Almanac (Footy) Life: Mavis and The Tigers

 

 

 

 

 

Bringg-bringg!! Bringg-bringg!!

 

“That’ll be for you”

 

“Yep, OK”

 

“Hello!?!”

 

“Oh, hi Graeme, it’s your mum here”

 

“Hi mum, how are you?”

 

“I’m good. Can I speak to Tim please?”

 

“Yep”

 

“TIM, Nana on the phone for you!”

 

“Hi Nana”

 

“Hello Tim. Look, I heard that you were thinking about not barracking for Richmond”

 

“Yer Nana, they’re just no good, and I want …….”

 

“Tim, you know that there are no holidays at Nana’s house if you don’t barrack for the Tigers.”

 

“…………. Oh, OK. I’m barracking for the Tigers then Nana!”

 

“Ah, that’s good to hear. See you later Tim. Bye”

 

“Bye Nana”.

 

This conversation took place over twenty-five years ago when my son, my mother’s oldest grandchild, was considering a shift of allegiances when he was about six years old. After bringing up five children who all followed the Tigers, my mother was not going to beat about the bush with subtleties when the eldest grandchild was thinking the unthinkable and she brought in the heavy artillery. Needless to say, none of the ensuing seven grandchildren even considered upsetting their grandmother with such a thought.

 

Tim is now in his thirties, with two young children of his own – who both follow the Tigers and who are sixth generation Richmond supporters. 

 

My mother was born in Richmond and grew up in Richmond and lived in Richmond until well after she married my dad – in a time when the most important people in Richmond were the priest at St Ignatius, the local ALP member and the coach of the mighty Tigers. I think she was on good terms with all of them!! My dad was also a Tiger supporter even though he came from the other side of Victoria Street, could she have married a non-believer? I think not!!

 

But Mary Mavis, known as Mavis, was not the first of the Tigers in her family. Her mum (my grandmother) lived in Richmond for years and worked at the Bryant & May factory for some time. She variously lived in Punt Rd, Mary St, Francis St, Balmain St and York St – and was known to frequent a number of the local establishments including the ‘All Nations’, the ‘Mountain View’ the now defunct ‘North Richmond Hotel’, on the corner of Shelley St and Victoria St near the North Richmond station. And a wine bar (yes, a wine bar in Richmond in the 1930-40s) somewhere in Bridge Rd! My mum still calls these establishments by the name of the owners, as was the custom in her time. So we drink at such places as Oppy’s, Clarrie Hall’s or Northey’s (The Vine, All Nations, London Tavern).

 

Though not as passionate as my mother, Mary Grace – known as Grace – was a Tiger, encouraged my mum to follow them and conversed with her fellow locals about their fortunes. She also didn’t mind a punt, being related to the famous Munro family of jockeys and trainers.

 

Mary Grace’s mother – Mary Minnie, known as Minnie (there’s a theme running here) – was also a Tiger. “How about those Tigers, eh …?!?!” she would often be heard saying. Whilst I’m not sure when my great-grandmother moved into Tiger territory, I have traced her to living at the Mountain View Hotel in 1909. She worked there as a domestic for some years, often serving meals to some of the Richmond players who dropped in after training and matches. I would like to be generous and say that she was following the yellow and black when they first joined the VFL in 1908, but we don’t need to split hairs about the family following for the near entirety of the Club’s time in the top flight. We have certainly been in the mix for all of the thirteen premierships!!!

 

Family circumstances being what they sometimes were, the three Marys – Minnie, Grace and Mavis – often lived together in those same households previously mentioned. Richmond, it’s streets, pubs, people and footy team were in the blood. In the great diaspora from the inner to the outer (now middle) suburbs of the 1950’s Mavis and many of her friends from Richmond ended in places like Glen Waverley, as did many from the other side of Victoria Street. Trips back to Richmond were not uncommon. When my grandmother came to live with us in Glen Waverley she visited her friends in Richmond at least twice a week, travelling to and from by train. A Saturday afternoon listening to the races with a drink or six with her old friends at the “North Richmond” was the highlight of her week.

 

Mavis was an only child. However she bought up five fanatical Richmond supporters. Four of these have Richmond partners (one even had a stint at Tigerland in the late 70’s-early 80’s, two others have converted). There are eight Richmond following grandchildren who rightfully had no choice re their allegiance. Most of them have found similarly minded partners, or have converted them to the true faith. After back-to-back flags Paddy, one of her grandchildren, purchased his non-Tiger partner a jersey of the yellow and black. As Gough said, “It’s Time!” Is it a pre-requisite for joining the family?  At last count, there are five great children, and one on the way, who are all Members of the Tiger Army. 

 

If every Tiger could get this factor of twenty plus we will have a million members in a few years!!

 

Mum is now in her nineties and forgets lots of things and is often confused. But she can still recall great stories of living in Richmond, some of the famous players and still watches her favourite team on the television.  And she reckons “her boy”, the Captain, goes OK. She tells her carers that he is actually her son! His picture is on the wall.

 

As of this weekend, she has been alive for eleven of the Tigers thirteen flags. 

 

My first footy memories are standing with her at Punt Road Oval in the early sixties before the big move to the MCG. Cold, wet, and generally losing. But we were at the footy. The years  of 1965-1982 were a fantastic era, but then she suffered with all of us through those dark years. She attended games well into her eighties. There were often three generations of family supporters and their friends sitting with her at “the G”, or standing in the outer at some other ground. She bought sandwiches for everybody’s lunch at half time and jelly snakes for three quarter time. 

 

Joe De Petro wrote a fantastic story about why we left three empty seats at the 2017 Grand Final and who they were for. My family disagreed with him on part of his great narrative, for we reckon one was for our mum who couldn’t get there. But not all was bad about that, because in her confusion she thought that we had beaten Geelong in the Grand Final earlier, in the Qualifying Final, and got to be happy twice!!! 

 

She knows that we won the flag again last year, and have added another this year. She is just a bit confused about the how and when. My daughter Anna put together a fantastic book of photos for her that covers the family during Grand Final week last year and on the big day. No doubt another is coming! 

 

She picks up a bit as the footy season arrives and the first thing she said way back in March was how good it was to beat Carlton in the first game. It looked a pity for her that the footy was going to be a casualty of the bug. But she hung in there like the rest of us and will no doubt be smiling as the Tigers have added a thirteenth (or fourteenth if you count Geelong in 2017) victory!!

 

Most of all she will be happy for her children, grand children and great-grand children, even if she can’t remember all of them all of the time.

 

Eat ‘em Alive!!!

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE

 

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Comments

  1. Welcome Mary Graeme.

    I really enjoyed this piece – so quintessentially Richmond.

    Mary Mavis is a ripper. No doubt there are many more stories to be told. Has anyone from your family ever compiled a history, or a collection of anecdotes? Would make excellent reading – as this piece does.

    This piece reminds me of Frank Taylor’s stuff too. So real and rich.

    Thanks for being part of it all here.

    Regards
    JTH

  2. Graeme!! This is a fabulous story that so taps into my intrigue. Your mums view of footy as a barracker in times that I’ve not lived through are surely fascinating, it’s footy, It’s women and it’s Melbourne suburban life in an era we can only imagine. Hope she is well and really enjoying this premiership.
    Well done.

  3. Wonderful yarn. Granny Mavis is a gem. Wonder what would happen if Trent ever visited?
    I resent these pieces that humanise Richmond when I am trying so hard to despise them.

  4. Great read. My Dad & his brothers used to race ponies at the Richmond racetrack. They were market gardeners at Dandenong. When The Wasps joined the VFL it was a no brainer. That’s how I became a Richmond supporter and now half our Brady Bunch family barrack for Richmond and the other half Hawthorn. As has been said before, any six year old kid can barrack for last year’s premiers. It takes character to be a Tiger.

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