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Round 15 – Richmond v Sydney: Red-blooded humanity amidst the gloom.

Despite its many re-brandings, Docklands Stadium has always been a cold, soulless venue.

 

The football played there seems to take on a similar aura.  I recall a disproportionate number of serious, freakish injuries on its hard, patchy surface.  Supporters of other clubs will doubtless recall others but for Richmond, the gory list includes Richo’s foot, Wayne Campbell’s Achilles tendon (celebrating a goal no less), Mark Dragicevic’s career-ending knee injuries (twice) and of course, those horrible leg-breaks for Nathan Brown and Clinton King.  Under the harsh lights and the misty atmosphere, these unfortunate young men have appeared to me as sacrificial victims at the Temple of Medallionclub, the God of corporate entertainment.

 

Last night, poor, unlucky Reece Conca became the latest of these victims, snapping his ankle in a crunching tackle.  We may be sceptical about the genuine feelings of players as they posture, banter and celebrate, but no-one who heard Reece’s screams of agony would have a second’s doubt about the brutal reality of his injury.  The cruel irony was lost on no-one that this was his 100th game, doggedly achieved over eight injury-ravaged seasons and during a rare burst of consistent form.  Truly Medallionclub is a malevolent bastard.

 

Recalling the pall of gloom that descended on that dreadful night that Nathan Brown broke his leg, I feared for what this incident might do to this match, so eagerly anticipated.  To say that we were witness to a consummate display of “the show must go on” scarcely does justice to the humanity displayed by players of both sides.  As Conca was stretchered from the field, the display of public affection from the entire Richmond team was most obvious and natural for a member of their “family”.  But it was the similar gesture from Sydney’s Gary Rohan that was even more poignant.  It spoke volumes of the professional and personal empathy amongst the players.  Rohan, better than most, knows the risks that they take each time they cross the white line and that you never know when your number will be up.

 

It is seems scarcely right to comment in depth about the game that played out after Conca’s sad departure.  However, that it was a contest worthy of many pages of analysis is again a tremendous reflection on the participants.  Trite though it sounds to say that Richmond lifted in response to their team mate’s plight, the fact remains that they slammed on five unanswered goals from that point to the end of the first quarter.  It was their best footy of the match and the decisive period in determining the outcome.  Equally trite it sounds to talk about leadership in this context, but this was truly a game where the leaders of both sides played to their absolute best.  Jack Riewoldt’s 16-mark performance would rate as one of the individual games of the season, yet it was closely matched by the contributions of Vlastuin, Lambert, Edwards, Kennedy and Parker. Their mental resolve in what must have been an emotionally turbulent night left me in awe.

 

Amidst all this, the much-anticipated Lance-Rance contest was relegated to relative side-show status.  No doubt, Buddy’s presence and (for once) lethally accurate left foot posed the most serious threats to the Tigers.  But in truth these threats were intermittent at best and would have been even less without the overly-dramatic intrusion of the officials.  Rance’s game was steady by his extraordinary standards but it is a measure of how far this team has progressed that he was never required to repeat his ultimately doomed heroics of the corresponding game in 2017, even as the Swans launched a late challenge.

 

So it was that the night ended with the result that the Tiger faithful had hoped for.  Perhaps our most significant win  so far this year and arguably more convincing than the scores suggest.  Yet the warmth of victory feels pretty tepid today as I reflect on its cost.  As I dare to dream about what might 2018 hold for this group, I have to remind myself that the results are really just make-believe but the physical price that the players pay is real indeed.

 

Speedy recovery, Reece.  Love your work.

 

RICHMOND     6.1       7.2       11.5     14.9 (93)
SYDNEY           3.1       5.1       10.1     11.1 (67)

GOALS
Richmond:
Riewoldt 3, Lambert 3, Short 2, Butler 2, Rioli, Vlastuin, Caddy, Edwards

Sydney: Franklin 4, Ronke 2, Florent 2, Parker 2, Hayward

 

BEST
Richmond: Riewoldt, Edwards, Lambert, Vlastuin, Cotchin, Nankervis, Astbury

Sydney: Kennedy, Franklin, Hewett, Parker, Lloyd

 

INJURIES
Richmond: Conca (ankle)
Sydney: Heeney (concussion)

 

Umpires: Stevic, Chamberlain, Findlay

 

Crowd: 43,519 at Etihad Stadium

 

 

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About Sam Steele

Stainless (aka Sam Steele) started following Richmond in 1970 when he was 6. This occurred when his mother, under instructions to buy him a Melbourne jumper, found they were out of stock and purchased a Richmond one instead. Despite the decades of heartache and turmoil this fateful decision has brought on Stainless, he is grateful to his mum as he has at least seen his side win a couple of Premierships. After 30 September 2017, his mum is now officially his favourite person.

Comments

  1. Your guys were just too good on the night, Stainless, and made the most of our errors and turnovers. I wonder if we’ll meet again in the finals?

  2. Stainless says:

    Well it seems that Conca’s injury isn’t as bad as first feared. Doesn’t change the sentiment of my piece – the game is brutal sometimes. Docklands claimed a few more victims to night by the look of it.

  3. G’day Stainless. Docklands, Marvel, Colonial, Etihad, what is this soulless TV set best called?

    Any how to cut to the point this is the best game I’ve watched this year. 1 V 2, with 1 winning after a mighty tussle. It’s the best game I’ve seen your Riewoldt play. Your title defence looks strong. I recall 1973-74, can it happen again?

    Intrigued when did a side last kick a score as accurate as 11-1? I recall Geelong kicking 15-2 in 1970, then 10-3 in 1972: both times against Richmond, but only a solitary minor in the final score ? Intrigued.

    Glen!

  4. Joe De Petro says:

    Loved reading this, Stainless. Medallionclub is indeed a malevolent deity.

  5. Stainless says:

    Jan – agree that the Swans’ bottom half dozen were way less effective than Richmond’s. Even players who did some good things, like Florent, made some critical errors and some experienced hands like Jack and Hannebery seem badly out of form.

    Glen – a lot to like about the Tigers right now but let’s keep the lid on this BTB talk!. It’s funny how when it’s your team you don’t notice the inherent quality of a game. I thought it was pretty intense and compelling but the best game of the year?? Not so sure. Certainly agree with your comment on Riewoldt and our defence. With normal accuracy and restricted to just 12 scoring shots, Sydney might have only scored 6-7 goals on the night and been comprehensively beaten. And what would be saying about the game then? And on accuracy, I don’t know the answer to your question, but if you’re interested in a bit of statistical trivia, Richmond 14.2 86 lost to North 11.21 87 in Round 13 1944. It’s the only time a team has lost a game in VFL/AFL history despite kicking three more goals than its opponent!

    Thanks Joe – As you can tell, I’m not a fan of this stadium and it was ridiculous scheduling by the AFL to put this one on at Etihad on a Thursday. The same fixture last year at the G on a Saturday afternoon got 59,000, and that was when both sides were mid-table. Blind Freddy could have seen that this would be a big game in 2018, yet the body that devises the draw with the objective of “maximising attendances” comes up with this doozy!

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