Footy – A Richmond Tale

Dusty mural

I have a confession to make. I was an Essendon supporter until I was fourteen years old. My maternal grandfather captained Essendon to two premierships in the 1920s, so I was a ‘sworn’ Bomber. But then I went to the footy with my father, and I changed teams. Just like that! No-one does that in Melbourne.

Tigers first golden era

The game was the 1967 Grand Final, and Richmond won. I was taken into the players’ rooms after the game (an extremely rare honour, even then), and I was introduced to the players. Most of them were just out of the showers, but those were curiously decorous times. The players, to a man I think, tolerated the social task of shaking a 14 year old’s hand as I was led through the room. They wore towels.

This incident, though slight to my reader, changed the world for me. The Richmond Tigers went on to win another four premierships over the next thirteen years. Did I look back over my shoulder to re-consider my decision? Never. I gloried in the Richmond way, the ruthless Tigers who gave no quarter, who trained harder and played harder, with an assurance that they had no friends, just opponents.

Carlton was our natural enemy, later to be Collingwood, but they were all loathed, except for Footscray, who were everyone’s second, other team. That’s because they were never a threat.

My commitment never wavered, though there were times when I did not even follow the footy. Somewhere in those years footy seemed to be just another sport, and life demanded we turn our attention to more worldly matters. Life intervened.

The wilderness years

And after 1980 there was less to be interested in. As the years rolled on, Richmond stopped being a power, and became something of a joke. Years and years of power struggles within the club drained momentum. Beloved figures from the past ran nasty, personal campaigns to wrest control back from whomever, maybe outsiders?

These were the years when the enemies of the club prospered. Even the Bombers, disdained so many years ago, won several flags with an ex- Tiger champion coaching them. Essendon’s 2000 season was probably the greatest season ever played, where they were virtually unbeaten, and unbeatable. And coached by Kevin Sheedy. Oh, the horror, the horror.

But I found an interest again. I suffered the slings and arrows of the Tigers’ outrageous fortune. I heard Collingwood touted as the club with the biggest membership, but I knew the Tigers were a sleeping giant.

Even Hawthorn, dressed in their brown and gold, came to shine. And shine again, many times over. If Richmond gloried in its proletarian beginnings, the Hawks represented middle Melbourne. They even played at Waverley, bang in the middle of Middle Melbourne.

The new century brought no relief. Richmond gained a reputation for finishing ninth, just out of the final eight, stranded. The others jeered, but redemption was close, perhaps. There are many riffs able to be played on finishing ninth. Ask me, I’ve heard them all.

The Tigers have always been distinguished by their supporters. No matter how dire the season, or the game, there was always someone in the crowd, or the bar, who could spot reasons why the latest performance was showing positive signs. Green shoots could be determined in the ashes of another unsuccessful season. And once a true-blue Tiger, you are doomed to share their fate.

Gradually, however, the new five year plan began to take shape – finally spelled out by club President Brendon Gale, it stated:
”By 2020, we aspire to have won our 13th premiership; consistently provide the most exciting and powerful match-day experience in the competition; once again have the strongest support base in the nation, and enjoy the strongest emotional connection with our members and fans”. Spooky.

Redemption

The 2017 season started auspiciously. Five wins, no losses. Then a run of four losses. Adelaide crushed us by 76 points – another blighted birthday for me, but who’s counting? I’ll cut this scintillating tale of redemption short; Richmond became a frenzied football machine, tackling and passing the ball, tall players and short suddenly as good as, and then better than, their opponents. Richmond pressure, ninety percent chaos, was suddenly the blueprint for success. Goals were expected now, rather than prayed for.

The finals were absolutely nerve-wracking. Geelong had had a particularly successful period when they had routinely sent us back to Richmond in the foetal position – not any more. Crushed comprehensively. Next to the Giants, seen as young, but hugely talented. They were tossed aside the following Saturday. That game left us only one mountain to climb – the Grand Final, the first since 1982. It was against Adelaide, the power side, the raging favourites.

Suffice to say, chaos ruled. Richmond won by 48 points. The crowd was 90% Tiger – fuelled. Adelaide were the feared foreigners for the day. So the hordes took to Richmond to celebrate. Our first stop was to a back street in Richmond, where a giant mural of Dustin Martin had appeared, as if by magic. We joined a queue, to be photographed standing in front of Dusty. My daughter Lucy (an innocent child I had introduced to a lifetime of watching Tiger teams crash) and I then went to the All Nations Hotel, to celebrate the life – changing premiership. The night was completely and absolutely mad, but no-one was hurt. Except for the staff, whose faces were a sight to see, as every forty seconds the Tigers’ theme song was sung, and they were exhorted to sing it, again, and again.

The streets were awash with delirious fans. Young men danced on the roofs of taxi cabs, Bridge Road was blocked by thousands. A drought of thirty seven years had broken. Caroline Wilson wrote an article in the following days explaining how, although only a game, Richmond’s win had elevated our spirits and reaffirmed our love for life. We weren’t to be pitied any more, because we had won a premiership.

Melbourne is seen as the serious city in Australia, where people take great issues seriously, and where political passions run on the slightly puritanical, progressive path. But a serious Melbournian can be distracted. Just ask them who they barrack for.

Balance is over-rated


The Australian press and media is stricken with a terrible misunderstanding about its role, and responsibilities. It thinks that each and every view, no matter how stupid or misled, or just plain muddle-headed, needs to receive equal time.

This is wrong, because, in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, there are certain things, which are known, while some are unknown, and some are just unknowable. It is up to the media, as gatekeepers, to make a call, and ignore the unbearably silly offerings of the wrong ones.

Most of what passes for conservatism, and conservative thought in this country, is just wrong. The right wing of the Coalition seem to have trouble grasping certain facets of modern life which are ‘known knowns’.

Global warming is happening, because we all watch weather reports, and we know the difference between climate and weather. Similarly, there is no connection between paedophilia and homosexuality. There is no credible threat to religious freedom in Australia, because most people don’t care about religion. And if they did, I do not know anyone who wants to impose Christianity on Buddhists, or Islam on the St Brigid’s schoolkids. Letting a transgender kid use a particular toilet will not lead to indiscriminate gender-swapping at the next toilet break. And we must remember that marriage equality will not lead to a craze for bestiality.

The massacre at Port Arthur really happened, and so did the moon landing, and vaccines really are beneficial, for you and your children. Most of the politicians and community leaders who think otherwise should be shunned, not necessarily because their opinions are wrong, but because they have the resources to better educate themselves, and yet they wilfully continue to believe in some sort of primitive voodooism, where all change is evil.

So let’s stop letting them onto television and radio. So let us stop presenting the counter-view as if it carried equivalent weight. It does not. Let’s stop electing idiots to Parliament. It is embarrassing. At some point a discerning public has to draw a line in the sand, especially when the stupid and the misled continue to spout rubbish.

There is also a sub-group of canny contrarians who actually take the controversial, road – less -travelled, type of journey. They don’t believe their particular rubbish, but they have spotted a gap in the market, and capitalise on the media’s penchant for ‘balance’, in order to obtain a platform.

An even better argument for not giving too much credence to obviously wrong – headed tripe.

Santo Santoro – Matchmaker


It is often great to catch up with folk we have forgotten about. One such individual is Santo Santoro, a man with an interesting background, and clearly a big future.

Like many of our candidates for the “He’ll Never be Prime Minister Award” Santoro was never elected to his position in the Senate. That is correct – he was appointed by the Queensland Government, to replace a retiring senator, without receiving a single vote to become a Senator.

To be entirely truthful he was not overly stellar in his performance, although he did accuse the ABC of being “disloyal” to Australian soldiers serving in Iraq, because the staff were advised to not refer to them as “our troops”. Presumably this was in response to many in the Australian electorate (with whom Senator Santoro had had limited prior contact, due to his not having been actually elected) who considered the war in Iraq to be wrong, and not “our war”.

Be that as it may, he then had a slight stumble over some shares, and was found to be in breach of the Senate’s rules concerning declaring his interests. He resigned from the Senate. Apart from the fact that he was confused about the difference between a charity and a political lobby group, he left with apparently no stain on his character, as he next became a Liberal Party Vice-President.

He then became a full-time lobbyist, or as he seems to suggest in his marketing materials, he provides “introductory services” to politicians. He has apparently got Peter Dutton on speed-dial, and he will arrange a meeting with the Minister, for a figure of $20,000. Does this make him a sort of ‘matchmaker’? For a fee?

This is a disgraceful situation for our democracy. The Minister asserts that he gained nothing from his meeting with Huang Xiangmo, a man who is barred from visiting Australia, because he is suspected of being a Chinese agent. And yet a Minister of the Crown is spoken of as someone who can be somehow wrangled into a meeting, just by the lobbyist picking up the phone. This lobbyist is obviously a man with considerable pull to achieve such a meeting.

If nothing else, Peter Dutton has brought the Ministry into disrepute, again. Remember when Andrew Burnes from Helloworld stated that Joe Hockey ‘owed’ him? This seems to be eerily similar, in that past or present Ministers of the current Liberal Government, appear powerless to resist the blandishments of those who call upon them for favours. No wonder even Malcolm Turnbull is appalled!

Politicians Behaving Badly


As if no-one has noticed, the good people of Australia are heading to an election soon. This has given both sides the chance to present themselves in the best light possible, should they wish to, but there has been much pompous posturing going on, and a couple of gratuitous phrases have recently slithered their way into various politicians’ vocabularies.

They are “I make no apology”, or “I do not resile from …”, phrases so obnoxious as to almost defy our notions of mercy and tolerance. They are said as if it is self-evident that their actions are brave and bold, and were taken, perhaps at a personal cost to the speaker, in the nation’s interest. They are always said because they are being questioned about matters of honesty, or probity, or in matters where the very appropriateness of the question is being doubted; surprisingly these phrases are never trotted out when they are proud of actually doing something for us, which is almost never, anyway.

When an outgoing government attempts to sign contracts for major infrastructure projects, just days or weeks prior to an election, we are asked to accept their unseemly haste as if it indicates busy – busy, whereas really they are attempting to push through dodgy deals while there is still time. This is like the ploy practised by real estate shills, where if you do not buy/sell within the next twenty four hours, your opportunity will be forever lost. But we all know where rushed decisions usually land us.

We need to not only have conventions in place. We need clear, transparent rules for these people, because we all know how useless self-regulation is! Crack the whip on these people. There is nothing more depressing than hearing of some form of outrageous behaviour, when we rub our hands together, expecting the miscreant to be shamed and humiliated, only to hear the line “Yes, I did it, but so did someone from the other side, and so if we all do it, it must be acceptable. The rules need to be changed.

This is the reason why politics, and politicians, are so disrespected. The practitioners are generally liars and cheats, and that is depressing and disappointing. And there seem to be no good guys in this scenario. They are all equally guilty. That’s why a friend of mine refuses to vote – he believes it just encourages them!

The View from Yesterday


Sometimes we come across a piece of writing which just ‘nails it’! Many readers may not have heard of H.L. Mencken before, but he is worth a read. Following is the strangely prescient quote: “As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Apply this, as you will, to America, or substitute a couple of the situational phrases, and can we, the voters of this great South land, hold our heads up high? We voted for them!