By Cam Lucadou-Wells
With the whiff of perhaps Giant-killing their way into a grand final, Tiger fans in Casey are proudly emerging from the wilderness.
Richmond Football Club cheer-squad member Dave Coppin, of Berwick, is freshening up the colours of his club-themed tattoo ahead of a sellout AFL preliminary final at the MCG on 23 September.
The tatt is on the top of his temple – a Jesus-like figure wearing a Richmond jumper.
He wants well-inked star player Dustin Martin to sign the sash on the tattoo, if the Tiges win the flag.
“Punt Road will be going off for a minimum of a week!”
Mr Coppin’s devotion includes a signed lace-up premiership jumper worn by legendary hardman Robbie McGhie.
There’s also a badge-laden jacket with 30 years of cheer squad patches and a full set of WEG premiership posters.
Mr Coppin is ready to roar behind the Punt Road goals, encircled by a rumbling colosseum of 90,000 mainly Tiger fans in the high-stakes preliminary against Greater Western Sydney Giants.
Pundits predict perhaps 1000 Giants fans to be engulfed in the chorus.
As part of the massive ‘Tiger Army’, he said he’d never heard a louder crowd noise than the recent qualifying win against Geelong. It was aggressive, like “going to war”.
“They’re starting to roar. They’re getting manic, absolutely desperate for the win.
“As an adult you realise what it means. You well up with joy – we were all in tears.”
Before that game, he felt a knot of sickness.
It’s a more relaxed team on the field though, led by Dusty, Cotch, Rance, Jack and the ‘mosquito fleet’.
“We’ve never been this confident at Richmond. The monkey is off the back.
“I can’t see us losing the prelim. I reckon we’re already in the Granny.”
Kim Chante, of Narre Warren South, says she had a premonition at the start of the season that the Tigers would win the flag.
From their couch, she and her kids Ashley, Danny and Lyndsay will be nearly able to hear the Tiger Army, she says.
There’s a soothing mass of Buddha statues in her home. But when the Tigers are playing, Ms Chante’s passion flares up.
“For the sake of my friendships, I can’t have any friends over while I watch the game,” she says.
“It’s like watching your kids play.”
Ms Chante says that passion is what keeps fans loyal. “You don’t hear people say they used to barrack for Richmond.”
Meanwhile, Darryl Johanning, of Narre Warren South, is flying his Tigers flag at full mast outside his house.
Mr Johanning, 54, is old enough to taste the Tom Hafey golden-era – four flags in 1967-’74. There’s new optimism after a nerve-wracking 37 years since the club’s last VFL/AFL senior premiership.
“As a kid, you just think how easy is it to win one.
“It’s definitely difficult to be a Richmond supporter. You’re up one week, down the next. Lose games you shouldn’t lose.
“You talk to supporters of other clubs and they say: ‘You poor bastard’.”
He wonders if it’s the prominence of Punt Road Oval, the ‘vibrant’ colours, the friendly culture or the contagious theme song that keeps fans going.
“When you’re born a Richmond supporter, you can never change teams. It’s through thick and thin.”
Finally, the club, administration, recruiting, players and coaches are gelling together, he said.
“After we won the first five (games) in a row, I thought we’re a chance here. Then we lost the next four.
“But this year seems to be the year.”
By bad planning, Mr Johanning won’t be able to make the G for the crucial match.
He will be away on a footy trip, watching nervously with 41 Frankston Tiger Shark team-mates in a pub somewhere in Hobart.
A Grand Final win would be the perfect present, one day before his birthday. Monday work could be doubtful, he says.
His Collingwood-supporting wife Jenny is even riding the wave.
“It’ll be a mixture of excitement and relief,” Mr Johanning said.
“I’ll go nuts.”