Round 15 – Richmond v Carlton: The sum of all fears



Even though I don’t have too many fears in my life, there are certain things that make me anxious.

My biggest fear is losing to Carlton. I think it stems from the childhood trauma of watching Richmond go down in the 1972 Grand Final in a nightmarish, free-scoring apocalypse in which 28 opposition goals rained down on us. In the opening round of 2009 we introduced Ben Cousins in yellow and black for the very first time in a match which was meant to herald Richmond’s re-ascension to greatness. Cousins twanged his hamstring and the Blues obliterated us by 83 points. Brock McLean accidentally booted the winning goal in 2012 when he missed his marking target in the square and the ball skidded across the line. The Tigers were overrun despite enjoying substantial leads late in the 2013 season and in the infamous elimination final loss a couple of weeks later, when Carlton were only there because of Essendon’s suspension from the finals.

I also have an irrational fear of SBS World News host Lee Lin Chin, but this discussion can wait for another time.

We’ve been informed that after a spate of shoot-outs earlier in the season that scoring in AFL matches has fallen away to its lowest level since 1968. Dermott Brereton made the point in an article in the Herald-Sun that it is easier for coaches to tutor developing teams in defence than to opt for an attacking mindset. Hence if you get beaten you’re not beaten by too much. Coaches avoid the blow-outs which make club board members twitchy whenever contracts are being renewed. My son chooses to stay at home and watch Richmond take on Carlton on the telly. It proves to be an inspired choice, as the punters who turn up to the MCG on a cold July night witness an exhibition of what’s so unattractive about the modern game.

Stoppages occur in sets. If you get a ball-up you can safely reach for the thermos because there are at least two more to come and you won’t miss a thing. Thirty blokes surround the ruckmen. Teams crowd the opposition forward zone with everyone on duty, midfielders and forwards included, to ensure there is no space for attackers to lead in to. Ball carriers are relentlessly tackled and brought to the turf. The footy is constantly passed to the opposite side of the park in a fruitless attempt to find a way through the traffic. Hardly anyone scores. It’s exasperating and of zero entertainment value.

The Blues are forced wide to take shots at goal. They keep missing. Richmond constantly relinquish the ball when entering their 50-metre zone with appalling errors by hand and foot.

Highlights are rare. Levi Casboult unleashes a 65-metre punt to register Carlton’s sole major of the opening term. Former Bluebagger Shaun Hampson proves a worthy replacement for the suspended Ivan Maric in the ruck. Alex Rance is supreme in defence. Jack Riewoldt is a creative force both in attack and in his forays upfield to assist his less gifted teammates.

The Tigers lead from the outset. They make the decisive break in the third quarter with goals to Riewoldt (twice), Grigg and Cotchin to put themselves up by 35 points at the 15-minute mark. The Blues have only two goals on the board to this point and appear most unlikely to make any headway. Still, they manage to score a couple of majors. Then Matthew Kreuzer suffers one of the all-time great umpiring howlers when he takes a clear mark over the top of a pack, only to see the ball awarded to Nick Vlaustin, the man in front who seizes it as Kreuzer descends to earth. He was within scoring distance and the Carlton supporters are irate. Their tiny flame flickers and is extinguished.

Richmond wins by five goals. That’s about it, really. Apart from some video analysis by the competing clubs, this match will be completely forgotten, as it should be.

It’s very important to overcome our fears. I’m grateful that Richmond has delivered another win over a rival that has caused me considerable distress over the years. I’m not pushing my luck, however. I’m staying away from the SBS World News.



  1. John Butler says

    Your Lee Lin Chin issues sound like they deserve more examination than the game JG. Lacklustre it was, indeed.

    I remember ’72. :) Also ’73. :( Hence, I’ll never waste too much sympathy on the Tiges.

    However, it is quintessentially Richmond that they’ve beaten so many top teams this year, have won 7 out of 8, yet in some intangible way fail to completely convince.

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