AFL Round 3 – Richmond v Western Bulldogs: A yellow and black symphony

It was when I heard Deep Purple’s Black Night on the radio when I was ten years old. That song single handedly activated the metal gene that afflicts a small but significant percentage of the population.  This sums it up for me when it comes to culture. When I later became a primary school teacher my class was visited by a troupe of classical instrumentalists. Management hoped that exposure to the arts might civilise the unruly eight-year-olds in my class. Perhaps it was also meant for me. We were asked to listen to various pieces they played and to note certain subtleties in the music. Try as I might, I didn’t pick up any nuances at all. Without a heavy drum beat and a sizzling guitar riff I was completely dumbfounded. On another occasion we attended a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performance on an excursion to the Arts Centre. Part of the way through the recital some of my students began to boo the MSO. I let it go for a minute or so, despite the fact that angry glances were being cast in our direction. Why not? These artists were living it up on the public payroll. Why shouldn’t they be subject to market forces and heckled by disgruntled spectators, who after all would never have chosen to be there of their own volition? I eventually did the adult thing and told the boys to tone it down as they had made their point.

But I do have one classical music CD – a free one given away by the Sunday Age a number of years ago and I do know something about classical music. I know that a symphony usually has four different movements linked by structure and key.

Today I am unable to be present at Etihad Stadium for Richmond’s clash with the Western Bulldogs.  I have handed our membership cards to my friend around the corner so he can attend the game with his son. His family has recently returned to Melbourne after a few years on the Sunshine Coast and a failed business venture. They need a day out. Nevertheless, I am about to experience the game in four different movements. I hope the Tigers will make some beautiful music today as they strive for three consecutive wins to start the season, something they have not accomplished in 18 years.

First movement. My wife breaks out the dark chocolate Tim Tams after lunch as we settle down to watch the first quarter on Foxtel.

“Are you nervous?” asks my wife.

“Of course not,” I reply.

But I am nervous. This is largely uncharted territory. The Tigers are expected to win convincingly today and have hard matches coming up against Collingwood, Fremantle and Geelong in the next three weeks. They dare not drop this one if they are going to challenge for a place in the top eight.

Deledio bursts out of the centre after the first bounce like a bullet from a gun and kicks it straight through the middle. Brilliant. It takes less than ten seconds and has to be the fastest opening goal in history. This stunning introduction is soon replaced by a nagging frustration. Richmond is all over the hapless Bulldogs, with Martin, Deledio and Newman running riot, but squanders opportunities with a series of wayward shots at goal. Jones boots a couple for the Scrays from two rare forward entries. Martin unleashes a bomb from outside the 50-metre line, but the goal is disallowed because of a horrendous free kick paid against McGuane while shepherding it through in the square.  Riewoldt has a string of frees paid against him for tackling and marking duel misdemeanours. It’s 20 points the difference at quarter time but the margin should be six or seven goals.

Second movement. My son and I clamber into the Pulsar for the trip to the Banyule Flats Reserve for the Banyule-Ivanhoe colts match, the opening game of the season. As we reverse out of the driveway I tune into Radio National. McGuane snaps truly. While we head down the Bergundy Street hill Deledio adds another. Richmond’s fierce tackling is forcing the Bulldogs into numerous errors. My son heads off to the change rooms for the warm up while I remain in the car to listen to the remainder of the first half. The Bulldogs manage to limit Richmond’s scoring opportunities but Knights scores his first in Tiger colours late in the term. I switch off when the siren sounds for half time with Richmond leading by 32 points. Is it enough? How will I obtain the next score? It’s time to report to the coach for runner’s duties.

Third movement. It’s a tight contest between the Bears and the Hoes. There’s no wind to speak of but there is a humidity in the air promising rain.  Everyone is sweating profusely. A lot of our players have acquired new haircuts over the summer and almost all of them are wearing new numbers. There’s little time to contemplate Richmond’s progress as I busy myself delivering instructions from the coaches. Late in the second quarter our ruckman, Big Red, snaps an unlikely major from an acute angle. This goal puts Ivanhoe up by four points. I follow the boys off the field carrying the rack with the drink bottles as well as the plastic the bag holding the towels.

“We won by 67 points!” exclaims our full back, Jake, to my son. Jake’s nickname is Tiger and I know he’s talking about events at the Docklands. How he heard the result I don’t know. The days of old men clutching trannies by the boundary fence at local grounds and listening through an earpiece for progress scores from the AFL games are long gone. Someone has read the result on their phone and passed on the glad tidings.

Fourth movement. It’s the end of a satisfying day. After relinquishing the lead in the final term late goals to Jackson and Declan lifted the Hoes over the line. We won by nine points. Over fried chicken and rice my son and I watch the sports report on the news and learn that the Tigers had re-aligned their radar during the main interval and finished up with 20 goals. Jack booted five of them, but who kicked the rest?

It is with immense enjoyment that I settle back after dinner with some leftover Easter Eggs to watch the second, third and fourth quarters of the match on the Foxtel IQ. It’s a procession and the tension of my first stint in front of the TV is a distant memory. It’s a fine way to end the school holidays. I see who kicked the goals and enjoy every one of them. Martin powers on in the second half and Cotchin escapes from his tagger to provide another master class in immaculate ball handling and disposal. There are some advantages to watching the game on TV. Sometimes the umpires say something funny. Jack has obviously demanded a free after a collision in a marking contest and is rebuked by the match official. “He stood still, Jack! Stand up!”

Not quite a symphony, perhaps and still lacking a bit of polish. But every time Hardwick raises the baton we get that bit closer to playing at the bigger venues at the top end of town come September.


  1. Stephen Cooke says

    And why should those classical musicians simply expect the respect of the audience? Welcome to the real world you public payroll leeches.

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