Round 11 – Essendon v Richmond: Dreamtime at the ’G

Dreamtime at the ’G is a wonderful celebration of Indigenous culture, but for us it’s also family rivalry round. We agree on the superiority of the black jumper, but half of us favour the yellow sash and half prefer the red sash. Tonight, I’m here at the MCG with my Bomber-supporting sister and our Tiger-supporting nephew. We’re up on level four of the Ponsford stand, the only sensible option for when members of different organisations or supporters of opposing teams want to sit together. But having arrived early enough, we’ve got the best of the worst seats in the MCG.

As it often does when we three are together, talk turns to sport: the AFL footy so far this weekend, Liz Cambage’s return to the WNBA, the crazy finish to regular time in game 1 of the NBA finals, my nephew’s footy and his sister’s under-12s basketball. And with all competing demands on our time put on hold for a few hours, it’s a rare time to relax as the crowd streams into the MCG.

Being at the ground lets us absorb the atmosphere of the Dreamtime pre-game cultural performance and the twinkling of lights from phone torches is a sight to behold. But we’re side on to the stage and it’s so dark that we have to watch the big scoreboard screen to see what’s going on (which was apparently fantastic on TV). Luckily, the voices of the (what seemed to be) young choir reach us up on level four. When the lights are back on and the players from each team line up opposite each other, the war cry performances are easier to see and are a fitting lead-in to the game.

With the game underway, the Tigers roar into action by kicking five unanswered goals before Essendon kick their first late in the first quarter. It’s a different perspective on the game from up here. There’s less focus on players as individuals and more on the team. We see the strategic positioning of players and we clearly see the options available as both teams try to move the ball forward. And it’s apparent that the by the time the ball goes through the goals, it’s not just through the effort of the goal kicker, it’s the final step in a whole team effort.

In the second quarter, the Bombers fight back by kicking three goals to one, but then Richmond lift with goals to the trio who would finish the game as the best on ground: Shane Edwards, Dusty and Josh Caddy (who was set up beautifully by a sneaky little kick off the ground from Edwards).

Half time brings a chance to catch breath and some respite for the besieged Bomber fans. We’re surrounded by a strange cross-section of Melbourne’s population. Next to us some young lads are trying their hardest to impress the girls in their group. Behind us a bloke is giggling at everything he says to his companion, and in front of us a woman has (quite sensibly) dressed for a trip to Antarctica and is carefully recording the scores in her copy of the footy record.

As the waning gibbous moon rises above the grandstand opposite us to watch over the ground we are treated to a six-goal quarter of domination by the Tigers. Richmond put the result beyond a doubt by getting their ball movement into overdrive and break free of the inaccurate kicking for goal of previous weeks. Shane Edwards shines on the Dreamtime stage; he’s everywhere – racking up touches and being involved in assisting and kicking goals.

The tempo lowers in the fourth quarter, and while the Tigers are still doing the occasional silly pass to a team mate when a set shot at goal is the better option (hello Trent Cotchin), they’re regularly kicking big scores. Winter is here and we’re half-way through the season better placed that we were last year. Dare we dream?


ESSENDON       1.3         4.5         5.6         6.7         (43)
RICHMOND      5.4         9.6         15.10     17.12     (114)


Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Smith, Z. Merrett, Fantasia, Laverde
Richmond: Caddy 4, Butler 2, Edwards 2, Nankervis 2, Moore 2, Martin, Ellis, Riewoldt, Graham, Menadue


Essendon: Stringer, Smith, McKernan, Hooker, Merrett
Richmond: Edwards, Martin, Caddy, Nankervis, Short, Conca, Vlastuin,


Votes: 3 Edwards (Richmond), 2 Martin (Richmond), 1 Caddy (Richmond)


Crowd: 81,046

About Gill

As a youngster, Gill thought that frequent Richmond premierships were assured, but in the many years since 1980 she realised her folly and distracted herself by crunching numbers at a university. The magnificence of the Tigers’ 2017 season has restored her faith in Richmond and all of humanity.

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