Round 16 – Gold Coast v Richmond: The crashing of the seats




What happened at the MCG last Friday night against St. Kilda was inexplicably awful. It was like struggling in a freezing alternative universe where the Tigers were light years away from being remotely competitive. We were trapped in this dimension for decades and now we had been thrust back headlong into it. The sounds were readily familiar – the thump of AFL Records on the back of the seat in front, the cries of exasperation with each misplaced kick or butchered shot at goal and the legendary crashing of the plastic seats – the vacant seat alongside anguished supporters thrust down so that it clunks loudly and bounces straight up again.


Conditions were as frigid as a workday picnic at Casey Station in Antarctica. There were 24,000 seats allocated, with only 14,000 hardy souls showing up.


It was the worst performance by the Tigers in all of the Hardwick years. The relentless, audacious pressure and non-stop running which characterised Richmond’s game went missing. I had assumed that a finals contender playing a mediocre outfit with a penchant for suffering heavy defeats would be a pleasant evening’s engagement at the commencement of the school holidays. One of these heavy defeats was dished out to the tune of 86 points when Richmond mauled them at the Docklands in Round 5. Yet here we suffered a score of 2-10 (22), the lowest total under Dimma’s reign and the club’s worst since the day Des Rowe’s struggling line-up scored 0-8 against St. Kilda, coincidentally, at the Saints’ old Junction Oval headquarters back in 1961.


What is about the Saints? Who could forget the outlandish 67-point loss to this mob in our premiership year of 2017?


It gets worse. Syndesmosis might sound like a Greek island holiday destination. But it’s the official name for ankle injuries suffered by key defenders Nathan Broad and Noah Balta. They might be taking vacations for the remainder of the season after surgery this week. We’ve also lost Lambert and Prestia from the midfield. Lynch and Astbury return, but injuries this year have occurred at such a regular rate that Richmond is finding it immensely difficult to develop any sort of continuity on match days.


I need a less taxing time at the footy tonight. And we might just have what we’re looking for in an away clash against the Gold Coast Suns. The game has been moved to the Docklands here in Melbourne after the entire competition has fled to Victoria, of all places, to outrun the COVID  lockdowns announced by various state premiers. Fate has gifted the Tigers with a game they cannot lose as they lick their wounds from the disaster they experienced at the hands of St. Kilda. After all, Gold Coast is coming off a loss to cellar dwellers North Melbourne and their very existence as a club is under threat. There’s talk of banishing them from Queensland, loading them onto a convict ship and transporting them to Van Dieman’s Land with their AFL licence.


The transplanted Suns are allowed some concessions. The ground announcer introduces each player with zero acknowledgement from the crowd, the stadium officials have allowed a cheer squad member to bang a drum and ads for IGA in Kedron and Indooroopilly are flashed around the perimeter fence.


I am convinced that the match against the Saints was a one-off horror movie. Unfortunately, horror movies can have sequels.


Being annihilated at the centre bounces and losing clearance after clearance. Kicks floating out on the full. Balls lobbed into the forward zone and ending up in the hands of opposition defenders on their lonesome. Undisciplined free kicks conceded by experienced defenders unable to curb their frustration. Tackling pressure exerted for brief five-minute periods before being switched off to conserve an unreliable power supply. No dare, no swagger, no trace of a reigning premiership combination.


Touk Miller carves up his Tiger rivals in the midfield. Ben King finds his range again at full-forward. Brandon Ellis and Jack Lukosius keep finding the ball and using it with decisive effect. The Suns lead for almost the entire game and would have built a winning lead by half-time if they had kicked straight. They are beating the Tigers in every statistical measure. Richmond lingers within reach but is never able to flick the switch to extinguish the suntanned visitors. The Suns respond to every short-lived Richmond challenge. Bolton levels the scores in the second quarter until Ainsworth restores the lead for Gold Coast just before half-time. King puts them up by a game-high 19 points in the third term before Lynch boots three to get the margin under a goal, but the Suns quickly score again.


Sixteen minutes into the final quarter Lynch scores his fifth and the Tigers are up by three points. The Richmond barrackers find their voice and here we go, all the way to the line! Then the Suns strike back with goals to Sharp and King and it’s all over. It’s no good blaming the umpires, as I have done throughout most of the evening. We suffer the unexpected indignity of falling to the Suns for the first time in our home state. At this moment we lay claim to being the weakest team in the League.


I wait for the crashing of the seats, but it doesn’t happen. Richmond supporters file out of the stadium in orderly fashion. My son is in a surprisingly sanguine mood. With a complete lack of sentimentality, he’s already contemplating a club reset with some farewells to a number of beloved premiership heroes and a host of bold moves at the draft table in November in which we have four selections in the top thirty. He believes that If we get it right we can bounce back to flag contention within two or three years.


I overhear a woman talking to her daughter.


“Ah, well. I really wanted one more, but we’ve had a good run.”


It can happen quickly. You attempt to climb that mountain one more time but you fall off the cliff instead. Finals might be out of the question this year.


They seem to come in three, these flags won during premiership dynasties.




GOLD COAST     2.7     5.10     8.14     10.17 (77)
RICHMOND       2.1      5.4         8.5     10.7 (67)



Gold Coast: King 4, Ainsworth, Corbett, Rankine, Sexton, Sharp, Swallow
Richmond: Lynch 5, Bolton, Graham, Martin, Naish, Riewoldt


Gold Coast: Miller, Ballard, Lukosius, King, Swallow, Ainsworth, Ellis
Richmond: Lynch, Houli, Bolton, Baker, Chol 


Gold Coast: Corbett (concussion)
Richmond: Coleman-Jones (calf)


Gold Coast: Macpherson (replaced Corbett)
Richmond: Dow (replaced Coleman-Jones)


Crowd: TBC at Marvel Stadium




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  1. Watching the match last night I had visions of 1975. Different world, vastly different football set up, though 1975 followed two consecutive Richmond flags, with Richmond looking wonky in 1975: similar to 2021. They won their way into the final five,winning their first two finals.

    In 2022 you wonder if names like Cotchin, Houli,Edwards, will grace the playing fields. Riewoldt one more season then?

    After the great run of 1967-1980 Richmond basically spent three decades in the football wilderness. How do they not repeat this?


  2. Stainless says

    John – the best aspect of last night is that it provides clarity. No, we won’t be making a grand charge to the Flag, no, our ageing champions aren’t going to raise another supreme effort, no, Richmond is not the supernatural force that the media’s been building us up as. Makes the future direction a lot more straightforward.

    What it also makes much clearer is how good it was to make the most of our opportunities. Geelong, Sydney, Collingwood, Adelaide, GWS – take note!

    Glen – funny you should mention 1975. After the 2-goal disaster against St Kilda, I discovered that the last time Richmond kicked 2 goals in a game was against Hawthorn in 1975. I noted with interest (relish, even) that the following week, they beat South Melbourne by over 100 points and kicked 26 goals. I anticipated a similar response last night! Oh well…

    As to avoiding another stint in the wilderness, well, the joyride may be over but this is a very different club to the hubris-driven one that gave Tom Hafey his marching orders at the first sign of a drop-off in performance, thus starting the whole debacle that followed.

  3. John Green says

    Thanks Glen. I think Cotchin, Houli and Astbury have been magnificent for us, but the game eventually passes you by. I love these blokes, but unless we have a list refresh we will be a middling side next year and then slide back down again. Richmond has to be adventurous with farewells, trades and drafting this summer if we’re to challenge again in a couple of years. Still, it’s been a great ride and I’m eternally grateful to Dimma and all the players.

  4. John Green says

    Thanks Stainless. The latest travails remind me of 1976. Some exciting wins over leading contenders and some appalling losses to weaker teams. It was the fading out of the glorious 1973-74 flag winners and we finished seventh. Then we added Roach, Weightman, Lee, Rowlings, Wiley and Strachan etc and look what happened. The current players only have so much to give and I reckon they’ve given it all. Time to recalibrate. No complaints from me. It’s been exhilarating.

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