By Nick Creely
Debbie Hall’s emotional and family connection with the Richmond Football Club extends beyond what happens on the footy field.
In Richmond’s previous Grand Final appearance in 1982, her late nephew Stephen – an avid Tiger kid – was denied access to the ground by the VFL, which later caused plenty of controversy because he was in a wheelchair.
Richmond subsequently made Steven its guest of honour on the day and allowed him to sit on the inside of the boundary line and support his team – a gesture her family will never forget.
It’s just one of many wonderful moments in what has been an almost 43-year love affair with the club, going back from her childhood, the 1980 premiership, the 2013 elimination final and, of course, the drought-breaking finals win only a few weeks ago.
The Berwick woman explains her deep Richmond connection.
“My brother is 17 years older than me and my sister is 14 years older so I was almost like an only child – my brother moved out really early on, and my sister moved out when she was 18,” she said.
“My sister and her husband started going to Richmond-Collingwood games and they took me along so as a 10-year-old I went to some games and I fell in love with the sport and the club instantly.
“Then when I turned 12, mum allowed me to go to the footy on my own.
“I used to go on the train to Victoria Park every week with a girlfriend.
“Since then I’ve, basically, gone every week and now I go with my daughter to each game and sometimes my whole family.
“I was also sitting there at the age of 16 in the 1980 Grand Final, up the top of the old Northern Stand with a few friends.
“We were sitting there with a big esky full of champagne because you could take alcohol in back then and by half time we cracked open a bottle because we were so far in front.”
But perhaps her biggest highlight was only two weeks ago when Richmond delivered a famous finals win – its first in 16 years – with Debbie and her kids in attendance to witness a historic moment.
“During the 2013 elimination final, the roar was enormous. My kids had never heard anything like it until the win two Friday night’s ago, which was the first finals win they’ve ever seen.
“But playing like that in the last quarter, it just completely blew us all way.”
As for Richmond’s 2017 premiership hopes, Debbie has the same mindset as almost all Tigers tragics.
“As Richmond supporters, every game we go to, you are always nervous no matter what the game is – we are always worried, but we dare to dream,” she said.