Round 20 – Fremantle v Richmond: All roads lead to Rome


No empires last forever; not even for the Romans.


Rome had been called ‘the eternal city’ by a first century poet. Its many admirers believed that Rome would endure forever despite the rise and fall of rival empires.


I wonder when they realised that their days of world domination were numbered. Was it in 410AD, when the citizens of the great city witnessed long-haired, bearded Visigoths surging through the gate and rampaging along the Via Saleria? These so-called barbarians conquered the city, terrorising its inhabitants and subjecting them to three days of destruction and looting. Rome’s glory days were over.


Or did more seasoned observers note over time the gradual weakening of the once-feared Roman legions, and the filling of their ranks with mercenaries and foreigners from the outermost parts of the empire?


For Richmond supporters musing on the manner in which history repeats, it might have been the capitulation to the Eagles in Perth when we went down by four points after leading by 22 points halfway through the quarter. To other diehards it could have been the rout at the hands of the mediocre Saints when we scored two goals for the entire evening, the inexplicable loss to the Suns at Marvel Stadium or the final quarter collapse against Collingwood. The victory over Brisbane at Metricon when we celebrated Jack’s 300th game in style was an outlier. The Cats swept the floor with us to make it five losses from six games for the crumbling Tiger edifice.


But the Tigers are still only a half a game outside the eight. It’s beyond comprehension. Rivals in GWS, Essendon and Fremantle are unable to maintain form and string together a sequence of wins. For Richmond it’s like staggering blindfolded around a rifle range with bullets flying everywhere and not receiving a single scratch. My son claims that he can see the writing on the wall and wants to finish as low on the ladder as possible in order to maximise upcoming draft selections. As for me, I’m caught up in the macabre fascination of observing which team collapses over the line into eighth position in Round 23 and suffers likely dismemberment when they tangle with the genuine contender finishing fifth.


Fremantle have lost key figures in Nat Fyfe and Michael Walters to injury. Dusty Martin remains in Queensland recuperating from the kidney injury he suffered against the Lions and has been placed in cotton wool for 2022. Dion Prestia is a welcome addition after missing the past four games.


It’s Heritage Round. The Dockers look friendlier in the green, purple and white strip they wore in 1995 when they made their debut against Richmond in the first round of that season, finishing strongly before going down by five points.


They launch a ballistic opening in which they’re all over the visitors. Taberner and Collyer score the first two goals of the match and they could have led by as much as five goals but for their chronic inaccuracy.


But in a monumentally appalling spectacle, the Tigers are just as wasteful. It’s awful to watch. I cringe and sink down into the couch as Parker, Bolton, Riewoldt and Lynch miss what should be regulation six-pointers. Richmond’s only goal of the first half is a fluke from the tenacious Rhyan Mansell, his speculative kick floating and bouncing home from 60 metres out. The backline regularly repels opposition attacks. But the delivery into the forward line is woeful, with long bombs punched clear of Lynch and Riewoldt, who battle against a horde of Docker defenders. They are well-served by Andrew Brayshaw, Hayden Young, David Mundy and Adam Cerra. Cerra grew up barracking for the Tigers and is rumoured to be keen on relocating to Punt Road in 2022 if Richmond is prepared to pay the asking price of a first-round draft pick or two. My son is wary of forking out too much for him.


By now I’m no longer interested in the fortunes of Richmond’s rivals for that last spot in the eight. What’s the point? Richmond has degenerated into the worst team in the competition and has become unwatchable. Even bottom pair Hawthorn and North Melbourne have out-performed them in the past month. I’m feeling exasperated and wonder aloud whether the ABC still runs arts programs on the weekend telly.


The junior fanatic I sired some years ago is now the voice of reason in our household. Finals are out of the question in his view. And he believes that the team is so far gone that a mere refresh is no longer a possibility. He’s looking to a Sydney Swans-style rebuild through the next two drafts and a return to contention in the following year.


The Tigers apply some pressure and start to get the game back on their terms. Prestia glides through the midfield and artfully distributes to Richmond’s runners. Rioli and Stack continue their  renaissance across half-back. Sean Darcy is struggling to counter Nankervis in the ruck. Goals to Matt Parker on either side of three-quarter time reduce the margin to four points. Lambert pounces on a loose ball and drills it home at the nine-minute mark and the Tigers are up by three points, the first time they lead in the match.


Yes! Here we go! But just as it happened against West Coast, Gold Coast and Collingwood, Richmond surrenders its lead and is overrun late in the game. Lachie Schultz takes a spectacular mark and converts. Caleb Serong snaps another one at the 19-minute mark to put the Dockers back in front. I sink into despondency as Richmond fails to score in the last 20 minutes of the game.  Brayshaw repeatedly drives the Tigers out in the frantic final minutes and Richmond supporters watching at home are confronted with another demoralising loss by under a goal, the third time it has happened this season.


They say all roads lead to Rome. And all the roads snaking out from 17 AFL clubs lead to the city-state of the reigning premiers. Eventually the competing clubs work you out and rise to the challenge of unseating you from the throne. They come up with their own strategies and if you’re not careful you can get left behind.


It can happen quickly. The Persians conquered Babylon in a single night when a detachment of soldiers sneaked into the city along a dry riverbed after diverting the course of the Euphrates. The Babylonians didn’t even have time to put their sandals on.


Latin was the language of ancient Rome. I’m reminded of the Latin conjugation taught to us by Brother Fogarty in my first year of secondary school – amo, amas, amat. I love, you love, he/she loves.


Whom do we love? We love the Tigers. I can’t help it and we’re still only a game outside the eight.



FREMANTLE          2.6   2.10   5.12   7.13 (55)
RICHMOND            1.1     1.8    3.14    6.15 (51)


Fremantle: Taberner 3, Schultz 2, Colyer, Serong
Richmond: Parker 2, Riewoldt, Lambert, Lynch, Mansell


Fremantle: Brayshaw, Mundy, Cerra, Ryan, Serong, Taberner, Young
Richmond: Cotchin, Prestia, Stack, Short, Rioli, Lambert


Fremantle: Banfield (concussion)
Richmond: Nil


Fremantle: Connor Blakely (replaced Banfield)
Richmond: Josh Caddy (unused)


Crowd: 24,979 at Optus Stadium

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  1. Thanks John.
    Yes, it’s hard not to keep hoping for some late-season miracles at Tigerland, despite all the evidence of our team’s decline.
    I could only watch the first half of that Freo game and, really, it was the second quarter that did me in. What is it about those big sticks that intimidates professional footballers like this? That the ONLY goal we scored for the entire first half was one kicked by mistake – that was just too much to stomach.

  2. Based on form it seems pointless to make the 8, but the last four years have brought an expectation that was non-existent for 37 years. I am still in shock about 2017.

  3. John Green says

    Thanks Malcolm and Noel. Yes, it was painful to watch. I just hate losing games I expected to win and it makes it worse when the loss is under a goal. Still, all things considered, it’s been an exhilarating run and I’m so grateful to the club for what we’ve experienced. Sometimes I feel the laminated premiership posters on the back of my home office door and laugh for joy.

  4. Well said, John.
    In this era of equalisation, Richmond have done well to win three flags in four years

  5. Peter Fuller says

    I feel your pain about inaccuracy, but can perhaps offer a hint of hope. A few weeks ago, I attended the Carlton-Geelong match. As I arrived late I missed the Blues’ opening goal when the score was 1-2 to Geelong’s 1-0. Carlton then scored 11 behinds in succession, while Geelong progressed to 6-7. Just before 3/4 time Harry McKay delivered the 2nd goal. With the game well and truly gone, the Blues managed three successive goals in junk time to create an illusion that the match had simulated a contest. Fast forward to last Friday, when they couldn’t miss, reaching 17-2 before a couple of late behinds to complete the scoring. Deliverance for the Tigers’ accuracy woes may be at hand!
    Your boys seem to have developed a sane attitude to the sport, no doubt a product of the character-forming experience of growing up during the long barren period, 1983-2016. We Carlton supporters are enduring something similar. My sons are in the Geelong camp and I was pleased for them that they remained loyal during long years of disappointment, before being rewarded from 2007.

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