Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

21.9.12

Walking through history in Tigerland.

Obscure quiz question: what’s so special about the following football score?

Carlton 18.6.114
Richmond 10.9.69

Answer at the end of this post. (If you’ve already picked it, you are a football tragic with an eye for detail, or a Richmond fan who never forgets.)

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Richmond was Struggletown for most of the twentieth century, a hazy suburb of worker's cottages jammed in amongst factories that made glue and paint and matches. The Bryant and May matchworks and the Rosella cannery employed thousands. When there was a northerly, the smoke from the factories drifted across the river and got in the eyes of South Yarra residents.

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Every year I spend four weeks – sometimes more – in Richmond, one of the world's great inner suburbs. It's work; but I like to pretend it's a holiday. I enjoy walking the narrow streets at lunchtimes, gazing at the mostly renovated worker's cottages amongst the jumble of factories, warehouses and buildings of no clear description that cascade down the hill from Bridge Road, all the way to the Yarra River. There is still plenty of industry in Richmond, but the big factories are gone, turned over to office space. I first worked here in the early 1980s, when a pioneering agency abandoned St Kilda Road. In Richmond it was alone in a sea of manufacturing and working class pubs. Balmain Street's Cherry Tree Hotel was a dark heap in the shadow of the railway overpass, with sodden towels and ashtrays on the front bar, a revolving Victoria Bitter neon sign on the roof and a clientele that wove home clutching two bottles in a brown paper bag. But despite the decay, in 1983 Richmond was still a proud suburb. It was a reigning grand finalist, if not reigning premier. The old Tigers were still up and about, stalking the gloomy streets and licking their lips in search of their next conquest. It never came.

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The Hafey Years: Reliving the Golden Era of Tigerland tells Richmond Football Club’s story up to that time. Richmond was as ruthless on the field as off it. I knew all this anyway: I was at Windy Hill in May 1974 when the most notorious riot in football history occurred.

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Yesterday I walked past the old red-brick cannery in Balmain Street on the way back to Richmond station. The painted Rosella sign is still there, but screwed into the red bricks are three large metal letters, JWT. Around the corner, down Green Street, another old factory complex – now entitled a 'business park' – is home to DDB. CHE is there as well. Why were they always three letters? Because advertising agencies were traditionally set up by a copywriter, a designer and someone who knew something about money.

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Across the road from J. Walter Thompson, the Cherry Tree has heaters out the front warming a paved outdoor area surrounded by a plantation that screens the road. Opening panorama windows reveal sleek furniture inside. The Cherry Tree has a wine list and a website and the menu lists pumpkin risotto with sage and feta. The whole thing looks like the in-house dining room for the agencies and PR houses and fashion designers and art galleries tucked away in the tiny streets and lanes below the elevated railway line.

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Coincidentally, one of the characters in The Hafey Years made the news while I was reading the book. Ex-captain Neville Crowe was pulled from the Yarra River half-drowned after falling into it while riding his bicycle. The book tells how, in 1969, Crowe was knocked out by an opponent during play, found unconscious after collapsing in the shower after the game, and taken to hospital. He is now 75 and suffers Alzheimer’s disease. Yet he was riding a bicycle along the Yarra like a 30 year old fitness fanatic! The Tigers of old are still stalking.
In any weather you will see us with a grin
Risking head and shin ...
For we're from Tigerland
We never weaken 'til the final siren's gone
Like the Tiger of old
We're strong and we're bold
For we're from Tigerland.
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That score? Amazingly, it is not full-time, but the half-time score during the 1972 grand final, the greatest shoot-out in grand final history. I still have some audio of that game that I taped straight off 3KZ on a cassette recorder. The commentator, Ian Major, sounds as exhausted on the crackly tape as the players.

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The Hafey Years: Reliving a Golden Era at Tigerland by Elliot Cartledge
Western Media 2011

Shorthand review: Most books about sporting clubs are fan-only. Cartledge’s book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in Australian football or social history. As if to prove the point, the book’s introduction was written by Carlton fan and veteran commentator, Tim Lane. And I’m Essendon - and still fuming about May 1974.

1 comment:

Melbourne Girl said...

KH I remember too when Tommy went to Geelong...and was sensationally sacked! I was in Geelong at the time. He was/is a lovely bloke.
Oh, I'm a Cat
Lesley