The Catholic ostensibly celibate homosexual Freudian psychologist Ronald Conway, author of finger wagging tomes like ‘The Great Australian Stupor’, used to regard the Melbourne obsession with football to be ‘jejune’, which is the sort of fancy word that you need to look up the first time you see it and means ‘naive, simplistic, and superficial; dry and uninteresting’ and he was right up to a point and would no doubt regard this attempt at a football analogy dimly but it is done in his honour.
Richmond Football Club, established in 1885 at the Royal Hotel pub, and admitted into the Victorian Football League in 1908, was only moderately successful for much of its history, but became a powerhouse from the sixties despite hailing from a suburb that had the distinction of being the poorest place in the country in at least one census, winning four premierships in the years 1967-1974, and playing in, even by the standards of the day, an almost homicidally ruthless fashion, feared and hated by all.
It won again in 1980, and in 1982 was runner up, but due to general and especially financial mismanagement it fell off a cliff soon after, and by the late 80s was on its knees, and narrowly avoided, in turn, being kicked out of the league; relocated to another state; and merged with another club. Loyalists managed to stave off the creditors and jealous, vindictive vultures and it survived to limp along for the next twenty odd years, occasionally being fairly competitive, but not taken seriously by anyone.
By around 2010 on the field the club from Struggletown was an utter basket case again, fielding what was thought to be the second worst team of the modern era (after Fitzroy in the 90s), but something was different this time, in that there was no danger of the club disappearing, as off field it was much better run, and had begun a methodical and sustained attempt to convert its large dormant mass of supporters into paying members, to shore up its financial and general position in the new horrible world of football being an ‘industry’ instead of just a sport.
Despite not much success on the field the club’s membership numbers started climbing, and then skyrocketed once everything miraculously came together and its first premiership in 37 years was won, in 2017, becoming the first club to reach 100,000 members, and on those terms became, and remains, the largest sporting club in the country.
It’s not over till it’s over, with the right leadership, organisation, and especially enough fuel for the fire (people amenable to the message) even a seemingly defeated, ragtag group can be restored to its rightful, striding atop place in the world.