THEN SPORTS editor of Melbourne’s Sunday Observer, KEN PIESSE was among the journalists present in the Tiger rooms the last time they celebrated a flag, in 1980:
WHEN Richmond won the premiership, 37 long years ago, head coach Tony Jewell said even his grandmother could have coached them that memorable day.
“We were that far ahead of the opposition that year,” he said.
“Yet in the rooms amid all the celebrating, I ran into GR (club godfather Graham Richmond) who was leaning against a concrete pillar shaking his head in disbelief. It was as if we’d lost the Grannie, not won it by 14 goals.
“What’s up with you GR?” I asked. “Time to celebrate.”
“‘Tony,’ he said, ‘they’re going to be coming at us next year. I don’t know if we’re going to be good enough to withstand ‘em.’”
Graham Richmond was right. The Tigers slipped to seventh the following year and Jewell was unceremoniously sacked.
He was to be reinstated later in the ‘80s but with bottom five finishes in both his years, he once again got the heave-ho.
The Tigers have been classic under-achievers ever since, their lack of patience and inability to remain loyal to their chosen coaches leading to a slippery-dip of their own making.
The Tiger Army is roaring again and for once they have a notable footy team capable of going all the way.
Sure they have a couple of stars, but as always happens in grand finals, the performances of a winning team’s bottom five are almost as important as those of the top five.
Should Richmond qualify on Saturday week for a long overdue Grand Final to savor, its favourite sons like Jewell, Rex Hunt, “Flea” Weightman and co. will rightfully celebrate like there’s no tomorrow.
It will be a premiership for the ages — as popular as the Doggies in 2016 … and the Saints of ’66.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now