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

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Wayne Campbell & Me

It all caught up with me. There I was with my sister and our better halves on the terraces at Kardinia Park, in tears. It was Wayne Campbell’s 297th and final match for the Richmond Football Club, and the only occasion that the emotions have gotten the better of me at the footy in the form of tears. There were a number of factors involved at the culmination of that match.

Firstly, there was very narrow defeat at the hands of the more fancied Geelong. We hadn’t won down at Kardinia Park since 1990, the year before Campbell debuted for the Tiges. But I’ve seen many a similar loss with no tears.

Secondly, it all came home that the much maligned Campbell had really given his all for the club, and did the honourable thing of bowing out just three games shy of the illustrious 300 figure.

And thirdly, it made me feel old and nostalgic. Not a lot of people know this, but Wayne Campbell and I debuted for the mighty Richmond Football Club on the same day in 1991 against the old Fitzroy at Princes Park. Wayne donned the number 46 for the seniors, and I the number 6….for the little league. What a thrill.

 

My ticket to Wayne Campbell’s first and last matches. They don’t make tickets to last these days!

I was actually below the cut-off age to be playing, but the guy running the Laburnam Footy Clinic (pre-branding), Kevin O’Mally, told a fib about my age and got me a game. As the lone Richmond fan amongst a sea of Hawks, Bombers and Pies, he must have pitied me.

You’re going to have to take my word for it but that’s me circled, a fair bit smaller than everyone else, running from the ground having just played for the Tiges. I kicked a point with what was the only possession that I can recall having.

We were bundled up into the Heatley Stand for the first quarter and a half, me being the only one in my team who was invested in the match. We circled the boundary before half time and headed into the musty old rooms to change, where a few reserves players were still gathered. I remember hearing the roar of the crowd, and desperately hoping it was for a Richmond goal.

The match itself was a blur and I remember little other than struggling greatly with the water bottle, the likes of which I’d never used before. Coughing and spluttering ensued. As I took my place with mum and dad after ‘my’ match, I learned that they had situated themselves behind two of the most obnoxious and loud mouth Roy supporters that ever lived. Luckily we got up.

Mum took this snap from their position in the forward pocket

But back to Wayne Campbell. You can see him above in game one, positioned perfectly for the hit out from the ruckman. Number 46 remember. Reading the game and being a step ahead were clearly natural to him from day dot.

Campbell in game one attempting to spoil Brett Stephens from Fitzroy, the old Gardiner stand in the background. I didn’t get a run in the paper! (Herald-Sun, 1991)

‘Cambo’ wasn’t my favourite player, but the more I reflect on his career, the more I appreciate him. Amongst 4 club best and fairests and club captaincy, he polarised Tiger fans, for reasons I could never understand. He was instrumental in driving Richmond up the ladder in the latter part of 1994 and in 1995 he finished the home and away season as Brownlow favourite.The back end of the 1999 season saw the Tiges really struggle, but Campbell really shone at this time showing great leadership.

I thought Campbell was tough and put his body on the line, prepared to take physical punishment so as to release team mates into space. But his ‘footy brain’ was his strength, his adequate skills aided by his decision making. At times you could literally see his brain ticking over, thinking one or two moves ahead.

Yet it’s Wayne’s loyalty which I value most. He could well have left for greener pastures, and from a professional point of view, perhaps should have. But he stayed. When handed the captaincy in 2001, to the disgust of many Tiger fans given he replaced Matthew Knights, one of his first acts as skipper was to fly the flag for the man he replaced. Tony Liberatore king hit Knights behind play, and Campbell stood up against Libba both physically and with words throughout the week, breaking the ‘players code’ of silence.

Campbell and Knights remonstrate with Libba – Image from http://oneeyed-richmond.com/history/every_dog_has_its_day/camboknighterlibba.jpg

So I cried a bit when Wayne finished up, getting to that age where I was seeing blokes retire whom I remembered playing their first games. Slowly l am getting used to that. As Campbell started his career, I still had stars in my eyes of one day representing Richmond, unable to acknowledge the slim chances that faced me.

Watching Wayne trudge off for the last time, head in hands, was like a sledgehammer reminding me that I would never make it, and it struck me how hard he had worked in his career for no success. Sometimes this game isn’t fair. Wayne Campbell, it was a pleasure having you represent my footy club.

The final training session 

Shake your Booty #3 Fitzroy Bears song

We now come alphabetically in our ‘mock-punk’ style footy theme songs to Brisbane, but as brother Pete and I were still upset at the Brisbane-Fitzroy “merger”, very fresh in 1997, we opted for Fitzroy’s song instead. I unfortunately took lead vocals on this one…I’m not sure the French would approve!!! And remember, the ‘theme-songs’ session took place in our bedroom using cassette 4-track and took no longer than an hour. The quality is questionable, but that was kind of the idea!

Here is Pete’s ‘typical’ Brisbane supporter from around the same period of the late 1990’s, done in MSPaint. You can imagine this fellow either on the hill at the Gabba or in the old Lions social club. He obviously has no affiliation with Fitzroy, and clearly has sunk many a XXXX! Go Bears!