Footy Talk: Richo and Hamlet ponder what might have been

by John Butler

Matthew Richardson – magnificent, flawed prince of the Richmond Football Club. Recently retired after 282 games, no premierships and not enough finals.

Hamlet- tragic, flawed prince of Denmark (long before the guy who married the Tassie realtor).

Looking for respite – before launching into a no doubt hectic media career – Richo wanders into a seedy bar in an unfashionable part of town. It’s a Bukowski kind of joint, where the only song on the jukebox is Tom Waits’ “The Piano Has Been Drinking”. Hamlet, unshaven, having fallen on hard times, is sitting in a corner booth and recognises him. They strike up a conversation. Regrets, they’ve had a few…

H: (beckoning to the barman) Two more. So what brings you here big man?

R: The ambience (ironically pans the room). Just trying to escape the retirement fuss. Thanks for the drink.

H: My pleasure. The press giving you grief?

R: More than I expected. Who cares about a retired footballer? Or so I thought.

H: Nowadays everybody’s a celebrity, or wants a piece of them.

R: That why you’re hiding here?

H: Nah, I fell off the radar a long time ago. Only the odd literature student recognises me now. I wanted it that way, but it can take a long time to disappear.

R: I’m not looking to disappear, unless Ten HD counts. Just want some time to reflect on things.

H: How are the retirement blues treating you?

R: Not bad so far. I’ll probably feel it more when the boys hit the paddock seriously. I never minded pre-seasons, running and jumping was always my thing. I’m not on my own this year though. Quite a few of the boys got the chop. We’ll have to start a men’s group or something. Brownie can make outfits. (grins)

H: Solace in numbers. That’s what I envy about team sports. There wasn’t much team spirit in my day; everyone seemed to be a mercenary back then.

R: There’s still a few around today. But you’re right, it’s a good feeling when everyone’s in it together. I’ll definitely miss that. And just performing. I loved charging up and down the ground, taking hangers; I lived for it. (a frown spreads across his face)

H: But…

R: But there are regrets. The missed goals, the injuries… and the opportunities lost. We never achieved what we set out to do. I’ll never be a premiership player.

H: (voice rising in pitch) Hey, you think you have regrets? You want regrets? My uncle killed my father, then shags my mother. I find out, do my nut, and decide that putting on a play will help somehow. Not surprisingly, it didn’t, and I lash out and accidentally kill the local wind-bag. His daughter then commits suicide, and I find out my uncle wants to kill me. Then I have to duel with the wind-bag’s son, and my mother gets accidentally poisoned. I finally manage to kill my uncle, but by now I’ve ballsed things up so badly that my only option is to fake my own death and hand the keys to the kingdom over to a brassy Norwegian guy – after a long speech. How do you like them apples?

R: Jeeesssuzzz, I’d never read your book! That sounds like a bad Richmond board meeting. No wonder you want to keep a low profile.

H: (long exhale) Sorry about that outburst. It’s a bit of a raw nerve. I’ve heard about Richmond. I think that Shakespeare guy modelled Macbeth after them. Or was it Julius Caesar?

R: Hey, whatcha gonna do about family? Macbeth eh? That’s another book I’ll have to get ‘round to in my spare time.

H: Sorry, I interrupted you. You were discussing retirement, regrets.

R: They seem trivial now.

H: (squashing a bug) No, please continue. I want to hear.

R: Well it’s just a sense of unfinished business. And I feel sorry for the fans. I don’t really blame them for taking out their frustrations on me sometimes.

H: The audience can be a fickle beast.

R: Beast is right. We certainly gave them plenty to get upset about. Me personally – the goal kicking – it was the bane of my existence. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I must have worn out a dozen skills coaches working on a kicking routine. But in the heat of the moment, the adrenalin surging, the mind racing, it would all go out the window.

H: Calm and poise in the spotlight; it’s what every performer seeks. But it often eludes us. I could have used a lot more.

R: It certainly escaped me at times; all those on-field tanties. Mind you, try being on the end of some of the passes I copped! In my defence, I reckon some double standards apply. People are always bemoaning the lack of “characters” in the game, but the moment you wave your arms around and show your frustrations you’re showing “bad body language”. You’re guilty of not being a “team man”. Christ, I bled for that team.

H: But you won them back by the end?

R: I think so. I hope so. The Tiger fans can be feral, but at least you know they care.

H: (squashing another bug) And that counts for something.

R: My late career revival helped. When Plough moved me up the ground, it allowed me to gallop around, play to my strengths. And it took me away from the goals, which was better for everyone’s nerves. But I finally blew my hammy out. Overall, I think the timing is right. I was usually best when I played on instinct. Today, the game plans often seem more like geometry lessons; not a lot of room for spontaneity there. And the club has to rebuild yet again. So it’s time to bow out.

H: So a happy ending after all. The audience got its money’s worth.

R: I’ll drink to that. (signals barman) Two more.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Phil Dimitriadis says

    That’s brilliant JB. Hamlet like a Richmond board meeting? The mind boggles. Perhaps you can turn this into a play. Definitely has potential.

  2. John – very clever. Really enjoyed that. How about you sit Randall McMurphy (Jack Nicholson from “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest”) down with Gary Ablett junior one day and discuss the move (or not) to QLD.

  3. Good call, Dips. I suspect John’s vignettes are causing many readers to conjure other potential scenarios in their minds. Taking your Randall P. McMurphy (you have to include the”P”) one step further, I’d like to see Ablett Jnr, who’s a man of relatively few words, unload his issues on Randall’s mate, Chief, to see what his response would be…

    “Mmmm. Juicy Fruit.”

  4. “stuff that sonofabitch in the basket chieffffffff”

  5. John Butler says

    Thanks guys

    “The play’s the thing” eh Phil? Might give that some thought.

    Dips/Gigs, I like it.

    All suggestions welcomed!

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