Firstly, I’d like to thank those friends who offered commiserations and/or asked how I was feeling after Richmond’s early exit from the AFL finals yesterday. It certainly made a pleasant change from those Carlton supporters (not all of them) whose instinctive response to victory is to gloat and rub the opposition supporter’s noses in it. Such behaviour puts them even lower than
Collingwood supporters in the pecking order. Even newly elected politicians have the common decency to wait for the loser to concede defeat before saying anything.
Yesterday, before a huge crowd, both coaching and playing experience got the better of us. After half time, our defensive game fell away and could not answer Carlton’s run and contested ball play. By the final quarter, there was nothing left in the tank. For the third time this year, we had a game-winning lead against Carlton and then faded. With a success rate in those games of just 1/3, that’s clearly an area needing improvement. It’s reasonable to say that the fans of 16 other clubs were hoping Richmond would put right the aberration that allowed a ninth-placed team to play finals footy, but alas that task is now left to Sydney next week. Yes, it was “just a game of football”, but probably Richmond’s most important one for over 10 years.
Congrats to Newman for losing an unwanted record and playing his first final ever (it was my first final too, and I’ve been going to the footy for more than 12 years). Let’s hope he continues to play for another year or two. A disappointing end for Tuck’s fine career, but when you choose to retire and your team is playing finals, your last game (assuming selection) can only ever be a grand final win or a loss. For the 15+ players who played their very first final, it was and will be a good learning experience.
Despite a disappointing loss, there is so much to look forward to. Richmond have improved immensely this year and have a young and very talented list. We have recruited well: all of our last few first-round draft picks are emerging stars and our mature-age trades have added immense value. Outgoing club president Gary March and CEO Brendon Gale have led an outstanding financial turnaround. This has switched the club from the vicious cycle of poor development, poor performance, sackings and self-destruction to a virtuous cycle where we now have sufficient resources for recruitment and development, excellent facilities, very high membership, and increasing on-field success.
It is something of a comfort that despite losing yesterday’s battle, we are in a far better long-term position that yesterday’s opponent, and many other clubs. This is a result of a ground-up rebuilding of the club that has been amazing for long-suffering fans such as myself to watch, and will only get better. I look forward to not booking September holidays for a while now!