On the very same night we were enjoying the sterling work of Cameron Ling and Paul Dempsey on stage at The Corner Hotel this week, another lower-profile event was underway across town at the Crown Palladium. The AFL’s Hall of Fame committee must have been kicking themselves when they realised the scheduling mix-up that had led to them holding their event on the same night as we were holding our occasional music and footy shindig in Richmond.
I jest of course. Obviously we should have looked at the calendar a little more closely in the lead up to Presentation Night # 3, but somehow I think we were probably always going to appeal to slightly different audiences. The date clash does finally explain why Port Adelaide great Warren Tredrea never picked up his tickets to our show…still, there are plenty of good people to go around and we just about got away with it.
Just after our show ended this week and the room was clearing, I saw a tweet from Dugald Jellie (one of the two great men behind the fantastic Tiger Tiger blog) with the news that Matthew Richardson had been elevated to the AFL Hall of Fame. To say that this was a popular decision would probably be downplaying the term. You’d be hard-pressed to find too many to argue against Richo’s greatness as a player, and to anyone who has ever met him or watched him in the media, his greatness as a person.
Like so many others I know, I found the news pretty thrilling. Richo in full flight was pretty much unstoppable, and even in half or quarter flight (or maybe especially in those modes) he was still essential viewing although perhaps not for the reasons he’d have liked. Importantly in the context of this blog and the whole Presentation Night ‘thing’, Richo is also a massive music fan. We like to tell ourselves that his elevation to the Hall of Fame is a small victory for music lovers everywhere.
Richo was kind enough to be a part of our second show last year when he took to the stage with Tim Rogers for an evening where both men held the room in their thrall talking about footy, music, and life with amazing honesty and generosity. Richo was, as you’d expect, so warmly received when he walked out on to the stage that night that the term ‘a whole lot of love in the room’ barely did his appearance justice. He spoke about his love of music, his first compilation tape, the numerous times he saw You Am I upon his arrival in Melbourne, and proudly displayed a recently souvinered Pearl Jam set list from his kitbag. He brought in his copy of ‘Sound As Ever’ on vinyl and in front of the man who wrote the song, proceeded to play ‘Berlin Chair’ on the turntable whilst apologising to Tim for making him uncomfortable but explaining that ‘you know I had to do it’.
In the dressing room before the show, a gent who regularly turned games on their head in front of 80,000 people at the MCG sat nervously on the couch, stood up, walked back and forth, sat down again and said ‘Mate, I’m pretty bloody nervous to be honest’ in that disarming way of his. On the other side of the wall sat 500 people who were already sold on what was about to unfold and ready to back him all the way in before he’d even set foot on the stage. I asked if he used to get nervous before big games during his playing days. ‘More excited than nervous’ he said ‘ at least I had a bit of an idea of what I was doing out there, not like tonight’. Too modest by half, three minutes later he was on stage with the audience already in the palm of his hand, hanging off every word the way we used to ride every lead, mark and kick with him.
It’s been said many times already that if there was a Hall of Fame for good guys, Richo would have already been inducted years ago. At the core of his appeal is an actual tangible goodness within him that stands out and can’t be faked. Of course he was a ruthless competitor on the field and no doubt in every aspect of his footballing career – it’s unlikely you stroll into the Hall of Fame without that streak – but he also has a genuine modesty and interest in other people that sets him apart and makes us celebrate his recognition all the more.
The day before our show this week, I was still blissfully ignorant of the AFL Hall of Fame event falling on the very same evening. Given Richo’s standing as one of our very own Presentation Night Hall of Famers, I emailed him inviting him down to the show, throwing in the standard gags about organising a roped off VIP area and so on. His reply is a perfect example of why his induction onto the actual Hall of Fame has been so warmly applauded. In it he said that he’d love to come down and have a couple of beers with Lingy and Paul, but unfortunately he had to attend an AFL function that night, otherwise he’d be there with bells on, and hoped we had ‘a ripper night’.
‘Attend an AFL function’ you say? Indeed. The fact that Richo could find time to reply, wish us well, completely downplay what was about to happen to him, the fact that he ever agreed to do the show in the first place all point to one thing: Richo’s Hall of Fame status extends well beyond his playing feats – as magnificent as they are – and go right through to his decency, generosity, enthusiasm, curiosity and quite simply being a great person.
Hats off Richo, we salute you.
*Richo photo courtesy of Tony Proudfoot. Here he holds You Am I’s ‘Sound As Ever’ sleeve prior to a spin at PN#2.