Round 21: Tigers are still doing time

By John Green

I have a cousin who spent most of his adult life in gaol.
Try as he might, he simply couldn’t escape the culture. It all started when he was 17 and things pretty much went downhill from there. He was unable to make a fist of things outside the prison walls, invariably re-offending and finding himself back in the big house.
Richmond is in a similar situation to my unfortunate relative.
Apart from the brief experience of finals action in 1995 and 2001, the Tigers have been confined to the lower reaches of the ladder ever since they played off in the 1982 Grand Final. No-one does that sort of time these days but Richmond. Someone has thrown away the key.
The Tigers can’t break out. Two of their old prison mates from 2004, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs, succeeded in jumping the wall. Today the Tigers renew their acquaintance with the Hawks.
Will they show mercy to us because of Graham Polak, making his first senior appearance since almost losing his life when hit by a tram 14 months ago? Will they extend any favours to an old cellmate?
Sure, the Hawks are back inside (outside the eight), but they’re only on remand. After winning the flag in ’08 they have run into a spot of bother, but it will soon be sorted out.  They are like corporate high flyers caught fudging their tax returns. They could be back in business again in the next week or so, or at the very least, in 2010 when they will surely launch another challenge at the title.
The game resembles a scrap in the prison yard for the first quarter or so. It’s tight and goals are at a premium. Buddy Franklin frequently tangles with at least two Tigers but keeps getting his mitts on the ball. Just like the two meetings between the clubs in 2008, when he booted a grand total of 4.13, he is strangely off target.
In the second term Hawthorn’s ex-cons assume control of the midfield. Mitchell, Sewell, Hodge and Bateman home in the ball and share it around. Too much experience, too much big game finesse for their opponents. Franklin is a constant danger in attack and he receives back-up in the form of Dowler and Osborne. Cyril Rioli causes a spillage with a ferocious tackle, dives into the resulting pack, seizes the pill and exits the way he came, spearing it through for a goal. The Hawthorn supporters have their own opportunity to welcome back a missing son in beanpole Max Bailey, returning to the fray after two knee reconstructions and three years on the sidelines.
The Hawks threaten to break the game open at several junctures but squander opportunities in front of goal. Somehow the Tigers stay within reach. Deledio, Cousins and Jackson lead the resistance. Reiwoldt and Morton make timely contributions. Polak thrills yellow and black hearts when he pounces on the redoubtable Luke Hodge and initiates a chain of handballs, resulting seconds later in a Ben Cousins goal.
Late in the third quarter Richmond trails by only 16 points. Then Cousins grabs the ball in defence, attempts to side-step Franklin and is promptly cleaned up by a Buddy shirtfront. The ball flies clear and Dowler scores. Cousins is motionless on the turf and the Richmond supporters are baying for blood; both Franklin’s and the umpires. Luke McGuane, who has battled gamely against Franklin for most of the evening, insists on flying the flag and delivers a mild blow to the chest of Osborne. Osborne gratefully accepts the resulting free and makes it two goals for the price of one. A groggy Cousins is assisted from the field by trainers.
The match is effectively over from this point.
Hawthorn fans know this one is in the bag. Every time a score from the Brisbane-Port Adelaide clash is flashed on the scoreboard there is a roar of approval. The Lions are coming back after falling behind by almost eight goals in the opening term. As long as the Lions win, as they eventually do, the Hawks are still in the hunt for a late spot in the finals. It is a throwback to the past when all six matches were played on the Saturday afternoon and results needed to go your way in the final round to secure a place in the four.
The siren sounds with Hawthorn victorious by a comfortable 42 points.
That’s it for the Tigers in Melbourne for season 2009. They head west next week to take on the West Coast Eagles. Visiting hours are over.
Don’t worry boys, we won’t forget you over the summer. We’ll keep turning up in 2010 hoping for a  change of fortune under a new coach, or perhaps early parole.
After all, it’s not a life sentence we’re facing.
Is it?

My best: 3 Mitchell, 2 Franklin, 1 Sewell.

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