Richo: Richmond personified, for better or for worse

“I must confess I’ve made a mess of what should be a small success” – Courtney Barnett, 2015

You’d be hard pressed to find a stronger bond between a footy club’s supporters and one single player than that between Richmond and Matthew Richardson.

800-goal champion. Hall-of-fame inductee. Son of another Richmond superstar Alan “Bull” Richardson. A hero that wore his heart on his sleeve and made it worthwhile for Tigers fans to come to matches as their stint in the bottom eight grew in decades. Heck, even in his moniker, “Rich-o”, lies evidence that the man WAS Richmond.

Of course, other clubs have their modern legends, but the connection between the Richmond faithful and Richo is unique because it extends beyond the sentimental and manifests physically: the way Richo played his footy is reflected in the way the Tigers team have played theirs in the three most recent AFL seasons.

One only needs to look at his fifth goal in the Tiger’s Round 21 clash against Hawthorn in 2002 to appreciate this.

It’s early in the third term, Royce Vardy has the ball in a paddock of space in the centre of the ‘G. He sees Richo with only Jonathan Hay for company in the 50, and instinctively launches the ball in the dominant forward’s direction.

I’ll let Eddie McGuire describe what happens from here on – it’s one of his less exaggerated or pretentious moments as a caller of the game in my opinion – and I’ll narrate what every Richmond supporter was thinking as it unfolded (I was a Tigers supporter myself when this happened).

Richardson searches for his man, then almost holds the mark!” – Come on Richo, you’ve got this: you’ve got Hay’s measure by at least a couple of kilos and centimetres.

Does it well! Beats him point blank! Beats Hay!” – YES! Good onya Richo! I knew you could beat him if you stuck at it! Now you’ll just run into the open goal and kick it easily…

Then has a bounce! THEN LOSES IT!” – NOOOOOOO!!!! Why the hell’d you bounce it Richo?! How do you always manage to mess up the perfectly easy stuff!!!! Uuuuuuurrgghhh Hay’s gonna get him now. I can’t watch…

The gets it… STANDS UP AND KICKS A GOOOOAAALLL. FREAK GOAL!” – Wait, yes… yes I can watch it. So he’s kicked it facing away from the goal posts while being pulled over the line by Hay. Un-bloody believable. I love you Richo, but you’re gonna give me a heart attack one of these days.

Can there be a better way of summing up the Tigers’ last three seasons than this piece of play from 14 years ago?

The fact they have the talent and skill to do what needs to be done, as they proved with their nine-game winning streak in 2014; the crippling disappointment when they somehow manage to find a way to mess it all up despite that talent, as they proved in the 2013 and ’15 elimination finals; the ultimate realisation that you love them in spite of this… It’s all there, and serves to demonstrate that despite spending 16 seasons representing the Tigers on the field, Richo has never embodied Richmond more than he does right now.

As they did with Richo, supporters will continue to love the current Tigers lineup no matter how often the players make them bury their heads in their hands in sheer exasperation.

But of course they – and secretly everyone else I’m sure – will be hoping that 2016 is the year the Tigers get rewarded for the excessive amount of effort they’ve put in, as Richo did that night with his goal.

That reward, of course, is a win in September.

About Alex Darling

Melbourne-born, NSW-based footy fan, lover of the Saints, classic rock guitar and good writing on each of these topics.

Comments

  1. No doubt about it, Alex. Richmond types are a different bunch (that’s intended as a compliment). Despite compelling evidence as long as a belief in Richmond’s inherent fallibility doesn’t become fatalistic, for the players anyway.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Barracking for the bloody redbacks surely has similarities to being a tiger supporter ?

  3. Robyn Meggs says

    Ah, Richo, he IS Richmond…. Passionate, exasperating, brilliant, loyal and so, so entertaining…. Wonderful piece Alex.

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