The Hardest Years, The Best of Days

Pure joy!

Smiles, tears and hugs.

I turned to my family and then to my Tiger supporting friends…one with a tear in his eye. They’d done it. I honestly never thought I’d see the day.

Footscray had just won the flag. At the Whitten Oval that day I’d never wanted a team to win a game of football so desperately. You could say I jumped on the Bulldog bandwagon but in all honesty, I’ve always followed them closely. My younger brother is a Scragger, and living in Footscray, you can’t help but love the community feel that the local footy club brings.

I was there with my family and fellow Richmond supporters Dugald and Craig. It was truly a remarkable moment. I remember commenting that the only thing that could top this for me was a Richmond flag. Little did I know.

Grand Final day 2016, shared with these two Tigers. It is a day we’ll never forget.

 

Grand Final Week

What a week it was. We picked up my Tiger-mad daughter from the airport at 8:30 the morning after the prelim. She missed the GWS game due to a school trip to Vietnam, but picking her up the morning after was most exciting! There was the VFL grand final (carn’ the Borough!) then the Brownlow Medal count, each vote for Dusty was cheered in our house like a goal in a  home and away fixture.

The Age came and took photos for a story that I hoped would net Mog a grand final ticket. It didn’t, but it was fun nonetheless. We spoke to 5AA in Adelaide, again no ‘hoped for’ ticket but a great experience all the same. We recorded our podcast, excitement was afoot.

Some of our media ‘commitments’ during September!

We had multiple trips into Richmond, to visit Tiger friends, to see the wall, to enjoy lunch at the Rowena Parade cafe, chips and beer at the London Tavern, dinner on Swan street, a trip to the Town Hall. Our front fence and tree were plastered with yellow and black. We soaked it up, all week.

Richmond the suburb and it’s football club’s supporters reconnected during grand final week. Living in Footscray, there’s still a firm geographical link between team and suburb, but most Richmond fans I know have their roots in Richmond from many generations ago. So we headed to Docker St to have a look at my nana and pa’s house, my great grandparents house and Jacky Dyer’s house, half-way between the two.

But there were other Tigers prowling the streets, making pilgrimages to the suburb once know as Struggletown. Local businesses sprouted yellow and black paraphernalia,  but I couldn’t help notice that there were more old Richmondites still living in Richmond than I had realised! What a beautiful thing.

My crippling anxiety from the first two finals (see below) disappeared, and I was purely able to celebrate and enjoy the week…. until I saw a photo online of Cotch and Walker holding up the cup. That’s when it really hit home, we were in a grand final and I really don’t think I was equipped for a loss. I hardly slept on Friday night.

Saturday

Having farewelled my family at the Punt Road Oval live site, an emotional parting for me, I ended up in my seat, anxiously waiting. Yes, I had a ticket, and no, my family did not. I was pretty cut up about this, but it’s just the way of things, sadly.

I had dressed very deliberately. Nothing over the top. First on was my 1995 sleeveless jumper. Sure, it’s a bit tight around the middle, but I can still pull it off. On my jumper was an old Tiger badge I’ve had for many a year. Next was my Richmond duffle coat. It’s not an original, but my wife bought it for me ten years ago or so and I love it. The last piece to add was my pa’s old Richmond scarf, knitted for him by my great grandmother. It’s a cream scarf, but at each end is a yellow and black band. Subtle. I love it.

Clash strip

I’d chosen early in the week not to care about the canary yellow jumper. Of course I’m a traditionalist but I didn’t want to allow anything to detract from my grand final week experience. I looked and listened as Ian Wilson, speaking alongside his daughter on 3AW outside the ground, claimed that he would’ve ‘told the AFL to get stuffed and worn the jumper anyway!’ Old Richmond. I like it in a way, but the club of today focused purely on putting energy into things that mattered, bringing the cup back to Punt Road.

It’s not a bad jumper, it’s not really a Richmond jumper, but I’ll tell you what, it’s a part of folklore now. It’s a new part of Richmond!

The people you meet

I’ve met JD on two occasions, although we’ve chatted online for years now. The first time was in the half time toilet queue at the preliminary final, our beloved Tiges just 1 point up against the oranges and looking shaky. We embraced, and JD gave me some much needed hope, his raspy voice spluttering “We’re one point up, can you believe it!?”

Again we met outside the G and then inside, Punt Road End, grand final day. We spoke with passion about what it all means, that we couldn’t believe we were actually here, and basically ‘How good is this!?’ I then wandered down to the fence to soak in the MCG on grand final day. I’d never been to a grand final, and always wondered if the ground would feel different. It didn’t. It was still just the MCG. Someone called my name. He’d seen me on the telly with my son Richmond. He then introduced me to his son…Richmond! Great minds think alike, some welcome distraction from the well set in nerves.

The Hardest Years

The Killers started playing, and to be honest, I thought they were pretty good, and I am traditionally scathing of pre-match entertainment.

“Sing Up There Cazaly, the anthem and then play the bloody game!”

Then they launched into an old Midnight Oils tune.

The hardest years, the darkest years, the roarin’ years, the fallen years….These should not be forgotten years

The hardest years, the wildest years, the desperate and divided years,

We will remember, these should not be forgotten years”

 

Well that did me in, my first tears for the day. All those years, hardest, darkest, roaring (’95), fallen, desperate…they won’t be forgotten. That’s what made this all the more special. I couldn’t help but think of myself as a little boy, so desperate to see us win, so proud when we would get close in a last quarter, the angst as I thought we might fold in 1990, my unbridled joy as the Tiges became respectable in 1995, my despair as we flushed that down the toilet. I’ve loved and supported this football team through thin, and swore that I ‘knew they’d never win a flag in my lifetime…ever!’

I’ve since come up with my own lyrics:

The Wallace years,the Frawley years, the Gieschen years, the Bartlett years…These should not be forgotten years!

 

We were actually in a grand final and I was at the ground, about to watch it, after all the shit I’ve endured. This song could not have been have been better chosen or performed. It’s still in my head as the soundtrack to my pocket full of sun-soaked, grand final memories.

The Game

I took my seat, M2 BB 08, the grog squad in full voice behind me. My ticket is still in my pocket as I write this. Next to me sat George, his three brothers and his nephew. I told him my family were from Richmond but that they’d all migrated south east. George and his family still live in Richmond, have done so for time out of mind. They actually live near the corner of Gipp St and Docker, ‘just near Jack’s old house.’ He said they even see Peggy out and about and apparently she lives in my grandparents old house! According to George that is.

As the Adelaide fans boo my beloved club as they entered the old ground, something took over me. A tribal roar like I’d never felt before spewed from my mouth. I had no control over it. I just wanted this so much…since before the Adelaide Crows were even a thing.

Watching the first two finals was not good for my health. On both occasions, it wasn’t until the match was beyond doubt that I could even voice my support. I watched the grand final with tense abandon, but my levels of anxiety weren’t as pronounced. Still, every time we kicked a goal, I would jump to my feet and roar, then suddenly feel light headed and have to quickly take my seat. When the Lambert goal went through in the third, although we were still far from home, it was the first time I allowed myself to just wonder, could my Richmond win the flag?

Rinse and repeat, just do that again, harder for longer. This was my three quarter time mantra. I knew that we should win from here, but I’m a Richmond supporter, I’ve seen it unravel before. Could we continue to choke the Crows and keep the scoreboard ticking at the same time? Could we? Would we? I could feel myself actively holding it all in. There was a pool of emotions bubbling away but I needed to know that we couldn’t lose before I allowed any of that to surface.

Dan Butler kicked a goal. I knew we had it won. I saw Benny Gale tearing up on the big screen. I joined him. Huge grin, fist pumps and tears. Dusty kicked another goal! I jumped up and down so wildly that I smashed my leg on the chair in front of me. I am still sporting a sizable bruise. I care not. We’d won the flag. Words I never thought I’d think, hear or use. It was simply an unbelievable feeling. I looked around me. George and his family next to me were embracing in pure wonderment. Tears were shared. Oh how I wished my family was there with me to share this. I’d meet them soon enough. The siren!

Them final siren feels!

 

I haven’t seen any footage of this yet, but I clearly remember seeing the players who missed out sprinting from the bench to join their team mates, much like when the kids used to race to the centre circle after the second siren. Pure elation, and this visual will always stay with me as a symbol of how this playing group cared for each other and celebrated each other’s success. It was hard to fathom that it was the Tigers, in yellow, doing the premiership stacks on! This was real, and Richo was going to be handing over the cup!

My mind turned to Punt Road. Mog, Richmond and Ash! How dearly I wanted to be with them! I tried accepting face-time calls but it didn’t work. Ash’s phone had died as it turned out.

Mog at Punt Rd, moments before the final siren.

 

I watched the presentations and cried some more. The Richo chant went up and I suddenly realised how much I’d missed him. How that man and that chant had brought great hope. I roared for each player, Jack Riewoldt, who first captured Molly’s football heart way back in 2010. We’ve followed his career together, Mog calls him ‘my boy.’ I am proud of him, in the way a parent is proud of their children. He’s the ultimate team player having sacrificed his game. That’s why it was so great that he could also showcase his skill on this grandest of days.

I reserved my biggest cheers for Titch Edwards and Bachar Houli. They both proved me wrong. I’ve always loved them as players but have had my own question marks over both of them when the pressure was on. I couldn’t have been happier for the two of them to show the footy world just what they’ve got, and what they’ve been able to add to their games.

Bachar will never play a finer game. He took Adelaide on when we were struggling early, he backed into packs, took contested marks, chased, tackled, and then also used his strengths, runnin’ and kickin’. And Titch. You need to watch the replay just to see how good this man was on grand final day, because I missed half of it live at the ground. Subtle, like the yellow and black on my pa’s scarf.

The aftermath

I farewelled George and his brothers because I had to find my family. I’m forever grateful to them for ‘adopting’ me into their family on grand final day. We shared a final hug. Ash and I had arranged a meeting spot should one of our phones die. Good plan as it turned out.

George and his brothers belting out the song just before the siren rang.

 

I wandered around Yarra Park in a haze, looking for Ash and the kids. There was a Wonder Years filter as the sun set on the grandest of football seasons. I went to our meeting spot and nothing. Watched thousands of jubilant Tiger fans streaming past but still nothing. Suddenly they appeared, and I ran to them for a most wonderful embrace! We’d won it! It was especially wonderful to reunite with Mog. Those three elimination finals were hard to swallow. She’s embraced the Richmond ethos and supports them like a disgruntled 20 year social club member. This was simply the best.

After a glorious kick in the carpark we decided to head to Bridge Road as Swan St looked like it may not have been all that child friendly. But it was still rocking! Little Richie came into his own, handing out high-fives to all and sundry, complete with “My name is actually Richmond!” which was was often greeted with “Hey, I saw you on the news!” Brilliant.

We ended up at Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder. Poor proprietors…it was jam-packed with gaudy football supporters who just wanted a drink! It was the merriest of meals we shared, the highlight being when Richie was suddenly on top of someone else’s table, the guy holding him up and shouting “This kid’s name is Richmond! How good is that!?” Massive cheer from the diners. What a moment!

 

The day after: Catching up at Punt Road with ‘Gazza’ and SCRAPBOOKS with dad.

 

The following morning we trekked back to Richmond to revel in being in Richmond if that makes any sense. We went to my parents for dinner to share in the premiership festivities with my dear old dad in particular, a Tiger of old, the fourth cog in a six-generation Tiger machine. After dinner we looked through his mum’s old scrapbooks, 1958-1969. Dad has some sort of story for every game we looked back at. This was truly a magnificent way to mark the premiership.

50 years apart: Dad’s photo post 1967 grand final and my photo post 2017 grand final. Glorious late afternoon sun which may soon be a thing of the past

 

What does it all mean!?

Football was utterly magical to me as a kid, and I’ve spent much of my adult life chasing that magic, be it emerging myself in the history of the game, the old grounds, looking at footy through my kids eyes or clinging to traditions. And as much as I adored Richmond and the footy, there was nothing that quite gave me that childlike buzz of sitting in the old southern stand, of ‘around the grounds’ score updates, of mud, footy replays, tears on Brownlow night and the smell of a freshly lit cigarette on the terraces.

But the last twelve months have been the most magical yet. To think that my brother’s team Footscray would win the flag!? Such a glorious time to be living in the shadows of the Whitten Oval. Then on a warm Friday night in February, a most wonderful and emotional ride kicked off with the very first AFLW season coming to be. The thought of watching Richmond be Richmond in the depths of winter was not all that appealing at this point of the year, however I couldn’t have been more wrong, as watching the Tiges this year kept me and the kids beautifully warm on the coldest of days.

my baby brother in me, 12 months ago at the whitten oval. I never thought it possible that richmond could do the same this year.

 

The fact that my brother and I saw flags in our lifetime, ‘back-to-back,’ has not yet fully sunken in. That we both won flags during glorious late afternoon sunshine makes it all the better, and they could well be the last two day grand finals we ever see. That was very important to me. I’ll forever look back on this time with great joy and satisfaction.

It’s truly been a magical ride. I’ve never been more in love with the game.

Eat ‘em Alive

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Here we are again

So there I was again, wandering the darkened streets of Footscray with the shadows of the Western Oval looming large. Again I decided to hit the footpaths, unable to cope with that orange team being victorious. The same dark thoughts were circling in my brain, of how football is simply unfair and unenjoyable.

In the midst of red-white-blue fever last September, I roamed these streets as the Giants took what I thought was an unbeatable lead against Footscray in the preliminary final. It stunk. I was in the foulest of moods, believing nothing in football to be right, the Bulldog-laden charcoal team with a billion first round picks smothering the once in a life-time opportunity that was to be a Footscray grand final birth.

I couldn’t hack it, and solemnly took to the streets. I could easily have been mistaken for Droop Street’s very own Danny. As legend has it, the Dogs fought back, and as I heard the shouts and cheers bursting from the houses around me, I ran back home to witness an achingly tense last few minutes. I just had the hair stand up on the back of my neck and arms as I typed that.

Well the romance of last September and the inaugural AFL Women’s season had dissipated as I again took to the very same streets. My two youngest kids and I had moments earlier been jumping maniacally around the living room as first gamer Shai Bolton’s snap went through the two uprights. Our poor dog sought the refuge of my partner Ash’s lap. As I was in the middle of telling Molly that we still weren’t safe with 1 minute 18 seconds left on the clock, we caught wind of a goal review. It was touched, absolutely no doubt. But the Giants had the ball and  also had the Tigers where they wanted them; defending a narrow lead with a minute to play.

The ball skewed off the pack where Toby Nankervis had the unenviable task of holding up hundreds of orange players running towards him. Goal.

I know the Dockers needed just 21 seconds to kick a goal the previous week, and we had three times that amount at our disposal to scramble a goal, but I also knew there was no way that it would happen. I left the house, making sure I was safely out of the kid’s view before I took out my anger on an unsuspecting tree (not for the first time) and hit the footpath.

There would be no cheering from neighbouring lounge rooms this time to signal a win. I kept hoping to turn and see Molly streaming out from our house, shrieking excitedly to inform me that we’d somehow kicked a goal and won! No shrieks, and after a few quiet minutes I knew. I walked, hands to my head in disbelief, much the way you’re supposed to walk around after a long run to get as much oxygen back into you as possible. I saw no one, no cars or people. I trudged up to the round about where apartments now occupy an old pub, the same pub that Simon Atkins partner dumped all of his belongings one Mad Monday many moons ago, and then headed homeward.

Two weeks in a row. I’ve known plenty of terrible times as a Richmond supporter. Losing an elimination final after leading by five goals to the team that finished 9th! I sat through an 157 point loss. I was there when Brock McLean led what was basically a Carlton reserves side to victory. I had to endure the Karmichael Hunt balls up, not forgetting our reprise of the Beatles ‘Revolution number 9’….number 9…..number 9…. number 9. But these last two weeks have cut even deeper if that’s possible, whilst adding to the legend.

To think that you have won the game with a minute or less to go, twice, and then to surrender that lead in the dying seconds not through the oppositions brilliance, but with our poor structure and thinking, is, I can’t believe I’m say this, a new low. I could cop acts of brilliance that you just can’t stop, but we’ve only got ourselves to blame.

Now I’ve seen Richmond teams give no effort and I can’t fault this team of that. But there is so much on the line after three putrid finals campaigns and a slide down the ladder last year. We are three lousy kicks off top spot, yet clearly so far from deserving that spot due to our poor mental and strategic efforts when the game is in the balance.

Not all is lost, but we simply must beat the teams we should beat from now on. We had a huge chance this past month to set up our season, but all we’ve offered is heartbreak and questions. Will the last three weeks, which we’ve lost by a total of 10 points, make us, break us, or leave us just the same? It could go either way. We need to prove, not just to the footy world but to ourselves, that we are capable of performing in the big moments. Until then, we are pretenders.

There’s always next year…

Rituals. My old top; Richmond by club and name. Wanded: nothing to see here.
st.k Richmondst.k wanding

Footy friends and faces; a relic from a bygone era. Punt Road End. Pie. Petrolst.K Craig2

Get around him. First goal. Elton performs. All downhill here from.st.k Elton

Kick it to me. Mog, my grandfather’s knitted head warmer, cousins, family, Jack kicking a goal. Locks.
stk F & M

Long faces, the people you meet. Online Tiger royalty. Half time…there’s always next year.
st.K twits Last quarter heroics, none forth coming. Kids watch their last moments of Richmond for the year. 19th century fence, 20th century lights, 21st century stands. Same old Richmond.st.k Rich MolLast minute push, 9 points short, 20 minutes too late. Reality sets in, this Tiger gig is tough. Tears.St.K 10

The best remedy, kick it out. Cousins, carpark
st,k kick The sun sets on 2016. Love of the game wins out. This is where the game began, this is where we regroup and move forward. st.k end kick

Footy. Family. Four points missing. Jam doughnuts and kick-to-kick. We’ll be back next year.
st.k after

Go Tiges.

Tigers to shine without pressure of finals

The Richmond Football Club is pleased to announce that they are out of the running for the 2016 AFL finals series.

Coach Damien Hardwick noted that the club “doesn’t handle expectation well” and with the pressure of finals out of the equation, believes that the club will now be able to put its best foot forward on the field.

“As a group we never like to go into a game as favourites, and we particularly dislike ‘must win’ games. We find the pressure really plays on our minds and distracts us from the playing the kind of football we want to play.” Hardwick believes that the “shackles will be released” now that the pressure of finals has been removed. “It’s just what the club needed” he said with a wry grin.

“I believe in drawing on past successes and as a group, we’ve been inspired by the club’s ‘Unleash the Geisch’ period in 1997. The pressure was right off the club in terms of finals and that really allowed the playing group of the day to focus on playing great football. We’re certainly looking to replicate that.”

Club captain Trent Cotchin said that Richmond now has a great opportunity to “shape the final eight.”

“Now that we’re out of contention I have great belief in this group’s ability to put pressure on those clubs fighting for top four and top eight positions. I mean, we beat Sydney, so without worrying about the finals now, we should be able to worry teams like Footscray and Hawthorn. There’s no more satisfaction in football than when you’re having an impact. Our season starts now.”

Cotchin continued, “The past three elimination final defeats have severely dented the playing group’s confidence entering the following season, so without the heartbreak of finals we will be able to enter season 2017 with renewed confidence. This is a positive step for the club.”

Hardwick said that while the club had entered 2016 hoping to make the finals, it’s hard for clubs these days to maintain successful periods such as Richmond’s three-peat of 2013-15. “Look it’s worked out really well for the club. We’re excited with where we’re headed as a group. I’ve met with the board and we’re all confident that this is our ‘Geelong of 2006’ year. I think that’s pretty clear.”

When questioned on where the Tigers would finish this year, Hardwick pondered for a moment, and quipped “I think we can still push for ninth. With the pressure off, we can really get back to playing the Richmond way.”

“I’m sure our loyal supporters will be rapt with how things have turned out this year. They won’t have to cancel September holidays as they have the past few years, and the last few finals series haven’t been good for their mental health. Look, at the end of the day, it’s all about the fans.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 5.07.07 PM

Happy Tiger fans reveling in the club’s failure to make the finals in season 2016. The ‘lid is off.’

Tigers Don’t Win Finals

This was penned on the night of Richmond’s elimination final loss:

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

It’s all I can cling to during the despair in which the Richmond Football Club has left me. It hurts so meaningfully because of the love. But it’s surely better to actually feel something in this life. About five minutes after the siren, as my daughter Molly and I trudged out of the MCG, I was overcome with emotion for a fleeting moment. I felt silly of course, it’s just a football match. But it’s more than that. I choose it to be. Footy and Richmond makes me feel something and I like that, even though it’s often pain of some sort.

Richmond town (2)

Happier yet still terribly anxious times; prematch in Richmond and Yarra Park

As a means of self-preservation I often sarcastically yearn for the days where Richmond were hapless. I understand how to deal with that sort of failure. But this new failure is prickly, it pierces and it leaves you blind with pulsating disappointment. They’re laughing at us again.

I grew up with Richmond being simply dismal. Ablett, Dunstall, Lockett and Modra kicked a billion goals against our flimsy backlines of the late 80s and early 90s. We were a laughing stock.

Now my own daughter Molly is growing up with a reasonable team, stars on each line, many more wins than losses. Surely it’s better for her to grow up with three successive finals campaigns? The lows however, such as today at the MCG, are far more disappointment than I ever had to process as a child, far more.

They’re still laughing.

Firstly, when I was a kid they laughed because we were just shit.

Then they laughed because we finished 9th more often than is statistically probable.

Now they’re laughing because we’re finals chokers. We’re still the same old Richmond. And I’m not sure which is worse. When we defeated Hawthorn during the season, a few Poos and Wees fans left early, earning the usual ‘see you later’ from the Tiger ferals. But I won’t forget get one woman who stopped, turned and yelled “Yeah, well we’ll see you in September!” I knew in my guts she had a point. And she was right, we weren’t up to it. The North banner said it all.

Banner

My Molly really felt that loss in her guts today. In fact her optimism took a battering. All year she’s said “dad, they’ll by alright, they’re a good team” to counter my negativity. And she’s been right. But after today she reflected that “you were right, dad” with all the resignation of a long time Richmond supporter. Her spirit was broken.

MCG pano

I was too anxious to enjoy this moment.

The monkey sitting on our backs now is of gargantuan proportion. SHOULD we make the finals in 2016, we’ve not only an opposition we’ll need to defeat, we’ll have ourselves to overcome. The only positive I can grasp is that we’re slowly getting better, but I fear for the mental wounds caused to our players. As well as you may play in the home and away season, many players must now have serious doubt about their ability under intense pressure.

I’ll name them. Cotchin. Grigg. Chaplin. Is Maric all that we thought he could be? Titch Edwards. Conca. Ellis. There’s probably more but that’ll do for now. Should we make another final, the pressure on these gents to perform will be high. And as we’ve seen in the first week of finals the past few years, handling pressure ain’t a strong point. At least Cotchin won the toss and didn’t choose to kick into a 14 goal gale! Small steps.

I knew today’s result would happen. All week I’ve had Tigers and neutrals telling me to be positive, ‘come on, Richmond’s different this year’ is one I’ve heard on numerous occasions. But the recipe was there for utter disaster and I believe that football is often played out in the dramatic sphere rather than stats, figures and ladder placements.

Pre Match G

Pre-match at the G. Richmond fans do finals well.

The perfect recipe for a Tiger disaster was there. Robbie Nahas. Of course he was going to be fired up and play well against his old team. A lot of people felt he was let go a little easily after one poor season at Tigerland. As the North fans started singing the old Tiger grog squad song ‘Robbie Nahas, Robbie Nahas, Yeah-eah-eah’ Mol turned to me and said “that’s not fair, that’s our song.” All is fair in love and war dear child.

Then there’s Jarrad Waite. If anything can haunt Richmond it’s this fella. The 2013 final saw Waite kick 4. Today the same. He loves playing against Richmond in finals. His old man didn’t mind either, I’m told.

Finally there’s the mental games that North played with their selection in round 23. Where better to toy with Richmond than in our minds! Nine stars missing, allowing Richmond to win, knowing they’d play each other the following week.

tiger despairThe downtrodden. Tears were shed, young and old alike.

North is just a team that unsettles Richmond. Always have been. It was the game against North in Hobart when I decided that Richmond wouldn’t make the finals and we could have a family holiday in the September school holidays. Tasmania was our choice. So of course as soon as that was planned, we get our act together and I start worrying about finals and holidays! However again it was North who paved the way for me to get away and not be consumed by Richmond. It’s terrible for my mental health this finals business.

The Richmond footy club may actually be mortally wounded. We were SO bad for SO long and this ship is oh so hard to turn around. We’ve got it half turned, but there’s a stack more waves coming at us. We may never win a final, or play in a grand final, or, dare I say it, win a flag. It seems to be our lot.

North jubilation final 2

(Click to enlarge) I was devastated yet thought it important to document what winning a final looked like. The guy bottom right was on the phone to a mate and was just squatting up and down madly. 

As we slowly meandered through Richmond for some dinner, Molly, who’d begun to cheer up slightly suddenly blurted out “What was Chaplin thinking dad!?” I explained that he’s become a solid home and away player however confused his abilities with his ambition. What a dreadful moment, one that Mol, myself, Troy and the rest of you Tigers are sure to be haunted by.

Now just for one moment, I’m going to close my eyes and allow myself to feel and hear that Tiger roar. The colour, movement and noise in the streets of Richmond before the match, the Tiger fans marching to the MCG in full voice. When we win I feel as though I’m part of the collective, in some way connected to every other Tiger fan out there. When we lose it is though my own personal football team who plays solely for me has let ME down and I’m the only person feeling it!

And all I can hear are all those other clubs laughing.

My DIY Football Table

Footy Table 1

I am a magpie, but not in the football sense. I pick things up, I find things and I bring them home. As a kid this included all sorts of useless junk but through maturation I’ve been able to refine this habit to serve house and family in a positive manner, meaning I no longer bring home EVERY speaker I see!  For some years now however there’s been an slowly increasing pile of ‘footy ground stuff’ accumulating in our backyard; old bricks from grand stands, broken old seats and anything that hadn’t been nailed down basically.

As I toured Melbourne’s rotting football grounds in the early 2000s, camera in hand, with the view to documenting much of what has now been demolished, I also began picking up souvenirs. But until recently they’ve sat idle for the best part of a decade in the many sheds of the many houses we’ve lived in, taking up space. I always wanted to do something with them, show them off or use them in some way, and as you can see below I toyed with putting together a sort of football ground collage which never came to fruition, but served as a starting point.

Footy Table 2
Inspiration: Bits and pieces from football grounds I have collected over the years which I toyed with turning into some sort of installation art piece (middle). Also, Ash and I enjoyed a beer at a Williamstown pub last year where the table tops were made from an old basketball court.

Also lying around at home was my old nana and pa’s table, the scene of many happy Friday night dinners in my childhood, and as you can see below, the odd birthday celebration. No one in the family wanted to get rid of the table, yet no one was really able to use it either, so I put my hand up to take it. We used it for a number of years until we found our beloved 1960’s laminate table on the side of the road, so nana and pa’s old table got relegated to the backyard, where though we tried our hardest to keep it dry, the top began to warp and crack badly. I needed to save the table in some shape or form, and I had to use this footy ground ‘stuff!’

Mezz and I table
Nana and pa’s table back in the day. Many a Friday night dinner was eaten here. Here’s my little sister turning 2.

Well as you may know, the old Western Oval at the end of my street has recently undergone a facelift, and a part of that was replacing the old wooden seats in front of the John Gent stand. As luck would have it, I was able to help myself to a fair amount of the old seats as they lay in a rubbish pile.

Western Oval Seats
Western Oval: The old seats early last year, the pile that I helped myself too and the replacement seats ahead of the VFL final played there last year

It sat down the side of our house until about a month ago when my ever-patient partner politely asked what was happening with that wood? Luckily this question was asked during the two weeks I had off work over easter, and I suddenly realised I could kill two birds with one stone; the ‘footy stuff’ and the table. I took the top off the table to find that the base was undamaged and still ridiculously strong. I don’t have any power tools so the beauty of this table is that it was a real ‘blood, sweat and tears’ job, with great assistance from the kids.

Cade Twitter Table

Great minds think alike, and while sharing the progress of the table on twitter, @cade_e knocked my socks off with the tweets pictured left. There’s a sister table out there! It turns out that this wood was salvaged from the tip, and what a great place to sit and discuss the fortunes of the club formerly know as Footscray. Surely footy clubs MUST know that there’s crazy supporters like us out there who’d love the thought of owning a piece of our teams old ground? It frightens me to think of the treasures that have been discarded over the years. Better to focus on what I have salvaged.

The majority of the wood for my table was from the Western Oval but as I’m not a Footscray supporter it was very important to incorporate as much wood from other grounds as I could. Whilst I have nothing from Punt Road, I do have one line of wood which is yellow and black in the table, made ironically from Vic Park and Princes Park, enemy territory for a Richmondite.

Table Build

There is also a plank from in front of the old grandstand at Arden Street and small bit of VFL Park which I scored out of a bin when I went out there ten years ago or so. As you can see in the photo below, they’ve kept a few bays of seating in front of the old Sir Kenneth Luke Stand, and I happened to be there the day after they trimmed them all down. Right place, right time. You can’t teach that.

Footy Grounds
Clockwise, starting top left. Princes Park, Arden Street, VFL Park and Victoria Park.

As the table will live outside I wanted to make it last, so headed to Bunnings and asked which varnish would be the best. Three coats of outdoor varnish later and not only is the table protected, but the darker look the varnish gives really adds something and ties the different parts together.

I set out to make something kind of cool and just used what I had at my reach, but on reflection this table carries a lot of meaning for me, for it is family and football tied together. Family, Football and a place to share Food. I’m not sure what else you really need?

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The finished product. Next project, chairs that suit!