Round 13 – Richmond v Port Adelaide: We fight you in San Jose

 

 

 

 

WE FIGHT YOU IN SAN JOSE!

 

by John Green

 

 

In 1987 Jeff Fenech successfully defended his WBC super-bantamweight title against Mexican Carlos Zarate at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. It was the second defence of the crown he won from Thailand’s Samart Payakarun six months before.

 

Zarate was lauded as one of the greatest bantamweights of all time. He had been world champion until losing a disputed points decision to fellow Mexican Lupe Pintor in 1979. He retired in disgust but made a comeback to the ring in 1986. Since then he had won 12 fights, nine of them by knockout. Zarate was now 36 years old and considered as being past his prime, but still dangerous.

 

The cagey veteran wasn’t above the use of questionable tactics. Zarate was on the wrong side of a serious hiding in the opening rounds at the hands of the belligerent Fenech, who didn’t mind dishing out the rough stuff himself. Zarate was knocked down in the fourth. He responded by headbutting the Australian’s cheekbone and opening up a five-centimetre gash. At the end of the round the referee assessed the damage to Fenech and decreed that his injury was too serious for him to complete the bout. Fenech was mortified and Zarate celebrated, believing he had won. But under World Boxing Council rules, if after three completed rounds a fighter was unable to continue after receiving an ‘accidental’ headbutt, the combatant who was ahead on points would be declared the winner. The three judges had Fenech in front by the substantial margin of 40-34, having clearly won each round, and so the Marrickville Mauler had retained his title by a ‘technical decision’ in four rounds.

 

Zarate and his handlers weren’t happy. They claimed that Fenech’s injury had come from a legitimate punch. While Zarate hailed originally from Mexico City, he had found a second home amongst his compatriots in California, where a good proportion of his recent fights had been staged.

 

“Come to San Jose!” they yelled. “We fight you in San Jose!”

 

The Mexicans were resorting to the age-old excuse of the hometown decision.

 

Richmond hardly ever plays Port Adelaide in Melbourne, let alone at the MCG. In the past ten years they had met at the ‘G on only three occasions, with one game at the Docklands in 2014. In that same period they had battled it out in South Australia eleven times. Go figure.

 

But now, at last, you’re on our home patch. So you cheer your team on with an excessively loud partisan roar? So do we. So you seek to intimidate interstate visitors with catcalls and well-targeted insults? We can do that. So you seek to manipulate the umpires and gain a truck load of unjustified free kicks and 50-metre penalties? Us too, although we admittedly have less success with this tactic than every other team in the competition. You sing a mediocre, completely inappropriate pop song and hold up your scarves before the opening bounce to urge your boys onto victory? You can have that one.

 

This time it’s a Thursday night fight. In what is proving to be the coldest start to winter in Melbourne in decades, the match is being played in front of a small audience of hardy souls protecting themselves from the elements with an assortment of beanies, scarves, jackets and gloves in club colours. It’s like we’re heading off to the Himalayas on a climbing expedition. The heroic Dylan Grimes plays his 200th game tonight. My sincere thanks go out to the unorthodox, but highly effective German doctor who cured him of his chronic hamstring woes when we sent Dylan to his clinic in Munich early in his career.

 

My boy and I are suitably impressed that Port Adelaide has no recognised ruckman in its line-up. Scott Lycett is unavailable and they dropped Sam Hayes. They’re using key forwards in Charlie Dixon and Jeremy Finlayson to share the load and we’re anticipating a ruck dominance jamboree for Nankervis and Soldo.

 

Sure enough, the tall Tigers proceed to win most of the hit outs, but the Power prevail in the clearances and have more possessions. But it’s not enough for them. Richmond activate their  pressure machine and turn the dial to send the needle into the red zone. Five goals in a row in the first quarter are won from turnovers. Prestia, Short, Cotchin and Daniel Rioli cast their magisterial eyes over proceedings and provide the Tigers with the authority to rule the midfield. Port players attempt to attack but lob the ball harmlessly into the hands of Grimes, Vlaustin and Broad. Debutant Judson Clarke boots two goals with his first two kicks in senior company. The fans celebrate their new favourite with gusto, but it’s nothing compared to the euphoria of his family members who are shown going wild on the big screen. So far so good. Bolton misses a running shot that sets the scene for a bizarre evening of sprayed shots from the Tiger dynamo. A 19-point lead at quarter time is just reward as Richmond gets motoring in the opening stanza.

 

The Tigers lead by 26 points halfway through the second quarter and we’re feeling confident. Then Port boot the last three, including one to Dixon after the siren. There’s only eight points in at the long break. Richmond extend the margin to 20 points at the seven-minute point of the third when Balta is held by Allir in a marking contest and he goals from the resulting free. Then the alarm sounds for me at the 23-minute mark when Ralphsmith concedes a 50-metre penalty to Kane Farrell. The Port winger waltzes up the field, finds no-one on the mark and extends his dance routine to land a six-pointer from just outside the 50-metre arc. There’s only a point the difference at the final interval and we’re facing another instalment in the disturbing series headlining Richmond’s inability to nullify opposition momentum and defend commanding leads.

 

Powell-Pepper scores in the first minute of the final term to put Port up by a five points. We’re  becoming somewhat anxious and have little faith in Richmond’s capacity to win the close ones. The swingmen in Balta and Gibcus have swapped roles. Gibcus has conceded three goals to Todd Marshall in defence, but he regains the lead for Richmond when he is infringed on the goal line and snaps truly from the angle. Butters and Jonas collide and lie prostrate on the turf, Martin keeps his feet in a fierce personal duel in the resulting play and slams it through from the square. The fans erupt and the Tigers are eight points ahead at the ten-minute mark. Baker has lifted and Tarrant is becoming increasingly assured in marking contests. The home team is controlling play, but squandering opportunities to kick the next goal that will surely defuse any attempt by the Power to seize back the lead. Bolton misses twice and then Baker follows suit.

 

The anguish of the members in our section is building with each missed attempt. This emotional force can’t simply evaporate and has got to go somewhere. The resulting wave of telekinetic energy is no doubt causing volcanic eruptions to take place in distant parts of the world.

 

Eventually, whether by design or good luck, the opposition must score. Rozee eludes two opponents, surges and sends it home. Only three points in it at the 21-minute mark! We don’t want a tight finish. Then Liam Baker, who is dominating the last term, accepts the tap from Nankervis and kicks low and hard under the flailing arm of a defender. The Tigers are nine points up with 24 minutes on the clock. They continue to burn opportunities to kill the game with an ultimate sealer. The normally deadly Shai Bolton completes his inexplicable performance in front of the big sticks by running into an open goal and missing yet again, making it five behinds and an out-on-the-full for the evening. It doesn’t matter in the end, because Richmond hang on to win by 12 points and we are immensely relieved. Our team is back in the eight for now, having won five of its last six.

 

At Marvel Stadium a few days before the game, Australia’s George Kambosos Junior lost his world lightweight title to American Devin Haney. But he has a chance to reverse his fortunes if he chooses to take it, as there was a rematch clause in the contract. It’s a similar situation tonight. How can the AFL possibly deny Port Adelaide a home game against Richmond? A return bout is scheduled for the   Adelaide Oval in Round 21.

 

 

RICHMOND            5.2       6.4       8.5       11.11 (77)
PORT ADELAIDE              2.1       5.2       8.4     10.5 (65)

 

GOALS
Richmond: Clarke 2, Martin 2, Graham, D.Rioli, McIntosh, Riewoldt, Balta, Gibcus, Baker
Port Adelaide: Marshall 3, Amon, Dixon, Wines, Finlayson, Farrell, Powell-Pepper, Rozee

 

BEST
Richmond: Prestia, Baker, Cotchin, Vlastuin, Graham, Nankervis
Port Adelaide: Boak, Marshall, Houston, Amon, Wines, Burton

 

INJURIES
Richmond: Nil
Port Adelaide: Dumont (calf), Jonas (head), Butters (head)

 

SUBSTITUTES
Richmond: Kane Lambert (unused)
Port Adelaide: Martin Frederick (replaced Dumont in the third quarter)

 

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for an excellent piece John.

    I have a Port Adelaide barracking friend who once boasted to me that his two-year old daughter could already sing the club theme song. I had to point out that, with lines like “We’ll never stop, stop, stop ’til were top, top, top!’, that’s a song seemingly written specifically for a two-year old audience.

    Anyhow – Go Tiges!

  2. As a neutral supporter on the night, I found the game to be quite enjoyable with plenty of good play. Although Richmond’s defense was excellent, the Power made the most of its scoring opportunities with accurate goal shooting whereas the Tigers butchered quite a few, especially in the final quarter. What truly amazed me was how the Power fans squealed about the umpiring, so many claiming they were robbed. I do admit seeing a couple of decisions that confused me but, overall nothing that led me to believe Port was particularly hard done by.

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