From Red & White to Yellow & Black: The Baan Baa Richmond Supporters’ Club

….Finally, and somewhat from left field, I thought you might like to read the attached piece from the Baan Baa Richmond Supporters Group (aka my sister and Ben’s mother).  Coincidentally she was writing it at the same time I wrote my little piece on the BBRSG, with neither of us realising.  Whilst it’s clearly a personal reflection and one made all the more poignant for us because of our mum’s passing (she read it last week and gave it a resounding thumbs-up!), I reckon it’s a lovely depiction of the role that footy can play in building and maintaining connections across distances and time.  I thought it deserves a wider audience and was wondering if you would be OK with it going on the website?

 

Thanks

Sam

 

Sam, it’s a pleasure for the Footy Almanac to publish your sister’s wonderful reflection of her support for the Richmond Football Club and how it all came about. For your mum to read it and to enthusiastically endorse the sentiment it contained before her passing must be comforting for the family. The Footy Almanac family’s thoughts and prayers  are with you both at this time of sadness. [Ed.]

 

 

Red and white seemed like pretty colours to a little girl so South Melbourne was going to be my chosen team. Growing up in suburban Melbourne it was a given that I would support a footy team, it was just a part of life. My brother Sam decided the Demons were going to be his team of choice. The sporting gene had bypassed our father, Mum was more of a “sporty type” but I can’t actually remember if she supported a VFL team or not, so we were on our own when it came time to choose a club.

 

It was our mother, who on two separate occasions set off to purchase footy jumpers for us both (most probably for birthday presents). There was no such thing as shopping online and shops were limited and stocks low the day she went to buy Sam’s Melbourne jersey, she came home instead with a Richmond jumper, bright yellow and black, made of lovely scratchy wool, none of your sweaty synthetics of today. I think Sam was young enough to be easily converted to a new club, probably being more excited about receiving his lovely new jumper than being disappointed about the colour. Sam has been a passionately loyal supporter of the Tigers ever since!

 

Sometime later Mum made a second shopping trip to purchase a Swans jersey for me, I can’t remember how old I was, maybe seven or eight? Anyway, I was presented with a brown and yellow jumper so the Hawkes it was for me!

 

I was always a bit of a tomboy and remember getting at least one pair of lovely brown and yellow striped footy socks. My brother, or sometimes my friend Ruth and I would spend many weekends in a nearby park or more often in the back yard playing out scenes from the MCG and in keeping with that period, before the era of perfectly manicured grounds, the muddier it was the better! I seem to remember my idols at the time were Peter Hudson and Leigh Matthews and I think it was Royce Hart that Sam morphed into as we tried not to destroy Mum’s vegie patch. Poor Mum, there were some very tense moments!

 

*******

 

Time passed and I grew out of playing footy in the back yard. I finished school and left home heading to North West NSW to follow my dream and work on a farm. Up there they played a game totally foreign to me called Rugby League, a brutal game that involved one team member at a time grabbing the ball and running headlong into a brick wall of opposition, the ill-fated runner then dumped head first into the dirt only for the same thing to be repeated over and over, riveting stuff! If Aussie Rules was ever mentioned it was immediately dismissed as “aerial ping pong” played by the “Mexicans” and as I was timid and lacking in any self-confidence I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut and pretty much lost touch with most things AFL other than to do a bit of a private fist pump whenever I heard that the Hawks had won.

 

********

 

It wasn’t until many years later that my son Ben made the decision to study at Deakin University and made the move to Melbourne at the beginning of 2016. He hadn’t been there long when my brother Sam suggested that seeing Ben was now going to be a Melbournian it would be appropriate for him to go along to a footy match.

 

As Ben had never been a sporty kid (a throwback to my father perhaps?), it was much to everyone’s surprise that he took an immediate shine to the whole experience. After some serious deliberation he decided to jump on board with the rest of his Melbourne family and become a Tigers supporter.

 

And so it was, whenever I spoke to Ben I would get an update on Richmond’s progress. He would talk about the different players in the team and who he liked the best, what their quirks and strengths were. He would describe the roller coaster of success and failure (more often the latter for the Tigers) and it slowly began to rekindle something buried deep inside me.

 

Of course if anyone was to ask who I supported I would always say “the mighty Hawks” and in the same way a familiar sound or smell can take you straight back to your childhood, the sight of brown and yellow jerseys running onto a footy field sparks something in the back of my mind that I can’t describe.

 

Back now to more recent times and onwards and upwards for the Yellow and Black! By mid 2017 there seemed to be a glimmer of hope amongst the Tiger faithful but I don’t think any of them dared to believe that it was more than a silly fantasy. I remember talking to Ben and Sam after Richmond won the preliminary final that year and had made it to the Grand Final, the euphoria, the sheer delight after so many years for Sam, of trudging home on cold wet dark evenings after yet another thrashing, he had stuck by them and now what ever happened didn’t really matter, they had made it to the Big Dance! As for Ben, well, say no more, he chose the right team and was enjoying every minute of the ride, he was also the catalyse that brought me back to the game of my childhood.

 

Grand Final day 2017 and I was at a campdraft at Curlewis in North West NSW, if you don’t know what or where that is then Google is the go! Surrounded by country NSW folk who didn’t even know the game was on I snuck back to the car and tuned in to ABC radio, I think it was close to the end of the first quarter and things were not sounding too great. I listened on and was joined by a friend who originally hailed from WA and understood the significance. By half time I couldn’t drag myself away!

 

As it happened, I had to go home that afternoon to look after a sick calf so I headed off hoping the radio signal wouldn’t drop out and as I drove on the excitement and the enormity of what was about to happen overwhelmed me and I had a job focus on the road as the tears of joy, mainly for Sam, rolled down my cheeks,  they had done it!! Anyone who thinks the old steam radio was a poor way of living the moment, think again!

 

Into 2018 and I started to take more and more interest in all things footy and on one of my trips to visit family in Melbourne I went along with Sam to the MCG. My nephew Bill was not able to make it to the game so he kindly loaned me his membership ticket, Sam’s other son Tom and Ben came too. It was the last round of the season; Tigers v Bulldogs and it was already a given the Richmond would finish as minor premiers so it was a good match for little sister to tag along to as it “didn’t really matter”. It was great fun, even the train ride home, jammed in with yellow and black everywhere had a wonderful feeling.

 

Back to NSW and things were looking pretty good for a repeat of 2017 until Collingwood got in the way with Mason Cox who just seemed to stand there at full forward, all seven foot of him, and mark the ball! I watched the Grand Final that year hoping for a West Coast victory but I couldn’t help but feel the pain for Collingwood in the end. Who was it said “it’s just a game”?

 

And so finally we come to 2019, by this stage I knew most of the Richmond players so the significance of Alex Rance going down in the first game of the season was not lost on me. Mid-season and it looked like the Tigers were heading for a train wreck and Hawthorne were fairing even worse. A couple of highlights on the Hawthorn front though, annihilating the Giants in the snow in Canberra and beating the Eagles in the final round in Perth gave me a bit of an inner glow.

 

Back to the Tiges and maybe all they needed was a rest? Onwards and upwards they were on a roll again bigger and better than ever with so many new names and faces and a few of the old faithfuls starting to trickle back in. I began to send Sam little messages of luck and encouragement before each game and as Richmond won more and more, I started to feel a strange sort of superstition, perhaps if I didn’t send my lucky message they wouldn’t win?

 

The last hurdle; the preliminary final against Geelong, 21 points down at half time, if I felt deflated just imagine my Tiger faithful family who were all there living the agony. I nearly went to bed thinking the worst, just as well I didn’t; what a team, what an amazing effort, I mean, “no pressure”!

 

And so it was to be, the big showdown; Richmond v Collingwood in the big one, or so everyone thought, but whoops, Collingwood forgot to show up to their preliminary final and The Giants snuck in the back door and stole the prize. A week of media angst about who was going to play off against who and who was or wasn’t going to be fit from concussion, dislocation, appendicitis, knees, shins and all other ailments, oh and I forgot to mention that Richmond’s VFL team won their Grand Final in amongst all this as well. With all that was going on I was getting quite hyped up and nervous (even though I am a Hawthorn supporter?).

 

The day came and this time I was able to watch, with my partner; a died in the wool League man who had been quietly sitting and watching the Tigers every week and getting quite intrigued by this fast changing, high scoring “aerial ping pong”, he had every faith that the Tigers could bring it home.

 

I sent off my final lucky message of the year and settled in for the afternoon. Sam and Tom and Bill had all managed to snag tickets to the game but Ben missed out and was encouraged to go along to Punt Road, so as the chopper sent wonderful aerial pictures to my little screen in NSW I was able to look down and visualise the boys at the “G” and Ben amongst a mass of Yellow and Black at Punt Road.

 

By the end of the first quarter I had a pretty good feeling and as I watched the well-oiled machine that is the Richmond Tigers completely wipe poor GWS off the ground I wondered why I had ever doubted them. Messages and photos flew back and forth between Melbourne and NSW and the roar of the Tiger Army reached fever pitch on my TV, volume up! The game was a bit of a non-event for non-Tiger fans and I felt like a bit of an interloper; a fair-weather friend, but think what you like dear reader……Go Yellow and Black!

 

*******

 

I saw one of those silly messages on Facebook the other day, you know the ones. This one more or less said “when in my life wilI I ever need a sports star or a movie star? I know I will need a doctor, a dentist, an accountant, etc but who is it we worship the most?” Well that is probably a bit extreme but it got me thinking and that is why I started to write this story. In this crazy world, if we didn’t have sport and art why would we ever need a doctor? We may as well not be here! That is why I cry when I hear a beautiful piece of music or watch an amazing ballet or brilliant movie or hear the roar of the crowd at the MCG on Grand Final day!

 

THE END

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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