Round 22 – Richmond v Essendon: Footy and other things

Richmond v Essendon

7:50PM, Friday August 17




I hadn’t anticipated much from this match. Yes, there was a chance that my brother’s beloved Bombers could make a late charge at September, Richmond’s 20th consecutive win at the venue was on the line and there is a great historic rivalry alongside the superb celebration and recognition of a greater history that is Dreamtime at the ‘G.


But this wasn’t going to be a match like Dreamtime. Someone in marketing for the AFL had “dreamt” up the Clash of the Sash for the return bout a few years ago, which has always felt like insipid branding to me. So insipid that I don’t think I saw it promoted anywhere at all this year.


With the names Cotchin, Lambert and Prestia absent from the team sheet, the only thing I was  really invested in was if Jack (Riewoldt that is) could kick a bag on the way to a third Coleman.


That is until a man who garnered just 19 votes in Queensland made a speech that jolted most of Australia with its mention of a “final solution” for the immigration “problem” – only to be staunchly defended by both the speech-maker and his party leader, Bob Katter.


It was beyond shameful and they were rightly pilloried by most for it.


In the shadows of rancor and uproar, the two clubs scheduled to play on Friday night put out a small announcement over social media:


A proud moment for the clubs.


That two young men, divided by the colours of their jumpers, would offer to make such a simple, heartfelt and clear gesture (alongside captains Riewoldt and Dyson Heppell) by shaking hands and standing side-by-side at the toss of the coin was heartening.


There was outrage (some of it seemed very confected) at politics getting involved in sport. This argument has never washed with me, given that the very invention of competitive sport was highly political, sport has been a great vehicle for inclusion and continues to be & as so clearly articulated by the women’s rights movement: “the personal is political.”


Sport is part of Houli and Saad’s lives, just as Islam is, just as being Australian is. For them, simply pulling on a jumper is an act that resonates in the politics of our society. Bachar has expressed just how difficult it was for him to even play junior footy given how his parents felt about it; now he is a hero to thousands, hailing from all over the place (in the wonderful words of Tigers cheer-squad member Yogi Thurairatnam: Many beliefs, Many cultures, ONE TIGER ARMY).


The act itself was ever so brief – all of a few seconds, accompanied by applause from the gathering crowd before the quartet returned to their huddles.  They didn’t need long – they were there to show solidarity with Australians who were maligned terribly and then they were there to play footy.


It was a mere fraction of the time taken up by the speech. A drop in the ocean of responses in the media.


But it was powerful in its own way.


The game played out largely how I’d expected – Richmond were the better team, Essendon tried hard, both made errors borne of pressure and lapsed concentration.


Jack didn’t do enough to put paid to his claim on the Coleman.


Bachar was hardly more than serviceable for most of the night, however he delivered a few passes with that exquisite left boot of his. For a player who has blossomed at Tigerland & was a whisker away from a Norm Smith Medal, it was far from his best ever performance.


Saad however was one of Essendon’s best – he truly played like he could take on all comers and he did it mostly successfully, until Daniel Rioli ran down the Dons speedster with under a minute remaining in the game’s major highlight. We never weaken ’til the final siren’s gone…


To know footy is to know joy (and unfortunately sorrow) through community. Passion. Sensory overloads. Belonging.


Bachar Houli and Adam Saad belong to this great game of ours. They belong because of this game. They belong because of who they are. Long may they inspire through their deeds and their words, speech be damned.



RICHMOND   4.0   5.6  10.8  12.9 (81)
ESSENDON   2.3   4.4   7.5   11.7 (73)

Richmond: Caddy 4, Martin 4, Riewoldt 2, Castagna, Baker
Essendon: Hooker 3, Brown 2, Baguley, Colyer, Smith, Parish, Stringer, Bellchambers

Richmond: Martin, Caddy, Rance, Short, Edwards, Ellis
Essendon: Smith, Zaharakis, Saad, Heppell, Bellchambers, McGrath

Crowd: 76,424




A classic jack of all trades & master of a couple, Jarrod started his footy career as a gangly ruck after a growth spurt catapulted him to the lofty heights of 177cm as a 12-year-old. Forward pocket off the bench was where he ended up as he topped out at 178cm eight years later. The trajectory of a career in health fortunately didn't peak during the pre-teen years & a keen interest in footy has turned from playing to coaching, volunteering and writing.


  1. And so say all of us, Jarrod!

  2. Too right, Stainless. Glad we have such an upstanding bloke as part of our club too!

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Unity through diversity. Fine gesture by both clubs. Enough hate-mongering and stereotyping of minorities. Enough. Cheers Jarrod.

  4. Hi Jarrod

    I’ve really missed watching Houli out on the green this year. After some patchy seasons he was a highlight during the 2017 premiership year as he steadily put in his best efforts throughout.
    Good to see him back but I missed most of the game Friday..thanks for your words.
    Re those other words that emanated from Canberra last week, like many, I was shocked. But it did make me stop and think how it must feel to be a particular group on the receiving end of such public statements in the year 2018!! Be it Footy, soccer tennis or bowls sport in this country is a universal language connecting community. Well said Hoult and Saad.
    Go tiges!

  5. Chris rees says

    Thanks Jarrod, well said

  6. As the clips at the end of Spike Lee’s new film “BlacKkKlansman” flash across the screen, we are very sadly reminded that racism, in all its ugly manifestations, is still well and truly alive in 2018. And not just in the USA. Shame on certain Australian politicians, and shame on their supporters!

    Thanks for sharing my sentiments, Jarrod.

  7. Joe De Petro says

    I really love that Many beliefs, many cultures flag, Jarrod. It really speaks to the inclusiveness of sport.

    Wave after wave of migrants have been accepted by this country, sometimes it has taken longer that it should, but we have got there in the end. Sport has played a huge part in this. I suspect our nineteen vote Politician has led a sheltered life.

    Good on Bachar and Adam. Their gesture was low-key but powerful.

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