Last week it was just three more weekends of AFL football, this week it’s just three more matches!
Football in Melbourne is as big and as alive as ever. There is the recent success of Collingwood, the resurgence of Carlton and Essendon. But the biggest sleeping giant of all is without a doubt the Richmond Tigers.
The roar that emanated around the MCG last week when the Tigers overran Fremantle to record their third straight win was deafening.
Beyond their own army of supporters, the Tigers have become mine and many other people’s new second favorite team. They might have lost this week, but even that was entertaining. That doesn’t mean as a Bombers supporter I hate them any less, I just find them irresistible to watch.
It is no secret that they have one of the most exciting teams in the league. Jack Riewoldt was probably the most improved player in the AFL last year, taking all before him on his way to the Coleman Medal.
He has continued on as one of the most watchable players in the league.
They also have young guns like multiple Best and Fairest winner Brett Deledio and Trent Cotchin. Then there is possibly the two biggest cult figures in the competition. Jake “Push Up” King is quite possibly the most amazing transformation in the AFL.
Last season he was in and out of the seniors, a frustrated player who gave his all whether it was with a Richmond Tigers jumper on or a Coburg Tigers jumper. Then this season, the coaching staff reinvented him as a defensive forward. His pressure and desire is undeniable.
The number 28 with the sleeve tattoo is the heartbeat of the Tigers, on field and off. He is a blue collar player that everyone can identify with.
A tough but limited player who gives his absolute all every second on the field. The fact he looks like he could explode any second only adds to the theatre. If ever the Oxford Dictionary requires a definition for intense, they need look no further than King.
And, 308 consecutive push ups, well that just makes him a legend to anyone who spends any time in a gym.
The other player who makes the Tiges the most watchable team in the league, is the man in the number four jumper. The love for this guy in the wider football community is probably matched by only one other player, Brisbane Lines skipper Jonathon Brown.
I would say that Dustin Martin has edged out Joel Selwood as the heir apparent to Brown’s title as the most loved player in the game. So much so, that in the last month, Martin has become the Chuck Norris of the AFL.
Twitter lights up with Dustin Martinisms. My favorite is Dustin Martin had a street named after him.
They had to change it because nobody crosses Dustin Martin and lives. It seems that Dustin Martin isn’t just tough, he is the definition of the word. The kid with the neck tattoos is a phenomenon. He can deliver a “don’t argue” or fend off, like no one else, and I’m sure if Tiger fans had their way, don’t argues would be the next stat included on stat sheets.
Riewoldt, King, Martin, Nahas, Cotchin and Deledio are leading the on field resurgence with skipper Chris Newman and other senior figures such as Jackson and Foley and working to wake up the sleeping tiger. The Tigers actually took big steps toward this becoming relevant again in the footy world when in November 2008 they drafted Ben Cousins.
He stayed with them for two years and was without a doubt the most incredible football story of the decade. Cousins joined Richardson and Brown as elder statesman among a group of young up and coming future stars of the game. The presence of a recovering drug addict and a walking headline in Cousins made the Richmond Football Club matter again.
A couple of years on from the landmark decision to recruit Cousins when nobody else would touch him, and Tiger-fever has taken the league by storm. The 2011 Tigers are fast becoming everyone’s second favourite team. The underdog, the never say die attitude, the excitement, the passion.
The Tigers, for me, rank top of the teams I’d watch if my team is not playing. Last year it was Brisbane when the Fev show rolled into the Gabba, in 2007/8 it was the Hawks with Buddy and Hodgey showcasing their talents to the world. Everyone has a team they love watching and in 2011 for me it is Richmond.
For the last 30 years, the Tigers have famously underachieved.
They haven’t appeared in a grand final since losing in 1982. That’s a whole generation who has barely seen their team play finals, let alone progress to a preliminary final. But one can’t help but feel excited about the prospect of them going deep into September.
Maybe not this season, maybe two or so years away, but the yellow and black monster has awoken.