The life of a Richmond fan

Behind being a Richmond fan. Picture: richmondfc.com.au

The year is 2016 and the Richmond Football Club has gone through another difficult season.

It stands at 15 seasons without a finals win, the supporters are furious and there is calls for Damien Hardwick’s head as senior coach.

Yet, the CEO and president decide to stand by the former Essendon and Port Adelaide premiership star.

It was a move which would help push the Tigers in the right direction.

At the end of the 2017 home and away season, the Tigers finished in the top four and a qualifying final against Geelong at the MCG was set.

Relentless pressure and determination from the Tigers saw them snap their remarkable finals drought, defeating the Cats by 51 points and booking a home preliminary final, their first since 2001.

Reflecting on that qualifying final is Richmond diehard Cheryl Critchley.

“The first final against Geelong was incredible, given we had not beaten the Cats at the MCG since my daughter, who was 18 at the time of the final, was a baby,” she said.

“Our record against Geelong was terrible so to beat them and make our first preliminary final since 2001 was just magic.

“Words could not describe how happy my husband and I were.”

Like the season prior with the Western Bulldogs, a fairy tale was in the works, and the Tigers took on the GWS Giants in the preliminary final.

Richmond supporter Neroli said she remembers the preliminary final well.

“The day seemed impossibly warm for Melbourne in late September,” she said.

“The crowds started lining up as the last rays of sunshine dipped behind the steel blue Melbourne skyline.

“Nothing could have prepared me for the atmosphere of a sell out MCG crowd that was 90 per cent a sea of yellow and black.

“It was enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck before the first bounce.

“When Kane Lambert kicked the first goal for the Tigers the ground shook with the almost deafening roar of the crowd.

“What unfolded signified that we had truly arrived…we deserved to be playing on this stage.

“When the final siren sounded, friends and family groups embraced and strangers high-fived.

“The crowd sung out the song in decibels that drowned out the musical recording.”

For the first time in three decades, Richmond was heading to the AFL Grand Final, against an Adelaide side who had dominated the season and thrashed Geelong in the preliminary final.

Yet, it was all about Richmond, and Tigers fan Jason Dowling said that day shaped the club into what it is today.

“I started to realise that we might win a premiership when on the big screen at the match they showed Brendon Gale and Peggy O’Neil,” he said.

“When Brendon was getting emotional that really got me.

“All my old footy jumpers have the number 25 on the back, I idolised Brendon the player and now he’s driven the club to this amazing period of success.

“Seeing him on that big screen at the MCG was my moment.”

The post-match feeling was something else for fellow Richmond fan James Durkin.

“I never thought that we might be able to win the premiership until after we beat GWS in the preliminary final and the emotion of that win sunk in and I realised we were one good game away from winning the flag,” he said.

“But when we won, it was pure relief and shock for a while, I saw something that I thought I would never see in my life and seeing the joy on all the Richmond fans in the stands and streets after the game was something that I will never forget.”

“It was such a great game of football for all of the Richmond members and supporters around the country as Richmond finally broke their premiership drought of 37 years.”

Only 12 months later after their amazing victory, the Tigers went in favoured against Collingwood in the preliminary final.

Yet, it was a different result, with the Tigers experiencing a similar feeling to previous years.

Cheryl Critchley said the supporter base was heartbroken following the loss.

“We were upset by the loss, but Collingwood won fair and square, so we had to accept it,” she said.

“The Magpies played great footy and Richmond was ordinary, so they didn’t deserve to win.

“Given the loss was comprehensive it didn’t take too long to put it behind me but thinking about it is still painful and I’ll never watch a replay of it.”

The Magpies would go onto lose the Grand Final to West Coast the following week, but the Tigers had begun preparation for redemption in 2019.

A second grand final in three years for Richmond, this time against the Giants, meant the Tigers were not going away in a hurry despite their shock loss 12 months earlier.

James Durkin said the 2019 decider felt a lot like 2017.

“I was still a nervous wreck that Richmond would ‘do a Richmond’ and bottle it after half-time, but when (Ivan) Soldo kicked the goal on three-quarter-time, I knew I could just enjoy the last quarter and soak it all up.”

Now, Richmond is preparing for its third grand final in four years, but under different circumstances.

The Tigers opened the season against Carlton in front of no crowds, and will now play in the 2020 decider at the Gabba for the first time ever.

There’s no parade, there’s no open training sessions and for Cheryl Critchley, it’s been a weird build up.

“This year is very different and it has been hard not being able to attend games this year,” she said.

“I’ve still enjoyed the Richmond wins, but it has been surreal.

“I’m rapt and excited that the Tigers are playing in another grand final, but it will be hard not being there.

“We will enjoy it though and watch it on TV, there isn’t much we can do during grand final week, we’ll just have to get into the spirit at home and I’ve already decorated the front of the house even though we can’t have any visitors.”

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