FIRST GAME by Nathan Bower
I love the Tigers. As an 8 year old, I sat glued to the television in Mildura as the Tigers smashed Collingwood in the 1980 Grand Final. Mum’s threats that I’d go cross-eyed for sitting so close didn’t faze me, I just wanted to be as close to the action as I could get.
I remember going out to the court at half-time to kick with my brothers and neighbourhood friends with a feeling of invincibility. I felt privileged to follow the Tigers. My team were the best in the land and they had made the Magpies look like a joke. I hated them even then. I spent the 20 (or so) minutes in that break gathering possessions like a madman. Some Tigers supporters may argue that I may well have peaked at that point. At the start of the third quarter I was spent. It took me the entire third quarter to get through my second pie.
I didn’t know anything of the Tiger’s Premiership teams of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. I had my own heroes in Roach, Cloke, Raines, Wood, Weightman, Jess, Bartlett, and Lee.
I loved that Bruce Monteath looked exactly like the cartoon version WEG drew of him, and that Terry Smith had a bit of shit in him. I loved the guts of Tempany, the sturdiness of Strachan and the work ethic of Rowlings. I loved that nearly everyone had a moustache. I wished I had a moustache. I loved that I had badges on my scarf of players such as Matthew Wall and Paul Sarah, players that other kids didn’t know about, but I did.
Like most kids, I had no choice who I followed. My brothers had made that decision for me. Growing up in the Richmond recruiting zone had everyone in the community follow the fortunes of Lee, Weightman, Egan and other talented locals like Geoff Martin who’d had a sniff in ’81.
Older brothers Brendan and Darren’s recruitment to Richmond had fuelled the fires even more. To see them play senior VFL/AFL football seemed surreal and yet encouraging. Could I be so lucky?
Arriving as a 17 year old, I had the opportunity to play most of the first two years in the Under 19’s. If you strung a few good ones together you might get to play in the “twos” before the main game. It was a great system that made blokes earn their stripes before getting a senior game. By late 1991, I had been a regular inclusion in the reserves side - a feat I would have no trouble repeating throughout my career. Come round 22 and the Tigers were up against the Blues at the ‘G’. KB was ‘under the pump’ as Coach and so included a couple of kids in Ty Esler and myself. It was also going to be David Cloke’s last game. Can you believe I ran on to the MCG with a guy that helped destroy Collingwood on my TV screen 11 years earlier?
I felt ready. I had settled in to jumper number 56 in the previous weeks, after wearing other ‘memorable’ numbers such as 54, 60 and 61. I had a ‘swish’ new hair cut for the big day, a style that required the sides to be shaved and the length untouched at the back, with a touch of spike on top. [Most now use the derogatory term “mullet”, but it will always have a special place in my heart]. I remember trying to look natural in front of the senior guys in the team meeting leading in to the game. I remember trying to look serious as KB addressed us. What I can’t remember is a single word KB uttered as I battled the urge to grin as he spoke of match-ups and game plans.
Match day was a blur. I was to start on the bench and KB was going to bring me on when the sting had gone out of the game. At three-quarter time I started to wonder how much sting was still left? KB announced that I would start the last quarter on the forward flank, to be picked up by another first year player in Brett Ratten. No worries there I thought. Ratten had big ears, could hardly see and didn’t look athletic at all. Poor bloke, he’d be lucky to play another game after I’d finished with him.
For 30 minutes I ran as fast as I could to as many contests as I could and managed 4 kicks – nothing spectacular except for a bumbling kick forward that cleared the heads of the leading forwards and seemed to roll further than it was kicked - for a goal. Late in the game I’d made great position to stream into an open goal. Tim Powell just needed to give it off and I was home for my second. I learned a valuable lesson that day – don’t bother calling for it if “Powelly” had it in the forward line.
Most of the day is vague in my memory, except for the thrill of walking off the ground through the heart of Richmond supporters cheering and singing, back to our old rooms. I made sure I got near the boys carrying “Clokey”, not as a mark of respect, but to ensure I gave myself a chance to appear in the Sunday papers. From memory I missed out on the Sunday Press but struck gold with Monday’s Age.
I heard Grant Oppy (one game), son of Tiger legend Max Oppy asked at a Tommy Hafey Club luncheon, if he was disappointed he didn’t play more games for the Tigers. He said he couldn’t believe how fortunate he was to play just one. I know what he meant.
Back To The 90's (Legends Game)
To all those who represented the Tigers on and off the field in the 90’s, if it wasn’t for your involvement and sacrifice during this decade the Tigers would not exist, let alone survive to be the Club we are today! People rattled money tins along Punt Road, took pay cuts and played for the love of the jumper and teammates.
The Richmond Former Players & Officials are asking you for one more effort. Come and celebrate with us at the Legend’s Cup match day function!
Last year the boys from the 80’s had a great day and now it’s “Back to the ‘90’s”! You won’t regret it! All 1990's U19’s, Reserves, Seniors & Officials and partners are welcome. ALL RFP&OA members are welcome to attend.
It is a free day including entry and seating. There is only one requirement… you must be a financial member of the Richmond Former Players & Officials Assoc.
The day begins at 11.00am at the “G” on Saturday 8th April, which is Round 3 vs West Coast, with a “Legends” game featuring former players and Corporates. If you wish to participate you can download the entry form here... http://
Following the Legends game there will be a social gathering throughout the afternoon in the Harrison Room at the G with drinks at bar prices.
After the AFL match everyone is invited back to Punt Road for drinks and finger food with the compliments of RFP&OA and RFC.
So, if you haven’t become a member of the Richmond Former Players and Officials Association yet, download the membership form http://
Having done that, and you would like to attend the 1990’s Reunion, please advise Leonie Bawden at firstname.lastname@example.org
Entry & seating tickets will be distributed probably in the week before the Reunion.
Once a Tiger, always a Tiger!