AFL Round 12 – North Melbourne v Richmond: I’ve been to the mountain top and there is nothing to see


Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple Church in Memphis in 1968. Just as when God allowed Moses to ascend Mt. Nebo on the east side of the Jordan, Dr. King could say, “And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.”

Richmond supporters thought they were ascending a mountain of sorts last September when Damien Hardwick led us into the finals for the first time in 12 years. In that elimination final the Tigers crumbled to a catastrophic defeat to Carlton after being up by five goals early in the third quarter. The mountain we climbed turned out to be something like Mt. Wycheproof, a hill on the road to Boort that rises 43 metres above the plain and is said to be the smallest mountain in the world. The Promised Land we were entering was really the same barren paddocks where we’d wandered aimlessly for years.

I say this with no disrespect to the town of Wycheproof, which after all, produced Mervyn Keane, a triple premiership star and a member of Richmond’s Team of the Century.

For me, there is an air of inevitability about this clash with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium. It’s amazing how quickly you revert to turning up for games without expecting to win. For over 30 years now this has been the normal state of affairs for the yellow and black tribe.

Predictably, after being lambasted for their performance against Essendon the Tigers come out breathing fire. Vickery tangles with Firrito in the opening minutes and sends him to the bench to get a gash over his eye patched up. After an even first term Richmond scoots away to a 35-point lead by half time. Martin is unstoppable in attack and has four goals to his credit, with three of them coming in the second stanza. Maric slots one from a sharp angle. Houli punches holes in the Roo defence with his incisive delivery. Matt Thomas is relentless in the packs. Deledio adds a cache of crunching tackles to his customary run and carry. It matters not that Cotchin is struggling to break Levi Greenwood’s tag.

For North it appears that its on-off switch is jammed in the off position. For some reason they can’t  string consecutive wins together. Their forwards can’t get a touch.

But Richmond these days is as fragile as a Waterford crystal vase left out on a coffee table at a 21st birthday party. Without becoming too excited, the fans politely applaud the Tigers as they jog off into the sheds.

In his half time summary on the big screen Rex Hunt avoids gloating and instead urges Drew Petrie to show something to his supporters and get himself into the game.

Careful what you wish for, Rexy.

The Kangaroos boot eight unanswered goals in a devastating 19-minute burst. It is former Tiger, little Robbie Nahas, who seizes the lead for North halfway through the third term when he goals on the run. Petrie awakes from his slumber, responds to the rocket from Rex and boots three for the term. Levi Greenwood is moved onto Martin and shuts him out of the game. The Kangaroos lift all over the field while Richmond’s first half playmakers disappear from sight. The Tigers are following the script of strugglers at the foot of the table. They blow a potential match-winning lead and are overwhelmed. Mistakes proliferate. Passes go astray and they give up a free kick at a centre bounce when there are too many in the square.

In time honoured tradition, a couple of old-timers nearby blame it all on the umpires.

“Bloody pathetic!”

“You have got to be joking you maggot!”

“That is bloody corrupt! The worse I have ever seen!”

Kangaroo fans begin to find their voices. One of them loudly welcomes everyone around him to “the comedy hour” as Richmond’s system completely falls away.

North outscores Richmond by 13 goals to 3 in the second half. The Tigers’ 35-point half time lead is rapidly transformed into a demoralising 28-point loss.

Sometimes men chat to each as they stand together at the urinal after witnessing a game of footy.

“What do you reckon, mate?” offers one stranger. “Another five-year plan? I hate ‘em. Nothing ever changes with this club.”

But something has changed for me. For years my kids have accompanied me to Richmond games.  My daughter is 20 and has a part-time job along with her university studies. Besides, her boyfriend plays for GWS. My 17-year-old son refuses to come anymore. He no longer believes in the rumour of a Promised Land and the restoration of a mythical golden age. He likes the way Port Adelaide plays.

Promised Land? Looks to me as though it’s as far away as it ever was.  I certainly can’t see it from this hill.





  1. Cheryl Critchley says

    Oh John I feel your pain!! I was the only one in our family who went last night. My son hates footy, the middle daughter immediately guessed we’d lost when I asked who she thought had won (she didn’t even bother to watch it on TV) and the oldest, who had stuck with the Tigers until recently, went to the movies with her friends (and insists she now follows Gold Coast). If our kids are a straw poll, Richmond risks losing a whole generation. And I don’t blame them. They’ve seen nothing but pain with the occasional glimpse of hope that is ALWAYS snuffed out before we can get too excited. Like you, when we were 35 points up a half time I didn’t for a minute think we’d won. With good reason.

  2. John
    Last night’s was an amazing game.
    From a North supporter’s perspective, we will never be a good team whilst our worst and best are so far apart.
    As for you Richmond supporters, I just don’t know what to say.

  3. Thanks John. You inspired me to re-read the text of the King (Martin Luther not David) speech. It was delivered on April 3 1968 – the day before he was assassinated.
    It is clear that Dr King was a Tigers man. Here are some other excerpts:

    “I’m delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow.”

    “Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”
    (Well that got him the 67, 69, 73, 74 and 80 flags to watch on the Elysian Fields – but it didn’t leave much for future generations.)

    King concluded his epic address with words that might be appropriate for Damien Hardwick (as a two time premiership player) to use as his ongoing approach for the rest of the season:
    “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
    And I don’t mind.
    Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! ”

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    John the tigers are intriguing in that looking at there list I thought they significantly over achieved last year in that there are so many battlers seemingly , Hardwick clones
    King , Morris , Newman , Jackson etc so in that regard I thought they were fantastic in 2013 but in looking at there list I thought they would go backwards in that they had few injuries in , 13 and there was not a plan to draft aiming for a crack at a flag not drafting , Brodie Grundy with the intention of him to be the big guy to lead a crack at the holy grail was a huge blunder and drafting so many recycled battlers again , Thomas , Batchelor , Petterd etc . The tigers clearly over rated there list and then word got around in the footy world , Hardwick was not following thru with non negotiateables ( threatened to drop , Deledio for breaking team rules and then backed down ) it was a huge chance to completely unravel you can say it is in hindsight but I tipped the tigers to finish between , 12 and 16 and that looks about right unfortunately for the tiger faithful thanks , John

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    And we all know what happened to mLK the next day.

    Amazing game. Tigers so good in the first half, North brilliant in the secong. A microcosm of our season actually. I honestly feel for Tiger fans.

  6. matt watson says

    Richmond will never scale the mountain and take in the view while they keep tripping over their own feet.
    I don’t know what else to say about Richmond that hasn’t already been said before.
    I don’t even want to talk about them anymore.
    I will say this – thankfully North was playing Richmond on Sunday night. No other AFL team would’ve let us overturn a 35-point deficit.
    Only Richmond…

  7. Paul Daffey says

    Top report, John.

    The prospect of another five-year rebuild drains me.

    My sons really want to barrack for Richmond but it’s becoming difficult and I can see them following their mum to Hawthorn.

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