Richmond superstar Jack Riewoldt has described running out onto the ground in front of more than 90,000 fans as an “addictive feeling” and that he feels like he is living “an absolute fantasy”.
The Tigers’ qualifying final against Geelong last week was played in front of 95,028 spectators – the biggest ever crowd for a qualifying final and the largest crowd to attend a Richmond game since the 1982 grand final (107,536).
Riewoldt can expect more of the same next week when his team hosts either GWS or West Coast in a preliminary final at the MCG and the two-time Coleman Medal winner said that wherever his career takes him, the deafening noise that such massive crowds produce is something he will never forget.
“On the weekend it was a bit more of a cauldron,” Riewoldt told RSN radio.
“We had about 75 or 80 per cent of the fans there, so they were everywhere.
“I’m looking forward to the preliminary final because I think once again we’ll have the majority of the crowd there so it’s going to be loud.
“It truly is an addictive feeling running out of the race for that first time, slapping the captain on the hand and going through the banner and as soon as you go through the banner, just that absolute roar you hear is really addictive.
Riewoldt said he had “a very fulfilling job” at the moment and that he and his teammates weren’t going to shy away from the excitement Richmond fans were feeling with the club so close to their first grand final in 35 years.
“There are people who come up to you on the street and say good luck and they really speak about how proud they are of the group and I think what ‘Dimma’ (coach Damien Hardwick) is alluding to there is in these situations sometimes where clubs haven’t had a lot of success, they don’t know how to deal with it and they push back against their fans and fans are always going to crystal ball to the next week and to the next week and look at that final goal,” Riewoldt said.
“But for us it’s about taking the little steps and continue to focus on the process but who are we to shoot their dreams down? So we’re embracing that and really opening our arms to our fans because they’ve been there on the journey with us.
“I’ve been there for 11 years and haven’t achieved what I would like to achieve in those years as every player wants to do, every player wants to play in the ultimate success and they want to play in a successful side as much as the fans want to be involved in a successful football club.
“So we’re in a great position at the moment where we’ve got a home final which we will have a lot of fans go to and rather than pushing back on our fans and trying to dull it down, which we will do inside the football club, when we’re out and about, why not enjoy with it them? Because they’ve been through the tough times as we’ve been through them as well.”
Much has been made of the controversial pre-finals bye with the winning qualifying finalists having only played one game in four weeks by the time their preliminary finals roll around.
For the first time ever, both winning qualifying finalists lost their respective preliminary finals last year when the bye was introduced, but Riewoldt scoffed at suggestions having another break would be detrimental to the Tigers’ grand final quest.
“I’m not buying into it. That’s what it is, but who cares? It’s footy, you’re playing in front of 95,000 people,” he said.
“I think what we’re doing in terms of training loads will hold us in good stead. We get a freshen-up.
“I had two weeks off with the eye (injury) obviously and then played three games and then had a week off and then played a game and then had a week off and played a game.
“I’m feeling really good but it comes down to the way that we feel we can prepare and coming off the two byes this year, we felt that we’ve performed well so we’ll run that same schedule and hopefully we can come out and perform well again.”