Finals Week 3 – Port Adelaide v Richmond: The better angels of our nature






I honestly try, I really do, to allow football to produce noble qualities in me. Qualities like fair play, loyalty, respect for the opposition, the importance of striving for a shared goal and remembering to be gracious in defeat and victory.


But I have a confession. I take a perverse delight in witnessing fanatical, partisan crowds watching their teams lose. There is no better place to see this than when one of the non-Victorian teams suffer defeat on their home turf. A significant portion of their supporter base is hostile to outsiders, hopelessly biased and manipulative in the manner that they seek to intimidate umpires and visiting players. They revel in victory and taunt the vanquished. I acknowledge that every club has this element. The Richmond crowd that I was part of at the qualifying final against Geelong in 2017 was the most hostile I have ever experienced. I shudder to think what might have happened had we lost.


But it’s when things go bad for tribal crowds that the fun starts. First there is anger, which is directed at the umpires, the opposition or even their own players. Fans leap to their feet, red-faced, neck veins popping, gesticulating wildly, spit flying and filling the air with the most horrendous cursing. With the game lost they descend into sullen silence. Sometimes whole sections of the stadium are vacated before the final siren.


In the meantime I sit back and enjoy it immensely, and it doesn’t even have to be the Tigers doing the damage. I rejoice in the fact that these ferals are getting what they deserve.


The Germans have a word for it. Schadenfreude. It’s the pleasure that comes to us from witnessing the failures and humiliation of others. We all like seeing corrupt politicians and vacuous celebrities come to grief. We devour YouTube videos of hapless victims falling over. It’s an unfortunate aspect of human nature. Like Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, “For what do we live for but to make sport of our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn.”


Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, called schadenfreude “The infallible sign of a thoroughly bad heart and a profound moral worthlessness.”


I would love Richmond to beat Port Adelaide and win their way to another Grand Final. But I have to admit that the sight of the home fans hyperventilating and blaming the umpires for their predicament is a supplementary benefit.


Port Adelaide are serious contenders, having topped the ladder for every round of the season, the first team to do so since Essendon in 2000.  They beat us by 21 points in Round 11. But circumstances are different this time. Cotchin, Edwards, Prestia, Astbury, Houli, Nankervis and Graham were unavailable for that game.


The Power players are sleeping in their own beds. The Tigers had expected to be away from home for 30 days when they flew to their Queensland hub back in July. Their exile had grown beyond 100 days. I can imagine it being like an endless school camp.


So much of the build-up for tonight’s stoush has been about the antics of Terrible Tom Lynch. He’s been fined four times for indiscretions during the current season without being suspended even once. The spearhead with the angelic appearance is being treated by the non-Richmond public like he’s Chopper Read. Hamish Hartlett expressed the view that a lot of people would like to see Lynch’s season come to an end. Hardwick has told the press hounds that Lynch will continue to fearlessly crash the packs and bring the ball to ground when he can’t mark it. In a burst of interstate rivalry Port Adelaide announce their own strategy of releasing Chuck ‘em Down Charlie Dixon to do a similar job on the Richmond backs.


It’s raining in Adelaide. The collective wisdom is that the conditions will advantage the Tigers. With the ball on the deck more often their brand of aggressive forward-half pressure could be decisive. But it’s likely to suit Port’s big-bodied midfielders as well, players such as Wines, Boak, Rockcliff and Powell-Pepper. Richmond has opted to go in with one recognised ruckman in Toby Nankervis with part-time assistance provided by Astbury, Lynch and Balta. Port fields both Lycett and Ladhams, but  will it make them top heavy?


I settle down to watch the telecast with my wife and son. When Port coach Ken Hinkley is quizzed on  the influence of the home crowd, he replies, “I hope it’s as hostile as it’s ever been, because it shows we’re winnin’.”


As befitting a death or glory preliminary final, it’s a game of intense pressure and ferocious physical contests. There’s nothing in it for the entire night. Yes, the home town push is as one-eyed as a band of Cornish pirates. They dispute every free kick paid to Richmond, even the obvious ones, and deliver raucous ironical cheers when decisions go their way. Martin and Riewoldt boot the opening goals of the match. Dusty is about to enhance his reputation as the ultimate big occasion player. Port’s Xavier Duursma goals in the first term and quickly completes his maddening bow and arrow celebration before running back to heckle Lynch. Did Lynch say something nasty as he was lining up? Or is it part of some sophisticated tactic to cause Tom to lose focus? Jonas, Powell-Pepper, Boak, Lycett and Hartlett form a gang and join in the fun.


Scores are level at half time and the Tigers are up by two points at the final break. The last quarter is filled with the most unbearable tension. Lynch marks on the lead early in the last but just misses. Dixon, kept under wraps until now by the audacious Noah Balta, marks outside fifty and regains the lead for the Power. Their supporters are at fever pitch. You can see their desperation. Then Lambert pokes one through the legs of the Port defenders in the square and Richmond are up by three points. Hartlett is penalised for a deliberate out of bounds. Riewoldt claims the free but Lambert was closer. He curls it home for his second and the lead is out to 10 points with nine minutes to go. Ladhams responds for Port after a high tackle from Vlaustin, reducing the margin to four points with seven minutes remaining.


We need one more goal! I can’t sit still. In a scene played out in thousands of homes across the country, I sweat profusely and ride every bump, tackle and contest, willing the boys to victory. The Tigers relentlessly surge, push, spike and jab the ball forward at every opportunity. Bolton dodges, whirls and snaps a point before Riewoldt is infringed by McKenzie and narrowly misses from long range. Six points in it and two minutes left on the clock.


Hardwick orders everyone back to man the barricades. Port relaunch, but a lion-hearted Toby Nankervis reels in a match-saving mark! His third intercept of the stanza. Then, in a final moment of blind panic with seconds remaining, Robbie Gray soccers the ball forward, but it lobs straight into the arms of that blonde pariah, the notorious Tom Lynch!


Siren! My wife and I yell, leap to our feet and hug. Our boy strides over to the kitchen bench, leans over and buries his face in the formica.


Is it time for me to indulge in a session of that Germanic sensibility as I consider the situation of the losers? The Port fans abuse the umpires as they exit the field. Back in 1998 Richmond enjoyed an upset win over the Crows at Football Park. Their supporters were irate. Completely carried away by the occasion and full of righteous exaltation, I made a phone call to Adelaide and left a message on their answering machine. I thanked them for the game and wished them a happy match review. They didn’t return my call.


But tonight there is a summons to what Abraham Lincoln referred to as “the better angels of our nature”. Port Adelaide players are devastated. I can imagine how their fans must feel. Hardwick consoles Hinkley and is effusive in his praise for Hinkley’s team in his post-match conference. A disgruntled spectator sprays Lynch with bourbon and coke as he is interviewed by Daisy Pearce. He overlooks the offence before noticing a tearful boy in Port Adelaide colours. He takes the time to deliver some encouraging words. The boy nods in acknowledgement before returning to the arms of his family.


Richmond is in the Grand Final. That’s enough for me.



PORT ADELAIDE    2.3    3.3    4.4     6.4 (40)
            2.1    3.3    4.6    6.10 (46)


Port Adelaide:
Rozee 2, Duursma, Lycett, Dixon, Ladhams
Richmond: Martin 2, Lambert 2, Riewoldt, Lynch


Port Adelaide: Rozee, Duursma, Ebert, Gray, Jonas, Wines
Richmond: Martin, Balta, Cotchin, Vlastuin, Graham, McIntosh



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  1. Vaughan Menlove says

    It was one of the sweetest victories the Tigers have had in many a year. To see the shttered faces of the Port supporters was a beuatiful thing

  2. Terrific match report John. Many of us share that guilty pleasure. I even found myself instinctively barracking for Collingwood(!) in that terrific game vs Wet Toast a couple of weeks ago, just so I could watch the suffering of the parochial home crowd. Conversely, I relished the heartbreaking dimensions of the 2018 Grand Final when Wet Toast rolled over the Magpies just before the final siren. I went for a run along the Yarra on the Sunday morning after that game and took immense pleasure in seeing hordes of morose Collingwood supporters making their way to the official wake at Olympic Park.

    I’m hoping our Tiges still have enough petrol left in the tank to prevail against the men-in-hoops on Saturday night!

  3. John
    I’ll go a couple of steps further with the schadenfreude. If Xavier Duursma ever wants to make it at the top level he ought to put away his ridiculous celebratory antics and in-your-face cheap shot taunts at opponents and learn to take simple marks that his teammates have busted a gut to set up for him. Talk about a Herschelle Gibbs moment!
    And if that wasn’t justice enough, how sweet that it was Hamish Hartlett who copped the contentious DOB decision that cost his side the game. Yes, Hamish, I was quite pleased to see your season finish early too!
    Credit where it’s due however. The story about the young lad and Tom Lynch was one of pure class, sportsmanship and great parenting.

  4. Enjoyed immensely your match report John. Having no real love for either Port or Richmond I enjoyed the fierce battle but thought the Power played some really good passages of play a but couldn’t maintain it to the bitter end,. However I found it just wasn’t in my DNA to support the Power (I feel the same about Collingwood) and was pleased that Richmond prevailed. That being said, I hope the GF is a close affair with the Cats bringing home the bacon.

  5. John, you say “I take a perverse delight in witnessing fanatical, partisan crowds watching their teams lose. There is no better place to see this than when one of the non-Victorian teams suffer defeat on their home turf.”
    Not quite to the point! Richmond, Collingwood, Essendon, and yes, Port and West Coast, have the worst supporters, or the worst in terms of all the things you mention. They are an embarrasment! I didn’t care who won this one, but was turned off by Port’s supporters on the night. On the other hand, had it been in Victoria, your Richmond crowd would have been no different – perhaps even worse!

  6. Chris Rees says

    Thanks John, great telling of a great match. The low scoring this year has led to a few of these nailbiters but none with the stake so high. I felt like our Tigers were tip-toeing through a minefield in the last quarter. We had the game on our terms but until the lead nudged out to 6 it felt like disaster could strike any time.

  7. Well played, John – a nice re-telling of the match.

    Re your perverse delight: that is exactly how I used to feel about Richmond supporters, back when they didn’t win as much!

  8. A great recount John and I too took great delight in the karma that landed on the likes of Dursma & Hartlett. I was at that game against Adelaide in 1998 with 3 of my kids in tow. We happened to be in the members area of the ground so were of course surrounded by manic Adelaide supporters. We cheered our team all night and it was only at games end did I realise just how vulnerable I was as the abuse and threats rained down from everyone around me. Never mind I had young kids. When the umps left the field the behaviour was the worst I’ve ever seen at an AFL game, I actually saw one fellow trying to urinate on the umps. Similar happened when the Richmond players left the field with drinks of all description hurled at them. Along with vitriol beyond belief. We were able to take refuge in the rooms and waited for the crowd to disperse before leaving. Subsequent matches I’ve been to in Adelaide against the Crows have also been bad experiences to the point I will not go there again. On the converse, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Port supporters, win or lose. And a quick retort for you Jan C. above I’ve had both good and bad experiences at the SCG so one cannot pretend that ones own supporters are holier than thou!

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