The Eye of the Tiger

THE EYE OF THE TIGER

By Tess Pryor

I loved Richo at first sight. I loved his youthful flush, his passion, his tantrums, his gazelle-like grace and his enormous cock-ups.

Having him in the side guaranteed that the entertainment would exceed the admission price. He would either bring us to glorious rapture or get himself tangled up in a comedy of errors.  Or both. In the same quarter.

He was Richo. He was ours, he had breathtaking talent but at the same time, he was one of us. He was fallible but he tried his guts out over and over again to make it up to us.

And in doing so he would either kick a bag or kick it out on the full.  He’d do his knee, come back and make All-Australian. He never shirked, never played dirty and never ignored the kiddies.

The 2008 Brownlow count nearly changed everything. It was the best telly ever.  Everyone wanted him to win. We all cheered every vote and screamed when he hit the lead.  In our hearts we knew what was going to happen –we are used to finishing ninth afterall – but he was Richo and he didn’t need a medal around his neck.  We all already knew – he was and always would be fairest and best.

I inadvertently stalked Richo for ten years.  And I’m pretty sure he had no idea.

In 1995, my husband and I made an unexpected move from St Kilda to North Carlton. Our sudden relocation to Blues territory did not sit well with me.  But, the Universe has a funny way sometimes of putting you in the right place at the right time.

Our housewarming coincided with my birthday – Grand Final Day 1995 – Carlton thrashed Geelong, Greg Williams won the Norm Smith and the area was jumping.

Weeks and months went by and we fell in love with Carlton and surrounds.  We walked around Princes Park every day and loved the proximity of Optus Oval for pre-season and real games.

One Sunday night we saw a pony-tailed, coltish Richo outside La Porchetta’s in Rathdowne Street with his mates (one played for Carlton can’t remember his name). I couldn’t believe Richo was in my ‘hood!

Shortly after, he popped up regularly in various places at various times in the area.  I even saw him playing golf once in boardies at dusk at Royal Park.

These random sightings were just like Richo – always unpredictable but always a tonic for a weary heart.

One day, walking to the shops, the world as I knew it, changed. I noticed a man in shorts and a singlet sitting on his front porch. His knees were swollen and he moved gingerly like a bloke whose body had been smashed around in a younger life.  He had a very distinctive face and huge lips. I knew immediately who he was.

It was Bull.

Richo’s dad.

RICHO’S DAD!

He literally lived around the corner from us.  I had never known the Universe to be this kind.

Over the next few years I had to walk past Mr and Mrs Richo’s house daily for work and play. I saw Richo many, many times. Mother’s Day. Christmas Day. Some Sundays. Probably his birthday.

Once I saw him kissing his mum goodbye at her gate. I was walking about 50 metres away laden with groceries. I panicked and crossed onto a traffic island to avoid having to walk past them as it would have been too overwhelming to be that close to him.  He got into his (Richmond sponsored) Nissan Pathfinder, drove around a roundabout and tooted his mum. At the exact time he tooted I was directly lined up with him, on the traffic island.

It looked like he had tooted me.

He saw me and looked mortified. I saw his reaction and looked mortified. In a locked look that lasted all of two seconds he tried to let me know he hadn’t tooted me and I tried to let him know that I knew who the toot was intended for.

I ran home balancing my groceries, my heart was racing.  Richo hadn’t tooted me and only he and I knew it!  Richo and I had shared a moment!

Time went by and we eventually moved just west of Princes Park.  I heard the Richo’s moved out to the ‘burbs.

Today, there are no Richo street sightings.  But, in his honour we have a vine on a brick wall outside our bathroom window festooned with the cardboard Richo masks the Herald-Sun produced in 2010 for his send off in the season opener against Carlton.

In this way, without him knowing, he is always with us.

I really loved Richo the footballer. But over those years I got a tiny glimpse of Richo the son, the friend and the man.  Loving him got even easier.

P.S. Bull, we have a confession to make. We’ve got your old golf putter – we “souveneired” it from outside your home one local hard rubbish night.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Wasn’t he magnificent Tess? Everything you said and more. To have had so many Richo moments ….. you have been truly blessed.

  2. Luke Martin says

    A wonderful read!
    I too have my Richo stories. The finale for my story was when I cancelled a buck’s night to attend his testimonial on my own and wept silently, still and proud in my seat for the entire night.
    I didn’t know him as I person but sure did love him as a player.
    Thank you.

  3. Neil Anderson says

    Terrific story of accidental friendly stalking where you netted the father of the species as well. I can imagine that golf-putter went straight to the pool-room.
    The Richo stories gives us hope that there are footballers and ex-footballers that aren’t strutting about with the big egos hoping they’ll be spotted for a photo.
    Next time I see Richo bumbling around trying to interview someone I’ll have a better appreciation of him thanks to you Tess.

  4. Great read Tess. There was never a fan that Richo didn’t give pleasure it be a opposition supporter relished his ineptness and eccentricities and a Tigers fans relishing his potential for the unexpected and occasional brillince
    Cheers
    TR

  5. Paddy Grindlay says

    Awesome, awesome read. As a fellow Tiger, I’m reading all this with an “I remember that” look on my face. He really was an absolute champ.
    I’d love to see the hedge! That is a ripper idea.
    Great article Tess. Pleasure to read.

  6. Hi Tess,

    It’s an amazing story and really great to read. Your story is such a coincidence and very unique. It’s like how I met my new and wonderful friend who is a passionate St Kilda fan here in Sapporo, Japan (I also go for the Saints).

    Thanks for sharing your story and welcome to the Footy Almanac. I’m also new to the community. I hope we all can share more unique stories.

    I really enjoyed reading your article. So brilliant!

    Yoshi

  7. Wonderful. Thanks Tess. We are teenage stalkers at heart.
    I have always kept a melancholy, wonderful link to Richo through my daughter – now 30 and a mum herself. My first marriage was well finished and before contemplating a move to Perth, I was trying to bond with my kids around footy. My son was ok, but Megan had no interest except for the youthful Richo.
    I still remember her tears when he crashed recklessly (the only way that Richo knew) into the SCG picket fence.
    For another 15 years whenever I saw Richo play I thought of my daughter on the other side of Australia. I hope she did too.
    (Like Mr Wrap I am old enough to remember Bull’s droppies in those great Hafey premiership teams. May I live long enough to see Richo’s kids finish 9th too.)

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Terrific Tess, welcome.

    It’s always tricky to know what to do when you meet a celeb in a private setting, but I suspect that Richo would be pretty approachable (and a good son)

  9. daniel flesch says

    Great yarn , Tess…And now in his tv role , i find Richo a good antidote to Brian Taylor’s inanities. Always enjoy his comments during the game as well as his interviews – their predictable content not distracting from their entertainment value.

  10. Loved it Tess, there’s an art to guileless stalking, and the obliviously magnificent Richo deserves nothing less shambolic.

  11. A friend of mine, Marc Welsh, has written and recorded a song called ‘Richo Rocks’. I can’t find a link to it though…

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Tess a entertaining read and spot on every 1 was barracking for Richo re the brownlow that night

  13. Great yarn Tess. Your second sentence is the perfect summary: “I loved his youthful flush, his passion, his tantrums, his gazelle-like grace and his enormous cock-ups.”

    Even people who’ve never heard of Richo, or the AFL, were barracking for him on that Brownlow night!

    Well done!

  14. Yvette Wroby says

    Welcome Tess . He is a part owner with nick riewolt and others of the almanacs new watering hole- the waterside hotel and I was there this year listening to him and two other ex-footy players speak .

    He is magnificent and seems a great bloke. Funny as. And so confident in himself .

    So this is added reason to join us for a lunch one day at the waterside.

    note to john harms- invite Richo again! And that’s from a saints supporter so ask nick riewolt too!!

    Thanks Tess

    Yvette

  15. Cheryl Critchley says

    Lovely piece Tess! Everyone loves Richo and with good reason. As well as being an amazing player he is a lovely person!

  16. Great story Tess. But be honest – Richo’s parent’s house was on the slightly extended scenic route to work right? Welcome to the Almanac – you’ve had a great response to your first piece and I look forward to more.

  17. Rob Moodie says

    This is a wonderful tribute not only to Richo but to Tess. This is the kind, funny, caring heart of Melbourne we need to inspire us daily. It’s a ripper.

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