General Footy Writing: Please, Damien, make me care about the Tigers again

By Jason Feldman

Being in love with Richmond is akin to being the victim of an abusive relationship. You know you’ll end up a physical and emotional mess but you just can’t let go. The Tigers keep promising that change is around the corner,  so you hang around from year to year praying for some Exodus-type miracle.

The most galling aspect of this relationship I have with Richmond is that I had no choice in the matter. My late father arrived in Australia from what is now Belarus in 1936; his family had travelled to a new world to escape persecution. A few years later, as an eight-year old at Orvale primary school near Shepparton, my Dad discovered a Jack Dyer cigarette card and a love for Richmond was born. Little did he know that he would subject his three sons to the persecution of following the Tigers between 1982 and the present day.

Only once have I questioned my loyalty to the Tigers; after losing the 1982 Grand Final I decided that I was to join my non-bacon eating brethren and announced that I was to become a Carlton supporter. My punishment was banishment to the backyard during dinner time. My resistance lasted approximately seven minutes before I was tucking into Schnitzel and mashed potato but only after a rousing rendition of Tigerland and donning my “Mark 1 Lee” duffel coat.

On Saturday night I witnessed Richmond’s final home game for the season. I felt something that I had never experienced at the footy before: the feeling of indifference. Truthfully if I hadn’t been working for Champion Data at the game I doubt if I would have taken the time to follow the match at all. In 2009 Richmond has finally sucked the life out of me. I am immune to the pain of defeat, and struggle to care when a rare victory comes along.

Amazingly Richmond’s season was over when the calendar had still not moved into April. Our miserable defeat against Carlton in Round 1 was a fatal blow. There were signs of life when Tommy Hislop put us front against the Cats in Round 2 but the season was dead and so was the coaching career of Terry Wallace. I suppose the impending sacking of Wallace maintained my interest until his pathetic farewell against the Bulldogs, and there have been some spirited performances under Jade Rawlings. However, the crushing defeat against Collingwood and the embarrassing brawl and supporter adulation of Jake King had finally broken me.

Today the club has appointed the 15th senior coach in my life time (I’m 34). This time Damien Hardwick assumes the mantle of the “saviour” of the biggest basket case in the AFL. Looking at the 44 blokes on the Tigers’ playing list at the moment, Hardwick faces a challenge similar to that of Moses when he was standing in front of the Red Sea with 600,000 Israelites in tow and all he had on him was a pretty impressive looking stick.

So in the humble opinion of this former C-Grade Amateurs reserves ruckman what does Damien have to do to restore some hope amongst the Richmond members?? His first task will be to take out his shotty and shoot Bambi right through the middle of the eyes.

Like any Richmond supporter of my vintage I have an unhealthy attraction to Matthew Richardson. Richo deserves more team success than he achieved at Tigerland but life is not a fairy tale and he needs to go. This more than anything will be a message that Richmond need to move on and that sentiment and dwelling on past glories will not deliver any success let alone a premiership.

Nathan Brown and Troy Simmonds destroyed any lingering doubts on Saturday night that time had passed them by. Browny still has some tricks but can’t impact on enough contests, while Simmo just looked old and knackered. With Kane Johnson and Joel Bowden already retired, I would expect that Ben Cousins will be the sole survivor of the 30-plus brigade at Punt Road.

So that’s seven down. Who else should be moved on?? Jarrad Oakley-Nichols and Cleve Hughes, our first two picks in the 2005 draft, are struggling to perform in the VFL. They would be very lucky to survive into 2010. Reports suggest that Jay Schulz and Jake King are contracted for next season; they would be other candidates for the cut. Add to that list Pettifer, Coughlan, Pattison, Raines, Putt, Silvester, Hislop, Thomson and of course Jordan McMahon and Richmond has well over a dozen players who are past it or battling to produce AFL standard football. Sadly I think I’m being conservative.

Supporter forums are salivating at the thought of a Tiger cull, some even celebrating the ending of a career of men in their 20s who only ever wanted to be a footballer. I actually find the situation quite sad that the failure of Richmond’s list management in the previous five years has led us to this situation.

So new beginnings brings renewed hope. And while I felt a strange disconnection from the Tiger supporters exiting the MCG on Saturday night I know that I know I will always be one of them. I’m not demanding premierships, Damien, but you and the playling list have to be honest and selfless. Those are two characteristics that have been sadly missing from Tigerland for way too long.

Comments

  1. Jason,
    I am a Carlton supporter & wish to extend my sympathy to you.
    We only had 7 years of misery, but you, my friend, are someone I truly feel sorry for.
    With any luck your new coach & CEO will bite the bullet & start a proper long-term re-build.
    I alternately laughed & felt sorry for you reading your article, which I found very entertaining: a mixture of comedy & pathos, just like your team.

  2. Jason

    I share every sentiment you expressed about the plight of our club, about supporting them and about what the new coach needs to do.

    Like you, I watched last Saturday’s game with indifference but I’m sure that with a few wins, the passion will return. Let’s just pray it’s not yet another false dawn.

    I think Hardwick’s got a huge job ahead of him with the playing list, but at least the club is as stable and well-run as it’s been in my memory.

    Keep the faith!

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