Coburg v Richmond

As former partners Coburg and Richmond clash today in round one of the VFL, let’s take a look back at the second time these two great clubs met, back in the final round of season 2000.

To set the scene, this was the first year of the restructured VFL which was made up of VFA teams, AFL reserve teams and some VFL/AFL alignments. Coburg was actually sponsored by the Fitzroy Football Club and as such became the Coburg-Fitzroy Lions, a move which made sense as this was the emblem for both clubs. The team wore it’s Coburg jumper against old VFA teams and a Fitzroy jumper against AFL reserve sides. Upwards of 3,000 old Fitzroy supporters swelled Coburg’s attendances each week and the arrangement seemed to be kicking goals. Cob-Fitz v Rich 2001

Final round of 2000: The crowd was big and tense

But Coburg were broke. Entering the final round match against Richmond there was great uncertainty in the air. This was a very difficult time for both Coburg and Fitzroy people, bearing in mind that Roy fans had already lost their team just 4 years prior. Was this to be the last time a Coburg and or a Fitzroy side graced the Melbourne playing grounds?

As such there was great feeling at the City Oval that day. Though both teams were well out of contention there was a real finals atmosphere with just on 4,000 there to see the game. Coburg-Fitzroy as it turns out were never going to lose the game. It could well have been their last and they planned to enjoy it.

Cob Aaron James

Aaron James lining up at full forward for Richmond

I can’t remember a single passage of play from the day, who played well or who stunk, but football is deeper than that stuff sometimes because I very much remember the feeling of being there; a Richmond supporter hoping that Richmond would lose. It sounds awful I understand, but I don’t follow the Tiges in the VFA-VFL comp.

As the siren rang there was a great outpouring from Lion fans of all persuasions. Richmond fans, who didn’t care about the result, just went on with their kick-to-kicks, un-disturbed by defeat. The Coburg-Fitzroy boys however knew this might be their last hurrah, and the players congregated in front of the fans on the hill and together they belted out the Coburg song. Coburg Song

Above: The players belt out the song in front of the hill, pictured below

Cob Roys on the hill I still vividly remember leaving the ground with a flurry of supporters, and a bloke in a Fitzroy scarf responded to someone’s jubilation with ‘I just hope we have a fuckin’ side next year mate.’ There was very real concern on his face. Turns out they didn’t. Coburg leave the field It’s funny how things work out. I kept a close ear to the ground over the coming weeks to see what would become of Coburg-Fitzroy. Impatiently, I decided to phone the club and ask for myself. When the phone was answered with ‘Hi this is the Coburg Tigers football club’ I had to do a double take. Tigers? Had the person on the line suffered big-cat forgetfulness?

2000.16

No. It turned out that Richmond, whom it seemed may have been Coburg’s final opponents, had stepped in as some sort of white knight and ‘saved’ the club. The catch was, they were no longer the Lions. Whilst I was happy that the club was saved, I was very disappointed in my own club insisting upon the name Tigers. The colours remained red and blue and the Tiger made no sense at all. There was also anther bunch of Tigers kicking the footy around down at Werribee. And the Fitzroy fans? Would they have stayed on board it the name Lions remained? Hard to tell, but what a loss again for the loyal Roys. coburg

The Coburg Tigers logo…the sunburnt Tiger

There’s an odd symmetry with today’s games. Richmond plays the VFL and AFL Lions, both having had an affiliation with Fitzroy, obviously Brisbane’s is ongoing! I now hold a membership for both Richmond in the AFL and Coburg in the VFL, and as such will be wanting for a Burger win with no Richmond injuries!

And what would Coburg-Fitzroy look like now if they had been able to continue. We’ll never know sadly, but it all came down to money I guess. At least we have the name Lions back in the old VFA. And who knows, hopefully one or two old Roy boys pop down for a look.

Go the Burgers

Happy Snap #23 Saturday Afternoon at the G

MCG Saturday AfternoonThe universal reflex reaction to victory, hands in the air followed by clapping.

This photo was from a gorgeous Saturday afternoon spent at the footy back in the mid-2000’s, and marked the last time I would sit in the old Olympic/Northern Stand at the MCG. The occasion was Footscray v St.Kilda, and I took my Dog supporting brother, Pete. We sat in the middle deck on wooden seats. Come to think of it, this is the last AFL match I watched with the risk a slpintered bum. It was also the last time that I could sit and watch league football in Melbourne and see trees, something I miss greatly.

Today we find the Dogs again on one of their exciting excursions to the MCG to play Richmond, a day that me and my Footscray supporting brother never relish. The last Richmond v Footscray match for points we went to together was the game at Docklands when Richmond snatched a draw from the jaws of victory, and Nathan Brown greeted the siren with arms raised. We are both rather fond of one another’s team, yet we are fiercely competitive…it’s just not a good mix. The Liberatore/Knights incident threatened to tear us apart!

Whatever the result, football will always be the winner when the MCG is graced on a Saturday afternoon. Long may it continue to do so.

Football

“I know there is strength in the difference between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap” -Ani DiFranco

2 Lil Tigers

Side  by side

I was born in Box Hill, Melbourne. I grew up in Blackburn. At school we played cricket in the summer and football in the winter. Australian football. This is what my father did, what his father did, and so on. This game was the centre of my life. I had no comprehension of it’s limits outside of my own little bubble. I never twigged that Australian football was, on a world scale, nothing but a quirky, little-known game played in a Colonial backwater. To me it was everything. All the people I knew followed a team that their sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers all followed.

Of course I could have grown up in Aberdeen, Scotland. My great grandmother hails from that part of the globe. Then my world would have revolved around what we in Australia refer to as soccer, but is better know world wide simply as football. There’s that word, football.

What comes to mind when I say the word cheese? Plastic cheese? Cheddar cheese? Swiss, camembert or mozzarella? Blue vein? Perhaps shaved parmesan? I guess it would depend on your experiences, on your preferences, heck, it might even depend on where you come from. But are they all not cheese? Similarly, I consider football to be a collective noun. Australian Football is my main expression of football, whilst I very much enjoy other expressions and acknowledge that each expression has very similar roots and beginnings.

In a criminally simplified history lesson for those not aware, ‘folk football’ has been played in countless forms world wide for thousands of years. Some kept score, some included beheading and most had rudimentary rules at best. In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, games of football slowly became more formalised. At the Rugby School in England, the game morphed into a physical, ball carrying sport, while at Eton, also in England, the use of hands was gradually eradicated. After much confusion, trial and debate, we ended up with rugby and soccer.

Folk Football Collage

Folk football from around the world

Gridiron is what rugby morphed into once introduced to the United Sates, and Australian Rules football is again what rugby morphed into once introduced to Melbourne, Australia. As history show us, New South Wales and Queensland stuck with the British game, perhaps a sign of the rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. Intriguingly Gaelic football still evokes that feeling of folk football, a game remarkably similar in movement and ball skills to Australian football.

Australian football began differentiating itself from rugby due to the rock-hard nature of the Melbourne earth. Many injuries occurred which wouldn’t have on the lush playing fields of England. So the game prevented hacking and tripping, but to even things up a little, it was decided that a player had to touch the ball to the ground every 15 yards or so. And from there she kept on evolving. I celebrate the game’s origins. Without rugby, Australian football wouldn’t be. I also love that the game was tailored to suit local conditions. It is these nuances which make the different codes wonderful. It actually all happened rather organically, something we’ll never see again in our overly-managed world.

Face it. If you grew up in the Melbourne suburbs then chances are that you’re an Australian rules devotee. I’ve grown up understanding the intricacies and beauty in footy; the high mark, the perfect bump, a well timed torpedo punt. Kids who grew up in Redfern understand the beauty in a well timed sidestep, a well placed dribble kick, a well executed fend off, a beautifully timed pass which finds a hole in the opposition’s defence.

Those who grew up in Dublin have a deep appreciation of a player running at full speed while executing a solo. My friend Gareth who grew up in Scotland appreciates the beauty in a nil-nil draw, the courage in going up for a header in a pack. Someone who grew up in Chicago understands the skill involved in the perfect block and the quarterback who holds his nerve and hits his teammate with a beautifully weighted pass.

Football

The last time I checked, no one gets to choose where they’re born. If you think ‘soccer’ is purely a game for wusses then be thankful you didn’t grow up in Inverness! If you think rugby players are nothing more than brain dead bum-sniffers then be thankful you weren’t born in Capetown. If you hate ‘AFL’ or ‘aerial ping-pong’ then just thank your lucky stars you weren’t born in Ballarat. And PLEASE can we put an end to the term Gay FL? Or perhaps the AFL should turn what is meant to be a derogatory term into a positive GLBT awareness campaign? I’m thinking aloud now.

I understand Australian football’s limitations. It’s never going to be major football code outside of Australia. But that’s what makes it special. While world football has the magic of truly bringing people together the world over, Australian football is a quirky and rather eccentric game. Now I love finding a hidden gem be it a tiny coffee shop hidden in a back street, a great tiny op-shop or record store. This is how I view Australian football on the world stage, a hidden gem.

Now I’m completely sick of the fighting between the codes here in the melting pot that is Australia, and whist I recognise it is a competitive marketplace, it’s time that we leave that jostling for those in charge of our leagues or codes. The arguments between supporters are that of the school yard. Basically “my opinion is right, your football is shit, and get stuffed.” Now I understand that we are each very passionate about our own code and there’s no wrong in that. But why the derision of other codes? The sneering remarks, the belittling? It saddens, angers and frustrates me. Am I allowed to enjoy more than one code?

I grew up in a Melbourne full of propaganda and fear-mongering that soccer is an evil that will come and ruin ‘our game.’ That was my starting point as a young one. The fear demonstrated by Australian Rules Football, in particular the AFL, highlights nothing more than it’s insecurity. The AFL uniquely operates with conflicting inferiority and superiority complexes. How foolish not to partner with other codes under the banner of football.

Barass

Come on Ron, a bit harder and it might magically turn into a Sherrin!

But it’s not just the AFL or Australian Football. Equally ignorant comments are made by rugby league, world football and rugby union fans, and all are based on grand generalisations and the summation that one’s opinion is right. Can we please put and end to this moronic and, quite frankly, childish behaviour? I’m not asking people to fall in love with codes they’re not familiar with, but at least stop and think that even though you can’t see what it is, that each code has it’s own beauty and charm.

Let’s focus on the fact that we all have more in common than we’d like to admit. The joy of winning, the pain of losing, the ritual of going to the ground to support your team. Wearing your team colours and your favourite player’s number on your back. Using football matches from the past as a reference to help remember life’s key dates and moments. The heroes and villains. Do not all football’s serve the same purpose,  providing a sense of community and of place? Of the team representing you, the fan?

South Melb St George

Sometimes there are more similarities than differences

 I talk often with my dear friend Gareth who hails from Scotland but has lived in Australia for more than 10 years now, adopting local side Footscray as his own. His first love however is Aberdeen; the Dons! As we talk about our love of football (collective) I often forget the shape of ball or field we are talking about such is the common thread of our conversation. It’s the ritual, the passion, unique old grounds, the disappointments, the involvement of family and love of statistics which provides more crossover between ‘our codes’ than difference. Don’t get me wrong-football in Footscray and Aberdeen are vastly different experiences, but there is much that ties both together.

The culture of each game is something which should be celebrated, or at the very least tolerated. Don’t criticise that which you do not fully understand. I’m not asking you to like all codes, but let’s stop this nonsense fighting and realise we’ve all actually got a fair bit in common, but thankfully not too much.

I’ll leave you with this quote, or call to arms if you will.

“It is never too late to give up your prejudices” -Henry David Thoreau

Molly Footy

My 8 year old daughter Molly had her first outdoor match last weekend, while her first Richmond membership came in the mail later in the week. She loves both games.

Lachie Hunter and the Impossible Mark on the Dunny Wall

 

Testing? Is this thing on? Ah yes…hullo and a very warm welcome to season 2015. It’s been a long time between posts so I thought I’d kick things off with this pearler emailed into me by Western Bulldogs life member and Lachie Hunter Player Sponsor, Scharlaine. She contacted me in reference to a post I did on my brother’s drawing of an imaginary Daniel Hargraves mark which was immortalised on the dunny wall at Blackburn Primary School….until they knocked it down of course. Anyway, it read like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.15.35 pm

LACHIE HUNTER MARK USE

 

the impossible mark

Quite prophetic brother Pete, and thanks kindly Scharlaine for bringing it to my attention. I’m glad I named it the ‘impossible mark’ because we all know that Lachie Hunter sadly couldn’t hold onto what would have been one of the greatest marks of all time.

But there’s another mark and player I wish to drag into this. Merv Hobb’s famous grab, (below) which he actually held, also bares a striking resemblance to the mark on the dunny wall. To me, the drawing is actually the perfect combination of Hobbs and Hunter’s mark and mark attemp, neatly tying together Footscray footballers in search of aerial glory from the 1960’s through to the current day. Hobbs, Hargraves and Hunter. Three Hs…now this is becoming rather peculiar, a good place to leave it.

merve-hobbs MARK

May football this year be more than winning and losing, deeper than dream team and wider than the AFL. Fill it with colour, confusion and diversity. May it be ritual, family, hobby and beautiful distraction.

“Footy’s on, footy’s here again, back to greet me like an old friend.” Thanks Champs.

Footy Smells

As I cut the grass in our backyard a few weeks back with our op-shopped, $10 push mower, the smell of cut grass, combined with the gradual pinch of warmth in the air made me think of one thing. Finals.

Though finals games at AFL level are more likely to be under lights than the sun these days, it’s still the notion of the sun coming out in spring, playing finals on grounds where the centre wicket has crusted over to become something akin to concrete, the smell of the afore mentioned freshly cut grass and many other wonders which excites this football writer.

And as such things do, it got me thinking about the different aromas I associate with football, the good, the bad and the downright stinky.

So I compiled a bit of a list and then asked my twitter followers for theirs. There were some popular ones such as the already mentioned (twice) ‘freshly cut grass’ to the more conceptual smells of ‘anticipation and excitement’ (@Shaebee22) and ‘the indefinable smells of hope, desperation and disappointment.’ (@Bulldog_Tragician)

First on my list was cigarette smoke. Now I’m not a smoker but the smell of a freshly lit cigarette, be it in the street, at the park, wherever, generally takes me straight to the football. Local footy still has it, and if you congregate near the exits at an AFL venue a cloud sits nicely over those ducking out for a Billy Rag during the breaks. But I do miss the smell at the MCG, so much a part of my formative footy experiences.

Robbie

My twit follower @justin1flynn added that he ‘Will never forget the smell of men smoking pipes in the outer when I was a kid in the 70’s’ and @Footy_Maths made mention of some ‘whacky tobaccy’ being consumed down the old scoreboard end at the Carlton ground.

Next I had the stench of stale beer on a punters breath. Yep it’s all class, cigarettes, stale beer and drunks! In the ‘real world’ this would repulse me, but get me into the unnatural surrounds of a footy ground and it’s somewhat of a comfort. Mixing this with the smell of wet duffel coats (@Bulldog_tragician) and damp cardboard, (@bob_ely) we have a footy feast for the nose.

There are the smells that individual footy grounds possess due to their location; the old soap factory smell at Port Melbourne, the poo farm out Werribee way and that fresh seaside smell at Williamstown. There’s the doughnut van smell outside the MCG and hot chips in the outer, which @BrotherAmos so elegantly describes as ‘the smell of fried oil permeating the air.’ There’s the ‘food from home’ smells as remembered by @bob_ely of international roast coffee in the thermos and footy franks, skins blistered and smothered in sauce. And of course there’s the magnificent smell of snags sizzling away at the local footy.

Anyone who’s played a game or two of football would know that smell in the middle of the ground where the cricket pitch lays dormant, the Merri creek mud whiff. It’s a thing of beauty, yet still worth washing off yourself should you be lucky enough to roll around it in the name of winning the pigskin. Or as @dugaldjellie puts it, the smell of ‘damp earth.’ And at three quarter time, as you’re sitting on that earth, the traditional smell of oranges (nominated by @watotiger) mixed with mud activates both smell and taste as you suck a few down, a tradition which many primary schools still maintain!

John mud

To the footy changerooms and there’s that wonderful smell of linament! As @MiltMonster remembers ‘I loved that smell of liniment you’d get as you walked to your seat past the Richmond rooms in the old Northern Stand.’ We still get to see our heroes each week at the ground, but the notion of actually smelling the stars has most definitely gone by the wayside, until someone can develop smellevision into something workable.

Still in the changerooms and @AndrewJohnEgan nominated the smell of Goanna oil, @BrotherAmos and @watotiger deep heat, and @dgunsberg and @dugaldjellie both drew upon the inspiration that is ‘stale sweat,’ a smell which much like beer, is sweet with victory, and bitter with a loss. And speaking of stale sweat, @coynejp mentioned the forgotten footy bag, that’s right, the smell of unwashed jumpers and boots from last weeks match. That stench can put hair on your shoulders.

And I loved this nomination from @ASpeedingCar, and I’ve experienced this, it’s the smell of ‘ciggies in the shower from blokes having a quick nerve settler before the team runs out.’ That in itself is an institution.

Moving from the changerooms we now come to the horror of the old suburban ground toilets. Stale piss, inexcusable body oder and drunks once filled these dank, unventilated pits. It’s a little better at today’s modern facilities, but it’s still a reminder to days gone by.

Vic Park loos

@Bulldog_tragician remembers the enormously whiffy loos at the Western Oval, and in particular when there was a dead rat in the ladies as being particularly memorable. And the less said about the Vic Park loos the better, so I’m told!

Turning to country footy and @Suburbia3121 loves the smell of ‘Woodsmoke from a fire in a 44 gallon drum…particularly at Romsey.’ I haven’t watched a game in such conditions and consider myself the poorer for not having done so. It’s on my list, a magnificent way to keep warm at the footy mid-winter no doubt and a far cry from the sterile Docklands television studio.

Finally, I’m glad that @BrotherAmos brought this up because it was one of the most important ‘footy smells’ to me whilst growing up, yet I’d foolishly overlooked it. It’s the smell of leather Sherrins, or any footy for that matter. I can still close my eyes and smell the magic that was my first leather football (Rossy Faulkner!) Sweet, almost edible, and just so darn new! As the footy aged, and mine aged rapidly due to excessive use, the smell changed. It became less intense, but no less comforting.

And the @Coodabeens take on all of this? That it sounds like a season of scratch and sniff from ‘Outside Football’ (their mock Inside Football magazine)! Make of that what you will, but it’s certainly profound!

In closing, there are some footy smells I’d like to know about. What does the MCC area smell like during a game? When your nose is rubbed into the turf at Docklands does it smell ‘earthy?’ Does Sam Mitchell’s shit actually stink, as I’m sure he thinks it doesn’t? And finally what is that elusive smell of success?

Please let me know what footy means to your nose. What are your footy smells?

You can take the family out of Richmond…

I first posted this in 2011 on Nick Maxwell’s blog, and secondly (with additions) on the footy almanac site. Here is my third posting, with further updates! You’ll just have to remember it was written in the context on football 2011. i’m posting this one last time as i’m off to punt road with my daughter molly to watch Port melbourne v richmond, as my family did back in the early 1900’s. Read on.

In case it escaped your attention last year, esteemed journalist Patrick Smith took the astonishing step of turning his back on four generations of Essendon-supporting tradition, trading the Bombers in for my club Richmond! Smith’s actions were in protest of his ‘former club’s’ handling of the controversial James Hird and Mark Thompson coaching appointments, using what he described as “shabby trickery unworthy of a league that aspires to be the best and most respected competition in the country.”

“It has become impossible to continue to support a club that acted so shamelessly.”

Whether a mere publicity stunt or pure stubbornness, it just didn’t sit comfortably with me. Firstly- what exactly did Essendon do wrong? I don’t particularly love the way in which they conducted themselves post-season 2010, but I’d love that ruthless nature should Richmond adopt it. I also get the sense that the majority of Essendonians are supportive, given the sudden spike we saw in 2011 membership sales.

Secondly- what will Patrick do when Richmond one day acts in a way he can’t respect? Surely it’s only a matter of time. Will he switch clubs again?

And thirdly- how can you turn your back on such a family institution and tradition? How can you push down that instinctive ‘urge’ for your team? I haven’t found the off switch yet! Perhaps decades of sports journalism is the answer?

I was reminded of these ‘antics’ as I read through the memoirs Fr Kevin Cronin, my first cousin, twice removed, or more simply, my grandmother’s cousin. Kevin passed away in 2007. His stories added to what I already knew of my family’s links with Richmond, both football club and suburb, yet from a different perspective. The Cronins were of Irish heritage as was much of Richmond’s population, and have been traced back by family members as far as my great great great grandfather, Patrick Cronin, who emigrated from County Cork in Ireland to Richmond in th1840s, during the period of the great potato famine.

The first thing that leapt from the pages as I read Kevin’s memoirs was simply a paragraph on his father, Thomas Cronin, brother of my great grandfather, Maurice.

“Dad was a Tiger supporter even as a boy and a young man. In those days, the Tigers were part of the Football Association. Whenever the team played an away match against Port Melbourne, the Tiger supporters would travel together by train, then form up in military fashion and march to the ground, a matter perhaps of intimidate or be intimidated! I seem to recall hearing from dad that on one occasion the umpire so incensed the Port supporters that, fearing the worst as soon as the final bell sounded, he raced for the exit and made off in a handsome cab. Some irate fans took off in pursuit, but the Cabby kept them at bay using his whip to good effect!”

In trying to locate some information about this match in Brian Hansen’s “Tigerland”, the Richmond Football Club history, I came across numerous spiteful clashes between Richmond and Port, and to pinpoint the specific afternoon is difficult. A fierce footballing rivalry was lost when Richmond joined the League in 1908!

I was fascinated to learn that my family’s link with the Richmond club pre-dates entry into the VFL in 1908. I can only assume that my great grandfather too watched Richmond in the VFA, as my father spoke of how he was a Richmond supporter and member of the cricket club. This all got me thinking, what about my great, great grandfather, Maurice Cronin senior? Surely as he lived in Richmond, and his children followed the club, he too would have been a Tiger, or a Wasp as they were known in the early days!

So I asked my own father again if he knew anything of it, and he pointed me in the direction of the Richmond cricket club, remembering that there had been some link, though unsure of its nature . So I scurried off to my library of all things football (with a smattering of cricket) and pulled out my copy of the History of the Richmond Cricket Club. And there he was, Maurice Cronin (snr), on page 122!

It turns out that Maurice Cronin hosted the players on their tours of the wineries during their 1921 rural trip in and around Rutherglen. The players “eventually staggered home after visiting the local vineyards and the Viticultural College, where Maurice Cronin, an old Richmond personality held sway as principal”. An old Richmond personality? I like the sound of that!

This story certainly rings true with family records, as my own Nana spoke of visiting her grandfather in Rutherglen. There’s also a copy of an electoral role from the time which listed “Cronin, Maurice, Viticultural College, Rutherglen, vineyard manager”.

It can only be assumed, and I don’t believe I draw too long a bow, that my family’s support of the Richmond Football club extends six generations, with my daughter now firmly entrenched in the Richmond camp. I’ve also made life as anything other than a Tiger for my 5-month-old son difficult, naming him Richmond Jack… Richie for short! Here’s hoping he doesn’t rebel like Patrick Smith and end this Richmond fanaticism.

(Since posting this piece, I have learnt through the help of Richmond historian Rhett Bartlett that my great-great grandfather, Maurice Cronin Snr was in fact a Richmond football club member in the VFA premiership season of 1905 and the following year 1906. Many thanks to Rhett for his efforts for locating and sending through some photos of these records. It has certainly given the family a thrill.)

Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 11.32.30 AM

Richmond Football Club’s membership records from 1905 (top) and 1906 (below) show that M.Cronin, my great-great grandfather, was a member of the club.

 

While my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Cronin lived in Richmond from 1845 until his death there in 1896, I’ve no evidence to suggest he followed the club, which would make my children seventh generation Richmondites. My feelings are that he may have, but as the club was merely 11 years old when he passed, he may have had no time or interest for sporting clubs in later life. Besides, it would be too many bows drawn far too long.

 

But enough speculation, and back to Kevin Cronin’s memoirs.

 

In between stories of serving his priesthood in India and other family tales, he also touched upon his own following of the club, going to watch the Tigers play whenever they played at home, just over the road at the Punt Road Oval in the 1930s and 40s.

 

“I used to have a Scholar’s Membership Card” he recalled, and would often attend with his elder sister Teresa, the most passionate Richmond fan of the lot. “We would sit together in the stand while holding a place for a pal of hers who lived at the top of Richmond Terrace… while people near us grumbled about the amount of space we occupied!” Nothing has changed there, although reserved seating has taken such angst out of many a football fans experience!

 

I met Teresa, also my first cousin twice removed, when she was an elderly lady, probably three or four times. Never at a family function, rather in the lower deck of the old Olympic or Northern stand, the Richmond members area. Perhaps such occasions could have been classified as “family functions?” Teresa continued attending well into her 80s such was her devotion to the club. Kevin describes her as having a “one-eyed passionate interest in the Tigers” and spoke of her “devoted following of their fortunes whether at home or away.” My dad also mentioned that Teresa is clearly visible in the 1937 Richmond Team photo in front of the old stand at Punt Road. Here is my own daughter Molly in front of the same stand just last year. You can take the family out of Richmond…

 

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Then Kevin continued with some information which fascinated me no end. While Richmond’s current day song is oft regarded as the league’s best, Kevin spoke of a Richmond song in the 1940s, of which I’d never heard. According to Rhett Bartlett it would have been one of many ditties used by Richmond fans, not an official club song. That would come later.

“It it is true that I can still sing the Tigers song of the 1940s- and it is because of the thoroughness of Teresa’s coaching! Thus (to the melody of “Men of Harlech”) :

‘Bolger, Crane, O’Neill and Dyer,

Cocker Strang, the Albry Flier,

Sure to set the grass on fire,

Tigers on the ball!’ ”

Go ahead- hum it to yourself. It’s quite catchy! The names mentioned are for me almost fictional characters, having only read about them in books, representing a time and place in football and life that is long past. I can only bring them to life using a combination of faded black and whites and a vivid imagination.

Which brings me to “the scrapbooks!”

A visit to my nana and pa’s “little bit of Richmond” in Forest Hill was never complete without three things. Licorice all-sorts, watching old football videos and a fossick through the old Richmond scrapbooks my nana kept from 1958 through to 1969. Top cupboard, spare bedroom. Newspaper clippings yellowing with age, these scrapbooks had a unique aroma, a magical mustiness which permeated my senses. Each match has the selected teams from the Friday paper, results and any match reports or pictures, plus a ladder at the completion of each round.

There were pre-season pictures of players training in sand shoes and the odd shot of a new recruit at his work-place. The hours I’ve spent poring over these family treasures is immeasurable, yet I seem to come across something new upon each viewing. Once the Tigers finally broke the premiership drought of 24 years (current drought is 31 years strong) the scrapbooks began to wain slightly, until coming to an end in 1969, another premiership year. It appears that my nana was well satisfied with victory and lost the hunger! Though my grandparents are no longer with us, the scrapbooks are still in the family.

Now my grandparents were born and bred Richmondites; married at St. Ignatius atop Richmond Hill, Labour and then DLP voters and of course Tigers at heart. Remembering that Richmond was once referred to as “Struggletown”, it’s no wonder that they, like many others, eventually headed for the space and comfort offered by Melbourne’s east and south eastern suburbs. Firstly Carnegie, finally Forrest Hill.

My pa was old school. “Kick-it, KICK the dam thing….ahhhh!” He also had it in for Brendan Gale for reasons never explained, as if every Richmond loss was solely his doing! Whilst never admitting it, I think he disapproved of Benny’s curly locks! Yet a Tiger victory would see Pa humming away to himself, quietly satisfied as he poured himself a sherry.

My nana, a Cronin, was old school too. She was the most mild-mannered being you could meet, never a cross word from her lips and an ever-present smile. Yet the mere mention of ‘Collingwood’ would see a darkness emerge from her that very rarely saw the light of day. “It’s Collingwood on the front page, Collingwood on the back page…it’s all Collingwood, Collingwood, Collingwood!” she would spit with rare venom surfacing above her otherwise sweet demeanour! She was also a nervous football watcher, and legend has it that the further Richmond went ahead of the Pies in the 1980 grand final, the more nervous she got! “Oooh, we’re getting too far in front.”

My nana spent much of her childhood and married life living in Docker street, Richmond, a street which also housed Tiger and Australian Football great Jack Dyer. Younger than Jack, she frequented his milk bar on Church St. “He knew me by my first name” she often told us. It must have been quite a place to hang out. Can you imagine if Buddy Franklin ran a milk bar down on Glenferrie road?

Nana’s cousin Kevin also frequented Jack’s shop. After junior football on a Sunday he and his mates “used to congregate for shakes or spiders at Jack Dyers milk-bar on Church street. Jack was always an interested and courteous host.” It was simple. You live in Richmond, you barrack for Richmond. It’s unimaginable these days.

So to Patrick I say, football clubs are, to a lot of us like family. Or like mine, the two are so intertwined that you’re not sure what came first. I may not agree with or condone everything my family does, but I still accept and love them for who they are. The same goes for my footy club.

But Patrick, I’ll leave the last word on the subject to my late cousin, Kevin Cronin-

“…where once the Cronins, like many others were “parochial” in their tastes and loyalties, especially as regards political affiliations and social identities, over the years and through generations and by reason of migration to less-congested living areas, they have become less distinguishable from their neighbours generally. With one important exception, of course: whoever heard of a Tiger becoming a Magpie or a Demon?”

me

The following are comments from distant family members who added a great deal of information to the story. Included is a family member who played for the club!! This is a bit self-indulgent but it may interest a few of you!

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Below is a grab from the book Pioneers.
Wally Seitz

Uncle Wal’s AFL statistics! Thanks Australian Football
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