Richmond coach Damien Hardwick and Captain Trent Cotchin at this year's Richmond Football Club Family Day. Photo: Mal Fairclough
In 1982, Richmond and Carlton played in a seminal grand final in which the winner confirmed its powerhouse stature, and the loser began 30 years in exile from finals street.
Tiger back pocket Mick Malthouse signals Richmond's eight goal win over Essendon at VFL Park, accompanied by Barry Rowlings, 1982.
In the subsequent summer, the Tigers began one of football's most meteoric descents, turning from competition colossus into an addicted, and now recovering, loser. In the 30 years completed after ’82, they have reached finals – even with a final eight – just twice, in 1995 and 2001.
There’s little point in recounting here the recruiting mishaps, coach hirings and sackings and Julius Caesar-style political coups that turned Punt Road into a football version of the 2013 Labor Party for nearly two decades.
‘‘You name it, we’ve stuffed it up,’’ said Tony Jewell, the club’s last premiership coach (1980), who subsequently served on the club board and match committee in the ensuing decades of despair.
Wayne Johnston greets another Carlton goal as Richmond defender Mervyn Keane clenches his fists in despair, 15 August 1982. Photo: Peter Charles
But TJ, like most Tigers, has reason for optimism. In round one, the Tigers are again seen to be on the rise. Expectations have steadily ramped up in the course of Damien Hardwick’s time as coach; this year, finals are the pass mark for Richmond. No ifs or buts.
‘‘There’s a lot of good signs there,’’ said Jewell, noting the team’s steady recruiting, stable administration under Brendon Gale and Gary March, and improving defence, midfield and attack.
But, much as logic tells Jewell that Richmond is riding an upward curve, he tempers this with an uncertainty based on previous let-downs and umpteenth false dawns. ‘‘Again, you wouldn’t know,’’ he said of Richmond’s fate.
Jimmy Jess and David Cloke fly high for the 1982 Tigers.
As Jewell and every other Richmond person knows, this round one fixture against Carlton has seen repeated deflations of a yellow and black balloon. The Tigers have won only one of these encounters since the match was established as a nouveau blockbuster, in 2008.
The man who Jewell replaced as Tigers coach in 1979, Barry ‘‘Bones’’ Richardson, has more invested in the Tigers this year, his son Daniel having just taken over the club’s new head of the football department.
Richardson recalled the joy when the Tigers emerged from a similar, though less lengthy, dark age when they stormed to the 1967 flag, the club having not played finals since 1947 and been without a flag from 1943.
Tony Jewell coaching Richmond in the early 1980s.
‘‘It’s been a bloody long wait,’’ said Richardson, who was blessed to play during Richmond’s golden streak of the ’60s and ’70s and thus was part of three flags. Bones cautions that the Tigers need to dislodge one of eight very capable teams (plus Carlton and Essendon) to make the eight. ‘‘they’ve got to start beating sides above them to earn that right’’.
Bones compares a winning Richmond, with its large latent support, to ‘‘a snowball rolling down the hill’’. Today, at the least, the Tigers aren’t pushing other stuff – that’s landed on their doorstep – uphill.