How to Support the Richmond Fan In Your Life

For all intents and purposes, I’m agnostic when it comes to football. Having been born into a family of Essendon supporters, I was ostracized by my father when, at age ten, I switched to Carlton. To this day, he describes this as one of the greatest betrayals ever to occur outside of wartime. His reaction was such that I began to suspect that I’d greatly underestimated the impact of making a switch. Given the drama it caused, I kind of went quiet on the subject until, eventually, I didn’t really barrack for anyone.

It remains an absolute conversation killer. When someone I don’t know very well asks me who I barrack for, rather than a full-throated declaration of allegiance all they get for their trouble is a gentle sigh as I stare off wistfully into the middle distance. I start to recount my tale of woe and sporting infidelity and, by the time I turn back, the person who asked me the question has wandered off, in search of someone else for whom the question ‘who do you barrack for’ is less complicated.

But despite my stunning lack of commitment, I am surrounded by zealots. The rest of my family has no trouble nailing their colours to the mast. Unsurprisingly, they’re mostly Essendon supporters. The indoctrination process started early – almost immediately upon being born, various grandchildren have been swaddled in team colours. Jumpers, beanies and duffel coats – you name it, all manner of paraphernalia has been showered upon these children long before they ever had a chance to make a decision for themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘Go Bombers’ were the first words some of them ever uttered.

But in any family, there’s always someone who swims against the tide. Someone who is not for turning. In my family that person is my nephew, Noah. You see Noah is a Richmond supporter. More than that, Noah has always been a Richmond supporter, even in the face of almost every form of pressure short of UN sanctions. Despite all attempts by his grandfather to lure him away from Tiger land, Noah has remained steadfast. His loyalty is unshakeable.

To put that into some kind of context, Noah has two older brothers, both of whom support Essendon. And during Noah’s fourteen years on the planet, his older brothers have seen their team experience more success. It’s hard for me to understand. Given that I was willing to change teams to make play lunch easier, I can’t imagine the kind of fortitude it takes to stick with something no matter what.

Noah is quiet. Noah is reserved. Noah doesn’t ever really rock the boat. Except, of course, when it comes to Richmond. Over the years, I’ve seen him transform from mild-mannered nephew to someone who will raise his hands to the gods and scream ‘why, oh why?’ when Richmond has squandered a lead and lost a game. Watching football is, for my nephew, a whole of body experience.

For many years, Noah has been going to the football with my father. I know that my father enjoys it very much. Whilst our house has always had its fair share of football paraphernalia, it was Noah who took it to an entirely new level. Not satisfied with a scarf or jumper, Noah purchased himself a hat with Richmond dreadlocks. My father was horrified. But despite the reluctance he undoubtedly felt, the pair of them traipsed off to the members’ stand – my father with his travel bag with a thermos of sugary tea and packet of chocolate biscuits (the menu hasn’t changed in fifty years) and Noah with his dreadlocks. If he wasn’t wearing his heart on his sleeve, then he was undoubtedly wearing it on his head.

This year, I’ve watched as Noah has dared to dream. Each week, the grin has gotten broader and bigger. For the first time in his lifetime, Noah’s beloved team has won a final. But fate can be cruel, and this year is the first year in ages that my father hasn’t secured tickets through the members’ ballot process. Already, the entire family – no matter whom they barrack for - is drawing up a roster to queue up in the hope of a ticket for Noah.

I’m sure it’s the case with Richmond fans everywhere. Thirty-five years is a long time, albeit not quite long enough to forgive someone for changing football teams from Essendon to Carlton. I suspect it feels as though the rest of life is on hold for a little while. I’m not sure what I can do to support my nephew other than to drop the occasional ‘Go Tigers’ into our conversations and smile and nod politely whenever he suddenly yells ‘yellow and black’ as the mood so strikes him.

At the time of writing this, I don’t know whether Richmond has won or lost the Grand Final. All I know is that it’s been an experience for my nephew. One that will either give him either a sweet taste of victory or be the kind of lesson in resilience that, whilst unwelcome, is still probably healthy. But I admire his commitment and the way in which he’s willing to be entirely devoted to something, no matter what the outcome. Go Tigers. Go Noah.