Dimmer says we’re “a fair chance” tonight against Collingwood. Humble supporters can be a tad more realistic. A Tiger victory over Collingwood is about as likely as Bob Brown receiving an invitation to the BHP Christmas picnic in December.

At least I can do it in comfort tonight. I like my normal seat at ground level in the members section of the Northern Stand. Being only seven rows from the front, I can almost smell the sweat on interchanged players as they stroll by the fence sucking on a water bottle whilst engaging in earnest conversation with fitness staff. Sometimes my image is captured for posterity on film by the Foxtel cameraman who regularly camps by that section of the fence.

But for this instalment of the age old struggle against the Magpies, I am comfortably situated in Level 2 on the southern side, right on the wing. I am the guest of my friend Grant, a Collingwood-supporting AFL member. I have a perfect view of the whole field and the added advantage of the delicious aroma of fried onion emanating from the corporate boxes behind me. It’s a beautiful, still autumn night and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Richmond’s “fair chance” evaporates within minutes.

Thomas glides unmarked into the 50-metre arc. Cloke marks strongly following a rapid centre clearance. Dawes’ fingers close like a vice on the ball as he easily overcomes the undersized and inexperienced Richmond defensive cohort. Martin’s pass to Riewoldt falls short by centimetres, Pendlebury lays the shepherd to prevent a second effort, Johnson pounces and sets off towards the sticks. Collingwood have four goals on the board in the first nine minutes and the contest is over. Edwards takes the ball and sizes up every option but for the fact that Nick Maxwell is on his shoulder. He plays on, is instantly collared, the ball spills to Pendlebury and the Magpies have another major.

Jack momentarily gets Tiger hearts racing when he simultaneously hips Tarrant out of the way, twists in the air and catches the ball. He goals and pokes another one through soon after.

But at quarter time the Magpies lead by 40 points. Dane Swan is unstoppable. With bandy legs and a stomach that hangs over the elastic of his shorts, some of the things he does are aerodynamically impossible. How is he able to accelerate so quickly? He sidles into spaces his opponents regard as unimportant before streaking in at just the right moment and taking possession. He knows where it’s going to go.

The suburbs of Richmond and Collingwood may meet at a point on the intersection of Victoria Street and Hoddle Street, but their football clubs are separated by what seems to be an insurmountable gulf.

Collingwood has the hard-headed glamour, the success, the us-against-the-world arrogance; all the things that Richmond once had but doesn’t have now. They’ve even had films made about them, such as The Club and Joffa:The Movie. The closest we can get is having the word “Tiger” in film titles, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and more worryingly, Save the Tiger. The Scarlet Pimpernel came from Richmond, but it was Richmond by the Thames.

There’s even going to be a musical based on the Pies. They’ve brought out English poet and BBC broadcaster Hillary Elfick to immerse herself in the Carringbush culture and compose songs celebrating its heritage. A companion volume of verse is also in the pipeline.

I can see it now.

The Woods lifted the tune for their club song, Good Old Collingwood Forever, from the music hall song Goodbye Dolly Gray. It was composed in 1898, six years after the club was first established. With the theme of a soldier farewelling his sweetheart before marching off to battle, it was popular with soldiers in the Boer War.

Goodbye Dolly, I must leave you, though it breaks my heart to go,

Something tells me I am needed at the front to fight the foe,

See, the boys in blue are marching and I can no longer stay

Hark, I hear the bugle calling, Goodbye Dolly Gray.

How about the cast arrayed in the khaki of the Bushveldt Carbineers sporting magpie tail feathers in the band of their slouch hats and waving miniature black and white flags?

When it comes to musicals, Richmond supporters have to rely on Rock of Ages. It features the songs of eighties rock icons such as Survivor, Styx and Foreigner, the tunes we loved when the Tigers ruled the jungle.

Of special significance in the song list is REO Speedwagon’s Keep on Lovin’ You. It was a hit in the glorious year of 1980, when we massacred the Magpies in the season’s decider. Oh bliss.

I’m gonna keep on lovin’ you

Cos it’s the only thing I wanna do

I’m not gonna sleep

I’m gonna keep on lovin’ you.

Yes, Tigers. I’m gonna keep on lovin’ you. Then I go to sleep before being abruptly woken in the third quarter. The Tigers rally and ram home the first four goals of the quarter. They start to win contests all over the field. Deledio, Cotchin, Jackson, Newman and Conca are taking it right up to them. It’s like the Magpies have failed to return to work after the break and are still reading their newspapers in the lunch room.

Other songs from Rock of Ages are going through my head; all of them relevant to the situation at hand. Poison’s Nothing But a Good Time. Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. Warrant’s Heaven. It’s the eighties all over again. Martin traps a wayward punt from Cotchin with his left hand, fends off Harry O’Brien with his right and drills it home. From being fifty points down at half time, the Tigers claw their way to within 26 points of their adversaries at the final break.

Querulous Collingwood fans predictably blame the match officials for their predicament. The lady in front of me is irate. I am bemused. In the overall context of things, she can reliably anticipate a string of flags over the coming years. I remark, in a not unfriendly manner, that as a Collingwood supporter at the present time she is pretty hard to please. She is clearly unhappy with me.

The Magpies are summoned back to the factory floor by their grey-headed supervisor, a man who used to work for us. They rattle on nine goals to two in the final term and finish up blitzing us by 71 points. Yet another song from Rock of Ages provides a fitting backdrop. Whitesnake’s Here We Go Again. The Tigers have experienced quite a number of twelve-goal hidings in recent years.

There is a silver lining to the dark cloud of the final term. Jack boots his fourth after the siren. I celebrate loudly with a fellow Tiger supporter to my right. The lady in front turns around and gives me a smile. I think she is beginning to understand her good fortune.


  1. John Butler says

    John, you’ve covered an extensive range of 80’s musical crimes there. Never allow small children near that ‘Rock of Ages’ album. :)

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