Round 4 – Richmond v Melbourne: A night to remember

The start is tense. It’s exciting. Howie hasn’t taken a hanger yet. It’s only early days. I need to settle down. They aren’t out of the rooms yet.

On the eve of Australia’s most important day of the year, Melbourne Football Club are to play their first Friday night game in 100 years. Or, so it seemed. When you make a habit of erasing demoralising defeats from your memory, you have to go back a fair way to find a Dees Friday night game.

We find ourselves against Richmond on the hallowed turf of the MCG. Ronald Dale was there looking fit enough to strap on the boots. It’s not that long ago that I was wishing he was out there. Only last week in fact, more as a coach though, giving a Zantuck style spray. He was there to help commemorate ANZAC Day. If not for the ANZACs, life would not be as free as it is and footy at the ‘G would not be possible. We should be so grateful.

Both teams ran through the banner together. Almost as one. It wouldn’t be until late in the third quarter that a gap between the two sides would start to appear. When the siren sounded to commence proceedings, Bernie picked up where he left off last week. This time he got into Cotchin’s face. He gives away a free kick that leads to a goal shortly after. Giving away the first goal has me shifting uncomfortably on the lounge. It’s not the start I hoped for.

It’s not long before Dunn launches a good old-fashioned torpy. This was no disciplined precision kick to a contest at the boundary line. My phone alerts me to an SMS. Surely it’s too early to be sledged. It’s my old mate Trav just making sure I saw the torpy. I imagine a smile appeared under Ronald Dale’s moustache at the sight of it. I hope he enjoys the night. Shortly after, Dawes shows strength and kicks a goal on the back of some good body work. I settle down. Salem is moving well. He’s comfortable in the number 3. I like how he tapes up his thumb. He looks like a battler. Kent puts on a big tackle and is rewarded. He looks menacing. Kennedy Harris is flashy but hits the post. Dawes goals soon after. It’s an arm wrestle. Cross hits the post. There’s a nice goal by the Tiges from the boundary and then not long after, Kennedy Harris gets one back and the Dees lead by 11. Umpire 29 bends over to place the ball on the slippery surface before wiping his hands prior to the centre bounce. We’re lucky he doesn’t share Blake Shinn’s tailor. The Tiges get another and blow a few chances – they are inaccurate.  Griffiths takes a hanger. It’s a beauty. At quarter time the Dees go in three points up. Their defensive pressure has been good. However, it has been the same story the past three weeks and we are sitting one and two. I can’t get carried away. At quarter time I think about setting my alarm for the next day’s dawn service but I don’t want to move.

The second quarter is more of the same. Garland gets pinned for holding the ball, Riewoldt hits the post and the crowd gives Watts something that sounds like a bronx cheer. He’s a kid lacking in confidence. He’ll come good. He could make the tiges pay later. It might not be tonight. Perhaps in a year or two. I wouldn’t be giving him any ammunition. Dusty Martin disagrees. He pushes Watts in the back after he marks and gives away a fifty. Watts goals. Dees by 2 points. Kent does a hammy. The Tiges young debutant Nathan Drummond does what looks like a cruciate. My heart sinks and I squirm at the replays. Poor kid. I wish him well. It worries me that there is nothing more tigerish than a wounded tiger. A few spot fires break out. There’s a bit of feeling. Not in my arm though. It has gone dead from lying on it but I refuse to move whilst we are travelling okay. It sounds like the crowd boos Watts. He needs to hang tough. Like the Jones boy. Jones is tough. From the boundary line he screams, commanding Bernie to ‘go long to Hogan’. Hogan, wow. He’s good this kid. He’s leading the competition for contested marks and he’s starting to be compared to class forwards that have gone before him. This time he out-marks Rance from behind. There’s not long left in the quarter. The siren goes. Hogan goes back in a measured manner. He hits the post. It’s the Dees by 2 points at half time. There is talk of heavy rain on the way.

In the third quarter, Garlett kicks a goal and Hogan has a hand in it. Garlett almost jags another one after an assist from Hogan but he hits the post. Hogan is looking dangerous. There’s nothing fancy-pants about this kid. He actually looks like an unmade bed. Rance looks like he’s been sleeping on a Futon. Hogan has him buckling, twisting and turning. The comparisons continue. I don’t like it. I start thinking of Neitz, Schwarz and Lyon. I shift again on the lounge.

Cross is brave. He cops a high one and is awarded a free in front. He hits the post. Roosy is on the phone but he is not talking. He seems calm. There’s no heavy breathing. It’s not a prank call. He’s like a telemarketer that has us saying yes. You can’t get off the phone but you don’t want to either. The arm wrestle goes up a notch. Indian style. The Tiges should be re-named ‘Yellow and Black Miss a Lot’. Cotchin gets a free in front and misses. Riewoldt has a shot from a free and misses. They are blowing their chances. Free kicks are in favour of the Tiges  23-10. They must be getting to the ball first. I don’t notice it. They’ll square it up soon. The AFL is big on equalisation. Jones kicks a beauty and Hogan is in the mix.  We are up by 13. Lumumba takes a sliding mark and McDonald is clever. McDonalds that play for Melbourne generally are.  Our defence is solid. Brayshaw is good. Garlett is zipping here and there. We seem to have momentum but Edwards wrests some of it back with a gritty goal. He’s good for the Tiges. It’s not long before the ball falls into Watts’ arms and he gives it off in an unorthodox fashion to Vandenberg. You make your own luck. The disposal is more Wally Lewis than Greg Williams. Vandenberg snaps. How about this kid! He’s reckless. He cuts through a pack like James Reyne’s Manly Ferry en route to Circular Quay. He’s got tape on both wrists. With a texta marker I imagine he was written ‘hit’ on the left and ‘hard’ on the right. The Dees push and push and push. We go into the three-quarter huddle 30 points up. Another SMS and this time it is from my old mate Ghost. He’s a Tiger supporter telling me I am ‘home and hosed’. I feel nervous. I don’t reply. I start to receive more messages. I ignore them for the moment. One of them I can’t ignore. It gets a sharp reply.

The last quarter is a blur. Michie gets a free. He passes to Bernie. Bernie bombs from 50. Goal. We are all over them now. What will a win here mean for the club? The Tiges don’t score in the last quarter. They only manage 1.6 in the second half.  They played finals last year. I think? Or did they finish ninth? What year is it? I’m starting to lose focus. When was the last time we started the season 2-2. Who have we got next week? How do you spell Messiah? These ‘good kids’ are starting to look like good kids. I am loving it. It’s a Friday night and I’m watching my team win on the telly. It’s an unbelievable experience. Imagine regularly sitting down on a Friday night to this. Some people do.

The siren sounds. A Dees player lies on the ground exhausted. He’s emotional. This might be his first win on a Friday night in 8 years at the club. I love the sound of the song after a win. My heart is pounding. It’s beating true. Red and Blue. It seems more unfamiliar than it should. I feel like I will be hearing it again soon. In the meantime, there are more important things to turn to.

I set my alarm clock for 4.30. Dawn Service tomorrow. I can’t sleep. I’m grateful.


Demons supporter. 1987 broke my heart. 1988 and 2000 is gone from my memory. The scars still exist. I still want them to do it for Robbie. I dream about the magic day all the time.


  1. Really enjoyed this Piffy. Lots of witty lines and lots of passion. Reckon all those years of adversity have bonded your playing unit into a group that are determined to be taken seriously as footballers.
    Big credit to Paul Roos who is obviously an outstanding man manager and motivator. Dawes,, VInce and Garlett are all giving it 100%; whereas as the Brisbane “castoffs” are just phoning it in. Heretier looked to struggle to me. I think he has trouble playing tight accountable footy which the conditions called for.
    Is Top 8 on your radar or are you content with mid table this season Piffy?

  2. Thanks Peter_B. Finals would be nice. The next 6 weeks will be very exciting.

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