By Dave Campbell
There was a buzz on the packed V/Line train.
It came from the speculating Richmond supporters. What difference would new players Baker, Chol and Stack make to the side that lost to Collingwood last time? Would Cotchin be playing or would he be at the birth of his third child? Had Riewoldt and Lynch “gelled”?
Meanwhile a more subdued Collingwood supporter queried when Moore, Stephenson and Beams would be back.
But for Richmond supporters, one issue dominated. Why were so many people tipping Richmond? What had happened to the “brave underdog” tag? Why had Wayne Carey installed Richmond as flag favourites? And most importantly - how could Richmond lose people from the bandwagon – without actually losing games?
Persistent rain fell as I alighted from the train at Jolimont Station. I joined my Collingwood/Richmond extended family members high and dry at the front of Level 4 of the MCG.
I offered my SLR camera to the lady next to us in the hope of getting a group photo. She passed the camera straight to her husband. He was struggling to see the dials even before the MCG lights went out. This was no repeat of the infamous 1996 Waverley Park blackout – it was a deliberate event that Collingwood had organised.
Fans were encouraged to turn on their mobile phone torches in the dark to “shine a light on homelessness”. Our contribution was the strobe flash from my camera, which kept going off while our helpful neighbour tried to poke and prod buttons (while being berated by his wife).
Dave (Tigers), Aunt Mary (Tigers), Ron (Pies), Dad (Pies) and Mum (Tigers)
during the MCG blackout (with lights shining on homelessness in the background)
The symbolism of the game’s opening minutes was not lost on Tiger supporters. Bane of the Richmond backline, Mason Cox, received a free kick in front of goal almost immediately.
Adam Treloar, the man who had persistently escaped Richmond’s clutches both on and off the field, got free and kicked a brilliant snap goal. Then our fearless leader Trent Cotchin mysteriously retired to the bench.
In general, Richmond adapted far better to the wet conditions. They pressured Collingwood, forced the ball forward at every opportunity and soon had five goals to one.
Word got around that Cotchin’s night was over due to a hamstring strain. Damien Hardwick gave him an affectionate hug as they walked back from the quarter-time huddle. He either said “don’t worry, the team is in good hands,” or “good luck explaining to Brooke that you won’t be able to chase around after the children while she is busy with the new-born!”
By time-on in the second quarter Lynch had four goals and Richmond were leading nine goals to one. The game was over. Then the weather changed, the skies cleared and the ball dried off.
Collingwood’s possession game clicked and they kicked two goals in two minutes. At half-time the stage was set for one of the most inspirational comebacks of all time. Or perhaps it would start raining again.
Collingwood improved, but could only match Richmond goal for goal in the third quarter. Richmond put the result beyond doubt in the first half of the last quarter, before conceding late goals.
Bachar Houli was chaired off the ground in honour of his 200th game for the club. He is rare player whose on-field exploits and off-field demeanour are equally worthy of mention.
Our group turned left instead of right at the bottom of the main stairs and became disoriented by the tens of thousands strong throng outside the ground. Only Shane Warne’s giant arms curled to bowl a flipper alerted us to the path leading to Jolimont Station.
As we talked and wove through the crowd I could only hear snatches: “Nobody coming past in suppport … lack of poise under pressure …no ingenuity …. lack of a clear plan”. I wasn’t sure whether the subject was Collingwood or my day’s teaching at school.
I squeezed onto the train, which seemed to be more laden down than ever – just like the Richmond bandwagon.
Dave Campbell is privileged to have been old enough to watch the 1980 and 2007 Richmond Premierships. He is a Physics and Environmental Science teacher in Geelong, where there are a surprising number of Tiger supporters. He is a keen cyclist except when driving his daugthers to extra-curricular commitments.
COLLINGWOOD 1.2 3.6 5.10 9.12 (66)
RICHMOND 5.4 9.7 11.12 14.14 (98)
Collingwood: Mihocek 2, Pendlebury 2, Crocker, De Goey, Elliott, Thomas, Treloar
Richmond: Lynch 5, Lambert 2, Martin 2, Bolton, Chol, Riewoldt, Soldo, Stack
Official crowd: 78,722 at the MCG