Round 5 – Richmond v Melbourne: Richmond Enchantment

The gates were closed. The crowds queued in motionless lines. And then the rituals on the inside of the Stadium finished and the turnstiles turned again. The queues became intertwined and those in a hurry moved from one queue to the next. Couples moved together. And then at the security check point, there were cursory glances inside bags and peremptory scans with the flat black wands. ‘Turn around’. The screen on the turnstile shone ‘Go’ in green. Click, clack, clack.


Standing room at the Punt Road End was near-full. I found a spot on the edge of one of the main bays used by the Richmondites. Behind me, a pushing-fight broke out almost immediately. Someone had positioned himself in someone else’s spot. Both were in Yellow and Black. A tense beginning. I kept my head down and looked forward. I didn’t want to care. And then, I offered the pushed-man my spot and I moved down half a step.


Then, in front of me, I recognised a beanie: it was my mate Paul beneath it. He plays with the Collingwood Knights, but he is hard core Richmond. I had seen him once before at the footy: he was distraught at seeing the Tiges lose an unlosable game against Geelong late last year. I tapped him on his right shoulder and it was indeed him: only, this team, clean-shaven and full of enthusiasm. He oozed confidence in the Tiges. He was draped in a Richmond flag. He hung his Richmond FC baseball jacket over the fence he leaned on.  A week before the start of the season I had laughed at his prediction that the Tiges would finish in the top eight or near it. I wasn’t in to making predictions, I told him.


Paul went out for a smoke at quarter time and I went up to the second back row of the top deck to meet a friend who had come in late. I found his friends, but not himself: he was still queuing for chips etcetera. In front of us was a large muscular man taking up two seats: one elbow resting on one seat; legs wide apart and his other elbow cocked up. He shouted loudly for the other team. His team was in the ascendency and I was getting frustrated yet trying to stay poised. No doubt, his shouts, as loud as they seemed, couldn’t be heard beyond the bottom of the top deck. I got vertigo and also felt at a strange distance from the game. I felt too far away from the exits. A minor anxiety attack, I guess.


After half time I met another mate. Down the stairs. We met in front of The Paddock. Inside were people watching the game on the screen. Curious. We stood in the northern pocket of the inside concourse: watching the game, talking. The usual footy style of conversation: brief sentences in between moments of action. I felt myself getting hoarse even though I’d barely been doing any proper barracking. My mate is a thoroughly dedicated fan of our team: long-standing and someone who views the club with a balanced and measured perspective. I like watching the game with him – his presence takes the edge off my emotional responses. He’s the kind of guy who smiles when his team wins rather than jumping up and down demonstrably. The kind who knows that footy is important, well, quite important, but not too important.


Three quarter time came and the crowds shifted behind the goals: more Richmondites going out for a smoke. So we seized our opportunity and took up temporary residence with the Rowdy Bunch. Some things happened. We cheered. We chanted. We jumped. The noise strengthened by the low concrete ceiling. It happened in the distance, but we saw things up close too: Conca’s superb clearance of the ball after Garlett seemed certain to score. Time ticked by. Some fans started leaving. “Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio.” They looked at the Hoard with blank faces. Caddy, who had starred in that Geelong defeat of last year, kicked the sealer. A sealer that had come after Rioli’s nerveless mark and Butler’s straight penetrating kick after a quick dash. A sealer which came after Jack’s impeccably straight kick from distance and proximity to the fence. Which came after countless denials of Melbourne’s forays forward.


The siren is the full stop. At which moment the tension is lifted. I high-fived my mate and several others. I high-fived him again and then said, ‘see you next time; I’m going down to the front’. The fans walked up in a hurry at the ground level. Most of them in Navy and Red. Many looked down; but many too looked non-plussed. Those in Yellow and Black grinned and grinned and grinned. I yelled the song with others. Rain was starting to fall. No matter. Alex and David jogged towards the fence, carrying their little souvenir balls to give to young fans. They both raised their hands and clapped towards the crowd. Alex smiled and skipped a little jump.


Such a contrast to last year when they had slinked off at the end of their last Melbourne game without applauding the crowd. This too was such a different atmosphere from those dull games when we knew our team and club had temporarily stalled. Five wins does not a season make. Steady Tiges, steady progress please. Please, no false hope. Let’s stay out of the headlines.


The song was played repeatedly. Jack did his bit yet again and gave his customary post-victory interview. I turned my back on the field as the players headed towards their race. The Richmondites had gathered in numbers and were chanting that song about Dusty Martin, which could be regarded as being a touch offensive. A policewoman ran to the front of the lower level where someone’s well-being was at risk. I passed through the wide-open gates and a security guard looked to the ground while yawning.


  1. Andy, this really puts me there with you. Its funny how sport and music; the crowd is part of the theatre but also can distract, or just block your $%# view. I have spent a lot of gigs trying to fit into a crowd and paying less attention than I should to the music.

    I haven’t been to the G a lot but most times recently I have felt like a security risk every time I have tried to go and say hello to someone in a different area. When all I want to do is let out our shared love of footy and/or the Tiges break down barriers between us.

    I was at the local footy last Sunday and wanted to write down all the wonderful barracking I was hearing. One lady behind to my right had a voice like a chainsaw, gave the umpires a fairly ceaseless harangue but never swore. Right behind me a group of boys about 13 did a running commentary and I marvelled at how the terms and slang is passed down the decades, mangled but somehow survives. “He’s barrelled that oh no its a shank, lands on its end and its anyone’s, stacks on the mill.”

    Besides all that – how about those Tigers. How about Reece Conca??

  2. Yes, the last quarter was endhanting.

    The first three, a tough struggle through the middle, in the demons favour.

    Whilst several gates were undohbtedly chaotic and full with stagnant queues upon entry, mine at gate 1 was fine …level 2 ponsford stand seats..a heaving mass of tiger fans sitting aloft, of the demon cheer squad.

    Usually I favour the punt Rd, end but seating numbers landed me here instead, so I’d say it was the best end for the best quarter of the night.

  3. The siren is the full stop.

    I like the way you watch footy. Restless, roaming, wanting to see it from other perspectives. All good stuff.

    I yelled myself hoarse by the end, was buzzing with adrenaline. Go Tiges!

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