AFL Round 1 – Carlton vs Richmond: Sensory overload

They say that if you lose one sense, your others become more acute.

Certainly, as I stood in the empty men’s toilet at the 28 minute mark of the last quarter, my hearing became keenly attuned to the disembodied roars of 81,000 people.  Cut off from the manic spectacle outside, I clearly discerned the pattern of play from the pitch and volume of sound.  But the mighty eruption that would surely signal our coup de grace, that I anticipated with the certainty that night follows day, that sound I did not hear.

My snap decision to duck out at such a vital stage was, I felt, logical in the circumstances.  Carlton had narrowed a seven goal lead to five points and had the Tigers under siege. Defeat – yet another variant in our demented kamasutra of achieving heartbreak from improbable positions – seemed pre-ordained.  After several large cups of tepid “mid-strength” beer, Nature was calling hard and I knew that to wait five minutes would be to subject myself to the post-game crush, and most likely the whoops, hollers (and intemperate aims) of many deleriously happy Carlton fans.  Best go now, dodge the crowd and not have to revisit the final ghastly stanza of the recurring nightmare playing out in front of me.

Emerging from the stairwell, with Richmond still clinging to (now) a four point lead, wasn’t part of the plan.  Ablutions perfomed, I had no choice but to watch the last seconds.  What transpired was as though I’d committed the cardinal cricketing sin of leaving my seat during a tense partnership – only in glorious, blissful reverse.  As I sheepishly returned to my row, my mates quizzically glancing at me for my unexplained desertion, the Tigers improbably pumped the ball forward.  There was no science in the attack and Carlton’s young defender, Josh Bootsma, gathered the loose ball and prepared to clear it.  From nowhere, Luke McGuane pounced on the unfortunate Bootsma.  The tackle was animal-ferocious in its intensity and perfect in its execution, pinning and spinning the skinny body like a ragdoll.  The prey – as though in that instant, deciding enough was enough – became the predator.  McGuane won the free kick.  Richmond the match.

Only later did I learn how close we had come to a defeat that even the most audacious scriptwriter could not have conceived.  Our two executioners from 2012, Chris Yarran and Brock McLean.  Yarran’s cheat’s goal from outside the boundary ended our hopes in game one.  McLean’s tentative, sloppy tin-bum pass slid through several hands and through the goals to rob us in game two.  And here both were, clear on goal with just over a minute left and Carlton five points adrift.  Yarran chose glory over teamwork and botched the simple chance.  McLean was left standing in the clear, screaming at his mate’s selfishness.  Richmond cleared and survived.

Accounts of close games always centre around the last frantic minutes, but the true measure of the catastrophe that would have befallen Richmond had we lost this game can only be measured by reflecting on our earlier dominance.  From midway through the first quarter to midway through the third, we outscored the Blues by 57 points.   Richmond won the ball, seemingly at will.   Our assertive physical presence was in marked contrast to the timid recent efforts against our much hated rivals.  Most of our stars played their parts but it was the efforts of the unsung – Vickery, Batchelor and the aforementioned McGuane – that impressed.

That it came down to a last gasp limp across the line owed much to Richmond’s profligate finishing early and late in the game.  Two goals nine was a shameful return from an otherwise impressive first term and our last seven scoring shots of the match were points.  The upshot was that Carlton was never without hope and if we’ve learned nothing else about the Blues under their new coach, we know they’re not going to throw in the towel.

Who knows what the result signifies for each team.  Probably like Shakespeare’s fool on the stage – heavy on the sound and fury but not much more.  Plenty of pundits have already paid out on both teams for their spasmodic display and inability to close out the game when victory beckoned.  In truth this is not a victory that Richnmond can celebrate any more than the coach’s cliche about the “four points” allows.  Then again, given the destabilising excitability of the Richmond bandwagon, a sobering non-loss could be the best possible result with 21 rounds to go.

My Votes:  Cotchin (3), Gibbs (2), Deledio (1)

About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. mickey randall says

    engaging piece. the tigers are my second side, which given your recount, is enough for me! loved the section when you’re in the loo! most appropriate. good luck for the season.

  2. One thing the victory signifies is that Carlton supporters can kiss my arsenal

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