The good oil on the Tigers

by John Green

Sometimes tourists return from third world destinations and marvel that the locals “look so happy!”

It’s like observing Richmond fans. One wag recently labelled the Tigers as the “happiest bottom four team in history”. Supporters are convinced that the glory days are about to return on the strength of an exciting young list. It’s like we are sitting on huge deposits of oil just waiting to be exploited to launch us to an untrammelled era of prosperity.

As for Port Adelaide, sure they’ve won four out of five, but who cares? They’re hardly seen on free-to-air television in Victoria. It’s a case of out of sight and out of mind.

After Barry Hall failed to reel him in on the previous night, our own Jack Reiwoldt has been crowned as the Coleman Medallist. It’s a portent of the accolades and riches about to flow to our once beleaguered club. Even though it would have been nice to see Jack roost the major that brought him the medal, we’ll take it anyway.

Then there’s the Cousins factor. Today he wears the sash for the last time. We’ve all witnessed his travails on his Such is Life documentary. Only Tigerland gave him the chance to redeem himself. We feel good about ourselves. Cousins has returned the favour in spades and been a star performer. The players love him. He has made a miraculous recovery from the strained hamstring he suffered last week against St. Kilda. Sure he’s done nothing apart from a few handball drills over the past week, but nothing can spoil what promises to be an ecstatic end to the campaign. They’ll do it for Ben and they’ll do it for us in the bleachers.

The Tigers open proceedings in sparkling fashion. They lead  2-1 to nil when Cousins enters the arena to the rapturous applause of the faithful at the six-minute mark. How far Richmond?

The engine room begins to sputter. There are no more six-pointers for the quarter, only a series of behinds. Port fares little better and scores are level at quarter time. With the roof open, it appears that nobody can shoot straight in normal atmospheric conditions.

The second term is an unmitigated disaster. The Tigers attempt some free-wheeling run-and-carry out of defence. They commit abysmal errors and are chopped up by the eager visitors. They overuse handball, relinquish possession and watch the ball sailing over their heads into an open Power forward line. Richmond is unable to staunch the flow. Brogan mugs Graham at the centre bounces. Boak,  Logan and Kane Cornes seize possession at the stoppages and relentlessly drive the ball forward. They boot seven in a row and rattle on 10-2 to the Tigers’ 1-3 for the quarter.

This is not going to script. Cousins’ swansong is matching the trauma of his first appearance in the colours, a crushing loss to Carlton in the opening round of 2009. All we need is the sight of him clutching his hamstring and staggering from the field. Our insecurities begin to resurface. We’re still fifteenth. We’re still going nowhere. Why on earth did we let David Rodan cross to Port?

Maybe what we think is oil is really brackish swamp water.

The visitors boot the first goal of the term and push the margin out to 59 points. But things start to click. Cotchin, Tuck and Martin muscle in at the stoppages. Morton dominates the midfield. Somehow the Tigers draw to within 28 points at the final break.

They continue the charge in the final term. Jay Schulz misses a couple and Richmond is still in it.  Jake King energises the forward line with rapid movement and pinpoint passing. Morton kicks a couple to bring them to within nine points before Collins snaps another to reduce it to three at the 13-minute mark. That’s ten of the last eleven goals.

The Richmond faithful are beside themselves with excitement. The noise is deafening.  O’Reilly boots long to the square, the ball spills and Taylor taps it through with his left foot. Pandemonium! The stands are alight with fist-pumping, leaping and dancing Tiger fanatics. We are witnessing the greatest comeback in the club’s history and there is no stopping us now!

But wait! Chaplin of Port Adelaide has been awarded a free kick and it’s no score! We howl with derision and wait for the replay on the scoreboard. Oh. Collins did hold Chaplin by the jumper. Somehow one umpire saw it happen in a crush of bodies in the square. Nine times out of ten such an infringement would have gone unnoticed.

Port counter attack. Daniel Stewart marks strongly and goals from a tight angle. Boak scores before setting up another. The stands grow quiet again. The Tigers battle on and kick a couple more. Cousins, who has studiously avoided sprinting or kicking the ball for most of the afternoon in order to avoid the dreaded hammy twang, manages to make it to the end of the match.

Port prevails by 10 points. Everybody’s fairly content. The Tigers almost pulled off a stunning comeback win, Jack Reiwoldt capped off his breakout season with another three and caretaker coach Matthew Primus has probably won himself the job at Alberton next year.

We all say farewell to Ben.

He runs his final lap and cuts corners in order to complete it. He is spent, but makes an exception to jog to the fence and high five the cheer squad at the Coventry End. Chaired off by Cotchin and Newman, he exits the arena between two lines of players from the competing teams.

That’s it for another year, folks, because when you barrack for Richmond you never have to shell out for finals tickets.

But next year? Maybe there really is oil in them thar hills.


  1. Martin Reeves says

    Covered the game well John. I had a sense when we came out from half time that we were a chance to come back. Not too long ago we would have sat back and copped a 100 point loss from there. That’s been the big difference for me this year – they play with some pride.

    Won’t be raising expectations too high next year though. Several holes too fill and some of the raw youngsters are a few years off some consistency.

    Very happy with Damian too. Strikes me as a real coach, in that he’s teaching the players how to play – not just telling them.

    Enjoy the off season.

  2. John Butler says

    Great report John

    As a Bluebagger, I look forward to some really meaningful contests between two developing sides over the next few years.

    It would be great if we could both revisit the glory days of the seventies (maybe without Balmie’s right cross).

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