Grand Final – Richmond v Geelong: Two Little Tigers

In late July of 2016, we turned to each other. I can’t remember which of us said it first, but we agreed that being parents of a Richmond-loving 4 year-old was already giving us a deeper – dare we say better – understanding of what was required of good parenting.


That afternoon, Richmond had visited Canberra for the first time ever, and we’d made the 15 minute drive from home to Manuka Oval with our yellow-and-black covered footy fanatic. It would become perhaps the first moment when we traversed what we immediately recognised as a natural yet dreadful parenting experience. An experience we knew we would need to navigate many more times as the kid and his toddling sister grew up. The experience of being able to see pain coming at your child, but being utterly incapable of stopping it.


By late in the first quarter, a good 36 years since their last Premiership, the Tigers were trailing GWS by 51-1, and the kid had decided that the best place to watch the remainder of the game was firmly nestled into his Dad’s lap and shoulder. Later that night, when he was out in the backyard playing a footy game in which the Tigers were leading the Giants by a record margin, his parents – Dad a Hawk, and Mum a Swan – consoled each other with the knowledge that this wasn’t just resilience-building for the kid, but it was also resilience-building for us. We knew there would inevitably be bigger problems and pain in the future that we would be equally incapable of stopping. Surely we would be better prepared for facing those moments thanks to the Tigers providing us with such an effective dress rehearsal?




In 2014, when the eldest was 2, he was already infatuated with AFL and knew that he was required to choose a team to follow. As his parents had both come from mixed families who hadn’t forced an allegiance upon their children, the kid was provided with his extended family’s traditional refrain: “Anyone but Collingwood.” He chose the Tigers.




In 2017, when the youngest was 2, she wasn’t nearly as infatuated with AFL, but she too understood the choice that was in front of her. In almost every way, she was – and still is – incredibly different from her brother. She had no interest in emulating AFL stars in the backyard or in the playroom, but she desperately wanted to be a part of the pageantry. She wanted a team, colours, a song and a favourite player to call her own. She chose the Tigers.




On the second last Saturday night in October 2020, the now 5 year-old stayed up later than she ever had before. Like her brother, she’d already witnessed two Tigers premierships, of course, but this one was the first that she could really understand. The first Grand Final before which the nerves could really fester. In fact, they began festering during the Preliminary Final when she lay face down on the couch as the Power seemed a chance with a good few minutes remaining and shouted “JUST BLOW THE SIREN!” They then festered throughout Grand Final Day, occasionally exploding in nervous-energy-fuelled bizarre and loud behaviour throughout the interminably long wait for the 7:30pm start. They festered even more with the Cats ahead by a bunch late in the first half of the Grand Final, when she quietly stated “I’d like to swap the worst Tiger player for Patrick.” This confident, extroverted, straightforward kid had found the first corner of her world that she cared passionately about that was entirely out of her control.


But an hour or so later, her parents looked over to her couch where she was lying down and staring at the far wall of the room, having been unable to look at the tv for a while. “Kid,” her Dad said, “you know the Tigers are definitely going to win from here.” The face filled with an almost disbelieving kind of excitement, as if questioning just how the fates could thrust something so truly magnificent upon her. The dancing, the bouncing, the punching of the couch, and the pure laughter as “Jacky Boy” kicked his second was matched only by her brother’s clenched fist and whoops as he too knew that they were home.




In 2015, when the eldest was 3 and his sister was strapped to her Mum’s chest, we made what we didn’t realise would become an annual pilgrimage to Punt Road prior to taking in a match at the MCG. That day, the kid would be the youngest on the fence at the Tigers’ Open Training by a good decade, and all of the players – having walked along the boundary paying minimal and quick attention to the talkback callers and the flirty late-teenage girls who appeared to make up most of the crowd – were utterly and overtly delightful when they reached the tiny kid on the boundary who knew them all by name. High-fives were given and received, photographs were taken, and the jumper was signed – including by “Cotchie”, who added a smiley face inside the autograph he’d written on the kid’s proudly-worn number 9.


A similar reception was given to the kid when he returned each of the next two years. In 2017, when he was still the youngest perched on the fence, Damien Hardwick came over for a long chat with this footy-obsessed interstate traveller who was skipping a week of his first semester of primary school to come and watch the Tigers.


By 2018 and 2019, a Premiership had been won and crowds at Open Training had grown, as had the boy. And besides, his sister was now the younger cute thing in her Jack Riewoldt jersey, even if she was too scared to initiate conversation with any of the players as they came past her and her brother beside the field. Question her, though, about the moment when Cotchie asked if he could steal her jelly snake, and she’ll regale you with an exuberant re-telling that deftly ignores her shyness.


In 2020, trainings and borders weren’t open.




In 2015, when the eldest was 3, we attended the kid’s first game at the MCG with his sleeping baby sister strapped to her Mum’s chest. As he walked to the ground surrounded by others in yellow and black, he exclaimed to his parents “They’re all just like me!” The kid had found his people. That afternoon saw a brilliant contest result in a Tigers win over the Magpies by less than a kick. At the final siren, the elated kid asked his Dad to help him stand on his seat so he could belt out Tigerland at the top of his tiny lungs. Dad obliged, much to the enjoyment of many nearby Tigers who seemed to think this tiny boy who knew the words and needed his seat to be held down so that it didn’t collapse around him was beautifully hilarious. Or perhaps it was his Dad’s Hawks scarf that was the most unexpected vision of the tableau.


Two years later, it was his Mum’s turn to be with him at the ‘G. The AFL hadn’t deemed it necessary that season to schedule a Tigers game in Melbourne during the ACT school holidays, so his school teacher Dad and his didn’t-choose-Richmond-till-a-couple-of-months-later kid sister skipped the pilgrimage that year. As such, it was his Mum – on Mother’s Day, no less – who witnessed her son’s heartbreaking look of abject misery as David Mundy kicked Freo clear with a goal after the siren. Almost immediately, the 20-something Tiger fan sitting behind the kid wrapped him up in an instinctual, massive hug of condolence. As they shared a tear, the man soon realised what he’d done and looked at the kid’s mother, clearly wondering if he’d overstepped a boundary. She shrugged and said, “Hey, I’m a Swans supporter…I’m not nearly as useful as you are for him right now!”


In 2018 and 2019, his sister was there right alongside him. Never had a blonder, more pony-tailed girl walked into the G more proudly in yellow and black than this one who would bury her nose in the Footy Record while singing along to We Will Rock You and Roar during the warm-up. She was now a part of the pageantry. Part of something bigger than herself. She had a team, colours, a song and a favourite player to call her own. And here on her family’s annual pilgrimage, she could show that to the world.


In 2020, MCG games and borders weren’t open.




In late October of 2020, we turned to each other. I can’t remember which of us said it first, but we agreed that the eldest in particular is definitely old enough now for these moments to be ones that would be imprinted on his long-term memory.


It was Sunday morning, the day after the first ever night before, and we’d just finished a celebratory breakfast for the kids before driving across town on some errands. The kids’ two Richmond scarves were blowing out of their respective back windows as the two beaming children – one now 8, the other now 5 – sung along loudly to their latest Spotify playlist. Jack River, Circa Waves, The Wombats… 


This team. These players. These genuine heroes of our kids. They have provided a level of joy that we, as parents, cannot come close to matching.


So much for building resilience.



For more of EPO’s writing, click HERE.




The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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About Edward P. Olsen

EPO is equally passionate about sport and sports writing. While others toil away at the local indoor sports centre re-living their futile childhood dreams of being one of the best of all time, he types away at home re-living his futile childhood dream of being one of the world’s great columnists.


  1. John Butler says

    EPO, timing is everything, sometimes. :)

    This is a lovely piece.


  2. Edward this is a beautiful story: a can’t-help-but-smile example of how loving footy as a family not only strengthens the connections between mum dad and kids but also to the wider community. A valuable investment for life.

    Your family sounds like great fun.

  3. That’s a ripper Edward.

    Winners are grinners.

  4. Edward, Great Yarn, So a Hawk and a Swan have tough little Tigers for progeny.

    Surely your kids should have been Eagles ( I’m so glad there not Crows) given they are the peak predator in the Avian Kingdom with parents like you two.

    as to life lasting influences It’s all about the ” time” !!
    A little bit like this Tiger who loved and continues to appreciate 70’s Glam rock as the mighty Yellow and Black “Hafey’s heroes” were doing their thing whilst Slade, Status Quo and Thin Lizzy were damaging my young eardrums and providing a soundtrack for the “sensational seventies” as Drew Morphett used to say. So get to used to it once a tiger always a tiger!

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