Round 8 – Richmond v Sydney: The key is steady breathing

There’s something about Sydney that brings out the best in Richmond.

Three times in the last three years, the Tiges have beaten the Swans in extraordinary fashion. There was Dusty one-on-one on a slippery patch of ANZ Stadium turf, our ninth in a row to get us into the ill-fated 2014 finals. Last year, it was a 50-point turnaround at the SCG, which Captain Cotch kick-started with a goal on lying on his back.

And this year? This year it was Sammy Lloyd, the 100-goal wonder from Deniliquin, calmly slotting one from 50 metres after the siren, to get us our second win from eight matches. Two and six has never felt so good.

But first, a confession. I didn’t go to the match. I forgot it was even on. This isn’t a Tiger supporter jumping off the bandwagon – I was actually in too many bands. Two gigs in one day, plus umpiring and coaching in the early morning, meant my head was elsewhere. It wasn’t until I got on stage for the second gig in the evening, looked into the audience, and realised my mum, though a combination of mouthing and hand gestures, was saying “Tiges up, five points, half time,” that I remembered.

In words that would fill my conductor with dread, for the next 20 minutes, my head was full with thoughts of football instead of the music in front of me. I had no idea what was playing out on the MCG, but I could imagine. The double bass notes pushing us along became Shaun Hampson, lumbering into another ruck contest. The flute lines were Shane Edwards and Daniel Rioli, dancing across the ground with light steps. The oboe solos became Brett Deledio – without them, and him, it all falls apart.

Our two cellos were Dylan Grimes and Jake Batchelor, solidly plugging away in defence without proper recognition. We’ve only got two trumpet players; their top notes were Ben Griffiths and Ty Vickery – prone to the occasional disaster, but when they come off? Poetry in motion (or sound). Our violin section is our biggest, and they became the midfield. Hardworking, running up and down the octaves and ground, they were Shaun Grigg, Anthony Miles, Brandon Ellis and Nick Vlastuin. The French horn was everywhere, swinging wildly from string to wind lines, covering anything and everything with its unique sound. It could only be Alex Rance.

And me? I play trombone. Our second piece was a poorly-arranged Lullaby movement from a Brahms symphony, which gave the usual clarinet melody line to the rather unsuitable trombone. For weeks I had panicked about it – incredibly exposed, and not my usual stage band, harsh accent-comfort zone. The key to it was steady breathing and maintaining the air-flow from my diaphragm. I needed a mental image to help me sustain my breathing, and I hadn’t found it. But in that moment, with my head full of football, it appeared. I was Jack Riewoldt walking into goal. Dead straight, calm and collected, with an easy kicking motion, back and through the ball. And after a shaky start (even Jack misses sometimes), it worked.

Leaving the concert, my Carlton-barracking friend pointed out the Richmond sticker on the back of my car. At this point, my phone informed me we were two goals down in the fourth quarter.

“Nice Tigers sticker.”

“At this point, I’m seriously regretting having it on there.”

“Don’t worry. They’ll win.”

A sneaky check at a traffic light showed we were still down, and time was starting to run out. I had given up. But with three minutes to go, an impulse made me turn the radio on with trepidation. Ben Griffiths had just kicked a goal. His fifth. We were still down, but in touching distance.

The radio commentary was a garbled mess as I turned on to the Eastern Freeway. I kept turning it up in the forlorn hope I would get some idea of what’s going on (although with Campbell Brown in commentary…). So that’s where I was, driving down the freeway at 100ks an hour, screaming at the top of my lungs, when Sam Lloyd took that mark, and kicked that goal; my phone buzzing uselessly next to me as my friends saw what had unfolded.

After six long weeks of losses, there I sat – alone in my car, listening to the theme song blaring out from the radio, laughing at the absurdity of it all. I had watched the Hawthorn match from the press box courtesy of an internship I’m undertaking (the reason for my absence from the Almanac; I’m trying to be less obvious in my allegiance), futilely stifling fist pumps and groans as I tried to remain professional. When we finally got over the line, the MCG was nowhere in sight, and I was being forced off the freeway because of roadworks.

And Sammy Lloyd’s instrument? At the time, I had no idea of his importance in the match. But in hindsight, he was the triangle. It finished after the rest of the orchestra that night, but strangely, was still in time.


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All AFL Round 8 stories are here.

About Sarah Black

I'm a freelance sports journalist, primarily covering AFLW for AFL Media, but I have a passion for all sports. (Except rugby. Someone needs to explain the point of that game to me.) Having never grown past 5 foot tall, I've given up my dream of being the first professional dual netball/football player and I'm doing the next best thing - writing about it.


  1. Nice work Sarah, I really feel for you. Pity you couldn’t slip a little bit of Tigerland into your gig with all those horns and all…
    Love your instrumental metaphors. But where’s Dusty? He just doesn’t seem like a violin to me. He’s more of an electric guitar, lots of screaming lead breaks.

  2. jan courtin says

    Nice to hear Brahms mentioned in amongst the frenetics of footy.

  3. Peter Fuller says

    That’s a beautiful piece of writing, the musical metaphors are exquisite. The Tigers have been rather discordant this season, but perhaps Saturday night’s harmonies provide some hopeful auguries.

  4. Thanks, Yellowand

    When Richmond win the flag this year, it’s going to be one of the great questions down the years ;”where were you when Lloyd kicked THAT goal…”

  5. Love it Sarah,

    My dad has the coverage on his phone, so at a Thai restaurant the assemble kids watched with enthusiasm until the inevitable started playing out in the last. Suffice to say things had changed by the time we got to the car.

    I like this piece as it shines the light onto that which takes place outside the arena of the ground and the action….little vignettes where footy meets life, and where life meets a passion…footy, music and the everydayness of driving down a freeway.

    Enjoy your yellow and black week

  6. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Reluctantly, I add my well wishes, Sarah, for your delightful in-car moment.
    I too was walking towards car in Sydney, having also been at a performance, clutching phone at Q4 31.00, my Swannies 5 points up. That quarter’s got to end any second. Next refresh 101:100. It was a long 5 minute trip home.

  7. Stainless says

    Good luck with your internship, Sarah. With writing like that you’ll do very well.
    As an occasional clarinetist, I understand the importance of steady breathing in music but it’s pretty useful in many activities. I reckon Sam Lloyd must be pretty good at it!

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