AFL Round 23 – Sydney v Richmond: Richmond fans are the best

Cheryl Critchley


Richmond fans are the best.

How many club’s supporters would still support to their team and turn up in big numbers after missing the finals for 29 of the last 33 years?

How many would have the biggest, loudest and most devoted cheer squad despite all that disappointment?

And how many would turn up in Sydney en masse at short notice for a home and away game? Not many.

Tiger fans are a breed apart and deserve medals for following the worst performed team of the past 40 years.

Last time our team played in consecutive finals series, Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister. It was 1975 and I was nine. I’m now 48 and haven’t seen us win a final for 13 years.

But the solid core of Richmond diehards has never given up. Not when we’ve been thrashed to Geelong by 157 points, not when we lost our first final in 12 years to Carlton, and not when we lost to lowly Melbourne in a game to honour the passing of club legend Tom Hafey.

Do you want to know why? Because experiencing all that pain makes the big wins even sweeter. And unlike spoilt fans of clubs like Geelong and Hawthorn, we never take anything for granted.

As 4-5000 of us travelled to Sydney for what had become our biggest home and away game for years, we dared to dream. Could we make the finals after one of the most disappointing starts to a season in years?

We ignored all the ninth jokes, and the fact we hadn’t beaten Sydney in Sydney since 2004 when Richo kicked 7.0. We had faith, despite starting the year with more critics than a Joe Hockey budget. And we never gave up.

Back in round 14 when we sat 3/10, the odds of the Tigers making back to back finals series in 2014, after our first appearance since 2001, were Buckley’s and none.

My eldest daughter, Jess, 15, declared herself a Gold Coast supporter. Bec had given up completely and Ben hated footy full stop. And I didn’t blame them. At that point, the Tigers were equal last, behind even Melbourne.

Then things changed. We beat St Kilda. And Brisbane. And Port Adelaide. And West Coast (in Perth!). And GWS. and Essendon. and Adelaide (in Adelaide!). and St Kilda – again!

We went from needing extensive therapy to the longest winning streak since 1980, when I wore my Michael 8 Roach duffle coat to see the Tigers smash Collingwood in the Grand Final.

Thanks to North beating Adelaide in Hobart in the second last round, all Richmond had to do was beat Sydney in the last game and we were in the finals.

The chances were slimmer than Brian Taylor saying something intelligent, but we had hope. It was fitting that I went with my cousin Kate, whom I brainwashed with her sister Bec to follow Richmond in the late 1970s. But she’s never lost the faith either.

We sat with some of Kate’s workmates and their families, a black and yellow slither wedged into a sea of red and white, all of them expecting to win.

Then we kicked the first five goals thanks to Riewoldt, Deledio, Riewoldt again, Edwards and Miles. The Swans didn’t score a major until close to the 23 minute mark and at quarter time The Tigers were up by 20 points. That wasn’t part of the script.

In drizzling rain, Richmond was playing with intensity, confidence and poise. Rance dominated the back line, partly due the Lance Franklin’s last-minute withdrawal, and Sydney was making uncharacteristic mistakes. After another miss, this time a poster, a Richmond fan yelled: “That’s the footy gods”.

Thirteen points up at half time and we really were pinching ourselves. Could we hang on?

When Rohan slotted the first goal of the second half a minute in, it could have been ominous. When Adam Goodes put them in front at the 22 minute mark, things looked grim. But the Tigers rallied and snuck back in front thanks to a Deledio free 20 metres out.

Tigers by five points at the final break.

The last quarter was an arm wrestle not recommended for those with weak hearts. Sydney pushed and the Tigers held on. Martin dominated the forward line and kicked a crucial goal on the run, while Rance continued his match-winning saves down back, aided by Morris, Houli and Ellis, who laid a match winning tackle in the dying minutes.

For a while it looked like Goodes would pull something out of the bag and turn our excitement to heartache. It’s what you expect as a Richmond fan.

But he didn’t.

When the siren finally sounded Richmond was three points up. We’d done it!!

How sweet victory is for those who never give up. We were outnumbered almost 10 to one, but Richmond fans made twice as much noise as they got to sing their song in Sydney for the second time in one year. Strangers embraced like long-lost friends as the pain of the first half of the year melted away in the drizzling rain.

After so many years as the butt of everyone’s jokes, our team had won nine games in a row was finals bound. Fans of teams who play regular finals footy may scoff, but we felt like we’d won a Grand Final. It was the best.

By midnight I’d found a hotel for Jess, Bec and I for the first final against Port at the Adelaide Oval. A September booking that wasn’t a holiday. How good is that?



SYDNEY:   2.1 4.3 7.6 9.11 (65)

RICHMOND:  5.3 6.4 8.5 10.8 (68)



Sydney: Reid 2, Goodes, McVeigh, Towers, Rohan, Parker, Tippett, Hannebery

Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Deledio 3, Miles, Gordon, Martin



Sydney: Hannebury, Jack, Parker, Rampe, Mitchell, Malceski

Richmond: Deledio, Rance, Maric, Martin, Cotchin, Edwards, Rance, Ellis


UMPIRES: Rosebury, Stevic, Pannell

Crowd: 31,227


OUR VOTES: 3 Deledio (Richmond), 2 Rance (Richmond) 1 Maric (Richmond) BROWNLOW VOTES:




  1. Cat from the Country says

    Please tell me why Geelong fans are spoilt.
    We went from 1963 till 2007 before we won another flag.
    I lived through years of disappoiting results in the 80s and 90 and stuck with them.
    I became a paid up member in that time. I never tell people my team will lose.
    The thrashing in Sydney would be the biggest embarrassment ever from the team.
    I live in hope that we will see another flag at the Cattery sooner rather than later!
    Go Cats!

  2. Barkly St End says

    you’re not making a big deal out of a mere 44 year drought are you?

  3. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Cat. I’m talking relatuvely recently. And during your drought you still had lots of finals appearances. Richmond fans have seen hardly any finals for 34 years let alone Grand Finals.

  4. Great write-up Cheryl. We were there with the cheer squad, and young Marcus got to go out with the banner onto the field. He’ll remember last night as long as he lives. WOZZA WOZZA WOZZA.

  5. Keiran Croker says

    Congratulations Cheryl. Great game and well fought out win. Best of luck for next week.
    Growing up a South supporter we went from 1945 till 1986 with only 2 finals appearances (1970 & 1977) in a 12 team comp.
    My best mate Tim nearly convinced me to swap over to the Tiges when at primary school in the 1960s when they were winning flags under Tommy. I stuck with the Swans though.
    I watched last nights game over at Tim’s place. Still mates following our own teams passionately.

  6. Andrea Bowden says

    I can realate to every word in your piece. It’s hard to convey to non Tiger supporters how good that win was last night. Away wins always feel extra special. We’ve also booked flights and accommodation. Go Tiges!!!!!!!!

  7. Michael Viljoen says

    By midnight I’d found a hotel for Jess, Bec and “me” (after a preposition.)

    I have to look for another way to tease Richmond supporters, as I can’t make “ninth” jokes anymore.

    With some concession, if you had lost, you would have finished 10th.

    Michael (Carlton fan, now finally getting behind Malthouse seeing how much the knowall journos hate him.)

  8. Cheryl Critchley says

    Michael most of this was written around midnight and in the morning after about 5 hours’ sleep. I’m surprised you didn’t find more mistakes :-)

  9. Cheryl, as an unspoilt 47 (almost) year old cat supporter, I never take anything for granted.
    Carna Cats!
    (& go Tiges, so long as our paths don’t cross)

  10. Cheryl
    It sure has been a roller coaster ride! Unfortunately the Sunday timing and cost will prevent me from being in Adelaide next week (rest assured, this doesn’t make me any less loyal – I’m frantically rearranging Father’s Day commitments to fit around the 3.20 kickoff), so please, give em a “carn the Tigers” from me and the thousands of other diehards who can’t be there.

  11. Haje Halabi says

    like so many of us C you are one of the true believers, this run home has had everyone getting on board any why wouldn’t they? just beautiful tigers, and I feel the should of Tommy Hafey smiling on us now….

  12. Paddy Grindlay says

    Well, well, well.
    Unfortunately, I’m not going to Adelaide Oval next Sunday, but I promise I will be with the Tiges telepathically. Through my jumper.
    Dusty Martin May look like he cuts his own hair, but we’ve got him to kick 3 match winning goals in the last few matches.
    Go us. Go the Tigers.

  13. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Belly sorry I shoukd have specified that I was talking about more recent years re Hawks and Cats. Both have played regular finals for 20 years and won GFs recently. I often hear fans of such clubs complaining about not making top 4 etc which is where that comment was directed. I’m sure you’re mot one if those :-)

  14. Well done to the Tigers. Hope they knock off Port next weekend.

  15. Cheryl Critchley says

    Stainless and Paddy we’ll cheer extra loud for you!!! You’ll be there in spirit :-)

  16. Rebecca Lyster says

    Hi Cheryl,

    How sweet it is!! I’ve always enjoyed telling everyone about being brainwashed by my crazy cousin when I was too young to know any different. James and I have everything crossed for next week. We will try and watch it here but it is tricky to find coverage around these parts! Enjoy next week.


  17. Neil Anderson says

    I support any big-drought-breaking team because my team holds the drought-record after the Swans won in 2005.
    Speaking of who has the best and most resilient fans, I was with 8000 of them this afternoon at the Bulldogs proper homeground at Footscray to see the VFL side have a win.
    What a difference it makes to have a grandstand full of your own supporters in Footscray -colours cheering on your team instead of being at that soulless Etihad Stadium.
    Good luck to the Tigers. It reminds me of the Bulldogs in 1997 and our tilt at the premiership after coming almost last the previous year.

  18. Cheryl Critchley says

    Have fun Bec – hope you can find coverage! Have you tried the AFL app where you can purchase games to watch on you phone? Hopefully you can do that there. And Neil I LOVE dedicated Doggies fans. Even though you’ve had much more finals action than us in the last 30 years, waitung that long for a flag is umimaginable.

  19. Luke Reynolds says

    Brilliant Cheryl. Very happy for you and all the long suffering Tigers fans. What a game it was. All the best for this Sunday, should be another great game.

  20. Tiger of Old says

    Nine wins in a row over coming ninth. We now have a whole new spin on “Ninthdom!”

  21. Gregor Lewis says

    Passionate write-up Cheryl. Ripper reading.

    Well done, but no congratulations yet.

    This year is the opposite of last year. You missed Top 4 because of a nonsensical loss to Carlton H&A, then repeated the dose in Finals, (both mistakes & result) when you were expected to learn from them.

    The finish to the year has been so big … so rare, I can understand Tigers fans being loathe to expect anything.

    I think you should. Port Adelaide haven’t come close to beating you since you both began your Top 8 journeys, the last two years.

    I reckon the dichotomy of the situation between this year and last, will help see you facing Sydney again, in Sydney in two weeks time, for a Prelim berth.

    Priceless experience this week AND last year will hold you in good stead.



  22. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Gregor you’ve hit the nail on the head. Last year we were exoected to win and lost, but this year we go in as underdogs which is a much better feeling – losing wouldn’t be nearly as bad. But you’ve gotta be in it to win it and being there is priceless.

  23. I am reminded of an American protester’s placard at the time of the First Gulf War: “what is our oil doing under their sand?”
    Disgruntled of Perth.

  24. Callum O'Connor says

    Cheryl I was at Kel Moore’s Sporting Globe to watch the match at the members’ broadcast. I will never, ever forget it. Honestly, one of the best afternoons of my life.

  25. CC

    I am obliged to say I stormed out of the Dreamtime game earlier this season saying I wouldn’t waste my time or money on this mob for the rest of the year.

    I am very happy to report that about 7.15 on Saturday as Dustry kicked that running goal that the seats on the Tigers bandwagon are extremely comfortable and welcoming. It is nice to be back.

    As much as it was the best afternoon of watching football I can remember (and the most nerve racking) this win isn’t for me, but for those like you who believed (when I didn’t) and those that were there in the flesh.

    Rance brilliant, how he didn’t get votes in the Age is a mystery


  26. Cheryl Critchley says

    Sean you sound like my husband, who vowed not to go to another game after the Melbourne game – and didn’ until the second StKilda one. But I don’t blame you or him for that because the club didn’t deserve us at that point. I kept going because I’d never give up – but I was very angry. Thank goodness they’ve turned it around. It’s not only good for football but rewards all of us long-suffering fans who have kept the faith.Go Tigers!!!

  27. Great win and great write up Cheryl. And extremely considerate of so many views expressed in the comments sections. Sounds like you’re a beaming Tige.

    Good luck next week.

    The touching moment for me was when David Parkin said on the radio that he had spoken to Tommy Hafey’s wife Maureen before the game and she said that Tommy would be smiling down on the team, knowing if they won it would be the first time the Tiges had made back to back finals since the mid 70s when Hafey was in charge.

  28. What a joyful post. I am pleased for you and all the Tiger fans, Cheryl. I am only sorry that the first team that you will meet is Port Adelaide. In the absence of Collingwood, Port and Richmond are the only two teams for which I could possibly cheer, (well maybe North but I can’t see them going far this season) and I was hoping that they would both be around for at least the first two weeks.

    One of the things that I liked about the Tigers win on Saturday was that the AFL could not milk the Sunday games as being important matches with Finals positions at stake. Nothing against the Eagles and the Crows, but of the four teams battling for eighth position only Richmond has the momentum to win any finals matches. Collingwood has half its team missing and the other two are not good enough to play finals this year, even at full strength.

    So good luck to the Tigers. Win it for Tommy!

  29. Andrew Starkie says

    Congrats Cheryl. Thought of you yesterday and smiled. Go Tiges and Roos.

    You’d be happy with the price freeze for Sept.

  30. Cheryl Critchley says

    Thanks Dave, Andrew and everyone else. It’s going to be a great week and a win would be an even bigger bonus. Hopefully we’ll have a few more supporters on the Tiger Train this weekend :-)

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