Ecstasy in Tigerland after a lot of agony
Richmond fans are savouring the club’s nine-match winning streak. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Chris Noonan will never forget the day he lost control of his son's footballing destiny.

Round one 2009 was a big occasion for all Richmond fans. The club had recruited Ben Cousins and hopes were high as the yellow-and-black army converged on the MCG for the traditional season opener against Carlton.

Noonan and his 10-year-old son Tom were excited. But just over two hours later, Richmond had been humiliated and Cousins injured his hamstring. To long-suffering Tiger fans, this was hell.

"We were walking out and I looked down to see Tommy crying," Noonan recalled.

'He goes 'dad, I hate the way you make me barrack for Richmond'. I looked at him with tears rolling down his face and I said 'Tommy, I just want you to be happy'.

"I don't care who you barrack for. I'll buy you all the kit, I'll buy you a membership but I don't know who is going to take you because I'm still going to watch the Tiges each week.'

"Tommy said 'I'm just going to watch footy on Foxtel' and from then on he has barracked for Hawthorn. That's the problem with kids these days. They want instant gratification."

Noonan, 48, was too young to remember the glory days when the Tigers won premierships in 1967, 1969, 1973 and 1974.

He has vague recollections of the 1980 premiership but can vividly recall every disaster that has beset the club since.

The committed member can reel off player stats, crowd figures and margins from games that were played more than 10 years ago.

He's attended every Victorian final the club has played since he was an adult - all six of them. Noonan recounts the 1995 semifinal win over Essendon like it was yesterday and is proud that he was one of thousands of Richmond fans singing the club's theme song at the end of the preliminary final after the Tigers were belted by Geelong the following week.

Noonan flew home early from a holiday in Cairns last year and went straight to the MCG for Richmond's final against Carlton.

Last weekend he went to the local pub as the Tiger army cheered what he described as the club's greatest home-and- away win for 20 years.

Now, when he goes to work, he's hearing something new.

Other football fans are hoping Richmond win.

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick has noticed it too.

"We're probably like the second cousin who when you become famous you suddenly become the first cousin," Hardwick said.

"We're probably one of those sides that has gone up and down. Much like a lot of sides, people are happy for us to come in and hopefully gain some success.

"We're really pleased. Our supporters have been nothing short of outstanding this year.

"The steely resolve, they've shown up week in, week out. That's what we're really pleased with. To give those guys some respectability back in their footy club."

Richmond playing finals is great for the AFL. The only problem is they are in the wrong half of the draw. Sunday's match against Port Adelaide will be followed by another interstate trip if they win.

The only hope of an MCG final is if they make the preliminary final. Imagine that after 11 wins and three consecutive games interstate.

The Tiger fans will be frothing.

Richmond's six Victorian finals have had an average crowd of more than 80,000. Grand finals aside, Collingwood's average crowd for their past 10 Victorian finals is only 75,000.

Richmond fans are a different breed.

The Cricketer's Arms Hotel is opposite Richmond's training oval and just a short walk from the MCG. The pub's turnover increases when Richmond plays and even more when the Tigers win.

"The fans are a lot different to the ones who barrack for Carlton, Collingwood or Essendon. A lot different," the pub's owner, who preferred not to be named, said.

Fans will pack Punt Road Oval on Sunday to watch the game on a big screen and Richmond have organised The Tiger Express, a series of chartered buses, to take people to Adelaide.

Richmond's extraordinary nine-match winning streak to rise from 16th to eighth has Melbourne buzzing.

Games record holder Kevin Bartlett usually begins his morning radio program with an editorial. On Monday, it was Richmond's theme song.

All the pain, all the teasing, the coach sackings, the ninth- placed finishes, the 1990s tin rattling and reminders that the club drafted Aaron Fiora instead of Matthew Pavlich and Richard Tambling instead of Lance Franklin are now replaced by hope.

Noonan has witnessed success. His brother Steve barracks for Hawthorn, his mum Carol supports Geelong and his dad Paul is a Collingwood fan. Their clubs have played in every grand final for the last seven years.

Noonan said Richmond's premiership would outstrip them all.

"After the 2005 grand final I got talking to two 85-year-old women who had just had their lifelong dream of seeing Sydney win a flag come true," he said.

"Talking to those old ducks, I had a tear in my eye because you yearn for that success.

"We're one of the original big four clubs and we're the one that hasn't lived up to its potential. But look at us now.

"Richmond are owning the back three pages of the paper and The Dirty Dorset Hotel was going off because Richmond got into the finals.

"Imagine if we win this week. Imagine if we won 13 in a row and went all the way. Melbourne will party for three weeks."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West