Round 10 – Fremantle v Richmond: The bad gig syndrome



In 1976 AC-DC relocated from Lansdowne Road, St. Kilda East, to London. Starting at a tiny pub in Hammersmith called The Red Cow, they set out to conquer the U.K. They were offered a spot at the prestigious three-day Reading Rock Festival. This was a golden opportunity to garner some huge exposure and to build on the momentum they had generated in sold out club gigs. Playing in an unaccustomed afternoon slot, the band was met with complete indifference by a 50,000 strong crowd dozing in rare English sunshine. The Seedies, so confident of achieving world domination, were aghast. AC-DC was not like other bands. They didn’t play bad gigs. If they were in support they routinely blew their rivals off the stage. The post-mortem they conducted at their house in London that night led to a three-way punch-up between the Young brothers in an upstairs bedroom: Angus, Malcolm and older sibling George. When bassist Mark Evans tried to intervene he was set upon by all three.

It happens. All-conquering bands can play stinkers. Axl Rose of Guns’n’Roses was already angry over the group’s lacklustre performance at a show in Missouri in 1991 when he spotted a biker with a camera in the audience. He leapt off the stage to attack him before hauling his fellow Gunners back to their dressing room. The crowd rioted. When desperate security staff activated water hoses the fans commandeered them and left a trail of destruction throughout the venue. In 1973 a clearly inebriated Keith Moon of The Who passed out during the band’s rendition of Won’t Get Fooled Again at a show in California. He was revived backstage and returned to the drum stool a half an hour later. He didn’t last long before being carried off again by roadies. The Who completed their set with the aid of a 19-year-old fan from the crowd.

The same principle applies to football teams. You can’t keep winning every week. With the manic pressure that teams have to apply now to achieve victory, it’s inevitable that sooner or later there will be a slight lapse in intensity that can leave even the best combinations vulnerable to defeat. Tonight the Tigers are in the west to tangle with the Fremantle Dockers. The undefeated Dockers recline two games clear at the head of the ladder after overcoming nine opponents in a row.

Is this the night that they take their first false step of the season?

My wife and I have been invited to have dinner with a fellow Richmond tragic around the corner before watching the game on TV together. Adam wants to serve us some gnocci which he assures us is much better than the Aldi product which caused us to give up on gnocci altogether. I scoff at my wife’s suggestion that we drive there. We live approximately 200 metres from our hosts. She declares that she doesn’t care to walk home alone at night if she decides to leave early. So I walk while she drives and we meet at their front gate.

Every eye is on Nat Fyfe, the runaway favourite for the Brownlow and readily acknowledged as the best player in the land. How can Richmond stop him? Will they employ a hard tag or will they try to outgun him by matching him with one of our experienced midfielders? Dustin Martin elbows Fyfe in the ribs before the opening bounce and then Cotchin offers him a handshake, which he accepts. Is this a deliberate tactic to confuse him?

The match begins and Tiger fans sitting in front of televisions all over the country are transformed by ecstatic visions of heavenly delight. Richmond expertly varies the tempo of its forays into attack. They pierce the Dockers’ defensive gridlock with short, precise passing before pulling the trigger with deadly accurate shots at goal. Each time they enter their 50-metre zone they score majors. Set shots, on the run, curled around the body; it matters not. They nail them all. The Dockers are shell shocked. They fumble in the clinches and have their options mowed down by aggressive tacklers hunting in packs.

It’s last year’s elimination final against Port Power in reverse. By late in the opening term the Tigers have slammed on eight straight goals to the Dockers’ one, opening up an astonishing 42-point break. There’s no stopping them. Michael Johnson, playing in his 200th match, is subbed out with a hamstring injury, throwing the Dockers into further disarray. While Ross Lyon is re-organising his defence the Richmond forward line powers on like a fuelled up Mad Max road machine. Vickery, Griffiths and Deledio have two each by quarter time.

The Dockers commit errors that haven’t been seen since they wore green, purple, red and white. Duffield muffs a kick out and fifth-gamer Corey Ellis swoops. He converts. Riewoldt, who has been ranging far up the field to lure Luke McPharlin from his preferred home, snaps another when Sandilands spills a mark. Fyfe is being guarded by a shifting combination of Martin, Cotchin and Grigg. All three are superb. Nevertheless, Fyfe captures the mark of the night with a ride on Anthony Miles and slots the best goal of the match when he bends it in from the boundary line just before half time. He’s sure to pick up a Brownlow vote or two but can’t win the game on his own.

The Tigers are still up by seven goals in the third quarter when the lights go out at Adam’s place. The other houses in the street still have power, so it must be a possum getting up to mischief on the outside line. Social niceties set aside, my wife and I bid hasty farewells. I have no hesitation in climbing into the car for our two-minute journey home. We soon learn that Steven Morris has scored another goal while we were in transit.

Ten minutes later Adam and his teenage son turn up at our door. He has rung the electricity supplier before abandoning his wife and daughter to await their arrival by candlelight. Together we watch the final term play out. The Dockers make a brief flurry to draw within 20 points, but when Edwards toe pokes it across the line in the act of falling over and a newly poised Vickery goals after marking on the lead, we know we’re witnessing a famous Tiger victory.

This makes three wins on the road this year over Brisbane, Port Adelaide and now Fremantle. And now for the killer song which always finishes the set – Motorhead has Ace of Spades but ours is called We’re from Tigerland. It’s belted out not only by the players but by jubilant supporters at Domain Stadium, in assorted lounge rooms and dingy pubs across Australia.

So far there are no bad gigs on this tour.


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin seem eminently suited to good cop bad cop roles.

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