Preliminary Final Preview: Richmond v Collingwood – Just beat the Pies

 

 

The journey of a Richmondite was always a fine line between tribal fanaticism and psychological abuse. It was a mix that I was born into, a ride equal parts traumatic and entertaining. The ingrained pessimism and the desperate optimism, broken weekends forgotten in a fortnight with the next Tiger win, hundreds of journeys to Yarra Park, mood swings as frequent as Richmond’s poor draft choices.

 

It was our lot, it was our schtick. We found togetherness in our mediocrity. I wrote about our rubbishness because it was what I was good at, but now…

 

It’s very, profoundly odd. Conversations with Hawthorn supporters used to roll around the topic of Four-Thorn and Alastair Clarkson’s genius. Now, we talk about whether the Tigers can be stopped and if Dustin Martin is the greatest player since Leigh Matthews.

 

It’s magnificent, its enthralling, but it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel Richmond-y. We, in my lifetime, haven’t done good or even very solid, we’ve done everything at the other end of the spectrum.

 

How to deal with this newfound good-ness? Does one wrap themselves in the coat of hubris worn frequently through the 60s, 70s and 80s? Do we retain our pessimism and hold onto the trauma? Do we forgo our bitterness and launch into a beautiful world of yellow and black glory?

 

It was not long ago where you didn’t venture to the Colosseum in the glum knowledge that the Tiges would get done. Now, you can give it a miss because the Tiges, always, will get up. There’s a plentitude of Saturday afternoons in one footy season.

 

What happened?

 

There is a recollection of a golden September, where a horde of Tigers came in fidgety and prone to panic attacks, before entering October with a mile-wide grin, a sore head and a mighty sense of contentedness. The Tiges won the Big Dance and everyone lost their collective minds for a while, returning to a club that was markedly different to the one of yesteryear yet similar in every way.

 

It was pure, unadulterated joyous release.

 

The Tigers of 2018 are professional. They are clinical. They beat up on poor sides, manage their best players and have spent the home and away season with one eye on the cup. The Tigers of 2017 were tragic, loveable, a team of toilers that scooped up a city of footballing fans with their breathtaking game-style and rags-to-riches story.

 

On Preliminary Final weekend last year, it was the fallen giant against the fabricated Giants. It was old money and new money, culture and focus groups. It felt like a true underdog battle – the Tiges never received the help that Greater Western Sydney had. It was us versus them. It was right.

 

This Preliminary Final weekend, it’s two teams at opposite ends of the streets, two clubs with a history that burns, old rivals whose hatred for one another is everything but fabricated. Where last year’s contest was a spectacle brimming with possibility, this year’s is an unmissable clash of titans that will be heard in Outer Mongolia. The Tigers should win. Collingwood have nothing to lose.

 

The Tigers thrived as the perennial underdog of 2017. They have been the benchmark of 2018.

 

The identity of the toothless Tiger has been expunged. These Tigers don’t lose at the MCG. They snatch victories where defeat is probable. They draft superstars. They find rough diamonds where other clubs turn a blind eye.

 

As an observer of Tiger calamities in their hundreds, the new reality is a welcome surprise, yet it feels unnatural. The Tigers are not Hawthorn, they’re not Sydney. They’re Richmond. They snatch defeat where loss is impossible, they draft busts and list-cloggers, they trade in washed-up role players who whiten hairs of supporters and fill internet chat boards with incoherent outrage.

 

And yet, Jack Higgins. And yet, Toby Nankervis. My memories are instead of Jarrod Oakley-Nicholls. We lost fans before; we have 100 000 members now. We sacked coaches, captains – Hardwick and Cotchin are good bets to become the longest serving Richmond leadership duo in the club’s storied history.

 

There are two weeks left in the season, and yet it is still 2011. The Premiership posters of yesteryear are in my hallway yet they’re as relevant now as victories in the 60s.

 

But of course, its Collingwood. It matters not when the game occurs. Like backyard cricket against a brother, what matters most is the win. Though I am unaccustomed to the event, the sense of desperation is as strong as ever.

 

If Richmond tore itself to shreds in the 80s, it was the Magpies who gleefully applied petrol to the remnants of the club and razed it to ashes. Ever since Jack Dyer, since Dan Minogue, there has been an irretrievable hatred between Hoddle Street and Punt Road. It is as football as Teddy Whitten, as Plugger Lockett.

 

It is a Preliminary Final and I don’t quite get it yet. But I am a Tiger; I know Collingwood.

 

So we wait, for the black and white legions of Victoria Park, for the only game that matters.

 

Comments

  1. Joe De Petro says:

    This is footy, Paddy. It will get no better than Friday night, win or lose. This is the two great working-class tribes on the biggest stage. This is not interstate clubs, expansion clubs or even Geelong and Hawthorn fans clapping politely at each other. This is raw, emotional and feral. it’s the real thing.

    Everything else is cheap imitation.

  2. This is such a strange feeling that I had to get advice from a Hawthorn supporter on how to cope with being favourites to win. I can’t wait for Friday night.

  3. Peter Warrington says:

    randomly, i saw our game in 93 (loss to Sav, on fire); 94 (breakout game from Merenda and others, Collingwood abject); and 1995 (scrappy tune-up for the finals, Dermie in the black and white, very windy).

    don’t think I have been there for one against the Pies, since.

    this is one I would love to be at.

    I think it will be the greatest final ever.

    hopefully the passion stays on the field…

  4. Did you snag ticks Paddy? I hope so! A mighty preview. Enjoy…

  5. Paddy
    For oldies like me this feels like Grand Final week 1980. It’s every conflicting emotion you describe so eloquently. We should win…but…it’s Collingwood.
    We all know what happened that day 38 years ago, but this time around, who knows? What I will guarantee – there will be drama.
    Wonderful preview!

  6. Paddy Grindlay says:

    JB: I’m in M14. Absolutely stoked. How’d you fare?

  7. No luck. London Tavern for me!

  8. Paddy Grindlay says:

    Bugger. Enjoy the Tavern…should be a good crowd.

  9. The Pies have exceeded expectations this year, so win or lose the fans will be ok; yet me thinks the Tiges supporters will be shattered if their team loses. Well, I hope so! It’s footy finals trash-talk Tuesday.

  10. george smith says:

    Those who were there that terrible day in 1980 are scarred for life. It wasn’t just Kevin Bartlett’s 7 goals, it wasn’t just Lee’s destruction of Moore, it wasn’t just wave after wave of yellow shirts bombarding the Richmond goal, it was the knowledge that we just weren’t good enough laid bare. It became the template for failure, Essendon 83, Melbourne 88, Moggies 95. There was no happy ending for either mob – both consigned to the wilderness for many years.

    I would rather watch a Celine Dion concert or Mamma Mia part 2 than go through another Richmond/Collingwood final. There is a good reason for those 6 miserable defeats from 1969 to 1980. When Richmond are at their peak, Collingwood are iffy. When Collingwood are good – 1977, 1990, 2010-11, Richmond are nowhere to be seen…

  11. George; whilst the Tiges had a very good team, Tommy T-shirt can take some credit for the 1980 debacle. Instead of fine-tuning strategy during finals training, his train-them-to-exhaustion-even-though-its-finals-time approach meant the boys entered the field already exhausted.

  12. george smith says:

    1980 was an incredible year for Tigers. They barnstormed their way through the first half of the year, had a mini slump and finished third. They then put paid to the Showponies and the Moggies in a perfect tune up for the grand final. Collingwood, on the other hand pushed their way through 3 hard finals.

    The Pies did deserve better, but gees the Tigers were good that year.

  13. I used to think of the Tigers as a Shakesperian comic tragedy but maybe its more Capresque? I enjoyed your thoughts…they ring true to me!

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