What Tiger makes us “I of the tiger” clan who we are and where did we come from? Our fans are notoriously demanding. Arguably we are also the most incapable of coming to terms with losing. We are not like St Kilda fans who see losing as somewhat part of their identity, or Sydney fans who will be unfazed and find another form of entertainment, or Collingwood fans who will be disappointed but still struggle onwards.
No, for Richmond fans, defeat is a cut that is almost too difficult to bear. To deal with this psychological turmoil, some fans take proactive action such demanding the removal of the coaches head. In 1981, the need to placate fans led to the sacking of coach Tony Jewell. This was quite a hasty move considering that he had coached the club to a premiership the year before. The club did the same with Francis Bourke in 1983 after he coached them to a grand final in the previous year. Thankfully those days are over!
The seeds of Richmond’s culture were sewn in 1921 when the club changed its name from the “yellow and black angels” to the “Tigers”. The ferocity of its new moniker inspired the catch cry “eat’em alive” given to us by Tiger Legend and copper Barney Herbert whose relatives are a part of the RTSSG. It was a brutal cry that compelled players to make no apologies for our methods and let nothing stand in the way of victory.
In the 1930s, a player by the name of Jack Dyer, turned the brutal mentality into an art form. Dyer used a lethal shirt front to break the collar bones of 64 opponents. With a procession of broken players laying in his wake, Dyer was bestowed the title “Captain Blood.” On the back of his ferocity, the Tigers won flags in 1932, 1934 and 1943. From the 1960s to early 80s, the club again built a platform for success on the back of big, tough, uncompromising players who like Dyer, let nothing stand in their way. In the era, we won flags in 1967, 1969, 1973, 1974, 1980.
The emotion of Richmond fans is a mixed blessing for the club. When the players are down, the fans are extremely hostile, even to the point of spiting at their own players. But unlike Collingwood fans who are scathing of their player’s ability, Richmond fans are scathing of their players effort. They are usually quite optimistic about the player’s potential.
When the players do start performing, this optimism shines through and the players are elevated to an almost godlike status. Perhaps this explains why Richmond has arguably more historical champions than any other club. Maybe Richmond has produced more champions, or maybe Richmond is just better at singing their praises.
Or maybe there is nothing like being “I of the Tiger!”