Tiger Tragics

I first wrote this in early 2015, not feeling confident with it, I didn’t send it in. Now, bugger it! It can’t be that bad!

 

An original Tiger Tragic!

April 2015

I’ve been a Tiger fan now for over 50 years. I’ve been a supporter through some great times (60s and 70s), but some pretty rough ones as well. I’m also very, very lucky as I am Dad to 3 kids and 3 step-kids, all now wonderful adults. However, I have to admit that I failed 2 of mine (both daughters) badly as they have reached adulthood as Cats supporters. (I suppose it could have been worse, they could have been Bomber supporters, or even worse, Magpie  supporters!) Where did I go wrong?? Although, I do have to wonder sometimes what I have inflicted on my son as we have so often trudged away from some football ground in such utter despair, or sat looking blankly at the TV after some flogging or nail biting loss. However, I gain solace from the fact that it will toughen him up and make the sipping of the rewards from the Premiership Cup (or alternative vessel) all the more sweet when it occurs.

What bought me to be such a Tragic Tiger? First, I can probably start with my Mum taking me as a 10 year old to the Punt Road Oval in 1963, on a  wet, cold and miserable winters day to watch a game of footy. Tigers v Swans. I don’t really recall much of the match, or the scores, however I know the Tigers lost. On consulting the fixture records recently, I find the Tigers were flogged by 66 points! My Mum was not an avid footy fan, however she had a leaning towards the Saints. Tell me now, what 10 year old boy wants to be known as a Saint!  Of course, being a Tiger is a lot more exciting to a 10 year old than being a Swan or a Saint!

Second, I was born in Richmond, in Erin Street to be exact. But my family moved to a farm in central Victoria in 1964. Third, the local Team were the Kyneton Tigers. I supported them as well, so the only teams I have ever supported are Tigers! In fact, in 1966 I was at the Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo when Kyneton beat Golden Square to win the Bendigo Football League flag. I also played for them, under age and seniors, wearing the yellow sash, for a number of years before I found other pursuits in other parts of the world.

I have to admit that the disease of being a one-eyed supporter is not solely that of Tiger Tragics. Heaven forbid, there are even Cats and Dogs Tragics! However, there does seem something really intense about the Tiger version. In a way, I have always felt sorry for people who don’t feel that intense support for a Footy Club. It is a great feeling to belong to a tribe, to be vocal and supportive, getting high on the competition. In an almost macabre way, the losses make you feel good and it helps vent all those suppressed masochistic tendencies! Anyway, one way or other, at the end of the game, there is a feeling of exhaustion!

Probably my greatest ever memory (outside of Births & Marriages) was given to me by the Tigers. I was lucky enough in 1967 to be given a ticket to the MCC Members for the Grand Final, Richmond v Geelong. I was given access via a Ladies ticket by the Mum of a friend. At that time, the MCC had a Ladies membership, however a child under 14 could gain entry using it. I was 14, but got in OK. That was just a magical day, over 109,000 people saw the Tigers win by 9 points. To a young fella like myself, I was completely awestruck. The excitement, the game, the tension, I will never forget it. Royce Hart’s mark over Peter Walker, Fred Swift marking on the goal line. In the stands, I was directly behind the line of that amazing drop kick that John Ronaldson sent through the middle of the goals, straight as a bullet. And he claimed he was only trying to put it in the goal square for Paddy Guinane or Royce to mark! I was spellbound by the half time entertainment of the goal umpires, in their white coats and hats, doing their marching routine. Years on I realised that it was all rather mundane, but hey, it stills beats Meatloaf’s effort of a few years ago!

That was the Tigers first flag for 23 years. That we have had to go since 1980 with no success is  hard to accept, with the expansion Clubs winning so many. ’69, ’73 & ’74 bought more success, and how the Tiger Tragics were able to “strut the strut”. The Tiger Trudge was unheard of in those days. Four flags in 8 years. We were King of the VFL and we let everyone know! I was lucky enough to get tickets to witness every one of them.

What a great vintage was ’69. Francis Bourke, “Bustling” Billy Barrot and Dick Clay, the Kid from Kyabram, what a great centreline. Aussie Rules doesn’t have positional play like it used to, but there’s been no better since, so there probably never will be. Royce, John “Swooper” Northey, KB, Sheedy “the mongrel back pocket plumber” was at his peak. Roger Dean, the Captain, Tiger tough. We scraped in to the Final Four in 4th spot, and went 3-0 to the flag, burying 2 arch rivals, Collingwood and Carlton on the way.

I remember camping out overnight outside the ‘G to get finals tickets. In particular I remember getting tickets for the 2nd Semi Final replay in 1972. We had drawn the first match against the Blues, so the sale of tickets was done at short notice, starting on the Tuesday morning at 9am. Long queues formed around the ‘G. We comfortably won the replay. The Tiger camp was supremely confident of victory on Grand Final day over those hated Blue boys. What a nightmare, the Carlton goals just kept coming, it just rained goals, I was shattered. I will never forget the feeling of despair I had on the way home on the train!

It made revenge the next year in ’73 all the more rewarding. We made the big day in September by  beating the ‘Pies in the Preliminary Final, after being down by over 7 goals in the second quarter. Royce came off the bench at half time, crook knees and all,  kicked a goal immediately and the Tigers won by 7 points. Which reminds me of the oldest saying in footy- “What’s better than beating the ‘Pies by 10 goals? It’s beating them by a point!” Then in the Grand Final, we turned the tables on the Blues. Looking back on that day, I can’t say that all the action on the field was quite as it should have been, but the Tigers were not going to lose again and they played like players possessed. Laurie Fowler took on Big John Nicholls, who seemed twice his size and won, Neil Balme threw his weight around, and the football world was yellow and black again. I was there at the MCG at 9am on that Grand Final day in 1973 to watch the Tigers win all 3 flags- Under 19’s, Reserves and Seniors. What a day!

Another one followed in ‘74 against the Roos. I was there with a friend from England. He couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about. He still can’t.

Hawthorn, Essendon, and particularly Carlton, they had their moments, but ’67 to ’74 was clearly Tiger Times, we ruled the dung heap with little dispute!

There have been many seasons since our last Flag in ’80. The ’80 victory was a long distance victory for me as I was enjoying UK hospitality at the time, but I managed to get to see the flogging of the Pies on a replay in a pub somewhere in London. Since my return to Aus in the 80s, I have watched many a Tiger tussle, live and on TV. My fellow Tiger tragic through that period has been my good friend Chris, and more recently, my son, Cam. Chris’ father was also a Tiger man. It clearly runs very thick, the Yellow and Black blood in the veins.

Chris and I started going to the footy together back in the 80s when it was relatively easy to get in to the dressing rooms before or after the game. Maybe if the boys were defeated we were kept out, but usually access was available. Watching the Ghost, (Jimmy Jess) General (Mark Lee) or the Flea (Dale Weightman) warm up, the smell of the liniment, it was great. Can’t do it so easily these days!

I have since moved to the alien fields of Western Sydney. To say that it is an AFL wasteland is an understatement. How I long for some really good footy talk at morning tea break, even if it is with Pies or Dons supporters! My wife Maureen is a Kiwi (a closet All Black sympathiser), so not much relief there. I’m sure she is baffled as to how anyone can get so hyped up about a game of football. She invariably starts watching games with me but has to leave the room as she can’t stand the tension! That’s similar to our 2 dogs, Paddy (Guinane) and Jack (Dyer), they have learnt now. Almost as soon as they hear the Tiger song at the beginning of the game, they go and put themselves to bed out of harms way! They have yellow and black Tiger coats that they wear when they get cold.

The last 30 odd years have, on the whole, been a struggle. But what a joy to watch Matthew Richardson in full flight! If he could have only kicked straight!!!! His father, Alan (aka Bull) was in that once in a lifetime game, the ’67 Grand Final. Bull wasn’t much of a kick either, handball was his forte. My wife was disappointed when Richo retired, there was always something happening when he played, sometimes good, sometimes not so good! She thought he was a bit spunky.

At a young age, all these footballers looked like Gods, they were looked up to like Heroes. As time goes on, you realise that this impression is not realistic, and that they are like all of us, 2 arms, 2 legs and the rest. I don’t like the word “heroes” for them. A hero should be maintained for actions that are not simply reckless acts on a sporting field. Those acts are nothing compared to the people who faced likely death in the trenches of WW1 or the jungles of South-East Asia in WW2 or Vietnam. It actually belittles their contribution to our freedom and safety. However, I like to think of most of our sporting icons (in this case, Aussie Rules) as reasonably good and decent people, who can play a wonderful game, wonderfully well! For that fact, I admire and salute them, and the best of them wear a Tiger Guernsey!

One memory that will stay with me for an eternity and which reminds me of what being a Tiger person is all about, and that was last year’s Round 23 match v the Swans at the ANZ Stadium. I was there with Cam. Win and we were in the Finals. To lose was another long, late night train trip home and a squandered season. But the Tigers didn’t let us down and Cam and I yelled and shouted long and hard after the siren sounded. It was wonderful to get that revenge back on those dastardly Swans after the flogging we received from them that day 51 years ago in 1963!

Rob Bartlett

 

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says

    Go Tiges! This is the year!

  2. Good onya Rob. I’m too young to recall your 1967 falg, have some memory of watching the TV replay in 1969, but your team for the three years from 1972 is the best i’ve seen. Two flags and an amazing GF in 1972.

    Sheedy, Bartlett, Clay, Stewart, Bourke, Hart, Richardson, Balme, Mclean, Wood the list of top players is almost endless. Tough, skilled, hard to beat. Though i have never been a Tiges supporter those team sin those years had a huge impact upon me.

    Good Luck in 2016,

    Glen!

  3. Sarah Jane says

    Will 2016 be the year of the Tiger? We can only dream right?!
    Perhaps your daughters wouldn’t so much feel you failed them as you having given them the gift of not being a Richmond supporter? I may be a bit biased though, I am a cats girl ;)

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