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Richmond fans’ long years of AFL agony as Tigers gear up for finals
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Richmond fan Joan Chapple, 90, has been a member for 73 years, and has seen it all.

“I’ve sat through some boring games with horrible coaches,” she says.

She likes the current team — her favourite player is Dylan Grimes — but the deep sigh she lets out when asked if Richmond can win the premiership this season will be familiar to all Tigers fans, now in their 37th year of waiting for a flag.

“Well if the right team turns up they could [win the flag],” she says, hesitant to even put the words into the ether.

Then she qualifies her statement.

“But you never know with Richmond!”

Joan Chappel's Richmond shrine

For Joan, her life-long love of Richmond started with someone else’s affair.

“A cousin of my father’s went out with a Richmond footballer,” she says of her introduction to the famous club.

“I loved it right from the start. Adored Jack Dyer, I thought he was wonderful.”

A life and love of volunteering

She still volunteers for “the boys”, as she always refers to them.

“I clean the kitchen up, I wipe their tables down, put all the dishes in the dishwasher that they wouldn’t think of doing,” she says.

“Some of them have never been in a kitchen, I don’t think.”

Joan even moved home to be closer to the club, just a Dustin Martin torpedo away from Richmond’s training base on Punt Road.

For their part, the Tigers helped her celebrate her recent 90th birthday.

“I had a huge big yellow and black cake, it was gorgeous,” she says from her loungeroom which is adorned with Richmond paraphernalia, including dozens of signed player photos.

“All the boys were there.”

Joan has converted nearly all her family to Tiger worship, although she admits to the occasional pang of guilt.

“My grandchildren … a couple of them have seen a grand final but most of them haven’t,” she said.

“A few years back I said to my daughter, ‘Text them all and tell them they can go and follow any team they want’. But they’re still Richmond.”

A new country, a new love

Richmond cheer squad member Yogi Thurairatnam is a newer recruit, but just as passionate.

Richmond fan Yogi Thurairatnam

The treasurer of the cheer squad considers the club, and his fellow long-suffering Tiger tragics, a family.

As a Sri Lankan native who moved to Melbourne with his parents in 1995 as a 20-year-old, Yogi had no inkling of the sport nor the team that would become a way of life for him.

It was a customer at his bank job who first introduced him to the Tigers.

“My second day at the job … one of those customers, introduced me to football,” he says.

“She bought me keyrings, scarves, beanies, you name it.”

After quickly getting up to speed on the rules, Yogi fell deeply in love with the Tigers. He’s now a fixture in the cheer squad, taking his trademark tiger beanie and banner saying ‘YELLOW AND BLACK IS IN THE BLOOD’ to every game, home or away.

TV still of Richmond fan Yogi holding his banner

Ironically, Yogi’s move to the cheer squad came after he was posted with the Port Adelaide cheer squad on an away trip, a situation he describes as “horrible”.

“Eleven years ago, I bought some tickets … from the AFL and it was a Port Adelaide match in Adelaide and they put me in the Port Adelaide cheer squad which was tough,” Yogi says.

His desire to escape the Power fanatics landed him amongst his own tribe.

“I walked around to the other side and met a few Richmond supporters and then decided, ‘OK, I’ll see what this is all about, I’ll give it a shot’,” he says.

“I sat in there, watched the football and … asked how I could join the Richmond cheer squad.”

Since then he’s never looked back — he hasn’t missed a match in more than a decade.

Richmond Tigers cheer squad

“Sitting in the cheer squad on a game day, it is far superior,” he says.

“I’ve still got my seats upstairs, I haven’t sat in my seats for probably 20 years. I sit in the cheer squad rain, hail, shine.

“Sitting upstairs … you don’t chant, you don’t talk.”

Yogi isn’t taking any risks with Richmond’s finals campaign — he’s booked accommodation in both Sydney and Adelaide for the first weekend.

And if the Tigers manage to break their 37-year drought on the last day in September, Yogi has his celebrations mapped out already.

So much for keeping a lid on the excitement building at Tigerland.

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