AFL Round 23 – Sydney v Richmond: A box full of surprises

I can almost see clearly now. Transition creates chaos. I should know better from all my time in Asia, there is chaos in order. Our house has been an utter mess for the last few weeks as we have been digging through our accumulated stuff.

Chaotic kitchens and I don’t go together, I like my pots stacked nicely, my plates ready to go.  I love my tea towels folded, benches wiped clean, bowls with shiny fruit. I look to the last box, number 157 that we have, and I have timed my run beautifully, with half an hour to go before the Tigers and Swans game. Box156, cardboard box done, now 157 is waiting, contents unknown.

It’s half an hour to game time.  I am grateful today that I have been busy; we also managed a cracking surf with the boys and some of their mates on a sun-kissed day. Clearly however, I am edgy as I ask myself, can the Tigers fulfill the impossible dream and win the last game, against the merciful Swans to reach the cherished eight?

I pick up the last box but little Jack yells out that he is hungry, so I quickly go to the fridge and decide to cook instead. Cooking does soothe me down. Many times I have found solace in creating food. The Weber is my friend, the radio fires up, a stray dog makes its way along the street after picking up the smell of charcoal-grilled Gippsland Beef.

It’s Game On. The Tigers bang on four quick goals whilst I hardly turn the steaks over. I look to that last box. I have learned to love the boxes over the years.  You, my friend, will have to wait, I say. I wonder what it is. I wonder if the Tigers can sustain this attacking game, the very game that has given the supporters confidence over the last few weeks. Kids’ plates are in front of them, I whip over to Don’s around the corner to watch the game. Inverloch sunshine descends; there’s a nip in the air.

Like so many troubled Tigers I have been riding the crest of the mighty wave over the last weeks. It is a wave that only a few months ago had us equal last. Now we are stirring, the whole community seems to have adopted us. Diehards have dusted of their scarves. The AFL is happy and media are having a field day conjuring up the news story of the year.

Into the second quarter and the question I pose to Don is ‘can we sustain it’? True to the Bloods spirit, the Swans rise in this quarter. They tag out young Miles and players like Hannebery and Parker come to the fore. Maric is giving everything in the ruck and teaching young Naismith a lesson; and Benny Griffiths, who has promised so much, is giving it his all. Its close at three-quarter time (8.5 to 7.6 Tigers way) but this game is full of old-fashioned grunt and determination, with no side conceding. We are gathered around the TV riding every bump; every poor decision, every roll of the ball and every slip on a very bad ANZ stadium surface. It comes down to a frenetic final quarter where the Swans pinch a lead, and multiple tackles later, a ball gets forced forward where the human wrecking ball, Dustin Martin keeps his feet and runs into an open goal. At 90 seconds to go I call the game done (“We are in the finals Don!” I yell…) but he is not game to call it. He and Sasha, (our eldest boy) hang on to the final second. There’s a collective sense of glee as we realize what we have done and where we are going. Jenny, Don’s wife, says it is now going to be a very happy social night, as we have gathered for little Olivia’s surprise party. It has been a surprising year for the Tigers, a box full of uncertainty of emotions. The players sing the song that almost everyone loves with so much gusto this time around.

Great games by Maric, Rance, Cotchin, Delidio, Jack and for me, the boy from Holbrook, young Miles, have ensured that the Tigers back up and play in September.  He is made of the right stuff; a Tiger of old, I reckon. I think back to that last box that I will open tomorrow and I am intrigued to know what it might be.  Maybe, just maybe, I won’t open it for a while.

Richmond            5.3          6.4          8.5          10.8.68
Sydney                 2.1          4.3          7.6          9.11.65


(R) Rance, Maric, Maric, Cotchin, Delidio,  Miles, Houli
(S) Hannebery, Parker, Rohan, McVeigh

VOTES: 3. A. Rance (R) 2. I. Maric (R) 1. D. Hannebery (S)



About Haje Halabi

Born in Bright Victoria, went overseas for 2 years and stayed 18. Tiger tragic, father of 2 fine young men, teacher and obsessed with sport and the good it can bring.


  1. Good to hear the surf was good, the barbie is fired up and the Tiges are coming into the finals with a wet sail. Do Saints and Richmond fans share a bond of teasing teams? I’m genuinely happy for all my Tiger mates for what they have achieved this year, which in turn, gives us all hope for next year.

    Happy days Haje!

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