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.

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 #21 Royce the Legend

Royce Hart sharpened

Just a quick celebratory post today to signify Royce Harts induction as a Legend of the VFL-AFL competition. As you can see, Scanlon’s footy cards recognised Royce’s ‘legend’ status back in 1989, labelling him ‘The Richmond Legend.’

A big thankyou to my old footy card collection, still going strong, still proving relevant!!

And some extra reading and looking upon Royce from my archives…

The day Royce first set foot upon Punt Road Oval…

Royce Hart and the Tassie Tiger connection