There was a bit of a trending discussion on Twitter a few weeks ago when it became clear Richmond had sewn up a top-8 finish, and an appearance in the finals. People were sharing their memories of what was happening last time the Tigers made it the finals in 2001.
As Richmond lined up to play Essendon in week one, the Twin Towers were still standing. Shrek was still in cinemas and the first Harry Potter film had still not been released. My son and fellow Tiger diehard Marcus was conceived but unborn. Richmond had beaten a very soft Essendon in the last home and away round, but the Dons turned up ready to play finals, and we were trounced. The privilege of finishing in the top 4 is getting a second chance, so the Tigers were back the following week looking for redemption against Carlton.
Of course during the week a war started, unlike anything we had seen before. I can’t actually recall anything of the game against Carlton after the minute of silence for the victims of September 11. Strangely the match is nowhere to be found on YouTube so I can’t even pretend I remember. But the stats say we led narrowly all day and won by 11 points. The following week we were steamrolled by the Brisbane Lions, on their way to the first of their three consecutive premierships. Sigh.
Zip to the present, 12 years on, and my 11-year-old and I are in a lather of expectation. In 3 days the boys will run out on the MCG in a final against Carlton. We have three key players coming back from injury and suspension. I have been over the team sheets from the last few weeks, trying to see who might be the unlucky ones to be dropped to make way. I am expecting at least one surprise.
Shane Tuck has just announced this will be his last season. Dugald has written a beautiful valedictory piece on Tucky that surpasses anything I could say. Everyone watched in vain as he went off after the last game on Saturday night, for a sign of a final farewell. He is not a demonstrative man but I feel in my guts that he's been given an assurance that he'll be in the 22 on Sunday, possibly in the green vest again as sub.
In the game the other night a man-mountain with the unfashionable 37 on his guernsey kept popping up in the play, receiving and giving off handballs. Orren Stephenson came in to the side to give star forward Jack Riewoldt a week to rest his back and other ailments. I find myself hoping the Big O keeps his spot this week. His ruckwork was excellent but his ability to be a link in the chain around the ground really impressed me. He was drafted by Geelong at the age of 29, and now as a 30 year-old he’s ours. He’s a premiership player too - he has 4 VFL flags to his name. I think he’s got what we need.
Who is going to miss out? I am tipping the brave Ricky Petterd and the proppy Matt White will miss out for Reiwoldt and veteran defender Chris Newman. If it’s dry then we may see an old fashioned Exchange of Shanes; Tuck out, Edwards in. But if its wet we'd be mad to to take an extra tall into the game, so Tuck stays, and its Orren who makes way for Shane Edwards.
Tigers to win by 35 points, with 4 goals each to Aaron Edwards, Jack Riewoldt and Ty Vickery and 33 touches for Brett Deledio.