Round 20 – Richmond v Hawthorn: Cheering for Dusty


There finally came a poignant moment late in the game when the cheering for Dusty echoed around the ‘G.


This eagerly anticipated contest had amounted to little. After six weeks of matching it with the competition’s best, Hawthorn’s resistance had given way with surprising meekness to the relentless pressure of the Richmond rat-pack. Yet even as the margin mounted towards eight goals, the Richmond faithful would not call it, scarred as we are by memories of those awful earlier fadeouts. The defiant but undermanned Hawks fought valiantly against the tide. The forty-six point margin dropped to 26. Seeking reassurance, I nervously compared the margin with those other games. As the last quarter dragged on, unfavourable score reviews tried my temperament as did our botched attempts to ice the game. Ultimately the march of time ensured that the contest was done and the reward of a finals berth that this game had teasingly promised was now a certainty.


The players seemed to recognise the moment too. Suddenly their manic attack on ball and opponent vanished, replaced by languid back passes, winding down the clock. The crowd, already thinning, grew quiet, with merely an occasional growl of frustration at the display of “keepings-off”.


Until the ball fell to Dusty, alone on the southern side wing. And the cheering began.


It wasn’t the enthusiastic ovation that sometimes greets a player who’s played a blinder and comes to the bench with the game won. No, this was a strange, slightly wistful sound, devoid of the usual full-throated Richmond blood lust. It spoke of grateful, almost loving, appreciation of a season’s work that we will savour in our memories for ever, whatever happens from now until the end of September. Of course it also held an imploring note, the vocal equivalent of Chris Grant’s legendary 20-cent-piece letter.


In truth, this wasn’t one of Martin’s best games, and in this statement his current stature in the game can be seen. Needing early momentum after half time, who provided two critical goals to swing the contest inexorably Richmond’s way? Who, as nerves threatened to fray in the final stanza, calmly bulldozed his way through a pack of Hawthorn players and deftly passed the ball to Prestia to kick the match-winning goal? Having declared at the last change that “Martin looks unlikely to poll Brownlow votes this week”, I sat back and marvelled at a 12 possession final quarter full of trademark bullocking charges and exquisite field kicking that lit up an otherwise drab affair and gift-wrapped Richmond’s most important win of the year.



Where the coming weeks take Martin and the Tigers is a fascinating unwritten chapter in the already engrossing saga of the 2017 season. But right now, Martin is the iconic player of this season bar none. My words cannot encapsulate what the tattooed one has contributed better than this image created by my nephew Ben. Ben hails from rugby league territory in northern NSW. After arriving in Melbourne to study in 2016, his AFL conversion began with a brief dalliance with Hawthorn that ended traumatically with Isaac Smith’s errant boot in the Qualifying Final. Recognising that the joy of success in the expectation of pain is preferable to the shock of failure in the expectation of triumph, Ben has wisely converted to the Tigers and has accompanied me to many of our games this year.


I might be biased but I think this picture compares favourably with some of the great player portraits that have graced the covers of the Almanac over the last decade.

About Sam Steele

50 years a Richmond supporter. Enjoying a bounteous time after 37 years of drought. Should've been a farmer!


  1. Joe De Petro says

    I thought a number of players took another step on the weekend, Lambert, Astbury, Broad, even Soldo.

    Dusty just hung around behind them, popping up if needed. He also did his usual thing of being awesome in the last quarter.

  2. Stainless says


    The most satisfying aspect of this game was just the solid team performance and their evenness across the whole game. Most un-Richmond-like!

    I agree on all the names above but I don’t think there was a single player who didn’t do their bit.

    I’m enjoying your articles on the Tiges too BTW.

  3. Joe De Petro says

    Thanks, Sam.

    Let’s hope they follow up with another even performance this weekend.

  4. steve todorovic says

    I get a lot of correspondence with the Almanac tag ( way too much in fact, but that’s another matter) that go straight to the waste bin, but I always look forward to reading articles from both of you guys. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that we all have a double dose of the yellow and black gene and that we ‘re all of roughly the same old crusty vintage. I’m a little older than you Stainless, so have the luxury of still having the vivid memories of the ’67 and ’69 flags etched into the memory bank. I loved this particular article. It resonates perfectly with my thoughts on Dusty’s season. Not a game goes by now where he doesn’t impact in some way on the result. Sometimes it’s a sledgehammer approach, kicking goals from 50 with all the glory, other times it’s simply a deftly weighted pass to someone in better position . I can’t remember a better individual season from a Richmond player since about 1980, the year that Geoff Raines set the G alight almost every other weekend, Prior to that, you need to go back to Hart, Bartlett and Bourke doing their things in the 70’s. Loved the art work from your nephew. It’s quite brilliant and I’m sure the club would be interested in perhaps merchandising it, if he’s at all interested.
    Sam, I particularly loved your quote about the joy of success in the expectation of pain being preferable to the shock of failure in the expectation of triumph. It sums up the two clubs so perfectly. Let’s hope that the joy of success continues to deliver this season, knowing that we are so well practised in the expectation of pain.

  5. Grant Fraser says

    “the joy of success in the expectation of pain is preferable to the shock of failure in the expectation of triumph”.

    “Between grief and nothing… I’ll take grief”.

    Stainless Steele, Ed Rooney….poets for the now generation.

  6. Sam
    Loved your article.
    As a Hawks supporter, can only agree with your account of Dusty. I hope he gets to the finals fit well and unnoticed by the MRP
    I hope Ben will enjoy success in the expectation of failure. Sounds like a true Richmond supporter.

  7. Well we got our man.
    Watched his ‘announcement’ on the Footy Show and was struck by the fragility of the man. Quite a contrast to the on-field raging bull.
    I hope it works out all round.

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