Grand Final Reflection: The day that my Tigers were playing a Grand Final

It’s almost been a week and I still haven’t quite come to terms with it. As long as I can remember, Richmond has been the laughing stock of the AFL. No matter how long anyone had supported them, there were two words that could describe Tiger fans: long suffering. Be it the drafting disasters of the mid-2000s, the wooden spoons in 2004 and 2007 or the almost trademark ability to lose the unlosable games. But after last Saturday, it’s all changed.

I woke up nice and early on Saturday morning having set an alarm to make sure I got out of bed nice and early. It almost wasn’t necessary as my nerves were keeping me awake all night. I sauntered off in my clash strip jumper and jumped on an early morning train out of Brunswick. The previous week I’d chatted to a fellow Richmond fan on the journey to the ground, but I couldn’t quite summon the will to do so that morning, I could feel my stomach churning at the mere thought of my team playing in a Grand Final.

I hopped off the train at Parliament and walked down Spring St, stopping at a cafe packed with Crows fans. After awkwardly standing around for a bit without anyone taking my order, I strolled further down the hill, past where I’d stood the day before for the parade. I took a phone call from my dad who was wishing me luck – he’s a die-hard Geelong fan, firmly entrenched on the Tiger bandwagon – as I crossed Wellington Parade. The Cats have played in so many Grand Finals in my lifetime but for just about the first time in 10 years, I was happy that he had let me pick my own team.

I found a small cafe in East Melbourne to get a quick snack and a coffee – I was still rather nervous so a big breakfast was certainly not on the cards – before joining the growing crowd in front of the ABC marquee near Gate 2. The Coodabeens have been an institution in my family so it was very important to me that I got there and got a good viewing position. Over the next two hours, fans of both teams sang and laughed together in a beautiful way only the Coodas know how before I headed round to Gate 6, got my barcode facing up and entered the ‘G on the day that my Tigers were playing a Grand Final.

I went and found my seat: 20 odd rows back on the wing, slightly closer to the City End than Punt Road. Having finished my reconnaissance, I went to one of the already full to the brim sports bar to have a calming ale. As I was on my own, I struck up a conversation with the only other person in there by themself, a lone Crows supporter in the Tigers Den. We chatted about the mass of people coming over for the game, he told me that the Western Highway had been a nightmare and that Horsham was packed on his way through. We talked about the line-ups, how Adelaide would miss McGovern and Smith, but that we both thought that the Crows should get up. We finished our beers, wished each other good luck and headed to our respective seats.

The seats on either side of mine had been filled in my absence. I was flanked by two fellow Tiger fans: on my right was Rob, a tradie from the outer eastern suburbs and Anthony, an MCC member. Together, we made an odd trio but football does truly bring all types together.

Then the time came for the Tiges to run out, incredibly, without the song until it kicked in halfway through the instrumental verse. I was devastated. This might have been my one chance to hear Tigerland in full today! Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The opening minutes were a struggle to watch. I couldn’t fathom how Sloane had found so much space in the forward line to kick the first goal. Nor could I believe the normally very reliable Vlastuin’s fumble on the goal line that allowed Betts to score which had me with my head in my hands. We looked worried; just like when they demolished us in Round 6.

Then we started to build. Riewoldt took a few grabs, and had some shots, but missed. We weren’t far away from our game really clicking into gear, we just needed to find something to kick-start it all. When Houli kicked truly for our second goal, I grew in confidence. At least we might not lose by 10 goals this time, I thought.

Then during the second quarter the momentum truly started to shift with Riewoldt, Townsend, Graham, Martin all kicking goals, and Rance, Houli, Grimes and Astbury dominating across the backline. I went into half time with a bit of hope. We were nine points up in a Grand Final. Richmond. The perennial disappointments were leading the hot favourites in a Grand Final. Whilst I was buoyant, the raucous singing of Tigerland in the toilets by some patrons who had consumed a few more refreshments than I had had so far, worried me. It was only nine points. We barrack for Richmond. Coughing up a nine point lead in half? Piece of cake!


But it never happened.


We won contest after contest, kicked goal after goal, and kept building the lead. This was not the Richmond I was accustomed to; they were playing like the mythical ‘Tiger of old’. High-fives were being dealt out with reckless abandon, strangers were hugging after every goal, and as the Tigers pulled away from the Crows, the crowd was a mix of pure joy and utter disbelief among the Tiger faithful.

When that final siren rang out across the ground, the roar was like nothing else I could have possibly imagined. I sang my heart out and clapped along until both my throat and hands were sore and then kept going! Someone dived over half a dozen seats to lift me up and hug me! I made my way down towards the Punt Road end for the presentations where I met up with a fellow Richmond supporting friend. We couldn’t believe it. This doesn’t happen to Richmond. We don’t win flags. We toil away, year after year and players that remain loyal to the club are never rewarded.

However, football is a funny game. On any given day, anything could happen. And on the last Saturday of September, a 37 year drought was broken.


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  1. Lovely to revisit Saturday, albeit through your eyes.

    I too sat there expecting some fallout in the fourth, which just didn’t happen. The Tiger boys really developed their ability to hold themselves to each and every quarter of the game.

    Great way to bring our year to an end.

  2. I enjoyed this, Henry. Especially your chat with an Adelaide barracked before the match and your desire to keep a lid on it before the result was truly known. Good stuff.

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