Holidaying on Fantasy Island

By John Green

Where else would Richmond supporters stay in Perth, but Richardson’s Hotel and Spa in Richardson Street? At number 32 no less, Ben Cousin’s ID at Tigerland. Richmond is taking on Fremantle. While it’s a sunny Saturday morning on this side of the country with a projected maximum of 24 degrees, it’s 15 with showers back in Melbourne. We flew over a carpet of grey cloud across Victoria and South Australia, but were met with open skies over the vast plains of Western Australia. It’s our first visit to the Indian Ocean side of the continent.

As we begin our approach to Perth Airport, I find myself singing a song I introduced to my class of six and seven-year-olds when we studied Australian animals at school.

If you’re going to Western Australia

You might just see a quokka or two

Their fur is brown and they hop around

Like a tiny kangaroo

Sung with the accent of a Cornish pirate, of course. We might leave Rottnest Island to our next visit.

My wife and I are compelled to drive the Ford Festiva hire car across Heirisson’s Island, a few hectares of parkland in the middle of the Swan River. It’s the place where the first series of The Amazing Race Australia reached its conclusion.

It’s only a short walk from our hotel to King’s Park and the Botanical Gardens where we take in a panoramic view of the boom city’s skyline, the sweep of the river and the suburbs stretching all the way to the Darling Range.

It’s time we hit Subiaco for the bout between the Dockers and the Tigers. We enjoy a beef pie for lunch at Paddy Maguires in Market Street, before strolling past the cafes and bookshops along Hay Street. From there it’s just a hop, step and jump to Paterson’s Stadium for the 2:40 start. It’s impossible to miss the huge inflatable anchors on the roof of the stand. We find our places in a small contingent of visiting fans in a rolling sea of purple.

The Dockers attempt to play the game on their terms, as you do on your home patch. Numbers behind the ball, smother the opposition playmakers at the stoppages, seize possession and send it in the direction of Pavlich, who can be expected to win most one-on-one duels.

But the Tigers are a wake up. They avoid contests, switch play, share the ball and bypass the Docker defensive zones.  Riewoldt is on song and boots six. Crowley is legitimately crunched by King early in the first term and Cotchin is away. He gathers 30 possessions in a display of effortless grace and banks three more Brownlow Medal votes for the banquet in September. Rance restricts Pavlich to two goals with a mixture of timely spoils and hard running out of defence. Jack is back in front in the race for the Coleman. Ballantyne tries a little aggro to steady the sinking ship, but is booed by enraged Docker supporters for being unsportsmanlike. They blame him, and not the umpires, for their demoralising defeat.

The jubilant Richmond players make a point of acknowledging their visiting supporters after the match.

We celebrate the Tiger victory in style at Friends Restaurant in East Perth. It was at this establishment in 2009 that Terry Wallace announced to wife Keryn that he was quitting as Richmond coach. It was to be his last win at the helm. On the following day Mitch Morton curled one in after marking on the lead and the Tigers got up by three points. We salute Terry and the successful foray of ’09 by indulging in the ten course tasting menu – opening proceedings with crispy Coffin Bay oysters with pickled vegetable salad before concluding several hours later with souffle with walnut and banana bread. We toast Damian Hardwick for conjuring a memorable Tiger victory on his fortieth birthday.

After a sleep in on Sunday morning we take a drive down the Stirling Highway to the port of Fremantle, just to see how the locals are getting on after last night’s setback. We promenade down South Terrace in Tiger colours before taking lunch at Clancy’s Fish Pub. This time it’s Carnavon whiting fillet and chips. Then it’s time to pay homage to a notable identity from Dallas, the Melbourne suburb where I grew up. Brendan Abbott lived with his family in Murtoa Street, next door to the Browns, and attended Dallas Primary School. He later became the notorious bank robber known as the Postcard Bandit. In 1989 he escaped from Fremantle Gaol, which is now a museum. We join an early afternoon tour. The gaol is Western Australia’s only World heritage listed building.

Walls, gates, gun towers and razor wire. A hard place to leave without permission.  Abbot made his escape, and so must I. Back to reality.

I’ve never been to Perth. It’s not my fault that I was restricted to watching the match on TV here in Melbourne. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince my wife to make a weekend of it and fly across to watch the Tigers in action. Something about concentrating our resources on the coming kitchen renovations.

So while I indulged in a little fantasy and imagined the perfect weekend, what really happened?

The Tigers were game, but went down by 22 points, snuffing out any remote chance of making the finals. As Ross Lyon’s Dockers love to do, they simply throttled their opposition, locking them down and preventing them from finding any system. Inexperienced Richmond players were routinely pressured into errors, resulting in swift counter attacks into Fremantle’s open forward line.

Jonathon Griffin allegedly tweaked his groin in the pre-match warm-up and was replaced in the selected side by none other than Aaron Sandilands, absent for the past nine weeks with a toe injury and named as an emergency. He was too much for a half fit Ivan Maric to handle. McPharlin, McPhee and Johnson combined to restrict Riewoldt to two majors. King was relentless in his endeavour, heading the Richmond goalkicking with three, but was himself crunched by Dawson, Fyfe and a debilitating accidental blow to the groin. Cotchin gathered 32 possessions in heavy traffic and didn’t waste any of them. In a match where there were no clear best-on-ground candidates Cotchin  might have garnered another Brownlow vote or two. Pavlich was in the wars. He was coat hangered by Rance, had teammate Bradley’s knee cannon into his hamstring and jammed his own knee into a goalpost in a failed attempt to soccer it through. He booted three and extended his lead over Riewoldt in the Coleman despite spending a substantial portion of the afternoon in the hands of the trainers. Ballantyne chimed in with three of his own and restricted his niggling to a few choice words to opponents after each of his goals. Ben Griffiths knocked himself out in a marking contest in the first term and was stretchered from the field. Geelong’s Tom Hawkins was booed by some Eagles supporters when he was carried off in similar circumstances on the previous weekend. Perhaps wanting to show that they were different to their intercity rivals, the Docker fans provided Griffiths with a generous ovation.

We all need a bit of escapism from time to time. Who knows? After the kitchen’s done I might just make it over there one day to see the Tigers pull it off in the west.




  1. Bob Dylan stayed at the Richardson.

  2. Perth local says

    I knew it was just a dream. No one from Melbourne could ever come to Perth, stay in a hotel and eat at restaurants/pubs and not mention how expensive Perth is. And Jack kicking 6 against Luke Mac! Hahahaha

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