Harmsy's Handle - AFL Round 23

Picture: Michael Dodge/adelaidenow.com.au
John Harms loves a good Tiger tale! Source: Michael Dodge/adelaidenow.com.au
The Richmond Football Club, and all who sail with her, are good for football!

I would never have said that 40 years ago, but now I am totally and completely convinced. These days I am more likely to go off prawn cutlets than go off the Richmond Football Club.

My change of mind came as a bit of a surprise because Richmond caused me great pain as a child.
I was born a Geelong supporter, and when I was seven in 1969, I watched as my mighty Cats made the Four, and faced Richmond in the first semi. I waited all week, winning the game off my own boot, commentating as I kicked beautiful drop kick goals between the peach and apricot trees which were just about to come into blossom. I was Goggin and Wade, Andrews and Nankervis.

The days passed slowly. The teams were in the Friday paper.

We sat around the old radiogram and listened as Geelong got beaten by 118 points! Twenty goals! I was devastated. At that moment I was alerted to the existence of my soul. I had not known grief like it. (I learnt of the 1967 Grand Final later)

Richmond smashed everyone for the next few years, winning the hearts of thousands of school-kids: mulletted boys and teenie-bopper girls who loved the heart-throb Royce Hart. I couldn’t abide him, the only contribution he ever made to Australian life was through rhyming slang.

Those skivvied youngsters have grown into adults and they form the ranks of the Tiger army. Now old and getting greyer, they have been alerted to the existence of their own souls. This alert has happened generationally, seasonally, and on a game-by-game, quarter-quarter, and even play-by-play basis.

Whatever the cause, hubris has had the Tigers by the tail for over 30 years, and during that time, they have become better than good for football, they are now magnificent for football.

Image courtesy of couriermail.com.auImage courtesy of couriermail.com.au

They were good for football last summer when the ragged remnants of their old sense of entitlement had them Top Four, by merely pulling on the yellow and black. They were very good for football when they were losing the unlosable matches early this season, ones that garden-variety contenders banked while blooding a couple of blokes from the reserves.

But they had history on this. Remember when most of Swan Street and the parish of St Ignatius turned up to see Ben Cousins – the saviour – at his first training at Punt Road? And Kevin Sheedy mischievously announced the Tiges could win the 2009 flag. Their season was over by half way through the opening game of the season, against old rivals Carlton, who belted them. Cousins did a hammy. That was good for football.

When they sold those games to play the fledgling Suns at Cazaly Stadium in Cairns, only to lose, they were good for football. That Karmichael Hunt, the rugby league star, could kick the winning goal in a match where the Tiges squandered a handy lead in a mad-cap minute-and-a-half in the tropics was good for football.

Richo was their spiritual leader for a generation. That made them good for football.

They believed in Terry Wallace’s Five Year Plan – that was good for football.

In the draft, they chose Aaron Fiora ahead of Pav, and Richard Tambling ahead of Buddy: that’s good for football. (As one Tiger fan once said to me, “They needed to leave room inside 50 for Richo.”)

When footy was subjected to the strangulation tactics of Sydney and the West Coast in those years of Roos/Lyon and John Worsfold, the Tiges came out (in 2007) and lost to Geelong by 157 points, that wasn’t just good for football - that saved football. We have much for which to thank the Tigers.

They keep finishing ninth: that’s good for football.

Image courtesy of: www.abc.net.auPicture courtesy of: www.abc.net.au

But my personal favourite (and that includes the Richard Lounder selection) was the year they were in the Top Eight before the start of the final round. I reckon it was 1998. All they had to do was not lose to Melbourne by a big margin. They got thrashed. Their percentage suffered so much they finished ninth. Had they forfeited, they would have been playing finals. That is so Richmond. That is good for football.

I now love them.

But I love their supporters even more. Not the tossers – those self-centred fans - who spit vitriol at their own. But the never-give-up supporters whose love is unconditional, who continue to front every week and stay until the final siren.

They’re the ones who deserve these nine successive wins. They’re the ones who should be chauffeur-driven in a 69 Monaro through Dimboola and Tailem Bend all the way to the Adelaide Oval to be fed Chiko Rolls and potato cakes while sitting in the best seats in the house.

Those Tiger faithful really are good for football. 

John Harms, Editor of footyalmanac.com.au


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