A drink, some dinner, then off to Docklands. North vs Richmond, one we should win. That makes me nervous, North always play their worst for the gettable games. And Richmond have nothing to loose tonight.
Terry, a through-and-through Tiger, has got there early to save me a seat with his kids. I find myself on centre wing right above the interchange bench, a bay of Richmond fans surrounding me; nothing I’m not used to. By coincidence another Richmond-obsessed mate of mine is two seats away. Terry tells me the old (graceful) duck in front of us can be seen regularly at Coburg matches – these guys are rusted onto their club.
Our group all chips in a dollar to bet on the first Richmond goal scorer. I got the fourth round pick and went with Richie Tambling after Terry tells me that Chris Newman will be starting down back. The players go to take their positions and the bay updates everyone on the key match-ups: Rawlings to Foley, Gibbo to Richo. The informed football commentary is refreshing.
The game starts, and Richmond push forward. But their skills let them down, and North punish the turnovers. Spud drives the ball into the forward-line for two quick North goals. North looking polished, full of run and on their game. I relax a little.
I look around. Richmond supporters’ faces have a deep resignation, their eyes are lost, full of disbelief. “Not Again”. The pain is palpable. I have a little chuckle to myself and cop a few glares. I ask one bloke how he felt coming into the game. “Like rocking up to work: I had to be here, but I really didn’t want to come.” North fans have it pretty easy in comparison to this mob.
Then Boomer struggles off clutching his arm. I grab the wireless – the boundary rider reckons he’s in extreme pain, maybe a broken arm. He goes straight to the rooms. Then Firrito hobbles off. Looks like his foot has flared up again. Straight to the rooms as well. A guilty smirk lights up Terry’s face. “Two down.”
Richmond take back some momentum and Chris Newman kicks Richmond’s first. Terry apologises. No one tipped Newman, so I’m still a chance. Morton kicks the next and one of kids collects the $6 jackpot. Quarter time, North up by 10 points.
The second quarter starts where the first finished, poor skills, missed shots on goal, but momentum with the Tiges. It was starting to get ugly. The fans around me start to find their voice, their faces coming to life again. Richo goes off pointing at his hamstring. No one seems too worried though, looks pretty minor. I feel conflicted – North need to get one back, but Richo is football’s great entertainer.
Firrito emerges back onto the ground but seems to have lost his mojo. Swallow tries amicably. Richmond kick their fifth. Terry reaches into his backpack and pulls out some chocolates; fifth goal tradition. Edwards takes a good grab and kicks one before the siren to wrestle it back to 7 points. (“It’s good to have you back Az.”) The Tigers are far from confident, but nor am I.
The second half gets uglier. Jumping Jack Riewoldt is having a pearler, Deledio has too much pace. The North forward line is dysfunctional, again. Nothing seems to be working for them. Richo comes back on with a slight limp and the crowd goes nuts. I’m really not confident now.
Richmond keep going in the last. Hansen clutches his hamstring, hobbles off and it starts to look like a train wreck. Sam Power, Lindsay Thomas and Ed Lower will be lucky to get a game next week – if it wasn’t for the injuries. Richmond make it a six goal lead, and for the first time, the fans start to relax. A few North supporters start to wander off – poor form in my book.
The siren sounds. The Richmond fans look like they’ve just come out of their last chemo session – exhausted but ecstatic. I stay to hear the song; and what a song it is.