AFL Round 1 – Carlton v Richmond: How to have a heart attack


7.45pm, Thursday, 28 March
Melbourne Cricket Ground


How to have a heart attack

My oldest daughter turned 14 a few days before our Round 1 clash with Carlton. When I was 14 in 1980, the Tigers won their last Grand Final. Was it an omen for us increasingly demented Richmond fans?

When we arrived at the MCG for the big clash, a luminous full moon sat high above the Punt Rd end where Carlton fans had stolen our rightful cheer squad spot behind the goals. Was it another sign?

By the end of the match, the only sign I and 80,970 others were looking for read: AMBULANCE.

If there was ever a match where both sides did all they could to lose – as opposed to tanking, which Andrew Demetriou has reassured us doesn’t exist – this was it.

Carlton did its best to underwhelm before the game with a pitiful sponsor-pandering banner: Carlton & Hyundai; New Coach; New Captain; New Possibilities. How about a new slogan writer?

Richmond had its usual classy run-through with giant tiger art work. In our darkest days, when we couldn’t even win the toss, our crepe paper creations were always the best.

We’re good at clutching at straws, us Tiger fans. We need to be. It’s now officially harder to get our own kids to follow our team than it is for Tony Abbott to sell himself as a radical feminist.

Consider this. In my first 14 years the Tigers won five flags (1967, 1969, 1973, 1974, 1980). They played in nine finals series and Ian Stewart won the 1971 Brownlow medal.

When Jess turned 14 on March 25, she had seen one finals series, in 2001. She was two so doesn’t even remember it. Bec was a baby and Ben, now 10, wasn’t born. And people wonder why Jess is threatening to follow Gold Coast if they beat us for the THIRD time running this year.

But were things about to change?

Making our way to the “real” season opener (no-one counts the two interstate games), skies clearing after a day of rain, my stomach was doing more back flips than an Olympic diver. Things weren’t helped when Carlton skipped to an early lead. Scores were level at quarter time but it felt like we were four goals behind after invoking the Spirit of Richo with 2.9.

Then our players found their feet. Cotch, Lids and Martin showed why they are touted as the AFL’s best midfield. Tyrone Vickery stood up, Luke McGuane continued his resurrection (sorry, had to weave in at least one Easter weekend eference) and we kicked 7.5 to 1.3.

Apart from a few touches of Chris Judd brilliance, the Blues were literally smothered. A spectacular Dustin Martin snap from 50 on the boundary had Richmond fans dancing in the aisles.

But did we relax with a 38-point half-time lead and Tiger fan Russell Morris serenading us live with The Real Thing? Hardly. We can’t even breathe until Richmond is 10 goals up at the 29 minute mark of the last quarter.

With good reason.

Sure enough, the Blues clawed their way back in the third quarter. After going goal for goal – during which my friend Robyn took a photo of the scoreboard showing us in front “just in case we lose” – Carlton kept coming.

Both teams were nervous but showed flashes of brilliance. Shaun Hampson was everywhere, Betts, Garlett and Yarran showed plenty of run and Judd plucked something out of nothing when all looked lost. Kreuzer, Gibbs, Simpson and Armfield also lifted.

But the young Tigers – and Shane Tuck – held them off and Brett Deledio kicked a rip snorter from 55 out after a Ray Gabelich run. At the final break we were 36 points up. Was it enough?

The last quarter would have traumatised Rambo. The Blues kept coming. And coming. Goals to Gibbs, Murphy, Kreuzer and Garlett  x 2 were like daggers to the chest. At the 27 minute mark it was five points the difference. Hearts raced. Nails were bitten.

With the clock ticking down Carlton pushed forward yet again, but this time Chris Yarran missed on the run. Then, with 35 seconds left Luke McGuane laid the tackle of the year on Josh Bootsma, winning a free kick dead in front. Of course he sprayed it, but won enough time to secure a five point win.

The Tigers had beaten the Blues in Round 1 for the first time since 2008. Richmond fans everywhere embraced – and reached for their defibrillators. The guy in front of us, heart still pounding, added: “I’m an epileptic; I took my medication just in time tonight.” I am not making that up. (Good timing – it has been epilepsy awareness week – Ed)

No doubt armchair experts watched with a snide chuckle, confirming their pre-season predictions that neither side would make the finals. Mistakes were made, easy chances went begging and Richmond almost coughed up a 42 point lead.

But we Tiger fans didn’t give a stuff. A win is a win is a win. And catch-up footy is bad footy Carlton.

When we got home at midnight due to appalling post-match Metro train service, we drove from the station with scarves out the window, theme song blaring thanks to SEN, and watched the last three quarters again on Foxtel. Then we watched it again on Good Friday afternoon.

Not that we’re thinking finals. Yet. But if we did make it and the MCG had a roof, Richmond fans would literally lift if off and make Collingwood’s 2010 premiership party look like a teddy bears’ picnic.

That is until we lose to Gold Coast again and finish ninth…

CARLTON 3.3 4.6 9.12 14.17 (101)
RICHMOND 2.9 9.14 14.18 14.22 (106)

Gibbs 2, Judd 2, Betts 2, Murphy 2, Kreuzer 2, Garlett 2, Yarran, Hampson
Richmond: Deledio 3, Vickery 3, McGuane 2, King 2, Jackson, Martin, Conca, Houli

Judd, Kreuzer, Gibbs, Betts, Simpson, Armfield
Richmond: Deledio, Cotchin, Vickery, Maric, Martin, Tuck

UMPIRES Meredith, Mollison, Rosebury.    CROWD 80,971

OUR VOTES Cotchin (Rich) 3, Judd (Carl) 2, Deledio (Rich), 1.




  1. Go Tigers, except against the Saints next Friday, but other than that, (you looked so good when the Tiger boys were on fire) go Tiges. Time to share the glory around. I could live with a Tiger/Saints GF……I was having a heart attack watching and I don’t even barrack for your mob. Good article Cheryl. Book worthy!


  2. Hey Cheryl,
    I reckon the Tigers will provide plenty of highlights this year.
    It’s a matter of minimising the lowlights.
    But it is sure to be an interesting ride.

  3. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Yvette and Smokie. I’m still having palpitations 24 hours later. My friend almost walked out a few times – she just couldn’t stand it! Luckily she stayed :-)

  4. PeterSchumacher says

    The margin between pain and ecstasy is so small, how close was that kick of Yarran’s?

    What a fantastic game this was to wet the appetite for this year!

    Go Tiges, wouldn’t mind a Brisbane Richmond Grand Final.

  5. Peter Fuller says

    Well done your team. My disappointment with my Blues wasn’t with the result, as I expected a Richmond win, ( for essentially similar reasons as Litza offered in a pre-game thread). What I hadn’t anticipated was Carlton’s lame effort for most of the game, after the brief early flurry. The final quarter comeback offered something, but it’s clear we’re further off the pace than my many optimistic fellow-Blues imagined.
    Collingwood-Carlton looms as a massive challenge. In any case, a Carlton win would have been a steal.

    Good luck to your Tiges (through gritted teeth). I think your season depends on how effectively the team manages to covert 2012 narrow losses into victories of any sort. You’d expect that last night’s survival at the death (however much that was good fortune rather than steadiness) will lift the players’confidence about their prospects in close finishes. Your playing group seems to have improved significantly and pretty much across the board. How that stands up against other teams which are also making progress, remains to be seen.

  6. Stuart McArthur says

    Nice job, Cheryl. Yes, I’d decided that I wouldn’t be as devastated with a loss as long as Ty Vickery and Dustin Martin kicked goals. Which they did, and we won to boot. And i thought Jake Batchelor was stiff not to make any best player list.

    But forget your sharks in the ocean and your redbacks on the toilet seat. The biggest threat to my life is Richmond last quarters. Where I was sitting there were 4 Tiger fans near me, all strangers. After the sweetest sound of all, that siren, we all high-fived in a transcendant moment that we’ll never forget. My son Angus’s legs were trembling 5 minutes after. Only Tiger fans understand that.

  7. That was a true tiger person speaking, each of us were thinking the same thins at the same time

  8. Tigers/Saints GF, Brisbane/Tigers GF, the imagination of March champions, is always something to behold. Good win by the Tigers,it would be nice to see them make the 8. For Mick Malthouses’ sake, a 9th would be a worthwhile result for Carlton.


  9. Claire Heaney says

    Good read, Chez. Sure the Tiges will provide plenty of heart attack material for their fans this year.

  10. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Stuart I couldn’t agree more about those last quarters and we were also cheering with strangers after the siren. The epileptic guy and his family were great. There was also a Carlton supporter who was actually nice!! And Peter it was such a fine line between winning and losing that night. If Yarran had kicked those two goals late in the game it would be us crying into our Weeties all weekend. The next few weeks will tell whether either side has any ticker. As for the Tigers, we have to learn to play a whole game.

  11. Neil Anderson says

    After tipping Carlton (God that was hard!), I was rapt to see the Tigers get up.
    I had my heart attack watching the Bulldogs V Demons in a pre-season match in Darwin a few years ago. Can you imagine if ever the Dogs get in another Grand Final…and I’m still around (the way we’re going I’ll be in my nineties). They’ll wheel me in to watch it on the the ten-metre screen with all the resusitation gear on standby as well as finding my 1990’s retro thermos to jog my memory.
    Great weekend for you Cheryl! I remember them well. Also enjoyed your article in the H’Sun re boyfriends and husbands hiding their dirty little secrects about being addicted to footy with partners who dread the new season starting. So close to home that one.

  12. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Neil. Thankfully I married a Richmond fan but we still find things to argue about!!

  13. Robyn Meggs says

    Another outstanding article Cheryl, and yes, I nearly did walk out at various stages and I’m not sure that my heart rate has entirely returned to normal yet! I’m such a tragic that I had my face covered whilst watching the replay of the last quarter for the SECOND time on Good Friday! If the rest of the season pans out with a succession of heart-stoppers like Thursday nights, any grand-final appearance may be academic for me. I was feeling optimistic about a big win against the Bulldogs in two weeks’ time, but after today’s showing I’m a little afraid……

  14. Lynette Kuhl says

    The pathetic Carlton banner was the result of a competition run by the club and had to have the word Hyundai in it, the prize was a limo and seats to the game. No I didn’t win but I should have!

  15. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Lynette. If it was a competition the rest of the entries must have been pretty bad :-). You’d think they could keep the main side of the banner sponsor-free but it seems nothing is sacred any more. Richmond’s had a big Tiger on the front with: The roar is back, Cotch is key, By the end of this match, Our song we’ll sing.” For once they were right!

  16. Haje Halabi says

    it was the start of the last qtr, we were well up, I was in singapore and I looked over to my mate Geezer and said mate, I dont care if we win by a point all I want is a win (Hes long suffering like me)…somehow though we thought the tiges were going to make us suffer….all throughout the last qtr with my blood pressure rising I somehow held onto that faith….and we prevailed. It was sweet but I was almost seraching for that ambulance you mentioned. I was also easy on my wife who follows the blues (she was a few metres away and gracious in defeat). thanks for the read C. Haje

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