Strange Days – A Tiger family’s journey through Season 2018

 

 

Strange Days Indeed for us Tigers – A Tiger family’s journey through Season 2018

  

by Scott & Rueben Reid

written Monday 1 October 2018 – The first day of Next Season

 

 

Strange Days

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  It was the pinnacle of our success, yet it was the beginning of our nadir. We were jubilant in our victory, yet the hubris of greatness did not sit well with us.

 

It felt like John Lennon was singing to us with that immortal tune “Nobody told me there’d be days like these ?!?”. For us, as Tigers, these were Strange Days Indeed!!!

 

Season 2018 had been a strange season for Tigers supporters all year long. As a lifelong Tiger, going to games as favourites, expecting to win was really hard to get used to, in fact as a Tiger Clan, the Reids collectively didn’t roll with it at all.

 

Handling favouritism was something as Tigers we found totally foreign. My daughter, a Dusty disciple for his whole career and her whole childhood, was talking about picking a second team so footy could be more unpredictable, more exciting and alarmingly she was talking more about Mason Cox than Dusty (yes she has exotic taste in footballers!).  My eldest son took to attending Saints games with a bunch of crazy blokes who sang homegrown tribute songs throughout the Saints dismal season. My wife, she just didn’t bother going to a lot of the Tiger’s games as she said “I know the Tiges will win, they don’t need me to go and barrack”. We seemed beset by this perverse longing for losing, or at least the possibility of losing?

 

It was hard to fathom – this strange Season we were experiencing. I felt like we were in some sort of parallel universe. Like old Russian hardliners, sipping vodka, reading long, morose literature and longing for the dark days of the Soviet era.

 

As Tigers we were missing being the downtrodden Tigers of old. No longer were we able to relish that feeling of comfortable, discomfort when the Tigers would get 3 goals up, but when you always knew they would give their opponents a chance to come back. Where was that moment when you would look sideways to other Tigers and share the certainty of uncertainty?

 

And as the Tigers brilliant 2018 season built so too did our feeling of discomfort. We were so un-Richmond like.  We kept winning, even when we weren’t playing well, it was like our Black had morphed into Brown and we had become Hawthorn. We tried not to get ahead of ourselves, and as Tiger supporters that was usually no problem, but it seemed like we were being lured into a sense of confidence, if not complacency, even if we didn’t want to go there.

 

All of this temptation and risk reached its zenith when the Tigers headed north to that renowned party town The Gold Coast, infamous for fun and other decadence. Jack and the lads failed to heed wise old Dimma’s warnings and in JR8 kicking 10 goals in a massive win, the die was cast. We were just on song and so shouldn’t we just sit back and enjoy it?

 

But the dreaded Premiership Hangover was lurking and the Tigers proved to be like Ulysses lured by the Sirens in The Iliad while strung to the mast. The Tigers managed to sail on for a time, but ultimately the excesses of success brought us crashing down on that fateful Friday night Prelim against the old enemy, Collingwood.

 

When I read Michael Gleeson’s 20 September 2018 piece in The Age, ‘Rance in perfect balance’, it sent a shiver down my spine and I thought the headline title was actually quite misleading. The article didn’t speak of balance to me but rather it foretold of rocks below.

 

‘This year has been a harder year for me and a few other guys because once you have experienced the top of the tree, climbing your way back up again does not seem so grand… Rance said”.

 

This was the epitome of exactly where we didn’t want to be, and while Rancey is no doubt a strange cat, he had also been our Ulysses, slaying monsters and fighting off all manner of foes for almost two years.

 

So now strapped to the mast as we were, having won a magnificent first Finals victory against the heroic men of Hawthorn, we faced the last hurdle of the Magpies before reaching the summit, as Dimma’s successful 2017 metaphor had it. But those Sirens were too much, and the Tigers succumbed to the temptation of hubris and we came crashing down to the rocks, which we always knew awaited us eventually.

 

It was painful that fateful Friday night, but also strangely, it felt ok.  We had the magnificent memory of the September of 17, we had bravely fought against the Sirens of success for so long only to fall at the final hurdle and in falling back to earth an equilibrium was returned.

 

No longer the Hunted, we could become the Hunter once more, as our Coaching group had tried to instil all year, but never with any real possibility, because the Premier is always the Hunted.

 

Now we could be the Tigers of Old once more.  Beware all who stand before the Tiger Army in 2019, for we are hungry once again.

 

 

The Big Dance

 

But, of course, the Season was not over. The battle field was set for a contest in which it was hard to pick a winner, where there was no clear favourite. The old enemy Collingwood versus the powerhouse from the West, the West Coast Eagles. And so in the lead up, at least for us as Tigers, we had to ask did we really care? But we love our footy and so we looked on and waited to see how it would go.

 

Grand Final tickets are always hard to get, but last year no price was going to be too high when our beloved Tigers stormed into the Big Dance on a mission, 37 years in the making. This year I had made preparations from a much earlier stage, with feelers out midway through the Season. Expectation, planning, confidence, it was all so un-Richmondlike, and so it proved to be. But we had landed two tickets to the Grand Final and if you have got them, you go. I think that’s a life rule or something?

 

So it was strange feeling indeed as my 12 year old, footy loving, youngest son Rueben (named for my Pop who had played for the Tigers in the 1920s), and I got ready to walk across to the G for a Grand Final that we were unusually ambivalent about. We live a stone’s throw from the Mecca of footy and think of the sacred ground as part of our neighbourhood. As it happened we had a very close connection to a very special young man playing in the curtain raiser, the Under 17 Future’s Game, so on Grand Final Day we were up early and ready to go.

 

Ace (Hewago Paul Oea) is a product of AFL PNG, the peak footy body in Papua New Guinea and I have sat on its Board for almost 20 years now. It was a real pleasure to see Ace for the second time glide at very high speed across the hallowed turf of the MCG (Ace had played in PNG’s winning Mosquitoes team at IC17, the AFL’s International Cup). Ace played beautifully that Grand Final morning, but as we sat high up behind the Punt Rd goals there was not much atmosphere and it was hard to feel much excitement or even anticipation still 4 hours before the bounce for the Big Dance. Besides, up so high and in the shade in Q deck it was bloody cold and so after Ace and the Bartels saluted against the Reiwoldts, we headed home again to regroup and warm up.

 

Returning to Q deck, with about half an hour or so to go before the bounce, it was a very different atmosphere and although unaligned, as Roo & I took our seats again, the tingle you always feel before a big game began to build.

 

As we walked across to the G we had both agreed that, although we were quite partial to Bucks and respected the Pies for finally bringing our Season back to earth, we both thought the Eagles would win and we really couldn’t bring ourselves to actively support the old enemy in Collingwood, Eddie and all the rest. We were on the Eagles and as it turned out the Punt Rd end was a sea of Blue & Gold in contrast to most of the rest of the ground.

 

Of course, if you believe in omens the failing of the Pies Big banner and then the toss were harbingers of doom for the Collingwood Army, but no one told Travis Varcoe, Jayden Stephenson or Jordan DeGoey. The early barrage felt like deja vu from last Friday night and the Tigers’ demise.  With the Pies bursting out to an early 5 goal to nothing lead, it seemed West Coast was going to live the 2015 nightmare all over again. Collingwood, however, are no Hawthorn of that era and as we were to learn the Eagles senior players had been hardened by the furnace that is a losing Grand Final. As the Quarter closed the Eagles had some luck, then showed some real poise from Kennedy to take back some momentum.  Game on.  And just as all true footy fans who always come back to the greatness of our game, Roo and I were cheering and pulled into the game’s thrall.

 

The Second & Third quarters were brilliant finals football with Collingwood holding on to their lead grimly and West Coast building steadily, but neither able to crack the game open and so at ¾ time the game came back to even.

 

Now completely engaged in the anticipation and excitement that close Grand Finals bring at the last break, I thought back to this time last year. That fatefuI day at ¾ time in 2017, as a lifelong and long suffering Tiger, I was so nervous that I couldn’t enjoy it or even bear to think about what might be about to happen in 30 minutes time. I remember going down to the MCG longwall urinals, (those relics are more and more rare in the modern age of comfort and safety everywhere you look – or don’t look!) and some bloke slapped me on the shoulder and said “You’ve got em mate, good on yers !!”. I thought “No, no no, don’t say that, don’t even think it, we are Richmond, any bloody thing could go wrong!”

 

I realised then that being a neutral except for the day, having only chosen to back one worthy finalist over another, gives you a magnificent freedom, a lightness that truly allowed you to enjoy the might and power, the beauty of a truly great game of footy that was poised at ¾ time.  And so we embarked upon what was probably the best Final Quarter of footy in a Grand Final ever.

 

The term began like someone lit a fuse. For West Coast to go out poised at scores level and then to see Mihocek, a VFL defender, goal in the first minute, followed by a sublime handball and 50m goal from Collingwood’s two Finals matchwinners in Sidebottom & DeGoey, that was surely game over.

 

But the Eagles were not to be denied, they refused to go the same way they had gone just 3 years previous.  That immediate response with Lycett to Vardy meant there was no time to harbour fear.  After Big Mason goaled then Kennedy again it was hard to stay in your seat, the crowd at our end were all about the onslaught, but the Pies were incredibly brave, holding on.

 

Then that final twist in the tale. From Treloar high and wide, intercepted by the footballer’s footballer and my Norm Smith, McGovern, on perfectly through the corridor to Vardy, up to Ryan who impossibly flew up and backwards into the pack and then played on kicking to the contest between Rioli and Maynard, but then Sheed, the left footer, floats across to mark with no opponent. Where did he come from? Sheed goes back outside the boundary and then to kick That Goal to take the lead – superhuman.  Bjorn Borg would be proud, so cool.

 

An incredibly daring and perfect passage of play to erase the pain of 2015 and crush the dreams of Magpies all around the land.  A remarkable game and incredible victory for West Coast, so harsh for Collingwood who lead all day, except when the siren went.  And so much for ambivalent neutrals with Roo & I standing, shouting, cheering and loving every minute of our great game at its finest and so pleased and thankful we were there.

 

 

Strange days no more

 

We finally make our way back to Punt Rd after the presentations to meet Ace who has finished his season now and is heading home to Port Moresby. As we walk along, still buzzing, we bump into Daniel Rioli with a couple of young mates involved in the Futures Game. I say to him “Ah Daniel you should have been there mate” and he replies with a twinkle in his eye “Next year bro next year”.

 

And so a strange Tigers Season comes to a fitting and wonderful end, with the next game being next year, with hope in our hearts and plenty of joy.

 

What a Game, what a Season!  All is forgiven and nothing forgotten, once again everything is right in the universe and all of us who love our great game are the winners!!!

 

Bring on Season 2019.

 

#GoTiges

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Stainless says:

    Strange days indeed, Scott, but not hard to like. In such a strong, even competition I’m not predicting a string of Richmond Premierships, but the club looks as well-placed as it’s been since the Hafey era. I don’t think hubris got us any more than hubris caused Collingwood to give up a five goal lead on Saturday. Perhaps more a case of backing a tried and trusted system once too often and forgetting that even the best teams need to find an X factor in finals.

  2. Scott Reid says:

    That’s surely true Stainless and here’s hoping the Lynch factor will work for us in 2019.

    Still reckon we need a Second Ruck but maybe Mabior or CC Jones might come on? I reckon Castagna should become a tagger and our most important contributor Lady Luck and the Conditioning Crew need to keep raising the bar. Lets hope we can go again. #GoTiges

  3. Excellent summary Scott. You have caught the the mood of a Richmond supporter superbly. I still thought they could lose half way through the last quarter of the Grand Final. When I rewatched the game it was effectively over just after halftime. Agree entirely about this year it was so weird actually expecting them to win. Felt like the 1970s all over again.

  4. Peter Harrison says:

    Nice work Scott. A great summary of a long term Tiger supporter…….your story was 37 years in the making. Made me think back to ’73 & ’74 when ruthless was the catch cry……strange days indeed.

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