Preliminary Final – Richmond v Geelong: The Pursuit of Mindfulness



by John Green



I’m still not accustomed to playing in finals. When Richmond is involved I tend to think about the games constantly and to become obsessed, which means I have a steadily deteriorating mental state during the build-up.


This week I’m inspired by two celebrities on Channel 9’s Postcards, both of whom have ex-footballer partners. I decided to follow their lead by practising mindfulness in the lead-up to Richmond’s preliminary final clash with Geelong. My mantra is Calm September. Mindfulness means paying attention to the moment with openness, curiosity and without judgement. It can reduce worries, anxiety and distress, create a sense of calmness, relaxation and the regulation of emotions; promising better health and quality of sleep. I need all of these qualities. It’s a type of informal meditation – directing my full attention to every activity that I undertake at particular moments. It seems to have worked. I have never unloaded the dishwasher, mowed the lawn or taken the rubbish bins out to the curb with such calmness and self-possession. I’ve also avoided my usual tendency to talk about Richmond’s premiership prospects with anyone who will listen.


It’s unusually humid on the Friday evening of the match. I forgo my customary jacket with the snarling Asian tiger for my Richmond polo shirt with scarf in reserve for any night chill. My son and I are seated in the front row at ground level, something I haven’t experienced at the MCG since my father took me to see Australia play England in a test match in 1970. The Geelong mascot makes a brave venture to our Tiger enclosure before the match. He commandeers a Richmond scarf from a nearby supporter and polishes my bald scalp with it.


The Cats are without Tom Hawkins. I must admit that I rejoiced when I saw what the Tomahawk dished out to opponent Brad Schofield in the semi-final against West Coast. I knew that Tom would be rubbed out for at least a week and make Richmond’s task a little easier. The Cats are also without important linkman Mitch Duncan. As for the absent Alex Rance – wish you were here.


As the match gets underway I realise that mindfulness isn’t going to help me tonight. I am caught up in the maelstrom and abandon all decorum. The Tigers have a scintillating three minutes in which Lynch (twice) and Martin open Richmond’s account. Then panic takes over as Geelong dominates the remainder of the first half. Their topliners in Kelly, Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Tuohy assume control. The Cats claw the premiership favourites in the pressure stakes and ground contests. The dreadlocked Miers is dangerous in attack, scoring a couple of goals and setting up another one for Kelly. Richmond players make serious errors. Broken tackles, fumbles and wayward kicks that lob harmlessly into the hands of defenders. Adversity abounds. Graham seems to dislocate his right shoulder as he tackles Tom Atkins. Dusty is not moving well after colliding with Blicavs and he commits uncharacteristic mistakes when delivering the ball into the 50-metre zone and firing at goal. Geelong boots five unanswered majors on either side of quarter time. Richmond struggles through  half an hour of play without a kicking a goal. The prospect of crashing out in another preliminary final looms above us like the dementors at the Princess Theatre in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Inside the closing minute of the first half Dangerfield lunges forward in a marking contest and draws an outrageous free kick. Houli believes the free is coming his way and asks Cotchin for the ball. His skipper obliges, a fifty metre penalty is imposed and Dangerfield pops it through from the square. Richmond barrackers howl in derision and the Cats are up by 21 points as the siren sounds for half time.


My son is in despair. I attempt to bring some optimism to the situation. The deficit is not insurmountable. Surely Richmond won’t be as inept as they were in the opening quarters. Who can lift? Have we taken their best shot? Trust the character of the players, trust their system.


Within seconds of the resumption Cotchin nails Stanley in a ferocious tackle. His intervention leads to Lynch’s third goal. Martin follows with his second a couple of minutes later, reducing Geelong’s lead to eight points. The Richmond army is in full voice with fearsome intensity. Now it’s the Tigers forcing turnovers, pushing the Cats out wide and taking intercept marks. Edwards and Prestia seize the ball in close and launch audacious attacks that stretch Geelong’s resources. Houli and Grimes marshal their fellow legionnaires in defence. Lynch takes towering contested marks against multiple opponents, relishing what was denied to him in eight years on the Gold Coast; an opportunity to play in a final before a deafening audience of 90,000 fans. The repulsive USA USA chants by Collingwood supporters as Mason Cox tore us apart in the preliminary final nightmare last year are distant memories. How about a Blairgowrie Blairgowrie chant for Long Tom? He scores to put the Tigers up by five points at the 19-minute mark of the quarter. Henderson boots a late goal but all of the momentum is with the Tigers.


In the final stanza Richmond is unable to deliver the fatal blow that will completely take the match away from Geelong. The tension is unremitting and Riewoldt keeps missing. I grow hoarse along with thousands of partisans as I urge the Tigers to keep fighting.


The Tigers prevail by 19 points with an eight goal to two second half in which they gradually overwhelm their opponents. For Geelong fans there is the bitter disappointment of falling short in the finals again despite finishing the regular season in top position. Maybe they’ve witnessed Kelly, Ablett and Taylor in their colours for the last time. But there’s euphoria in the expansive yellow and black sections of the stadium. We’re in another Grand Final. A beaming Brandon Ellis strides across to the supporters in our section holding up his index finger to signify that we have one more to go. We rejoice and press the flesh of the heroes jogging along the fence line on their way to the rooms. Whilst we’re making our way to the stadium exits a man in the crush shouts, “Where are we from?” The ecstatic crowd responds with “Tigerland!” and takes up the song.


How can I cope with the build-up in the coming week? Mindfulness is no longer enough. Maybe it’s time to go vegan. I’m willing to try anything to get me through to next Saturday.




  1. Acceptance is next. I accept my support for Richmond is pathological. I accept that every disastrous, catastrophic scenario will run through my head over the next week. I accept I wouldn’t have it any other way. GO TIGES!

  2. John – it’s interesting that you have to lift your son’s spirits. My son is being driven batty by my glass-half-empty attitude towards the Tigs. After enduring the last quarter with me endlessly prophesying a hideous last gasp loss, hIs first comment after the siren – “what will it take for you to believe in this team?”
    My advice for the week? Shut out the media circus and focus on the rest of life. Whatever happens on Saturday it goes on.
    Btw if you thought Friday was tense, did you watch the VFL GF yesterday? Seeing our team reprieved from losing the Premiership twice in a minute and by the same goalpost was not my idea of a relaxed day of grass roots footy! Still, you take them any way you can I guess!

  3. I think there was much mindfulness being practised at the mid point of the second quarter. After the flurry of goals in the first quarter a strange quietude fell about us in the Ponsford Stand…lots of holding, not sure about accepting though, of inner emotions.
    Stainless, I watched that last quarter on my phone at the cinema..very lucky.

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