One of the great joys of being a member of the MCC is going to special sporting celebrations throughout the year, but the one that means more to me than anything is the Long Walk to the `G to celebrate the Dreamtime game.I grew up in the 1950s in a very progressive family that had a great social attitude to issues of the day. My family abhorred racism and being Dons’ tragics we were made aware of this ugly attitude among supporters of other VFL teams, while watching the great Norman McDonald weave his magic on the football field some sixty -five years ago.
As a young teacher playing alongside an Indigenous footballer in country Victoria, I heard the racist taunts directed at my team-mate and felt them deeply. He was as good or a better man than me. He was certainly a much better footballer. His skin was darker and that gave the racists their chance to vent their ignorant spleen.
This has been happening all over Australia for two hundred years. It has to stop in all walks of life, not just the sporting field. I believe the agreement of the First Nation peoples for a Treaty, at Uluru, will be a huge stepping- stone in the future.
I’m not sure who nominated me for MCC membership in my early teens, but it may have been an old uncle called Cousin Tom who lent ladies tickets to the family to watch cricket of footy, or a customer in the garage I would work in on weekends as a petrol monkey.
Some 25 years later I became a restricted member and now, after 30 years of membership, I’m on my way to the `G via Federation Square celebrating the history of the oldest surviving living culture in the world and The Long Walk.
The atmosphere inside the ground was almost spiritual with the lights out and the dancers performing in semi-darkness in the space between the two teams. This culture that has survived 50,000 years should be listened to.
And then the lights came back on, the dancers left, the teams finished their warm ups, Anthony McDonald –Tipungwuti called it right on the coin toss up and the game started.
And what a spectacle the `G turned on. A mild night, with over 85,000 at the ground, makes you proud to be a member.
Essendon had three goals up before Richmond had touched the ball. That’s the sort of game I like watching, but like all good things it didn’t last. Richmond scored twice but kept the Dons in the game with some ridiculous goal kicking attempts.
I’ve got a theory. One of the great coaching strategies seems to be to take a player off after he kicks a goal. So if you miss you stay on more. Now what footballer really wants to come off, especially after kicking a goal?
But, back to the game. The Dons scored three more in the latter stages of the first quarter to lead at quarter time by eight points. I felt a little uneasy, Richmond seemed to be in charge but the Dons were still in front.
The second quarter was similar, Richmond were the better team all over the ground, the Dons were giving it their best, but their skills were down. Richmond continued to find ways of kicking points or out of bounds so at half time we were still up by four points despite Richmond having six more scoring shots.
After the big break, Richmond’s constant pressure on Essendon was forcing errors in kicking, handballing and decision-making. But did Richmond make the most of this? The answer is no. All I can suggest is that The Tigers are a team with empathy. They hate to see other teams suffer too much. How is it possible that they were so superior, but only three points up at three quarter time?
I somehow thought (and believed) the Dons could pull off an amazing finish. Perhaps a goal after the siren to win by a point, to cap off Richmond’s last couple of matches, when they dragged defeat from the jaws of victory, convincing their supporters to buy one way airline tickets to North Korea.
But I was dreaming, despite Richmond’s goal kicking leaving a lot to be desired, they managed to win by fifteen points. They had twenty-six shots on goal and a lot of out of bounds, to the Dons’ sixteen.
I reckon The Dons were a good chance on Saturday night, but it wasn’t to be. I’m sure we will bounce back and win four or five more games for the season. And as for Richmond, I think they will finish a very credible ninth!
Tragic Don Rod Oaten is descended from four generations of Essendon supporters. His great grandfather was always helping around the football and cricket club back in the late 1880s, cleaning, painting, nailing and doing anything that might be helpful to the Same Old's cause. Rod's own sporting career spanned tennis, badminton, squash and football. He still plods around running tracks and along beaches in an effort to stay fit.
RICHMOND 4.4 6.9 9.12 11.15 (81)
ESSENDON 6.0 8.1 10.3 10.6 (66)
Richmond: Riewoldt 2, Edwards 2, Caddy 2, Lloyd, Elton, Martin, Ellis, Nankervis
Essendon: Daniher 3, Goddard 2, Fantasia, Heppell, Green, Stewart, Zaharakis
Richmond: Martin, Ellis, Rance, Cotchin, Houli, Nankervis, Grigg
Essendon: Zaharakis, Goddard, Hurley, McGrath, Parish, Watson
Umpires: Dalgleish, Stevic, Deboy
Official crowd: 85,656 at the MCG