.

 

Lining up to collect the tickets and chatting to another loyal Tigers supporter, we found out we shall be sitting in the same section. Another sign. A mate of mine whose family have followed Richmond for over 30 years would be sitting behind me at the G. Christ, another sign. Majority of people I knew would either be at the G or at Punt Road Oval. It was feeling like everything was falling into place.

 

Grand Final eve, and I had the pleasure of attending the Footy Almanac lunch where good stories, food and beer (sometimes all at once) were consumed with merriment.  Speaking to other Tiger supporters and hearing their stories just filled me more with an optimism that is very unfamiliar to a Richmond fan unless you witnessed the glory years of the 60s and 70s.  Getting up on stage and belting out the Tigerland song and hearing from ex Tiger Premiership great Gareth Andrews just added to a week that got better and better.  Gareth Andrews brought up the point that the Premiership reunions were getting smaller and we needed new injection of Richmond premiership players starting this week.

 

The morning of Grand Final day and the nerves are kept in check. I wanted to make sure win or lose I would absorb everything about today. The train ride up was full of Tiger supporters and surprisingly very subdued. There was a confidence, but not the cocky confidence you would usually see. Getting off at Richmond station the suburb was jam packed. All the pubs near the station and ground were jam packed and had queues running miles long. Once I met up with my cousins and mates we made our way up Swan St to find a place that would be able to give us a couple of drinks to settle the nerves. We stumbled onto a Greek bar and Grill called Dimiti’s Feast that was empty and waiting for a few thirsty Tiger supporters to come in. There were Richmond WEG premiership posters and the owner was a Tiger supporter, yep we had another sign. We enjoyed a few quiet Ales before made the walk to the MCG.  It was where I bumped into an old mate Robbo who I had not seen for over a decade. He was a Tiger as well and was on his way to Punt Road Oval to watch the game with his new Dusty haircut.

 

Once in the ground you get confirmation this is no ordinary game. There was the pre match ceremony and build up. The teams come out and line up for the national anthem.  Before you know it the teams are ready for the first bounce. My cousin and myself look at each other thinking how did we get here. Once the game is under way then it is like most weeks.  We are cheering, yelling and willing our team on. The strange thing is even when Adelaide kicked the first 2 goals I knew Richmond would come back. This is a team that has a game plan and believes in the game plan. Once Caddy kicked the first goal, Richmond became the hunters and while this was the game plan Hardwick implemented there was shades of the old Tiger spirit there. Richmond had a hardness at the ball that would have made Jack Dyer proud and Tommy Hafey’s saying Kick it to Royce was replaced by Kick it to Jack where the mosquito fleet was waiting to collect the ball or Crows player who was in the way.

 

Saying that it wasn’t until Butler kicked the banana goal with 10 minutes to go, I could let myself go and celebrate a premiership win. I was hugging my cousin and other Tiger supporters around me. The older Tiger supporters were crying, thinking they would never see another Tigers premiership. When the final siren went 37 years of frustration bellowed out of the stadium, and to see Hardwick and Cotchin lift the cup will live with me until I die or when dementia gets me.

 

While it would have been good to hang back and watch The Killers (best pre-game music act ever) we decided to venture back down to Swan St. The streets filled with Tigers supporters was a sight to behold and good luck to anyone trying to get through Richmond that night. We ended up back at Dimitri’s Feast where this time it was packed, but the owner had a spot reserved for us. It was then the beers were flowing, Tigerland was sung hundreds of times and the Dusty Martin song was sung (to be heard by adults only).  Come 1am it was time to go home.  It would have been easy to wipe myself out, but I wanted to remember this.  I wanted to remember when Richmond were back as a powerhouse of the AFL. As I said at the start, a week is a long time in football.

About Vaughan Menlove

Obsessed with Richmond, Luton Town, Melbourne Victory and Arsenal. The Dr had a soccer career hampered by the realisation he was crap, but could talk his way around the game. Currently on Southern FM with The Peoples Court and co host of Goodfellas Football podcast with Steve Baker

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