AFL Round 5 – Fremantle v Richmond: No happiness in my tent

Halls Gap is a pretty place. The rock formations are amazing, the wildlife are happy and many, and the atmosphere in our campsite is friendly and welcoming. The only bad thing about this beautiful and friendly place is the complete absence of TVs to watch the footy on.

The Tigers are in Freo this week, on the back of a 30-odd point reality check from the Pies. I wasn’t exactly a ball of happiness during the past week, the only time I laughed was when Dad told me that Essendon were favorites for the Premiership and the Wooden Spoon at the same time. Our family traditionally heads off to Halls Gap for Anzac weekend, and Dad and I took it as an opportunity to get away from the footy for a few days. A good plan, that lasted till 10:25, ten minutes since we left home. We didn’t even know the Richmond team until Dad cracked and looked it up. Plus the Anzac day results didn’t enter the campsite until Friday, so that was a start.

Determined to take footy off the minds of her extended football-frenzied friends and family (our neighbors came as well), Mum crafted a day full off rock climbing, long walks and wood collecting. Sure, I was tired enough, and my legs were are mixture of red lines and scraped skin, but nothing keeps me away from the tigers. So off I go to my tent, grab my MP3 player, and hope like hell that ABC has an FM radio station that can be heard in Halls Gap. Sure enough it does, and I risk a fist-pump as the commentators talk me through the Anzac ceremony and the national anthem, and football finally reaches my ears, and even though its only been a day, it seems like years.

Unhappily, Kingy is out late, replaced by Robby Nahas, who is sub. I would put a large amount of money that Brandon “Super-Sub” Ellis is doing a crazy happy dance, much like my fathers. That change in the team is among 4 others that sees youngster Nick Vlaustuin make his debut.  Bounce time arrives, Richmond get an immediate inside 50, mark , and Shaun Grigg and his trusty boot get the first in under a minute. The Tigers are playing well early on, with Cotch on fire around the packs. Knights is also playing well, and Ty and Jack take good grabs and kick truly. Mzungu is playing OK, and Walters and Mayne grab goals against the flow, but its  Richmond by 20 at the end of the first. Our midfield has clicked early on, and Martin hasn’t had the quarter of a lifetime, so maybe he won’t have a late fade-out.

Freo, however, seem to take control about in the second term. They get the first 7 scoring shots of the term, but are wasteful, kicking 3.4. Knights and Ty get goals, but Cotch hasn’t had an impact, and spends most of the quarter getting his knee looked at. No, no thanks, footy gods, not again!

Ellis is making the most of a green vest free world, and Knights seems to be the only one playing well in the quarter. Ballantyne is crumbing dangerously and has bagged a couple. Walters is lethal from inside 50. Kepler Bradley has been subbed out with a suspected ACL, while Cotchy is fine. The good thing is that Freo hasn’t got their game plan going, but the tigers pacy game isn’t making a starring performance as yet. Dockers by 2.

Freo extend their lead further in the third term, but not controlling the game as much. The Tigers seem the better team, although Freo are keeping one step ahead. Goal for goal footy, as Knights and Ballantyne  get their third. Cotchy is again playing well, and Martin is  quite consistent, but not fabulous. Knights still seems best for us though. Jack hasn’t had a great game at all. Ty seems the dominant forward, but the game is hanging on a thread as nervousness rises in my small footy sanctuary.

The final stanza starts, yet again, goal for goal, Mayne-Martin. Knights is playing really well while Cotchin’s performance is varied. But enter Ty Vickery, who goals to put the Tigers 2 points down! This wasn’t to script! Now the game starts to get desperate. Rushed behinds, courage and skill is a footballer’s friend in these circumstances. Nahas was subbed in for the quiet Brad Helbig, but does not show any reason to the Tigers selectors that his spot could be retained. Then… Matty White!!! The man who I thought should be subbed,  goals! Several other campers awake in annoyance as my inner tiger breaks to the surface. We’re gonna win!!!!!!!!

But, in one of the most appalling mistakes of the year, someone forgets to tell Hayden Ballantyne.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The ball is booted to the Dockers’ forward line, Bachar Houli fails to stand another 2.5 centimeters closer to the small forward, and the game is lost. The final siren hasn’t even gone, but I’ve turned my MP3 off in disbelief. Yet another close loss. This has to be a dream. I feel like blaming every single person associated with football for this loss, from Jack Riewoldt to Joffa, but my inner personality can’t do it.
There is always next time.

RICHMOND: 12.8(80)

FREMANTLE: 12.9 (81)

RICHMOND: Knights, Vickery 3, McGuane 2, White, Martin, Grigg, Riewoldt.

FREMANTLE: Ballantyne 4, Mayne 3, Walters 2, Suban, Hill, Crowley.


RICHMOND: Knights, Cotchin, Martin, Ellis, Edwards, Houli, Vlastuin.

FREMANTLE: Barlow, Ballantyne, Hill, Griffin, Walters, McPharlin, C.Pearce.

VOTES: Ballantyne 1, Barlow 2, Knights 3.

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