Round 18 – Hawthorn v Richmond: A new contender

By Paddy Grindlay

 

It’s Friday night. Men in suits are on the telly, analysing and laughing and enthusing about a wonderful game. They chat about redemption, about new beginnings, about a new premiership contender. An empty stadium rises in the background, a score materialises out of the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

We just beat Hawthorn. Yes, we just beat Hawthorn!

It’s been five minutes since a brightly beaming Trent Cotchin punted a football high in the air as a stadium half-full of yellow and black faithful stood as one and released every single ounce of pain and disappointment that’s been building for 35 years.

It sounded beautiful.

I guess I’m lucky; I’ve only been around for 14 of those 35 years. I was born into a fanatically Richmond family: support for the yellow and black was non-negotiable. But I’m not old enough to experience the 2001 victory over Carlton during September, nor young enough to detach from two successive heart-wrenching Elimination Final defeats.

The day after that inexplicable Carlton final, I walked into the Grade 7 classroom, defiantly wearing my Tigers cap. With gnawed fingernails and a sunken belly, I sat next to my mates.

“We are the Navy Blues…”

One singer, Demo, is a Hawthorn man. He knows success. Spook’s a Bomber. He has 16 premierships to boast about. Wilson loves his Catters. And so on. I am the only Tiger fan in the room.

Next year it was the Port song. So it goes. I don’t mind too much; you give as much as you take.

But, I realise, what can I give? There are no recent finals victories for me to return serve with, no recent Grand Finals for me to muse over.

But now I have this.

I grew up with these Tigers. My love of my team grew with every new draftee. I was six when Trent Cotchin arrived; nine when I saw Dusty Martin’s fend-off for the first time.

I went to many games with my excited family. “Dusty!” we yelled. “Cotch! Jaaaccckkkkk!”

We didn’t win much, but it was different, somehow. A brand new coach and an almost completely different team did that for us. We grew as fans at the same rate as the players and coach.

When these Tigers, so young and skilful, came twelfth in 2011, I was convinced that we would be premiers. They weren’t the toothless Tigers of old. We were winning games and were a sneaky chance for the top eight.

We went nuts over our lads in 2013. The good news story of the season, these Tigers played magnificently. I felt like a Geelong fan all season long, intoxicated with success, as we played wonderful football.

But then, we lost that Elimination Final to the Blues. Heart broken, I left the living room as Garlett kicked the sealer and distanced myself as far as possible from my team.

It got harder for the first half of 2014, but out of the woes of 3-10 we produced the comeback of the century. My faith wavered slightly in that period, but, like my boys out on the field, arrived back its rightful position with a resounding crash, good as new.

Then Port smashed us in September. Far out!

As a fan base, we had been emotionally tested. But after so many years of pain, that would never be a problem. We rebounded after another unsuccessful September, ready to ride that wave again, and our faith and loyalty was finally rewarded. You’d think that this Tiger team just needed their players to mature, but debuts for McIntosh, Lambert, Corey Ellis, Menadue and McBean gave all an exciting glimpse to the future. Excitement builds again, I’ve never seen a team like this in yellow and black.

On Saturday morning at junior’s tennis, I walked onto the court wearing my Richmond jumper and a jaunty grin, ready to cop any sort abuse. It’s a usual spot for a bit of poke-in-the-ribs teasing.

It didn’t come. That doesn’t usually happen.

But I’d kept my word. I promised that if the Tiges won on Friday night I wouldn’t take my Richmond jumper all weekend.

And I didn’t.

I’ve always loved my Tigers.

But now they’re loving me back.

 

Paddy Grindlay is a 14 year old sports writer who can't decide if he wants to be Gerard Whateley or Richo.

Paddy Grindlay is a 14 year old sports writer who can’t decide if he wants to be Gerard Whateley or Richo.

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