Round 10 – Fremantle v Richmond: Fyfe Great, Tigers Greater.

These games are my favourite to watch when my team isn’t playing. A side that sits adrift from all others atop the ladder, is slowly running out of puff. After a barnstorming run of victories against capable sides, the best team in the competition look tired, sore and possibly beatable. They play against a side considerably lower on the ladder, but has gained confidence after stringing together stirring wins against favoured oppositions. They have every reason to be quietly confident as they enter the match as underdogs.

These games are brilliant to watch when your heart lies beneath a different jumper. You can half-heartedly barrack for the underdogs, hoping that the less-favoured side can sneak a difficult win. You can enjoy the game, free from the stress and worry of the team you love playing. When your adopted team falls short, you sigh and say “ah well”, before heading to bed. If they win, you can wear a contented smile and feel happy for a club that doesn’t wear the colours that are displayed on your beanie/cap/scarf/shirt/jumper/guernsey.

As I said, these clashes are best enjoyed with the absence of your team. Which was exactly what didn’t happen on this Friday night.

When Richmond play, you can always expect a headline-making action during or at the climax of the match. We can give up leads, establish a stirring comeback or just hit someone in the face; it all gets the big bold text. There had been many headlines that got there for the wrong reasons and not enough that drew attention to the right. The last few weeks, however, didn’t raise negativity nor ridicule. A three-game winning streak that took the club skyward after disappointing losses to Footscray, Melbourne, Geelong and North drew the fawning from the media.

Our opponent, the heaving and hoing Freo Dockers sat atop the competition like a particularly annoying household cockroach: spreading their germs throughout the country and undefeated by many types of rival pesticides. In every match, their purple haze had descended upon their opponents, blinding them. They had jumped the previously bounding Kangaroos, shot down the Bombers and clipped the wings of the Eagles.

But that would all come to nothing (alright, maybe not) if they were dinner for the feasting Tigers.

To be fair, the omens were never in the Dockers’ favour. Another milestone game, this time defender Michael Johnson’s 200th, was the fourth in a row for teams playing Richmond. The Tiges were also playing in the clash strip that hasn’t seen defeat (one game, one win, flawless!) and were attempting to stop the Purple Men winning their tenth in a row, exactly what Port did to us last year. The one omen that went Freo’s way was Nat Fyfe. Not actually an omen, but the surfer-haired Brownlow Medallist (no point having a count this year) is above such wishful thinking.

Freo’s night went pretty much to hell on a hand-basket in the first 15 minutes. King Nat pleased his Fyfedom by taking a one-bite screamer and combined brilliantly in the middle with Sir Sandilands, the Knight of Great Height, but that was pretty much it for the unbeaten Dockers. Vickery (what happened last time he was here…) and Griffiths ruled the forward line with two goals apiece while Martin (cue Dr Evil voice) found his mojo in the guts, kicking an arrogant goal to go with an impressive bag of possessions. While the hit-out and clearance stats were Fremantle’s all night long, the unexpected relentless pressure around the ball by those in yellow and black gave no space for King Fyfe and his sorcerers to work their magic. An eight goal to three first term looked bad enough for the Dockers and to cap it all off, milestone man Johnson had pinged a hammy and was subbed off to much howling from the hometown crowd.

At quarter time, lead magician Lyon was having problem with his wand. The purple haze refused to descend at his request, an event preceded by another Richmond quarter. Although the home side fought back and started using the ball better, the Tigers extended their lead further. It helped that the Knight of Great Height dropped a mark in defence that spilled to Riewoldt, who nonchalantly snapped another six-pointer. It also helped that Duffield’s sensory enhancements were faulty, giving teenager Corey Ellis ample time to motor up, take the intercept mark and slot a very nice goal.

Fyfe calmed the masses somewhat by slotting a ridiculous goal from the boundary, banana-ing an absolute ripper. He saluted his subjects with a wave of his mighty hand.

Lyon, increasingly incensed at the prolonged absence of the purple haze, threw the wand exasperatedly at King Fyfe. Fyfe laid down the magical stick and, using an array of rituals and tribal dances, drew the purple haze from its slumber. And that’s when things got a bit nervy.

Brandon Ellis, impervious to the blinding hazy fog, kicked the first goal of the term, the lead ballooning out to 49 points to the Tigers. Then Fremantle, spurred on by the purple smog engulfing the stadium, bagged the last three goals of the term. Fyfe had it twelve times while Walters, Crozier and Barlow all kicked stirring goals, cutting the lead to 29 points at the end of the quarter. It was the fourth consecutive time where Richmond were reeled in by their opponents in the third term. But was the lead enough? Dew began to coat the ground, dragging down skill levels and increasing the fumbles in the game.

The smog that threatened to empower the Dockers eventually dispersed in the final term. When no-one manned Shane Edwards in the goal square, enabling the midfielder to soccer a goal, the game looked over. The home side had the momentum early but were wasteful, kicking 2.5 in the final term where greater accuracy was imperative to their comeback. The words “iron defence” aren’t usually applicable to the Richmond Footy Club, but tonight, Rance, Chaplin, Grimes, Morris and Batchelor were all very good, Grimes, Morris and Chaplin probably having their best games for the year. Walters kicked three for the purple people but was wasteful in front of the sticks, while King Fyfe, Lord Neale and Sir Sandilands smote their opponents in the clearances and hitouts. Martin had the ball 34 times while Edwards and Cotchin were good through the midfield. Grigg’s pressure was brilliant while Brandon Ellis, though coming into the game fairly late, used the ball well and kicked a welcome goal. In the forward 50, the  big 3 had 7 goals between them, while a quiet Deledio also found time to kick a couple.

The Tigers played brilliantly, while Freo were a little bit off. But if this game were to be played again in exactly the same conditions but with a full-strength Freo side, the result would be unchanged, except maybe for the margin. People will point to the gameplan, injuries and form as excuses for the result, but forget one thing:

Richmond were just the better side. Freo wasn’t. That’s all that matters.

FREMANTLE 3.1 5.2 8.5 10.10 (70)
RICHMOND 8.1 12.3 13.4 15.7 (97)

GOALS
Fremantle: Walters 3, Crozier 2, Taberner, Ballantyne, Sandilands, Fyfe, Barlow
Richmond: Vickery 3, Griffiths 2, Deledio 2, Riewoldt 2, Martin, Grigg, Morris, C. Ellis, B. Ellis, Edwards

BEST
Fremantle: Fyfe, Walters, Neale, Sandilands, Barlow.
Richmond: Martin, Edwards, Cotchin, Grimes, Vickery, B.Ellis, Grigg.

VOTES

Fyfe (Fre) 1, Edwards (Rich) 2, Martin (Rich) 3.

Official crowd: 38,019 at Domain Stadium

About Paddy Grindlay

Paddy is new to the city and thinks it's all a bit much at the moment. He's studying at RMIT University and can be found 'round the traps.

Comments

  1. Sean Gorman says

    aah the inexplicable hubris of youth! Nice Job Paddy my son. Go easy on the creaming soda in future, that colouring starts to mess with your head….I know from experience. Tigers were v good and could go places. The operative word there is ‘could’. Heave ho.

  2. Good one Paddy. Tiges – good for football. May Premiers.

  3. As an almost-neutral*, both the game and the article were indeed very enjoyable. Well played, Richmond, and well written, Paddy.

    *Any beating of Fremantle is a vicarious delight to me!

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