Richmond: a jilted love(r’s) story



So what is it with Richmond, the Aussie Rules football club? I have followed them virtually all my life,
since 1970 or ’71 when the Tigers visited Junee to play in a festival of football. I was given a pair of socks by none other than Kevin Bartlett. At the time, I didn’t realise that, as the son of a pharmacist who was the only non-railway (up until that time) mayor who liked sport (but not as much as his two sons), I would be in for a life of ups and downs, literally.


I knew about Royce Hart and would have had number 4 stitched on my woollen long sleeve jumper but instead just enjoyed the fact that having a jumper was a good enough thing. I enjoyed the fact that Richmond were a powerhouse …I knew nothing of the politics of GR (Graeme Richmond) or the fact that everyone in Melbourne basically hated Richmond almost as much as Collingwood. I just enjoyed collecting my Scanlen’s footy cards (with a stick of gum you just threw away and never used) with those ridiculously posed photos of players holding a footy and KB even attempting a handball! I remember that when the cards included action shots from real games, it was hard to tell who was who?


I remember buying The Sporting Globe in Melbourne with the pink cover when we were down there for a holiday, and The Sun with about 30 pages of footy stories on a Friday and Monday. We had nothing unless you bought The Australian which had coverage of the Aussie rules. If was like visiting a different country, sporting-wise.


So learning names like Sproule, Walsh, Fowler, McGhee (with his tatts) and Balme – I didn’t know the back story that one was from WA, and two were from Tasmania and had been champions in their own right before becoming part of the yellow and black juggernaut. I just knew that my team was good and we had the best coach in Tommy Hafey. My Mum would encourage the habit by buying fridge magnets with Tigers on them, a footy scarf (which I still have and could proudly wear while wearing my school blazer), and letting us watch the footy after playing rugby in the morning. I remember that if the Tigers were not on TV, I would grab Dad’s short-wave radio and try and pick up the commercial stations from Melbourne so I could hear the Tigers’ games.  It was a far cry from where I am writing this piece, high up in the Canadian Arctic where I can log on and listen to the ABC news every day, as well tune into Grandstand, etc.


When I was in high school in Canberra, I made sure that my brand new Adidas track suit (which I needed to train in for rugby and for  which I saved up) was yellow and black, and that my school bag (branded with Adidas all over it, of course) was yellow with a black logo. Also, when I saved up for a pair of (wait for it!) Adidas Jamaicas, I made sure that they were the running shoes with suede leather upper yellow (with black stripes, of course) but had the white non-marking sole so I could use them in the gym at school – how cool !!


I was in the Riverina and not the Victorian bubble and then the Canberra construct (literally) where everybody came from somewhere else, so they all had a team based somewhere else. In my case, being a Richmond fan was OK. My best mate Rob was a Blues fan and, unfortunately, I had friends who were Collingwood supporters even then. My brother Nick, who loved the colour royal blue, chose to go for the Kangaroos. When the draw happened in 1977, my brother and I were forced to go to a church camp in Berridale and had to listen to the replay between races whilst playing tennis in about 5 degrees – not fun, I can tell you!


Back in ‘75, my brother Nick and I at least got to see the second half of the Grand Final in (of all places) Eildon, on the lake in a motel where we were staying, when the ‘Roos broke their duck. I can still remember the handball and the running of Melrose, Schimmelbusch and Feltham, the stellar kicking of Barry Cable (did he play in ’75 or just ’77?), and the high marks of Arnold Breidis, not to mention Sam Kekovich.


In Canberra, everyone had their favourite teams in Sydney, Melbourne or Geelong (sorry, I can’t forget them, Mr Harms). The Canberra Raiders didn’t come onto the scene until ‘82 and even though most people had them as their second team in my case, the mighty Western Suburbs Magpies were my rugby league team of choice – but more of them in another article.


But I digress…The Tigers were good and had a great team in the late 60s and all through the 70s. They were constantly in the finals during almost all of my schooling and, therefore, I had an expectation that it would stay that way. The crowning glory of glory days was when I was in Year 12 in 1980. A few of my mates gathered at my mate Rob’s house and we all put our tip and by how much for the big game in a jar. I remember that we all put in $5 dollars, which was a lot of money, and I said Richmond by ten points. Rob, who hated Collingwood more than I did, said Richmond by 60 points. He won the pot due to Hungry Bartlett’s amazing 7 goals. So there I was finishing school, by now happily wearing my Sekem knitted Richmond jumper with a VFL logo on it and showing my not so solid guns off to the world. So all was good – Richmond were kings of the jungle and I had known nothing else.


I went off to Uni in Sydney and other sports came into my life, like soccer and particularly baseball (go the Blue Jays), as well as rugby league and union. While in Sydney for that year, I lost touch with the Tigers. I think the only game I saw that year was the Grand Final which, thankfully, Collingwood lost. I still wore my colours but camping, getting to know girls, singing in bands and just enjoying being 17 and 18 took precedence.


Back in Canberra working in the bank, I became part of footy again through reading the back page of The Canberra Times and The Age which we got each day in the lunch room. 2CA blared in the background while we munched on our Chicko rolls with chips in the Canberra winter. The sporting highlight of the week was filling out our footy tips on  Friday each week. What I now understand to be totally illegal footy betting comps were conducted across all the bank branches. A guy would come into the branch of the Bank of NSW (yes, I am that old) and yell out, “Everyone got their envelopes?” We would fill out a green slip for the VFL and a red slip for NSWRL games of the round. We had to write our code number on the slip, not our name, and I never did find out who actually ran the betting. I think I won twice in three years. It was about $200 first prize and I remember I bought a new guitar amp with it.(Ah, those were the days you got a 200watt amp for $300 dollars!!)


By now Richmond were still good with St Francis Bourke in charge, Geoff Raines the new number 4 running supreme, Bryan Wood on the wing, and ‘The Ghost’, Jimmy Jess, at half-back kicking the life out of the ball with his torpedoes, not to mention ‘Disco’ Roach taking hanger after hanger and getting bags of 5 goals or more regularly. All was well until in the ’82 Grand Final against those dreaded blues when Helen D, the streaker, ran out and put her scarf around ‘The Flying Doormat’ Bruce Doull’s neck!!


Then it was sadness personified – all the players who left to play the next season for Tommy ‘T-shirt’ Hafey at the dreaded enemy Collingwood, including my beloved number 33 David Cloke (father of Travis, for the young readers). Cloke had the worst kicking action in League football but the biggest heart and the aforementioned Raines plus Wood and Sheedy flew off to seek the safety of the Bombers hangar.


I went overseas and missed a lot of the heartache in ’84 and ’85. Later, in the mid 80s, I worked in the western suburbs of Sydney as a youth worker and was more worried about the survival of my other team in the big time, the Western Suburbs Magpies. They were actually kicked out of the NRL on the same day Australia won the America’s Cup back in September ‘83 only to win their court case for reinstatement, unlike Newtown Jets who never got back. So I proudly wore my Masterton Magpies home jersey, which became my signature around the streets of Penrith for four years. I even went to a few of their games, including one day in the rain when we beat the Chocolate Soldiers of Penrith in the mud at Penrith Park.  There was no growling from the Panther scoreboard that day. How sweet it was…


But I digress …Richmond were in financial trouble and, by this stage, I was in the sunny climes of Central Queensland completely oblivious to the goings on at Punt Road. Marriage came along. My moment of joy in the 90s coincided with being stuck in a coach full of Year 12s driving the 29 hours from Rockhampton to Mt Hotham to go skiing. It was the day of the ‘95 semi against the Bombers – ‘Swooper’ (John Northey) had his young guys up and about, and where was I? Somewhere between Dubbo and Forbes listening to my little Philips am tranny with one ear plug and the signal coming in and out. The bus driver wouldn’t put the now AFL on the radio speakers in a bus full of Central Queenslanders. It was rolling out the hits from some non-descript Austereo central NSW radio station. Every 7 or 8 minutes, the signal would come on loud and clear and then fade. I got to hear the last five minutes including the song. (As a side note, I never got to see the game until January this year in the Canadian Arctic when the weather outside was -48C. I was going nowhere and found the full game on You Tube and finally got to see Jamie Tape running, Daffy the Duck, Justin Charles before he was rubbed out for steroids, Matty Knights running free, Turner up in the forward line, just to name a few. It was good to see all these years later !!)


But back to September ’95 and oh, how sweet it was that I spent the whole week skiing the slopes of Mount Hotham under lights at the ‘Big D’ wearing my Sekem Richmond jumper over the top of my ski gear. Then, the following Saturday, going up a chair lift and sitting next to a Geelong fan showing his colours, I realised that we were playing against ‘god’ – sorry, Gary Ablett snr.  That afternoon, in the bar, we watched as ‘god’ smashed the life out of the Tigers.


Then a couple of fantastic children came along, so the Tigers took a bit of a back seat. Every now and then I got to watch the mighty Tigers on Channel Seven with the special Bruce MacAvaney and Dennis Cometti leading the way. I spent 4 years back in the nation’s capital, regularly giving away bottles of wine and six packs in bets made with school staff while trying to show support for the yellow and black. Oh, the pain had returned.


Then it was back to Queensland in time for the greatest humiliation of in 2001, sitting in the heart of the ‘Gabba cricket Members (I knew someone who could get me ticket) during the Prelim Final as we watched the then mighty Lions totally dismember another member of the cat family. I have distraught memories of friends rousing and rubbing my curls and saying, ‘Better luck next time, Rich!!!’ I remember the team chairing off our mighty number 17, not Jack Dyer but captain Paul Broderick. ‘Akker’s’ handstand of triumph said it all….. it was all over red rover…


Back to the dark ages …finishing 9th again – the Coodabeens pouring derision on us poor Tiger fans. I was attending the Gabba regularly to see the best team going around in football,  the Voss-led Lions and, I must admit that seeing the fab four of Lappin, Voss, Akker and Black was unbelievable, not to mention Lepper down back with Michael and Pike, Darryl White just freakish, Browny and Lynch flying high, and the Scott twins giving the grunt and aggro around the packs. I was sorely tempted to leave the Tigers’ den forever. A friend even gave me a Lions jumper. Not bad looking, I thought, but I couldn’t do it. Every year I would come to the ‘Gabba and every year, in spite of their ladder position, the Tigers would would win. How cool was that ? There was hope… Maric the mullet flying high, Richo in his twilight years (not to mention being robbed in the Brownlow), a young Cotch on the rise … There was hope!


So it came to the Elimination Finals in the 2010s – the sad Father’s Day massacre at Adelaide Oval against Port when the Tigerss said that Port could not wear their home jumper and went with the famous Prison Bars and Cotch went against the wind after winning the toss …. or when North Melbourne absolutely put the cleaners through us after resting a heap of players. There was a lot of scar tissue that kept being gripped off again and again.


That’s what makes the total rejuvenation of my club so incredible and hard to believe. The culture has changed, no more eating the coach alive, no more blame game,just get on with it, the first female President keeping her cool under fire, players becoming accountable as human beings, Brene Brown helping with a dose of vulnerability and authenticity among a whole host of transformational changes.


It was all summed up for me at the Moorooka Roosters Australian Rules football club clubhouse in Sept 2017. There were five minutes to go in the Big Dance against those dastardly Crows and Richo (what a legend) was crying his eyes out – so was I, along with about 120 Richmond fans who had gathered at the club for the official Queensland Richmond supporters function. I even had my mate, the ever faithful and long suffering Frank (who barracks for Collingwood), there at the club for mutual and emotional support should we lose. He even ever so kindly wore a yellow and black polo shirt. God bless ‘im, and this from a Magpie fan with all his teeth!!!. So there we were, lapping up the inevitable result when this young bloke with a Tigers jumper from the 90s (before he was born, probably) came up to three of us fifty-something fans, all with the greying of wisdom in our hair, and said, ‘What are you crying for? This is happy time!!!’


I said to him, “You have no idea what 37 years of pain feels like.” Then the three of us fifty-somethings clinked our glasses and cried our eyes out, singing the song over and over – and that was before the siren sounded! What followed for the next 5 hours or so has been lost in the mists of cloudy Bundy and coke-filled time!!! (This was just before I stopped drinking alcohol full stop, thankfully.) I do know, however, that I walked home since the club was only 2 kilometres from my home. As I staggered out to venture along Ipswich Road, some young Sudanese fellas who had been playing soccer at the Aussie Rules ground under lights said, “Are you going home in time for the big game with Arsenal playing?’ I said to them that the big game had already happened and roared ‘Go Tiges!!!’ and said ‘If you want to walk with me, we can talk about what has happened with the Tigers’. So I was escorted home by three amazing young guys in their Arsenal colours, explaining the finer points of Aussie Rules. Wow, haven’t times changed!!


So there is some of my story. I’m glad I never gave up on my beloved Tigers. As a wise man once said, ‘All good things come to those who wait.’



Stay tuned for my adventure in the far north of Canada following the Tigers all the way through to celebrating Grand Final day in 2019, knowing we had already won.

For the latest on my Arctic Canadian odyssey, check out my website here.


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About Richard Marlow

a humble middle-years teacher in a “middle of the road” private school in Brisbane having being a pastor, a youth worker, a school chaplain, a bank johnnie – 3 different banks, worked in Jails, driven a cab and been in bands amongst other things.


  1. george smith says

    Well some strange facts from the early 80s. To set the record straight Tommy Hafey was sacked by Collingwood about 10 rounds into the 1982 season, when Richmond was still flying high. When the new Magpies got into power at the end of 82, they started recruiting folks with an open chequebook. Raines and Cloke were cheesed off with Francis Bourke, the coach at Richmond, so they left for Collingwood, where the money was, followed by Brian Taylor in 1985. Richmond retaliated by recruiting Philip Walsh and Jon Annear from Collingwood, just to show who was boss. Fat lot of good it did either of them, as both nearly went bankrupt.

    Wooden spoons in 87 and 89 are testimony to Graeme Richmond’s arrogance. Magpie supporters rattled the tins for the Richmond crowd funding, unlike the rest of the comp, who mocked our financial woes. I took grim satisfaction in (a) Peter Daicos tearing Richmond a new one in 1990 and (b) the miracle of 2018, when after all those finals defeats at Richmond’s hands in the 70s and 1980, we finally beat them.

  2. Thanks George
    great for you to set the record straight – re the Cloke Raines saga it was tough all round and I totally agree with the fact that Collingwood might be opponents but without strong teams in the league and great rivalry match ups there is no soul to celebrate or talk about let alone on this website
    Point taken re Collingwood getting back at the Tigers for all those loses in the late 60s 70s early 80s
    As I said in the article the save our skins period I have no personal recollections except for Lou Richards apparently helping the Tigers out with fund raising
    Mason Cox did play out of his skin in 2018 – give credit where credit is due the Tiges worst game pretty well in 3 years was that game before the Grand final that year – makes this last premiership all the sweeter

  3. YeahTigers2020 says

    My mum, who really has no interest in footy, was moved by Richo’s tears and I still cry when I see footage of him. I have a picture of him in my office. He’s a great talking point. Go Tigers! Thank you for your lovely piece. Let’s hope it’s another great season.

  4. Thanks Jill it was a real emotional moment – a moment frozen in time along with Richo’s tears

    Go Tiges

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