My footy team sucks again. There it is, the simple statement that I’ve been avoiding for a good year now. I’ve confided many of my misgivings to some of my closer, footy loving brethren, but I haven’t come out and actually stated so definitively my opinion on this matter. The Richmond footy team once again sucks.
There is so much personal history flavouring that simple statement that I feel the need to express the emotions that go along with it. As I read it again, I feel resignation, the exhaustion of the inevitable. There is much less anger than when I used to get all riled up about why it was that my team just could never get it together. I’m too tired of it all for anger; I just watched last night’s game against Melbourne, so reminiscent of the Round 1 defeat to the Dogs, and so many losses before that, and I thought “Here we go again.”
I very much tried to convince myself that I didn’t understand modern footy, that despite what my instincts were telling me, the side was on the right path. This is very evident in my article leading into the 2013 Finals Series, The Curse Of The Tiger, where I even outline my misgivings and state that I’m going to ignore them due to the weight of evidence proving me wrong.
I think, like many Tiger supporters, I truly wish I was wrong. I really very much wanted to be wrong. It is so exhausting barracking for a perpetually poor footy team. All teams seem to have their ups and downs, but all teams ups seem to be higher and more sustained than ours. How can two consecutive Finals Series resulting in immediate and embarrassing exits be considered a high point for the club? How can it be that, after two such mediocre results with a team considered to be well organised with a good batch of young stars be so easily surpassed by clubs recently considered to be well behind us?
Yes, I don’t believe that Damien Hardwick is the right man for the job. I believe he is a very limited football intellect whose game plan can not be executed efficiently under pressure by his players. I think he has helped bring a steadying hand to a club that needed one at the time, but that he is routinely outcoached, while at the same time has over-coached his players.
That said, I don’t understand the players I’m trying so desperately to support. Even when I had, as a player, a coach that I didn’t rate or who sent through confusing messages, I still ensured that every time I pulled on the jumper I had a massive bloody go. Even when we got smashed and I was beaten by my opponent I left the field feeling like I had given everything I had to give, that I had tried to do things to inspire my team mates. I don’t feel that too many current Richmond players could have a good honest look at themselves after a game and come to the same conclusion.
I was (and amusingly still am at the age of 34, all set to run out in a vets competition tomorrow afternoon) a pretty ordinary footballer. A good portion of the Tigers team is not ordinary, and are noted for being talented. Many casual footy fans comment about the dangerous core of so-called “elite” talent that we have assembled, just as they comment on the positive impact that Damien Hardwick has had on the club. Both viewpoints are overstated, if not wrong.
I feel like there has been so much said about running and structures and all the other modern guff that winning the ball and making an instinctive football decision are nigh on impossible for our players to perform. The core group of players including Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt no longer seem to be good at the things that made them stand out in the first place.
Cotchin was a smooth, classy yet hard good decision-maker in traffic who you could definitely trust with the ball in his hand to be damaging. Martin was a bull. An instinctive footballer that knew how to win the ball, showed no respect to inferior humans around him and had a deadly right boot anywhere within 60 metres of goal. Riewoldt was a high marking, goal kicking gem that seemed full of confidence and joy for the game. None of these things can be said of these players now. They have all regressed.
Meanwhile, in 2013, a fairly ordinary footballer named Daniel Jackson won the Club’s Best and Fairest award, despite being surrounded by players of such talent. Could it be that Hardwick is capable of getting good results out of ordinary footballers, and poor results out of talented players? Or does he simply not understand talented players, or rate their performance appropriately?
Even Alex Rance, a player that performed sensationally in the second half of 2014 and out of his skin in the first two rounds of 2015, came out against Brisbane and looked fumbly and unsure of himself, and followed it up with below his best in last night’s game. It’s like as soon as a player gets any kind of individual attention, our coaching crew all get together to squash them. Making a leap from supposition to opinion, I feel that this team-first above anything attitude is killing the performance of individuals.
As I said, I was and am an ordinary footballer, but I loved having talented footballers in my side who could do things I couldn’t. I loved having midfielders that weaved through traffic or burst through opponents tackles as though they weren’t there. I loved even more having a gun forward I could kick to when I was under the pump. I also appreciated having a gun defender who would save me when my man got away from me.
Aaaaahhhhhh, the freaking pain of following a side that never seems to get anywhere. I know I’ll regret writing this. Firstly, there is a particular Melbourne supporter that hates my team that will take particular pleasure in me, once again, realising we are going nowhere. More importantly, what I have written isn’t entirely what is was meant to be. It was not meant to be yet another exploration of the failings of Richmond and it’s coach and players. It was meant to be a look at the pain of following a side over which you have no say. My intention was to explore the concept of investing emotional energy into something you not only can’t impact, but which also continually leads to disappointment.
I suppose, like with the Tigers, sometimes the result doesn’t match the intention. While I have not the energy or desire to start over, the Tigers seemingly have no choice. All I can do is hope they get it right next time, and try to care less. No chance of either.