Round 18 – Richmond v GWS: Can I say the ‘F’ word yet?

 

Sunday dawns with grey skies overhead, but my Tigerish optimism is brightening things. I haven’t been this excited for the footy in a while.

 

Today is season-defining. A win and we’re in the four. We haven’t been there so late in a season since 2001, when I was in the first grade. A loss and we’re on the edge of the abyss – and by the abyss, I mean ninth.

 

But I’m confident. The Giants are still injury-ravaged, and not in great form. We should be good enough. We have to be good enough. If we aren’t, I reckon it says a lot.

 

The VFL is first. I’m late, because it’s Sunday.

 

The view as my train rolls into Richmond Station is a throwback – Punt Road, full of figures in yellow and black and black and white, with the old grandstand in the background and a handful of kids kicking their Sherrins on the hill.

 

The light towers of the MCG loom over the old ground, a reminder that it’s only the 2s playing and that footy has moved on from those glorious suburban days. The built-up log jam of traffic on Punt Road and the occasional blaring car horn bring me back to the 21st century.

 

Ben Griffiths has already gone off with a dislocated shoulder. He is, in my eyes, a very important piece of the puzzle, but it’s starting to look a little like he might have accidentally run afoul of the vacuum cleaner.

 

My suspicion that Chris Mayne is a very good VFL player is quickly confirmed. Lennon is playing in the midfield. Chol is spending time down back. I like that we’re adding strings to the bows of these guys. And I really like Tyson Stengle, every time he goes near the footy.

 

I head to the ‘G at three-quarter time and settle in. The heavens can’t decide if they want to open, or if they’d rather stay shut. It rains on and off before the start.

 

The first quarter is just frustrating. I don’t think we’re terrible – we’re actually getting plenty of the ball out in space. But we just can’t hit a target going inside fifty.

 

The frustrated Tiger army needs somewhere to focus their building anger, and on cue, two predictable villains establish themselves.

 

Toby Greene is the first. He goes on report for a jumper punch on Alex Rance.

 

The umpires are the second. They just can’t put the whistle away.

 

I haven’t given up at quarter-time, but I’m frustrated and worried. We have to improve, and fast.

 

Rioli settles the nerves early in the second, and then Grigg finds Dusty in the square for another.

 

Lamberts snap to put us within a point and the crowd is truly, truly back involved. This is not Etihad and we’re certainly not playing a bottom-side. The ‘G is alive. The faithful can sense how important the rest of this game is.

 

When Jack bobs up in the square, reading it better than everyone around him, we’re in front and the second quarter has totally reversed the first. The Giants have a solitary behind since the break. I scurry off to find coffee and the warmth it brings, my optimism restored.

 

We get an early one in the third but then the heavens decide to really let it rip. Our polish disappears, but thankfully, the Giants struggle just as much.

 

A long kick into the path of Steve Johnson leaves Rance as the only man capable of stopping a certain goal. He’s got some ground to make up but he leaves his man early, tearing towards the loose footy.

 

Now, there’s going in hard, and then there’s going in like Alex Rance. He’s a bull, easily spurred into a frenzy by the sight of a loose red Sherrin.

 

He gets there just as Johnson tries to kick the ball out of the air. He was always going to get there. It’s the first big moment in a quarter of them.

 

The next belongs to Riewoldt, who shows his smarts, palming the ball sideways to Grigg rather than trying to gather it himself under pressure from behind. It’s a stroke of genius and deservedly earns us a steadying goal.

 

And then, Toby Nankervis provides the moment to end all moments.

 

He palms out the ruck to Caddy and runs on to get it back, but he’s heading straight into a tackle. Then he throws out the stiff-arm, the don’t argue, and leaves a Giant sprawled on the wet MCG turf. It’s already brilliant.

 

And then he screws this mongrel left-foot grubber of a kick towards goal. It shouldn’t be able to bounce straight, but it does, and Jack’s there to shepherd it through.

 

O ruckmen. Please, please, never leave.

 

The rain continues to tumble down. It soothes my “leading at three-quarter time” nerves a touch. Surely, surely, we can’t mess this up now.

 

Kelly goals early for GWS. We’re robbed of a goal on review. There’s a totally mind-blowing call of deliberate against Rance. Patton goals. The rain has lightened, almost disappeared. Send help.

 

But then Castagna seals it. We’re home, we’re in the four. Give me some of that live ladder.

 

After the game, I walk along the river back to Flinders Street.

 

I’m bloody frozen and my jeans are still drying, but I don’t care. It’s the perfect middle-of-winter Melbourne Sunday.

 

I’ve never seen us a play a final but I’m keen to give it a go.

 

Or am I getting ahead of myself?

 

Maybe – but I really hope someone tells Cotch to kick with the wind. Unless we’re at Etihad, in which case, I hope we go with the natural drift.

 

 

About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.

Comments

  1. Finals finals finals finals finals!

  2. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    It must really be a case of ‘it’s not over til the yellow and black sing’ for you poor scarred Tiges. My Cob had even decided you were ‘giving it away’ with a 20 point lead in the last Q!!
    Hope you found physical warmth to accompany the soul one, Jack.

  3. Joe De Petro says:

    Sounds like we had a similar day, Jack, right down to being afraid to use the F word.

  4. JBanister says:

    It seems like we’re running out of ways to mess it up, Joe!

    Mathilde – but for the rain, I think I would’ve been a lot more nervy. For the neutral, I imagine it would’ve been hard to see anyone finding 2-3 goals in those conditions!

  5. C. Mills says:

    dont get too far ahead of yourselves remember the St Kilda Match, only saying its an even year and anything can and will happen, but good luck to all you long suffering Tige supporters

  6. I wasn’t St Kilda-level worried at quarter time. The Tigers just needed to adjust a little (whereas against St Kilda they needed to turn up at the ground) and they were great at adapting to the rain.

    God I hope the Tigers have an F at the MCG.

  7. Peter Warrington says:

    that was a real 1994 sort of win, scrubby and determined.

    agree on the Rance “not enough endeavour” free, one of the worst. also couldn’t see how the goal was overruled, looked to me like the defender bumped the post and the ball didn’t deviate

    danger game this week. Eade coaching for his life. lucky we are better away from home than at home.

    Hawthorn still a smokey for the flag and I would love us to finish them off

    still, in the great ladder predictor of life, I don’t know how we can get past the Crows or the Cats. maybe we need to get lucky, hope there are some upsets in week 1 (if we get there…)

Leave a Comment

*