The rollercoaster of the emotional
Richmond fans typify the famous quote: "Football isn't a matter of life and death. It's much more important than that". So seriously do Richmond fans take their football, the club is prone to extremes of popularity. In the good times, it ranks alongside Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon as one of Melbourne's "big four". In bad times, Richmond fans desert the club as they are unable to cope with the stress of losing. Their popularity subsequently ranks alongside the likes of North Melbourne.
Finals are over-rated
Tiger fans are notoriously demanding. Arguably they are also the most incapable of coming to terms with losing. They are not like St Kilda fans who see losing as somewhat part of their identity, or Sydney fans who will be unfazed and find another form of entertainment, or Collingwood fans who will be disappointed by still struggle onwards. No, for Richmond fans, defeat is a cut that is almost too difficult to bear. To deal with this psychological turmoil, some fans take proactive action such demanding the removal of the coaches head. In 1981, the need to placate fans led to the sacking of coach Tony Jewell. This was quite a hasty move considering that he had coached the club to a premiership the year before. The club did the same with Francis Bourke in 1983 after he coached them to a grand final in the previous year.
In 2001, another proactive fan tried to remedy Richmond's poor start to the season by dumping a load of chicken manure on the club's doorstep. Countless others tore up their memberships and posted them back to the club as their way of motivating their beloved Tigers.
Of those who can't take such affirmative action, alternative strategies are used to deal with their frustration. To their credit, this rarely involves changing allegiances or going to watch a successful VFA team (ala Port Adelaide supporters.) No, Richmond fans often stop watching football altogether. When quizzed, they don't deny that they were once Richmond fans nor do they deny that Richmond meant to the world to them. They simply say things like they "have lost interest in football due to the AFL administration making it a farce."
Of course this is somewhat of a lie. In reality, the Tiger fans are gazing upon the AFL from the fringes, keeping one eye on the results whilst pretending not to care. Then once the Tigers start winning again, they pounce back into the fray; cheering like the fans of old. This tendency to disappear only to roar back into life often has the club being labelled the "sleeping giant of the AFL".
The seeds of Richmond's culture were sewn in 1921 when the club changed its name from the "yellow and black angels" to the "Tigers". The ferocity of its new moniker inspired the catch cry "eat'em alive". It was a brutal cry that compelled players to make no apologise for their methods and let nothing stand in the way of victory.
In the 1930s, a player by the name of Jack Dyer, turned the brutal mentality into an art form. Dyer used a lethal shirt front to break the collar bones of 64 opponents. With a procession of broken players laying in his wake, Dyer was bestowed the title "Captain Blood." On the back of his ferocity, the Tigers won flags in 1932, 1934 and 1943. From the 1960s to early 80s, the club again built a platform for success on the back of big, tough, uncompromising players who like Dyer, let nothing stand in their way. In the era, they won flags in 1967, 1969, 1973, 1974, 1980.
However in the 80s, the 'take no prisoners' approach that had delivered success in the past, contributed to the club's demise. In the 21 years from 1962-1982, Richmond won 66 per cent of its games. In the 21 years from 1983-2003, it won just 39 per cent.
Fans were accustomed to winning and were intolerant of failure. Those who did not deliver had always been discarded and replaced with those who were more keeping with the Tiger ethic. In 1982, David Cloke, Geoff Raines and Bryan Wood all left the club. In the same year, interstate player draft was introduced thus making players more difficult to replace.
Failing to adapt, the Tigers remained merciless to players they felt were under performing. As a result, a great deal of talent was lost to rival clubs; merely compounding the problem. As results got progressively worse, a culture built upon tearing apart the opposition, began tearing apart itself. Disenchanted icons left the club and without the benefit of their experience, the young recruits had no one to educate them about the Tiger's intimidating culture. Performances went into freefall and fans unable to cope with losing left as well.
With such demanding fans, the board has lacked the patience to spend time at the bottom of the ladder to gain access to the prized draft selections. Furthermore, when the prized draft selections were attained, they were subsequently traded away on established players in the hope of attaining quick results.
Ironically, because the recruits have created an unrealistic sense of expectation, this policy has contributed to the fan's hostility. Fans feel like the board has made promises that the players just can't deliver. On the other hand, St Kilda fans whose club has won 26 wooden spoons, have been comfortable on the bottom of ladder which in turn allowed the board to acquire the best young talent and subsequently build teams capable of winning premierships.
The emotion of Richmond fans is a mixed blessing for the club. When the players are down, the fans are extremely hostile, even to the point of spiting at their own players. But unlike Collingwood fans who are scathing of their player's ability, Richmond fans are scathing of their players effort. They are usually quite optimistic about the player's potential.
When the players do start performing, this optimism shines through and the players are elevated to an almost godlike status. Perhaps this explains why Richmond has arguably more historical champions than any other club. Maybe Richmond has produced more champions, or maybe Richmond is just better at singing their praises.
Roy Morgan research
Richmond Tigers supporters are:
2001 - compared to the average Australian
2004 - compared to other AFL supporters
2006 when compared to other AFL supporters
Odd that Richmond never realised that Tigers are in fact orange and black.
Collingwood - Richmond fans have often depicted Collingwood as representing the worst stereotypes of the working-class; profane, unruly, aggressive and obnoxious. On the other hand, Richmond has depicted themselves as representing the best aspects on the class; passionate and tough.
Personifying the difference was a TV show hosted by ex-Richmond Captain Jack Dyer, and ex-Collingwood Captain, Lou Richards. There was Dyer, a magnificent physical specimen whose mere presence commanded valour, strength and dignity. Besides him was Richards; a sly little weasel who would rob his own mother if given half a chance.
In recent years the rivalry has waned as there have been no Jack Dyers in Richmond's teams and they are now about as intimidating as Bambi. As for Collingwood, it has become respectable now that Eddie McGuire has given the fans elocution lessons. The only consolation is Eddie has been unable to rid the club of its Colliwobbles and for many old Tiger fans, the next best thing to Richmond winning a flag, is seeing the Magpies lose one.
1) A Family of Collingwood supporters head out one Saturday morning to do their Christmas shoplifting. While in Rebel Sports the son picks up a Richmond footy jumper and says to his 10 year old sister, "I've decided to become a Tiger supporter and I would like this for Christmas". His sister, outraged by this, promptly whacks him round the head with her carton of Winfields and says, "Go talk to Mum.
Off goes the little lad with the Richmond footy jumper in hand and finds his mother. "Mum?" "Yes son?" "I've decided I'm going to be a Tiger supporter and I would like this jumper for Christmas". The mother is outraged at this and throws her moccasins and a full stubbie of VB at him, promptly whacks him around the head and says, "lets go talk to your father".
Off they go to Pentridge during visiting hours with footy jumper in hand and find bubba, his father. "Dad?" "Yes son?" "I've decided I'm going to be a Richmond supporter and I would like this jumper for Christmas". The father is outraged and promptly whacks his son around the head with his fists and says, "No son of mine is ever going to be seen in THAT", and then kicks him from one end of the rec. room to the other for further good measure.
About half an hour later they're all back in the car and heading towards home (Reservoir). The mother turns to her son and says "Son, I hope you've learned something today?" The son says, "Yes knackers I have." "Good son, what is it?"
The son replies, "I've only been a Richmond supporter for an hour and already I hate you Collingwood bastards."
2)A Richmond supporter arrived at the MCG and asked for a ticket. Since he hadn't been for a while, he needed to enquire about the prices. "How much to get in ?" he asked. "16 dollars" said the ticket seller. "Well, here is 8, I only watch one side."
Jack Dyer - Tough and well-mannered. Nicknamed Captain Blood after breaking the collar bones of 64 opponents.
Royce Hart - Big, tough centre-half forward with such courage that he expected to be concussed six or seven times a year.
Kevin Sheedy - No frills backman renowned for dirty play and tough work ethic. Was a plumber by trade.
Mick Mathouse -Another backman who along with Sheedy, was said to have made a fine pair of gutter rats.
Kevin Bartlett - Estranged son who played in five premierships. After being removed as coach, chucked a hissyfit and vowed never to return. Known as 'Hungry' because of his unwillingness to handball.
Jack Titus - At a height of 175cm and weighing in at just 65.5kg, Titus was no Titan god. Yet he was extremly nimble in both mind and body and went on to become the Tiger's full forward of the century.
Michael Roach - Big, high flying full-forward.
Matthew Richardson - Big, strong marking forward. Known to turn on own team-mates. Would kick goals from outside the 50, only to miss set shots from 15 meters. Truly the highs and lows rolled into one.
Tom Hafey - As coach, was famous for his hatred of players finessing with ball. His mantra was 'kick long'. If only Frawley had been inducted in the Hafey culture, he wouldn't have spent five years cultivating Richmond to be the shortest kicking team in the league.
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