Let me take you back to the roller coaster ride that was season 2014. On Friday August 16, The Mighty Tiges traveled to Adelaide Oval for their Round 21 must-win game vs the Crows.
After a great start from ‘The Good Guys’, the Crows worked their way back into the game, and hit the front with about 15 minutes to go. The momentum was all with the Crows. It looked like season 2014 was about to officially come to a close. Enter Dustin Martin and one of his famous one-on-one wins of the footy to goal and secure a momentous victory that breathed further life into our season.
I was going to be there. I should have been there. I thought long and hard of the cost and knew I could do better with the money. This year I don’t care about the money. I’m going and that’s that. Mr10 is not happy that it’s an ‘Adults Only’ trip and @jwlz23 is a little apprehensive as well. She shouldn’t be as we’re all responsible. Well, most of us.
CJ headed out of the ground at halftime for a cigarette and on his return to enter Adelaide Oval Security suggested he stay outside. He missed the complete second half but enjoyed standing on the bridge soon after Dustin’s goal, wishing all of the passing Crows supporters a safe trip home. Really, he’s lucky one or two of them didn’t proceed with Dusty ‘Don’t argue’.
So, with CJ turning 40 a few weeks back, another Melbourne-based nephew of mine, Anthony (Stana) and I decided it was time to venture to the City of Churches to catch up with CJ and cheer-on The Mighty Tiges. Not surprisingly, no SACA Members tickets this time. Just tickets in the Outer with ‘The Throng’.
DPK will be with us at the ground but had booked a reserved seat some weeks back with his Richmond Membership. No doubt, we’ll catch up before, during and after the game. CJ’s elder brother Bernard (Bernie) will also join us in The Outer. His primary role for the night is to assist us with translating the diatribe that no doubt comes our way. He’s a Crows supporter!
As an aside, I had the good fortune of attending Football Park for our Round 22 game vs The Crows in 1995. YOU REMEMBER THE YEAR!!! After Caaarlton had defeated Essendon in Melbourne earlier that day, we had to win that night to guarantee a ladder finish of 3rd and the double-chance. Sound familiar???
On entry to the ground we walked along the concourse of Football Park and it was very reminiscent of Waverley, except for the Heathens leaning over the walls, politely telling us to “Piss off back to Melbourne!” and “Richmond suck!!!” It struck me that 12 year old boys learn early in Adelaide.
After a first quarter 5 goal to nil Tiger onslaught, including a Benny Gale free from right in front, that drew boos from the crowd, and a Wayne Campbell snap that drew boos AND hoots, I stood and raised my clenched fists in a show of defiance to ‘The Throng’. As a sign of thanksgiving from my hosts, they threw an Adelaide Icon at me; a carton of Farmer’s Union. Needless to say, Stana was none too pleased to be the recipient of their ‘gift’.
So, back to 2015 and whilst I head down to Tulla in the ’94 Astina, all I can think about is that I hope the Old Darl’ can get me to Airport Parking. Just one way will do the job for now. I’ll worry about the return trip when I return to Melbourne on Sunday.
Meeting up with Stana, one of us catches our 1425 flight to Adelaide, whilst the other remains at Tulla until 1630, scratching his head over something called "electronic check-in". Plenty of yellow-and-black at the airport too, as well as the odd Crows supporter embarking on their 'trip of disappointment'.
I'm confident, yet excited of what lies ahead tonight at ‘The Oval’. Pre-match, the only advice I can offer #Supercotch when winning the toss, is to kick with the bloody breeze! He doesn't, and the decision is made for him. 24 hours later a cricket captain in England suffers the same fate, and calls an end to his career. I believe he's lucky to be given one final Test.
Landing safely in Adelaide, I'm met by the beaming smile of CJ and a warm embrace. "Maaaate..." is his usual greeting, "What happened?" he asks, but I can only shrug my shoulders and reply with a simple and succinct "You know Anthony! Now, let's get a beer."
Game time T-4 hours and counting.
We settle at CJs, enjoy a beer, openly discuss the Tiges prospects, the possibility of winning Lids-less after he doesn't fly with the team the day before, and is ruled out whilst I was in the air. Our record without him is not flattering, only two wins from about 12 games that he has missed. The Tiger Army will be hoping this changes if he doesn't suit up. Whilst typing parts of this article pre-match, I called that he'd play and just stayed home an extra night to recuperate as well as spending time with the new addition. I learned soon after writing this that my call was wrong.
The weather in Adelaide is fine but The Hill will be chilly later, especially if The Mighty Ones put on a football clinic.
So, onto the The Oval for the game after pleasantries with family and it amazes me how much the precinct that holds The Oval has changed since my last visit here in January 1997, when Michael Bevan took his 10-for vs West Indies.
The ground is lit-up fantastically and actually looks brighter than at The G. I wondered if it's newer technology in the lights or just shorter light towers? We enjoy a beverage in an outside bar where Channel Bruce film broadcast their pre-match show. The King looks as fit as ever and I'm sure he'd carve up the backline in a super rules game.
Entering the ground at the southern end, just where the old Bradman stand used to begin, it's quickly apparent to me that the fine old cricket oval that was The Adelaide Oval is just a distant memory contained in our minds or on photos. Being an old traditionalist, I was sorry to see her go, but I understand that money talks and the SACA were made an offer they could not refuse. Without the redevelopment, there's no way 50,000 could enjoy night footy at The Oval, and we'd be sitting in the outer of Adelaide's VFL equivalent, the windswept Football Park.
We join the crowd standing on the hill and I'm glad that Mr10 isn't with me as he wouldn't have been able to see much of it anyway. I braced myself for some verbal 'pleasantries' on The Hill, but disappointingly, it never arrives. How times have changed. All I hear are calls of “ball” every time we are tackled, boos for every free kick we are paid or ones they are not, and the soon tiresome “C’mon Adelaide. They’ve stopped!”
The Mighty Ones enter the playing arena to plenty of cheering and flag waving. The Tiger bandwagon is certainly rolling along nicely. We have 70,000+ members, which just continues to amaze me, after all of the heartache since '82. Just imagine how big a celebration it will be if we win a final or two...or 3...or....
We start well and I notice our back six playing well together again, repelling Adelaide's advances time and again. However, it's not a good sign that the Crows continue to get the ball forward on a regular basis and Cameron’s dash looks dangerous. Something we miss.
Jack is shadowed all night by Talia and I think he needed to become the decoy to take the defender away from the play. Needless to say, it never happens and Jack is rendered ineffective. Up forward for them Jenkins and Walker make the Crows look dangerous whenever they ventured near the goals, and after the loss of Grimes at halftime we were under pressure every time the ball came down to their goals.
Other than Dusty, I struggled to pick our best players and see online the next day that it's Martin, Houli, Grigg and Miles. The two lefties were serviceable, but only that, as the Crows dominate the game after halftime to win by 6 goals, our biggest defeat of the season so far. Real Richmond supporters know it was far worse than that, and at least 12 goals in my eyes, as the Crows had 33 scoring shots to our 12. It was a mistake-riddled effort on our part and no doubt the players struggled to get up after the Hawthorn game. It’s funny really, because Adelaide got themselves up for us after a poor effort versus Sydney the week before. It really is that type of season.
The highlight of the night was after midnight in a Hindley St bar. No, not one of 'those' bars, but a sports bar. I noticed a tall bloke wearing an old-style Richmond beanie, and commented to DPK "Check out the Richmond bogan in the beanie with the pom-pom". With both chuckled as we know that's what others say about us from time to time.
Shortly afterwards the tall bloke wondered over, and as he neared, I got a better look at him. A much better look. It was my all-time favourite player, Scott Turner, '41 - The Gun'. The number on my guernsey caught his eye so he decided to come over and introduce himself.
"I like your Guernsey" were his introductory words. My reply "Well, it was yours. Do you want it back?" as our whole group cracked up in laughter. I had purchased his Centenary AFL season jumper of '96 from the club in a silent auction, paying way too much for it. After it hung in the closet for a few years I decided I'd better get some wear out of it, so it always adorns me to every Tigers game. I get the odd comment at games like "Go Scotty Turner" or "watch out O'Donnell" or "Ablett" to name a few, but to be wearing it and get noticed by The Great Man and approached was fanbloodytastic in my star-gazed eyes.
Scott was an absolute champion in the bar. He answered many a question from our group, and honestly too. He told us a little about his battles with Ablett and Dunstall, his recent term in Victorian Parliament with the Nationals, how Richmond erred in letting Swooper go, when just a few thousand more dollars would have seen him stay.
Now, what really took me was that he approached our group and spoke to us, when he didn't have too. That just made me think how down to earth this Ararat man is. After his time at Richmond was shortened by his knee problems, he returned to the bush, to coach in Warrnambool and then entered parliament. He would have had my vote every time, as his Party Member in my area, Russell Northe does. Two good politicians. Rare commodities!
So the weekend comes to an end on Sunday with the return flight and drive back to Traralgon. Before leaving Adelaide, we agree that the Tigers-Crows game should become an annual event for a family catch-up, no matter the destination, as blood really is thicker than water.
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