I am the only Richmond supporter who was totally unaffected by the Preliminary Final loss to Collingwood last year. When my father-in-law Derek passed away we hopped on the first overnight flight to New Zealand and I slept through the game. I woke up the next morning and focussed on more important things: we celebrated the life of a much-loved storyteller and family man.
The Thursday 6.20pm Flinders Street train to Greensborough seemed to have gone missing and by the time it arrived the platform was a seething mass of black and white, yellow and black with a few blue suits. Train passengers held a rail with one hand and clutched a phone displaying team lists in the other. Only monogrammed club caps could be seen above the crush. We disgorged onto Jolimont platform and the regular commuters exhaled.
It was the Richmond v Collingwood `rematch', the main difference being the presence of Richmond’s boom recruit Tom Lynch. Small players run out of legs but the tall players stay tall, apparently. Approaching the MCG I nodded to the bronze version of Kevin Bartlett which will never run out of legs and will always remain very tall. Further on I passed through the security wand cordon with my own arms fully outstretched; a souvlaki in one hand and a bucket of chips in the other.
My aunt Mary greeted me inside with a hug and some muffins. An attendant had spotted Mary slowly descending the stairs to our reserved seats and insisted she sit in the disability access section on the Level 4 concourse - with her partner Ron. My father and I descended to our original seats.
This mirrored my extended family, split down the middle between Collingwood and Richmond after an incident with Turkish Delight when my brother was young. There is a crucial childhood window in which allegiances can be bought and sold - at least to Collingwood - it seems. There is only one old photo that exists of my brother wearing a jumper with a Richmond sash, and even that’s a black and white photo! Tracing things further back, my father Andrew rapidly switched his allegiances on his first day at Ivanhoe State School - then part of the Collingwood zone - when the school bully demanded his team or his lunch.
My maternal grandfather on the other hand grew up in the working class incarnation of Richmond. Consequently my mother and her three sisters have been lifetime Tiger supporters; they did not even waver when their own brother played ruck for Hawthorn in the 1960s. They were happy for Michael Blood to be best-on-ground as long as Richmond won the match.
Our extended family has a fourth generation of Collingwood/Richmond supporters now, who are attracted to the age-old contest, the dramatic roars of the crowd and the chance of muffins. But they were in bed as it was a school night. Two pairs of Collingwood/Richmond supporters represented the family instead. Interestingly, Richmond named Geoff Raines as its “homecoming hero” for the round, despite him being part of the spiteful (and futile) Collingwood-Richmond “poaching wars” of the 1980s. So I guess the message is that we should move on from old feuds after 36 years.
The only positive at half-time (and quarter-time) was that Richmond was only a goal down. Mum and her sister, who would have been at the game but for a 70th birthday road trip, called for some reassurance about the game. But I had to tell them that the Richmond players who were off the TV screen were not doing any better than the ones they could see on-screen. I chatted to Ron with my back to the big screen as it proclaimed that Collingwood had double the number of stats in every category, except goals.
The three-quarter time deficit was three goals. Richmond had planned for this eventuality, picking an extra small player to run Collingwood off their feet. But that never happened. Tom Lynch could not stop Collingwood running out convincing winners. Jordan De Goey did as he pleased and I finally got to experience Mason Cox making fools of the Tiger defenders! As we walked very slowly down four flights of stairs my aunt passed me a spare muffin.
On the Jolimont and Flinders Street platforms the large crowds were well behaved as the trains shuttled back and forth. A woman half stepped on the train, hesitated, and asked whether it went through to Southern Cross. We answered from inside but the doors closed on her quickly and the train moved off. A symbol of the end of Richmond dominance? Before I could muse further a Collingwood supporter remarked: “There will be another train!”
Dave Campbell is privileged to have watched the 1980 and 2017 Richmond Premierships. He is a Physics and Environmental Science teacher in Geelong, where there are a surprising number of Tigers’ supporters. He is a keen cyclist except when driving his daughters to extra-curricular commitments.