The Tigers come of age

Last week, I saw Matthew White kick a goal. It wasn’t an overly pretty one, more of a helicopter off the inside of the boot. But it did the job. I expected maybe a subtle waggle of the finger or perhaps a loving embrace with Benny Nason, who was nearby. But he did neither. Instead he clawed at his jumper. He turned to the cheer squad and roared in exultation, still clutching the yellow and black in one hand and thumping his chest proudly with the other. It was in that moment that I realised that the Tiger really was stirring.

All summer I had been hearing about this infamous feline lurking in a cage down at Punt Road, waiting for the season to begin so that its hyperactive cubs could wreak havoc. Personally I was wary that perhaps the only thing anyone was stirring was a very large pot; simmering all this expectation and hope to only find that the Tigers of old were to be just that. But I was wrong. These players, this coach, our club: they’re going places. Finally.

And so, the journey to the MCG on that Mother’s day eve turned out to be rather enjoyable. After having a dispute with mum as to whether I was rugged up enough and her forcing me to add a fifth layer of wool to my ensemble (I’m seventeen for god’s sake!) Dad started up the Cressida and we set out. Sitting in the car I looked at him and grinned. Dad reciprocated with an encouraging pat on the knee and said, “Here we go, kid.” That was all that needed to be said. For the first time in a long time the Tigers were genuine contenders against a genuine team. With that I turned on the radio. The words “Cotchin,” “Martin,” “Nahas,” and “Push-up,” bounced from SEN to 774 and then onto 3AW and then back again to SEN. Driving down Bridge Road I saw excursions of yellow and black armies marching their way to the MCG, as others sat at various pubs, donning the same attire and having a pre-game beverage. We’re controlling the airwaves, we’re parading the streets. Next stop: global domination.

If the world boiled down to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, that last bit would sound far more practical.

Anyway, back to the game…

It started with a goal from Nahas. The ideal start. The second level of the member’s stand, which was now close to capacity, erupted, as did the other thirty odd thousand. What happened next, however, had the potential to make us all pack up and go home. The Fremantle defensive press was working wonders for them, giving them ten scoring shots for the quarter. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your convictions, eight of those shots missed the target, keeping the Tigers in the game. Down the other end, Bachar Houli slotted his first goal in the yellow and black and Tyrone Vickery scored his first of three for the day. The term ended with both teams on twenty points. I was happy with that.

As I looked down at the quarter time huddle, I thought back to a few years ago when I saw Geelong throw us around like rag-dolls. That day they smashed more records than ever before. I now understand why. That day, if the Boroondara U/12s squad had taken the field in a Richmond strip, no one would have batted an eye-lid. They were lacking in everything you need to play AFL: muscle, poise, skill.

Not to take anything away from the kids of Kew, mind you. But you get what I mean.

Today I saw men. I saw not one shred of that Geelong match left. Instead I saw a team. A real AFL team.

The second quarter was evidence enough. Here we were, taking it up to champions like Sandilands, Pavlich and McPharlin. After a superb bit of play from Stephen Hill early, which ended with him snapping a goal, the Tigers began to mirror the exciting-free flowing football that Fremantle had opened with. It was goal for goal for much of the quarter; a quarter in which I was certain the time keeper had fallen asleep, as the term entered into its thirty-seventh minute.

The game remained an arm-wrestle in the third. Every time Richmond looked like kicking away the Dockers would claw their way back, particularly through the likes of Aaron Sandilands, who had forty-three hit outs for the game, and Kepler Bradley, who is perhaps rivalling Jake King for the most improved player in the league over the past couple of years. But the Tigers managed to break free of the Dockers’ grasp in time on, with Jack, Angus and Tyrone all goaling. Then, the Richmond juggernaut began to roll on.

I felt like the proverbial kid in a toy store in the last quarter. No matter what the Tiges did, the ball seemed to always end up in their hands. They always seemed to know what to do with it as well, which helped. It was somewhere in between the triumphant whack the back of my chair received after a Jake King tackle and the elated scream from the four-year-old boy in front of me after Cotchin’s fourth goal that I knew we were home. What a feeling it was. To able to sit back and enjoy a game of football so thoroughly. Pure bliss.

Next week I plan to go down to Etihad to see the Tigers v the Bulldogs. It will be one of the few times I’ve been back since that Geelong match. On recent evidence, I’m cautiously optimistic. Maybe even expectant!

Final Scores

Richmond 3.2 9.7 17.7 23.10 (148)
Fremantle 2.8 9.9 13.11 14.15 (99)

About Catherine Durkin

Catherine Durkin, who has been writing for the Almanac since her high school days, is now a reporter and presenter for Fox Sports News, based in Sydney


  1. John Butler says

    Dare to dream Catherine!

    That game against the Doggies has become a big one for both clubs.

  2. Catherine Durkin says

    The way I see it as long as the Tigers put up a good fight, they’ve got nothing to loose. But if the Dogs don’t improve… questions are sure to be asked

    Having said that, I’m quietly confident!

  3. Alovesupreme says

    I’m with your Mum about the need for multiple layers of clothing at the football, although Saturday afternoon was mild enough to vindicate your counter argument.
    Since I’ve lived through a winter in Stockholm and spent a February in New York, the next statement is not objectively true, but I’ve never “felt” as cold as when I’ve been sitting watching football at Waverley or the MCG, or standing in small crowds at VFA matches in the 1970s.

  4. Catherine Durkin says

    Exactly! I went on a trip to France in January of ’09 and I vowed to never complain about the Melbournian winter ever again. But that arctic breeze that swirls around the ‘G can really sting!

  5. Catherine Durkin says

    Oh! Just re-reading that comment from earlier,

    *lose not loose….I can spell haha

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