Walking through a Tiger Wonderland

When I was a kid and my father took my brother and I to see the Tigers play at the MCG, we would often visit my grandmother at her house in Richmond before the match.

To someone raised as I was on a new housing estate on the basalt plains north of Melbourne, Richmond was an exotic place in the late sixties. My grandmother lived across the road from a grey-walled factory. Sometimes we could hear the noise of heavy machinery from the street. Steam billowed from the chimneys. When we parked outside her house our car would lean at a sharp angle toward the curb. Dad said it was because Richmond was an old place and the road had been repaired over the years by laying successive layers of asphalt. Sometimes my brother and I would play in the lane at the back of the house. It smelt old and musty and the paving stones were carpeted with leaves from the surrounding trees. We could peer over the fences at tiny old terraces with their narrow backyards and wooden outhouses.

After we visited Nan, Dad would park near the old Australia Hotel on Bridge Road to have a beer with his mates. One of them, Ron Johnson, had actually played a handful of games for Richmond in the early sixties. Then we we’d take a stroll up the hill to the afternoon’s do-or-die. If it was finals time the shop windows would be filled with fearsome fluffy tigers, yellow and black balloons and streamers as well as photographs of Richmond’s stars. The Christmas lights on The Boulevard had nothing on this.

For me, the club and the community that spawned it were one and the same.

Then there were the flags. I remember after the premiership win in ’69 when The Australia was so crowded that deliriously happy patrons spilled out onto the footpath. They cheered and raised their glasses when a yellow and black flag was unfurled from the clock tower of the Town Hall down the street. The parish priest rang the bells of St.Ignatius on Richmond Hill after the Tigers toppled North Melbourne in the ’74 decider.

My father regaled me with tales of seeing players in the streets of Richmond as he was growing up after the war. Many of them lived and worked in Richmond in the days before football was a fulltime job. And it was tribal. If you crossed Victoria Street to the Abbotsford side you were at risk of being bashed by Collingwood toughs. Likewise, Magpie supporters risked life and limb if they ventured across the border.

These days it’s different. Dad passed away in 1991 and my grandmother followed three years later. The old Australia Hotel became a wine bar and later still a clothing store. It’s a long time since the Tigers ruled the football jungle.

Now I take my own son to the MCG.

If you like footy, if you like walking, if you like a bit of history as I do, you can take a self-guided walk around the suburb highlighting its links to the club that bears its name.

See where Jack Dyer, Tom Hafey and Kevin Bartlett lived. Visit pubs that players owned and managed. Drop in on Jack Dyer’s old school and get yourself a tattoo at the place where Jack Titus ran a café in the 1940s. Gaze upon the fountain outside the Town Hall. Ruckman Barney Herbert hoisted himself up there in front of hundreds of barrackers after Richmond defeated Collingwood in the 1920 grand final.

“What did we do to ‘em?” yelled Barney.

“We ate ‘em alive!” roared the fans.

The walk map and notes can be downloaded at www.richmondtigerlandwalk.com

 

Comments

  1. Is Mr Wrap’s borstal on the tour? And Jack Dyer’s milkbar where he bought his first Turf cigarette?

  2. It’s an interesting article to read. I’m a new St Kilda fan and learned that Saints training bases have been relocated a few times. However this article seems to suggest me to walk around the suburb of St Kilda. I live in Sapporo, Japan and would love to visit places around St Kilda including St Kilda Beach when I make a way to Melbourne. Also I will visit the club’s training facility in Seaford.

  3. You paint a vivid image of suburban Richmond back in the sixties, connecting both daily life and it’s footy life.

  4. Robert Harriss says

    Have a look at “Finding Jack Dyer” by Tony Hardy if you want toget a real sense of Richmond and its history, and football tribalism from the 20s through to the 70s.

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