Round 14 – Richmond v GWS: The Jetlag Game



It was 9.8 degrees, grey and showery, at the MCG. It certainly wasn’t ‘celebrating footy Independence Day’ on the fourth of July. It was the jetlag game, for me. Going to the ‘G’, and then walking back into Flinders St was part of my 25 year plan to conquer jetlag, having got in from Hong Kong on Friday night, after weeks in Europe.


For Richmond it was part of their 35 year plan to become a serious finals contender at last.

Except, they seemed to have more jetlag than I did – GWS flew in from Sydney (from Richmond air base perhaps) and the Tigers must have come from Punt Rd in helicopters. It was a game with more turnovers than at an American spring party…more ground-grubbing drop punts than Rex Hunt had ever seen…with dominant defence and point after point, correction behind after behind…rushed, forced or kicked from outside 50.


The First Quarter: The pigeon flock quarter

After I got off the tram which announced Hisense Arena….the young girls with Mums in tow had another destination, Disney on Ice, the pigeons were the outstanding ‘playing group’ on the ‘G’. GWS played an extra man in defence, to avoid the wipeout scores of recent weeks, reinforced by a tacklefest which would please Ross Lyon.

Richmond stumbled and fumbled and Houli had a lot of the ball, a sign that the play was more at the Giants’ end. Except there weren’t many Inside 50s, if you exclude the balls cleared after penetrating a couple of metres over the line. There was even less scoring. Richmond finally troubled the scorers with a behind from Griffiths after 16 minutes minus 1 second; he added another one to his total two minutes later. Magic disposal efficiency statistics for the Tigers were under 50%, which is risky when you are playing that circle work possession game. The more dominant Giants were hard to identify, even as a non-Victorian, as my eyes have seen a lot more Richmond, live and on TV. Despite the characteristic ever objective approach of Footy Almanac contributors, individual Giants players were harder to identify. Inevitably, the known, the ever distinctive Heath Shaw, Callan Ward who later slotted a 50 metre goal from the boundary line, big and skilful Cameron up forward, and, briefly, also the headband, energy and aggression of Jack Steele caught my southern pigmy eyesight.

The players clustered around like the pigeon flock which was enjoying the wide open spaces of the ‘G’, and ‘playing to their structures’ – the flock found plenty of available space as the game moved around from one cluster to another.

A first goal to Richmond and two more to the Giants in the 26-30 minute period suggested that a football match might happen. While the Giants had been dominant, scores of 2.3 to 1.4 did not reflect that. Neither side was moving the ball forwards with speed.


The Second Quarter: Cotchin moments

The second stanza was saved by those beautiful Cotchin moments, and goals, as would the second half. With sweet, almost invisible evasive skills, which he shares with Scott Pendlebury, the sublime movement of Cotchin seemed an exception at Punt Rd. When the Tasmanian Jack Riewoldt had a ‘teamsmanship’ moment (a new word, courtesy of ABC 774), with a centring kick from near the boundary line rather than thumping into the area in front of the goalsquare, his skills also showed the gap between the Tigers’ best and the rest. Despite this gap, with Martin, Rance and occasionally Deledio, also in the A++ players list, now the Richmond supporters, hitherto busy with razor-cutting words about white maggots giving free kicks, started to do courses in positive thinking. They had been noticing the umpies more than the dominant Giants midfield of Griffen and Greene, and as the stats told me later, the pint sized Dylan Shiel picking up possessions.

Mark Maclure, the Old Testament man of footy commentary, was inspired by the pigeon metaphor (was he reading my mind?), lamenting the ‘pigeon flock’ of players gathered just outside the goalsquare. “The basics of footy haven’t changed”, he grunted wisely, regretting that neither side was using handball and run to take the ball forward to find a marking player before the flock gathered. The latest footy jargon term ‘chains’ was a good idea but most broke more easily than a daisy chain.

By half time the ‘very ordinary game’ had struggled into a total of 7 goals (4 to the Giants) and 13 behinds (7 to Richmond), ending with two rushed behinds and one stray kick. Kevin Bartlett mumbled something like ‘It’s a disgrace!’ on the barely audible SEN commentators’ moment on the big screen, before doing a mock version of walking off the set in disgust.


The Third Quarter: Cold hands and head scarfs

It was the rub those cold hands and hajib quarter in the terraces. Even aside from occasional showers those who wore many layers but forgot the gloves (like me) were trying to work out solutions. They included grabbing the tissues in the coat, or hands inside the bag warming the legs; some other men and women opted for tartan or Burberry headscarfs.

On the field, at first it seemed the volleyball quarter as the ball was flicked around, except with both teams on one side of the net. I could see clearly, having been a four eyes for years, and the fog was not from any jetlag but the game, even when not seen through the mist. There were signs of the game opening up as 6 goals were kicked, one less than in the first half, three of them by the Giants’ Rhys Palmer, as they went 15 points ahead.

Late in the quarter, I retreated down into the bowels of the MCG. There it was even cold in the Barassi cafe, which at least had the consolation of big screens. The warming hot chocolate was also lukewarm, and you could almost hear Barass, wearing his traditionalist coaches’ hat, barking ‘LAP’, ‘Lukewarm as P….’. The game looked brighter on the big screen, but that was just screen brightness.


The Final Quarter: Rub your hands together with pleasure:

I returned to the cold in the final quarter. The temperature was about 8, with a ‘feels like’ of 5. The brass monkey temp was even lower – especially for an escapee from the global warming heatwave emergencies of Paris and Hong Kong. But things changed. It was a rub your hands together with pleasure quarter as a creative footy game was breaking out.

The game would be won by the team who did two things, actually moved the footy forward (rather than ‘laterally’, which gives lateral thinking a bad wrap) and kicked straight.

Suddenly, like a tiger escaped from a circus cage, Richmond put on 5 goals (the same number they had kicked in the first three quarters), with the Giants only adding two. It was the RR factor, of Riewoldt and Rance. Not quite the Rolls Royce or the ‘RH Factor’ of the Tigers’ glory days (Royce Hart and Rex Hunt up forward), but Richmond actually became the dominant side. They had 22 more possessions. More importantly, they became qualitatively as well as quantitatively superior. Edwards’ second goal added to the total, the Tigers running out 7 point winners due to those goals and of course their inevitable six behinds.


When the siren ended the misery of many, there was a silent undercurrent of crowd disappointment at the fact they weren’t singing the best club song in the AFL after a win, followed by polite and serious applause when the players gathered together around the centre circle in memory of one of grass roots footy’s great advocates, Phil Walsh.


Post-match: The Jetlag Quarter

Finally, I headed off, still alert, and the rain had stopped so a walk back to Flinders St was a good warm-down in the cold. That night, avoiding the North Melbourne debacle at Carrara, I took in a little of the Bulldogs vs Carlton, switching over from Sex and the City, in which Samantha was getting excited. Despite a few sleepy moments, as I lay there with the cats, Mal on me, and Genki demanding pats, I now knew that footy is a good antidote to jetlag, even if it is scrambly jetlagged footy on a cold July day. It seemed to work although as Dimma (Damien Hardwick) said, about their scraggy play, ‘we won ugly’. Aside from a few moments of confusion (a bit like those precise passes to opposition players on the ‘G’), I was almost winning my game, the war against the body clock. And on this day… there was always tomorrow for ‘the fight against jetlag’. And there’s always next week for the Giants.


Richmond 1.4  3.7   5.12 10.18.78
GWS          2.3  4.6    8.9     10.9.69


Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Edwards 2, Cotchin 2, Deledio, Martin, Gordon, Vickery
GWS: Palmer 3, Cameron 2, Ward, Treloar, Smith, Lobb, Scully

Richmond: Cotchin, Riewoldt, Edwards, Martin, Rance, Maric, Houli
GWS: Treloar, Greene, Shiel, Griffen, Shaw


Votes: Cotchin 1, Riewoldt 2, Treloar 3.



Leave a Comment