Tigers continue to wander around the desert in circles

By John Green

It’s the game Richmond have to win.

When supporters first perused the 2009 draw this clash with lowly Melbourne was pencilled in as a certainty. Humiliate those Bluebagger upstarts who were coming and we all knew it, fly the colours against the Cats and the Bulldogs in the following rounds, boost the percentage by disposing of the Dees. Two wins minimum.

Instead, we find ourselves 0-3 and needing a victory to calm the nerves.

How could this happen to us?

The match starts in the best possible way for the Tigers when Warnock goes too far with the aggro before the opening bounce, resulting in a free to Tom Hislop. Hislop passes to Morton, who pops it through. That’s the ticket! Brown follows with another just minutes later and the Tigers are striding powerfully through the jungle again.

Melbourne’s Brad Green kicks the Demons’ first major and picks up eight possessions before going down in a contest with Alex Rance. He’s gone for the afternoon. Melbourne rallies, but hits the post on an astonishing four occasions. Both sides have a protracted attack of the fumbles, but I back Melbourne to cough it up more often as the game unfolds.

This is Melbourne, right? The team not expected to win a game all year.

But a few things start to go right for them. Sylvia leads the way with a number of incisive moves through the middle and he boots a couple of long goals. Miller leads, marks strongly and kicks straight. All of a sudden, Davey and McLean regain their mojo. Raw ruckmen Johnson and Meesen, written off as certain losers before the match, give the Demons first use at the hit-outs. Bruce leads from the front.

Richmond fans become increasingly desperate.

When Miller snaps a goal from the square with a matter of seconds left on the clock the Demons surge to a 34-point lead by half-time. The Melbourne players canter from the field to the rapturous applause of their supporters. They have booted eight goals to three. I know now that the Tigers are cooked. They have been vanquished in one half by a team with most of its members still too young to shave.

I spend the third quarter bleakly considering the notion of D-Day and compiling a list of D-words to sum up the situation. Despair. Defeat. Despondency. Degradation. Disaster. Decline. In fact it’s D-Day.

Richmond resort to old tricks. Richo is cast in the role of saviour once again, taken out of the midfield and propped in the square. He breaks packs, bustles for leverage and keeps hauling in marks. He hands a couple of goals to debutant Andrew Collins, kicks four himself and misses a few more.

At three-quarter-time I await the torrent of abuse about to rain upon Terry Wallace and his lieutenants. Perhaps mindful of television cameras that are looking out for membership cards to be hurled on to the turf in pieces, it doesn’t happen. There is an air of resignation. Most of the diehards are silent. There are a few grim jokes about the next five-year plan and the coming decade of bleak winters. Others consider the progress of their fantasy teams.

Led by Nathan Foley and the indefatigable Joel Bowden, who accumulates 44 possessions (28 kicks and 16 handballs!), Richmond launch a late flurry. They generate some run and carry against a tiring Melbourne, who begin to realise they are entering uncharted territory.

Have they forgotten how to win?

They attempt to slow the game down with some delicate possession footy, but frequently come unstuck. They miss a few easy shots, but so do the Tigers. With the Demon’s half-time buffer still largely in place, the Tigers need more goals. They draw closer as time runs out, but no one gets too excited. The final margin of eight points is misleading. The Demons had it in the bag an hour ago.

I resort to some alliteration with Ds. Death of a dream. When Terry Wallace arrived at Punt Road in 2004 he came with some “unfinished business”. His ambition was to awaken the sleeping giant and to coach Richmond to an AFL premiership. Instead, he’s like Moses. Moses saw the Promised Land from the summit of Mount Nebo on the other side of the Jordan, but wasn’t permitted to enter the land himself, even though he begged Yahweh for a change of heart. Wallace hasn’t even arrived at the river. It’s like he is still leading the Tiger tribe in circles through the wilderness, but can’t find the road leading out of the desert.

Malarkey votes: Sylvia (M) 3, Richardson (R) 2, Bowden (R) 1.

Leave a Comment