When the Tigers Rocked the Theatre Royal – Hobart’s First Encounter With “Eat ‘Em Alive”

The Richmond Football Club will always be synonymous with the Apple Isle – names such as Stewart, Hart and Richardson will be forever etched into the fabric of the famous club and their heroic sporting feats will never be forgotten. The same can be said about combat sports. Far removed from the ‘black market’ fights of the Colonial period, modern Tasmanian pugilists such as Geale and Rawlings continue to make their mark at international level. The crossover between these two entities has been historically documented. Former Richmond Captain/Coach Dan Minogue won a Heavyweight boxing title for his regiment whilst serving in the AIF during World War One. More recently, former Tiger midfielder Shane Tuck has competed on major boxing cards within Australia (most recently on the undercard of Anthony Mundine v Danny Green II). Hidden away within the vast history of Tasmanian sports is a night in which one such crossover between boxing and the Richmond Football Club occurred, electrifying Hobart’s Theatre Royal building in the process.

 

A tour had been organised to the Apple Isle by the Dan Minogue led Richmond and a match was to be played against a Southern Tasmanian team on Saturday 30 September, 1922. A light run on North Hobart Oval on the Thursday beforehand was all the preparation needed as the Tigers edged out the representative team by 3 points, 10 – 9 – 69 to 9 – 12 – 66. Praise was bestowed on the Tasmanians by coach Minogue, claiming that he did not think that Victorian clubs ‘can teach them anything’ about the game, despite admitting that his opinion before the contest was that his Tigers would win easily[1]. A Richmond official referred to in the Hobart Mercury as Mr. Maybury would later lament that players such as Gorringe, Charlesworth and Smith, three men that went on to have well renowned local careers for the Cananore Football Club, would be welcome inclusions for Richmond in the Victorian Football League. Their prowess on the football field would not be the only impact that the Tigers had on the city during that week however.

 

The Wednesday prior to the exhibition football game, Hobart played host to the Australasian Amateur Boxing Championships which were held at the iconic Theatre Royal, a building known more-so in the Twenty-First Century as the City’s home of the performing arts. The event was packed with great quality boxing and all contests went the full distance. As the Mercury reported, ‘The boxing was of high standard, and served to demonstrate that there are in the amateur ranks some very fine exponents of self-defence’[2]. However, much of this was to be overshadowed by the energy and the veracity brought to the event by the Tigers through the support they showed for their fellow Victorian athletes, one of which was said to have been from the suburb of Richmond. Headlining the bouts were three high profile Melbournian pugilists: A. J. Peet – a young up and coming Bantamweight that was ear-marked for a lengthy career in the sport, Mat Killeen – a well-renowned boxer amongst the Victorian policing heavyweight ranks that fought out of Port Melbourne and Bert Ristuccia – a man that would go on to have some well-documented fights in Melbourne in the years that followed the tournament. Richmond had the building shaking. Each time a shot landed, whether it be a left hook or a right uppercut – the Tigers could be heard shouting their now famous ‘Eat ‘Em Alive’ catch cry as these boxers found an opening on their opponent[3]. Victoria would go on the bring home one title from the event as Peet was crowned the champion of the Bantamweight ranks.

 

While such an event seems irrelevant on the surface, it is interesting to me for two main reasons. Firstly, it is a welcome reminder of how important it is to support local and amateur sports. In a world in which it is easy to get caught up in the mega-stardom that is aligned with professional sports, teams and players associated with the local are becoming increasingly squeezed out and overlooked. These footballers showed a bond of solidarity with their fellow Victorians and their support highlights the degree in which sport can be the lifeblood of any community and bring people together. Secondly, the incident has a somewhat surreal feeling to it – with all of the history that the club has with Tasmania, it is at a boxing event that the first documented time that Tasmania would hear the famous “Eat ‘Em Alive” motto. More than a motto really, it became a mantra that would define many Tasmanian Tigers during their careers. Players such as Hart, Sproule and Stewart, stars of the Tom Hafey era that heralded four premierships in the eight years between 1967-74 would hear the screaming masses urge on their players with the famous slogan as they battled on wilfully. In more recent years, forward marvels Richardson and Riewoldt have rode this wave of supporter cries as the club strives to relive the success and glory of a past era. To find the starting point for what has become a long and sustained history of Tasmanian Tiger ruthlessness, we must look to this night in 1922 which had previously been hidden within a microcosm of Tasmanian sports history.

 

[1] The Mercury, 2 October 1922, p. 7.

[2] The Mercury, 28 September 1922, p. 8.

[3] The Mercury, 29 September 1922, p. 8.

About Liahm O'Brien

Tasmanian Tiger - Born into the Northey era, blinded by the Wallace era, healed by the Hardwick era - Twitter: @BigSmoove83

Comments

  1. Well researched Liahm. And you’ll be hearing a lot more of that Battle Cry this September & beyond.

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