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Paul Howarth  May 26, 2014 2:31 PM

Brett Deledio of the Tigers is chaired off after the 2014 AFL Round 10 match between the GWS Giants and the Richmond Tigers at Spotless Stadium, Sydney on May 24, 2014. (Photo: Craig Golding/AFL Media)

Brett Deledio of the Tigers is chaired off after the 2014 AFL Round 10 match between the GWS Giants and the Richmond Tigers at Spotless Stadium, Sydney on May 24, 2014. (Photo: Craig Golding/AFL Media)

It’s taken the report of Brett Delidio for this Yellow & Blogger to break his season’s silence. For me, this is the backbreaking straw in this accursed early season pantomime passing itself off as AFL football. Unfortunately for all concerned, I have been grumpifying – stewing in sadness as I harden into a grump.  It has not been pretty.  I am not pretty. This will not be pretty.

Let me get a few general gripes of my chest and then I’ll turn to the Lidless Tiggys.

Dear AFL:  Don’t you ever start a footy season with a split round again.  It wasn’t until the eventual close of Round 1 that I realised this was the season proper and not the repechage for the preseason comp.  You clowns.  What a miserable way to dilute the brand.  A pre-season’s anticipation should be met with an explosive recommencement of the main game.  Instead, you lit the Catherine Wheel underwater and drowned all of the colour and excitement.

Also, dear AFL:  Don’t you dare bang on at us about equalisation.  Because of your commercial imperative to ‘extend the franchise’, the competition is about as equalised as a fast rising deep diver getting familiar with bends.  Because you have skewed the talent and money in favour of nowhere places like Greater Western Sydney and the Gold Coast, before too long both of those clubs will have more flags than the poor sod traditional clubs that stupidly thought loyalty to the league and their fans might actually be rewarded with some meaningful support sometime.  Sure, you can commercialise your kind of shallow corporate passion for the game, but you do that at the expense of the much deeper duffel coat wearing, flogger wagging blind tribal love of the teams that actually gave this code its original gravity.  You imbeciles.

Now. Richmond. Tiggys. Dear Tigers.  Where’s the belief?  I thought we were getting past this navel gazing self-destructive, self-analysis. I thought we were on the verge of finally playing football with the authority that is a prerequisite for championship. Yet, goodness gracious me. Against the Gold Coast we were half a step too slow.  We won against Carlton half asleep. We lost to the Bulldogs with half hearts.  Collingwood smacked us because we were only half organised.  We beat the Lions comfortably but that was only half a cause for comfort because the Hawks reminded us of what playing football with authority for more than a half actually looks like.  Geelong was ours for the taking if only we could pass the ball half straight.  All this half-ness is killing us and the only way to overcome it is to genuinely commit to playing our style with full authority, come what may.  And that, my dear Tiggys, means to BELIEVE.

Which brings me to Lids.  Until our adventure against the Cats, we lacked him.  And oh how we missed him.  No run off half-back.  No run and carry full stop.  No sharp shooting long kicks. No mercurial edge.  No unassuming brilliance.  We couldn’t have a more understated and underrated champion in our side.  As if it isn’t bad enough that the rest of the footy world regularly misjudges his ability and importance, half our own fan base does too.  Notwithstanding all of the weighty crap periodically shovelled onto him, Lids always plays with belief.  He believes he can do things.  And that belief gives him authority. Presence. Command.  Not for him the big noting statements of others.  He just does.  And when he does others do too – or at least they try to.

And it is because of his sense of authority on the field that in the weekend’s second quarter a skulking gang of five Cats isolated and intimidated Lids.  They knew that if they could shake his belief they might curtail the authority he was working hard to inspire across the whole team.  At that stage of the game, we were well down.  But those Cats wanted us out and they knew the final exit would be through Lids.  Putting aside the lack of protection that our players seem to be prepared to give each other in these situations, it was a smart tactic.  It looks like it drew an uncharacteristic physical reaction from Lids (what other choice did have – he was as alone as an unwashed nappy festering in a laundry sink). And though it might wipe out Lids for a week or two, on the day the tactic failed.  Lids didn’t stop playing with authority. If anything his belief intensified. And that fired some glimmer of belief and authority across the rest of team.  In the end, we fell short and all because of some sloppy ball use.  But we started playing with something closer to belief than we have all season.

Like most fans, I don’t personally know Lids.  I only know him as a respectable figure playing in the jumper I love and doing that better and with more commitment than most others I’ve seen since 1980. Which is why I love him.  Our team is – or at least should be - bigger and better than one player. But for me, Lids is a Talisman. He sparks things.  He is the flint stone upon which our side strikes its belief.  If we are to recover  from this ordinary, almost fatally wounded start, then we need every single minute we can get from Brett Delidio. 

If the MRP wants to reignite the Richmond season and thereby make its little contribution to the AFL’s sacred aim of equalisation, tonight it ought to set Lids free.  For the Lidless Tiggys are no Tiggys at all.

Eat them alive Tigers, eat them alive.