AFL Round 12: Richmond v West Coast: Tigers offer picture of hope

By John Green

I have a favourite footy photo.
It was taken at a Richmond-Collingwood match at Punt Road in May 1933. It shows legendary Collingwood coach Jock McHale sitting on the bench by the boundary fence alongside his nineteenth man. McHale hasn’t noticed the photographer. He is glancing down at a fob watch. Spectators are crowded against the fence within touching distance of McHale. The men wear suits, ties and hats. The women wear caps and berets. There are young children. Some of them smile for the photographer. The young woman directly behind McHale has noticed the photographer. She is grinning mischievously and holding up a doll in a knitted Richmond jumper just behind the shoulder of the oblivious Collingwood boss.
I like the photo because it captures the essence of barracking for your club. That anonymous woman is serious about her football, but not above poking a bit of good-natured fun at her rival. But most of all, she is there, standing on the terrace with the rest of the tribe. Times were tough during the Depression. It cost something for her to be there at a time when many families struggled to put food on the table.
Most of the twenty or so souls frozen in that moment of time at Punt Road all those years ago would have passed on.
But in a sense, they live on in the lives of those wending their way across the concourse from Southern Cross Station to Etihad Stadium for the clash between Richmond and West Coast. It is an unbroken line. We love our club just as much as they did in 1933. Those people in the photo are our spiritual forebears. Although we follow the Tigers in conditions far more comfortable than what they endured at inner suburban battlegrounds, our lives are similarly entwined with the fortunes of our team.
Terry Wallace is gone. By the end of the season most, if not all, of his lieutenants will follow. They will, most likely, find new football homes and transfer their allegiances as they must. But we, the yellow and black faithful, will continue to turn up every week. Regimes and
five-year plans may come and go, but our devotion to the club remains the same.
Fans pencilled in this match at the beginning of the 2009 campaign because it would pit Ben Cousins against his former Eagles teammates for the first time. Now recent events had overshadowed it and reduced the Cousins item to a subplot. Enter Jade Rawlings, Richmond’s new caretaker coach. Enter the raw quintet of Angus Graham, Robin Nahas, Shane Edwards, Tyrone Vickery and Tom Hislop, replacing the seasoned crew of Bowden, Simmonds, Pettifer, Coughlan and McMahon.
Was Rawlings sacrificing a winnable game in order to make a statement that he was backing youngsters for the remainder of the season?
Richmond accumulates 14 possessions before an Eagle touches the ball. The visitors have lost their last 16 matches away from the comfortable environs of Subiaco. They look like they fear catching the swine flu if they get too close to Victorians. Tambling is electrifying and gathers 14 possessions for the quarter. Mitch Morton takes six marks in the forward 50 and snags three goals, two of them courtesy of Tambling. Cousins starts his evening with a playful tap on David Wirrpanda’s rump. Eagles coach John Worsfold applies an old-fashioned tag through Scott Selwood, playing only his fifteenth match. Cousins does as he likes and racks up ten disposals. Daniel Jackson, in the process of becoming the game’s most irritating and therefore most effective tagger, nullifies Daniel Kerr to the point where spectators wonder whether Kerr was accidentally left behind at Perth Airport.
The Tigers dominate all over the field and lead by 24 points at quarter-time. The lead would have been greater if they had been more accurate.
It proves to be the decisive break in the match. The Eagles attempt to generate some lift but cannot get any closer than 11 points. Kennedy boots three in the second term and finishes with four for the match. Goalsneak Mark LeCras chips in with three in the second half. Priddis gets his share of the ball and Kerr slips clear of Jackson for a brief period in the third term. But the Eagles cannot bridge the gap.
West Coast’s spring-heeled debutant Nicholas Naitanui, taken at No.2 in the 2008 draft, is a dread-locked counterpart to the similarly endowed Tyrone Vickery. Last year’s Teal Cup rivals square off in the big time. Vickery boots a goal from a free kick in the third quarter and is engulfed by 17 teammates. Naitanui is wearing Ben Cousins’ old No.9. He demonstrates his prodigious leap and takes a screamer over three opponents in the last term. He plays on and his shot cannons into the woodwork. No matter, he shows enough to suggest he will be a headache for opposition backmen in the not-too-distant future.
Rawlings has pointed words with Cousins at the three-quarter-time huddle. Cousins nods in agreement. He steals a drink from a grinning Eagles trainer at the resumption of play before adding another eight possessions for the term.
The Tigers and Eagles go hammer and tongs at each other, but no-one is fooled. This is a contest between thirteenth and fifteenth. The game is riddled with errors and botched scoring opportunities. The Eagles make too many blunders to reel the Tigers in. Morton douses any possibility of a late Eagles swoop with his fourth and fifth majors early in the last quarter. Rawlings’ additions to the squad more than earn their keep. Kerr makes late contact with Cousins after he marks and is penalised 50 metres. The pair share a laugh as they jog up the field together.
The Tigers prevail by 15 points.
The cheeky woman with the Richmond doll in 1933 only had to wait a little over a year for the next Tiger premiership. I wonder whether she was at the MCG when Dyer, Titus, Bentley, Gordon Strang and the rest of the crew rolled South Melbourne in 1934. I hope she was.
It may take a little longer than a year for the current Tigers team to land the club’s next premiership. We’ll keep turning up in the hope that it will eventually happen again. Anything less would be a betrayal of the generations who have gone before us.

My votes: 3 Morton 2 Tambling 1 Foley

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