By Ollie Nash
Richmond joined the elite teams in history with its third flag in four years. Photo: AFL Photos
You may hate us now but being a Richmond fan wasn’t always easy. This four-year run may seem like an eternity for some, but we’ve paid our dues.
For the first 19 years of my life I held a grudge against my old man for forcing my siblings and I into barracking for Richmond. He didn’t do much else wrong, but his choice in AFL teams was terrible at the time.
In simple words, the Tigers sucked. I was born in September of 1998, a year where we finished ninth on percentage. It should’ve been a sign of things to come. In 1999 we finished 12th and 2000 ninth. 2001 bought some hope, but I don’t remember it, being three-years-old at the time. We finished fourth and lost in the preliminary final to eventual premiers Brisbane. It was a quick fall back down the ladder, which is where we stayed for a long time.
In 2002 we finished 14th, 2003 13th, 2004 last, 2005 12th, 2006 ninth, 2007 last, 2008 ninth, 2009 and 2010 second last and in 2011 and 2012 12th.
Apart from a preliminary final in 2001, finals weren't a regular stomping ground for Richmond in the early 2000s. Photo: Richmond
Growing up in Ballarat, going to the footy in Melbourne was a big deal. Knowing our form and with young, passionate boys to look after, Dad would usually pick out some games Richmond were a chance of winning and take us to those. It sounds terrible writing that, but when you linger down the bottom of the ladder for so long, these decisions need to be made to keep the confidence of us young country supporters up.
The schedule was usually very similar. On a Saturday or Sunday morning, the family would be up early, us kids decking ourselves out in Richmond gear, while Mum and Dad would pack the lunches. We’d be treated to some hot chips to share at the ground, but with three young kids (eventually four), buying food for all of us at the footy was not viable for the folks.
In the car we’d jump and begin the hour and 20 minute journey to the MCG. It seemed no matter what route Dad took or how early we left, we always found traffic and were rushing across the outdoor carparks of the ground to try and get a glimpse of the first bounce. We knew if we could hear the screams of “BALL” bellowing out of the ground as we walked in that we’d just missed it.
Usually, Dad would get us general admission seats down near the cheer-squad, usually off to the side in one of the pockets. Now I think of it, a pretty impressive feat to do so in a traditionally packed out MCG for a Tigers home game.
A chance to check out the Tigers at training excited my brother and I just as much as the games did.
With his careful selection of games, I actually have a positive recollection of going to the footy, witnessing Richmond’s rare wins each year. There was of course some bad memories, particularly round 12 2004 against Fremantle that gives me PTSD.
The Tigers led at every change, going into the fourth quarter up by 16-points. The Dockers proceeded to kick 5.4 to Richmond’s 1.2 and steal the game by 10-points. I cried that day.
There was round two in 2008 against North Melbourne at the MCG. We went to the game with Dad’s brother and his family who were Kangaroos supporters. Richmond had beaten Carlton in round one while North had lost to Essendon. So, my pre-game analysis as a 10-year-old was simple. “If we can play like last week and the Kangaroos play like last week, I think we’ll win.” We lost by 41-points.
There were even more disappointing nights on the couch at home after a tough loss. When the trip down ended in a win though, the drive home couldn’t be topped.
I was there when Dean Polo, in his debut game, kicked three goals and had 28 disposals to win the Yiooken Award for best on ground in the ‘Dreamtime at the G’ match in 2006. He was delisted by the end of 2010.
Two weeks later, thanks to the generosity of the late great Shane Tuck, we watched the Tigers beat top of the table Adelaide at the then Telstra Dome by three-points. He managed to get us into the rooms post-match as well.
We were back at the MCG three weeks later to watch Richmond beat North Melbourne by 35 points. The highlight was Kangaroos small-man Troy Makepeace lining up for goal and Dad thinking he was a chance to mark it. He jumped sharply to his right to try and grab it, crushing my five-year-old brother in the process and making him cry. The man behind us said we were on the big screen as the old man comforted him, but we just missed it. Two sons, both have cried at the footy.
I saw Jack Riewoldt kick 10 goals against West Coast in round 12 2010. I watched us beat eventual premiers Sydney in round seven 2012 at the MCG, right after watching my high school team St Patrick’s College win the Herald Sun Shield.
The late great Shane Tuck gave us tickets to the game and rooms post-match when the lowly Tigers beat the top of the table Crows in 2006. Photo: John Donegan JMD
Throughout these times there’s little things I remember about being at Richmond games. I can recall sitting in the stands and screaming “BALL”, a man a few seats down from me bellowing it with me with all his might. For the rest of the game all I wanted to do was yell “BALL” with that guy, the passion was infectious.
I can remember walking past the cheer-squad in the standing area, that by the time the game ended, were in fine form after a few too many. They chanted the famous “We are the boys from the MCG” chorus, one that I could’ve listened to all day long.
The walk from Richmond station, past Punt Road Oval over to the MCG was always enjoyable. Surrounded by thousands of fellow supporters, all filled with optimism and hope.
My greatest memory will be the passion that I saw and felt going to games even in the worst of times on field. I’ve never been to an empty MCG to watch the Tigers. It was always an experience.
Since 2013 it’s been happier times at Richmond, for the most part. Elimination final losses in 2013, 14’ and 15’ were heartbreaking, but I was just so glad to finally be a part of the September action.
2016 seemed like classic Tigers football, missing the eight. However, the four years since have been unbelievable. From the fairy tale premiership in 2017 to being one of the most hated teams in the competition in 2020, it’s been a fun rise up the ladder. The Tigers have finally got themselves to the point where neutral fans are sick of us winning. That’s exactly what you want to become as a footy club.
Friends tell me how much they hate us now, they’re sick of us winning. I couldn’t care less. The Tigers and their fans have earned this run, we’ve been put through the ringer. I haven't even mentioned the drafting errors in the early 2000s either.
So, we’re going to soak up a third premiership in four years and enjoy it as much as possible. Because, if 1982 to 2016 proved anything, it’s that it’s hard to make the eight to start with and it’s very hard to make grand finals and win premierships. We’ll never take it for granted again.
Cover Photo: Pinterest