Round 18 – Richmond v GWS: Good-bye shabby grandeur, hello state-of-the-art comfort

 

We are off to Punt Road for the VFL game. The game has an early start, beginning at 10:20 am.  At this time of morning, dew must be kicked off the grass. It is difficult to believe that professional footballers playing at the penultimate level in this football-mad State are expected to play at a time normally reserved for Under 10s but such is the life of an AFL hopeful.

 

A surprisingly-large contingent of fans is already here, huddling for protection from the weather. What a wonderful idea it is to schedule curtain-raisers at this historic VFL venue before the main game at the ‘G! We are given a window into the past, when the keen observer could arrive early and take in the last quarter of the reserves game. When I raise my eyes I can see the Sunday morning traffic rolling gently along Punt Road.

 

The Tigers are up against Collingwood today. Looking around the field, I can see the likes of Sam Lloyd, Ben Lennon, Chris Mayne and Mason Cox playing for their careers. Ben Griffiths, one of the unluckiest of the modern players, sustains another serious injury early, continuing his wretched run.

 

As we watch, we are engulfed by old enmities that drag us back to a simpler time, when hard, raw-boned men from these neighbouring workingman’s suburbs clashed on this very turf. It is a reminder of when Footy was local and personal.

 

There is shabbiness in our surroundings; we are sitting in a place that had its heyday nearly a hundred years ago. This antiquated oval was grand once, before retiring for fifty years and recently reopening its gates. During those lost years, it was even almost burned down by a group of homeless “tenants” seeking shelter and warmth from a bitter winter.

 

Today Punt Road Oval exists in a shadow-world, its significance barely perceptible through a splintered light.  It is the runt of the litter in the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct, located spitting distance from the more impressive structures such as the MCG, the refurbished Rectangular Stadium with its futuristic design and Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas. Or should that be Arenae?

 

In real estate terms, it is the worst house in the best street in the suburb.

 

At halt-time we depart and walk briskly to the MCG. The gates have opened, we know that there are still 300 Balcony passes available and we want to sit there again, in the best seats in the house.

 

By one o’clock we have eaten lunch and are safely ensconced in our 21st century surrounds on the Balcony, waiting anxiously for this important game to begin. Good-bye bygone era, hello modern world. Good-bye shabby grandeur, hello state-of-the-art comfort. Good-bye traditional rival, hello plastic AFL construct. On cue, Greater Western Sydney enter the field to an indifferent reception.

 

The Giants are a classy team, despite their recent drop in form, and they begin the game like a runaway train. Richmond’s defence is under extreme pressure early and it cracks open several times during the first twenty minutes. Captain Phil Davis takes repeated intercept marks and creates many opportunities for his team. Lachie Whitfield kicks a simple goal to open their account and their other co-captain, Callan Ward, follows up with a strong mark and true kick for their second. When Toby Greene calmly slots another, the Tigers are looking decidedly sick.

 

A season which had promised so much early, appears to be spiralling down the proverbial gurgler.

 

As the second phase of the game begins, a subtle shift occurs. Richmond’s young team has matured greatly this year and today it refuses to be bullied by their older, more experienced and more fancied rivals. They stem the flow gradually. They lift the intensity with brutal tackling. When tyro Daniel Rioli marks in front of goal, they finally hit back. It is only one goal but it gives heart.

 

Trent Cotchin and the long-kicking Dusty Martin exert their influence with desperate acts and brilliant ball use.  Their leadership is exemplary. Nick Vlastuin is impassable in defence. Richmond’s organised defensive group frustrate their opponents into losing their forward structure, a small but telling victory. Poor discipline leads to two fifty metre penalties as the Tigers stream to what had appeared to be an unlikely lead at half-time.  They score four team goals during this term, a concept that their more self-centred opponents find alien.

 

GWS obsess with nullifying Alex Rance. Their efforts to contain him are in vain as he backs his judgment at every opportunity and is always involved in the action.

 

Jack Riewoldt also has his hands full with a determined full-back but, when he combines with Dusty to kick a fine running goal, the Tiger Army comes to life. No-one loves their heroes more than Tiger fans. Dusty understands that he is exactly where he is meant to be.

 

Richmond’s defence steps up another notch in the third quarter and they strangle their opponents. The Giants make many forays forward during the middle half of the game but they are met with fierce resistance and breath-taking counter punches. Cotchin explodes from half-back and sends Kamdyn McIntosh on a withering run, marred only by a poor kick that misses everything. The young Tiger atones a few minutes later with a cool clutch goal. Rain pelts down, magnifying Richmond’s comfortable 27 point lead.

 

The final stanza is played in difficult conditions. It is during this period that the younger Tigers come of age. They force stoppages, tackle with enthusiasm, fight doggedly for territory and crunch into packs with scant regard for safety. Several attempts to wrest momentum are repulsed vigorously by these committed young men.

 

This is a fighting win, worthy of the spirit of their predecessors from the Punt Road days.  As the final siren rings out, thoughts turn to the second leg of Richmond’s plastic AFL construct tour on the Gold Coast next week.

 

RICHMOND                                    0.2     4.6     8.8     9.10     (64)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY     
3.4     3.5     4.5      6.9      (45)

 

GOALS
Richmond: 
Riewoldt 2, Martin, McIntosh, Lambert, Castagna, Rioli, Caddy, Nankervis
Greater Western Sydney: Haynes, Patton, Greene, Whitfield, Kelly, Ward

BEST 
Richmond:
Martin, Cotchin, Vlastuin, B.Ellis, Rance, Lambert
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Davis, Shiel, Wilson, Williams

INJURIES 
Richmond: 
Nil
Greater Western Sydney: Shiel (right arm)

Reports: Toby Greene (GWS) reported for striking Alex Rance in the first quarter

Umpires: Rosebury, Mitchell, Mollison

Official crowd: 33,467 at the MCG

 

About Joe De Petro

My favourite period in history began with the Summer of Love and came to a sad end with the birth of Disco. It was from 1967 to 1975. What was not to like in those days? The Grateful Dead, Creedence, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond and the mighty Tigers won Premierships every other year. It was a magical time!

Comments

  1. JBanister says:

    Very good work on Punt Road, Joe. I didn’t know about the homeless tenants. I’m sure there are plenty of other ghosts still lurking beneath the old stand!

  2. I do love a cushioned seat in the MCC members. There’s an air of determination about the Tigers now. Maybe lessons have been learned from the silly losses and St Kilda disaster.

  3. Joe De Petro says:

    So do I, Gill.

    The most interesting thing about the game was the way Stevie J, Mumford, Greene and Shaw set about trying to bully the Tigers, as they have done for years. This time, they all found themselves copping it from all angles. Anyone who tried to be physical was targeted and set upon. Stevie J, in particular, was besieged as the Richmond defence took no nonsense from him. Lovely to watch.

    They are slowly coming of age. This may not be their year but they are getting closer.

  4. Joe De Petro says:

    JB, I had a tiny recollection of something having happened there in the 1970s and google revealed all. There are probably more rats and possums than ghosts under the stand.

  5. JBanister says:

    Haha, still brilliant.

    And 100% agree re: the usual GWS pack of antagonists.

    The way Astbury went at Greene after the hit on Rance, although we were playing poorly, was a sign of things to come.

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