Visual Entertainment Group/Visual Entertainment Group .
R4 . COLOR . 143 mins .
G . PAL
Having been one since, ooh, about birth, I have my own special theory on what it’s like to be a Richmond supporter. I believe it’s much like Marge Simpson’s relationship with her son, Bart – your heart gets broken again and again and again, yet some sort of indefinable, innate love just keeps you coming back for more pain. Again and again and again…
It hasn’t always been as pitiful as the past 20 years, though, as Fighting Fury beautifully illustrates. A club steeped with history, when you count the last century or so of results they’re one of the better achievers in the Australian Football League (formerly the Victorian Football League, before all those interstate interlopers muscled in on the action). This, however, doesn’t make up for the hurt of more recent years, with the last premiership being way back in 1980 (when Collingwood were dealt a record-breaking hiding - and I was there, woo!), the last grand final appearance being in 1982 (stupid Carlton whomped our arses) and, well, too many wooden spoons and only a handful of finals appearances ever since. Richmond may be underachievers of late, but at least they’re not proud of it.
The great Captain Blood. R.I.P.
Starting off where any documentary on the hallowed club should – with the great Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer – disputed inventor of the drop punt kick and one of the greatest players to have ever squeezed footy boots onto his feet - Fighting Fury leads us on a magical mystery tour through Richmond’s history since pretty much the year dot. Some remarkable old footage has been dredged up dating back to the ‘30s, the days when the players’ “shorts” left their knees almost completely to the imagination, and the trek continues through to early 2003, when the club were at the height of their usual (in recent years) tease us into a false sense of security mode, before falling in a big, fat, embarrassing heap yet again.
Along the way we’re privy to innumerable interviews with many of the club’s greats throughout the years, all captured when this programme was originally created in the late ‘90s (later footage has been tacked on to give some semblance of completeness). You want football talent? Just try these guys on for size… Tom Hafey, Roy Wright, Max Oppy, Des Rowe, Bill Barrot, Roger Dean (no, not the drugged-up hippie artist), Tony Jewell (doing a fabulous Colonel Sanders impersonation), Barry Richardson, Neville Crowe, Royce Hart, Francis Bourke, Kevin Sheedy (the traitorous wretch!), Mike Patterson, Rex Hunt (yes, old fish lips himself), Michael Green, Ian Stewart, Neil Balme, David Cloke, Michael Roach, Wayne Campbell and Matthew Richardson. Ah yes, Richo – he of the recently wonky kicking boot (perhaps his silly three-mile run-up has something to do with this?) and the passionate - yet much misunderstood - on-field tendency towards tanties.
Interspersed throughout Fighting Fury is much classic game footage, from those tantalising flag wins through the years to great matches, to just pretty much any game they actually won in latter years. Add to this the odd spot of League Teams, World of Sport, film of the Punt Road ground in its heyday, a document of the exhausting array of coaches through the years (it would seem Richmond have had more than the entire Victorian public transport system) and many interviews with greats such as the inimitable Kevin Bartlett and Jimmy Jess captured in their prime, and this is a shiny little round thing no passionate, one-eyed Richmond fan could possibly feel complete without.
Considering the nature of what’s on offer, if you come into this expecting a visually pristine presentation from go to woe then you’re a bloody idiot. With footage dating back 80 or so years, pretty much every form of visual interloper presents itself at some point – grain, washouts, speckles, blobs, wobbles and more – but it just doesn’t matter, most will be so engrossed in the remarkable history on display that they won’t even notice. As the years tumble by, the vision improves markedly – kind of in inverse proportion to the quality of play, unfortunately.
Audio is supplied by a rather standard Dolby Digital stereo track, which is for the most part two-channel mono. It’s never startling, featuring as it does regular bouts of distortion as the most regular intruder, however again this is not the type of presentation where anybody sane would expect six-channel aural gymnastics. Synch remains true throughout, and even the ancient calls of games come through loud and clear as we watch the big men fly.
Little in the way of extras has been included, although what there is just may come in quite handy when boning up for the next triv night down at the pub. This comes in the form of all manner of club statistics divided into three sections. The Leadership at Richmond offers up a list of end of year ladder positions, coaches, captains, best and fairest recipients and top goal kickers throughout the club’s history, Games Records lists those Tigers who have played an inordinately large amount of games (naturally the irrepressible Kevin ‘Hungry’ Bartlett tops the table with a staggering 403) and Goals Record lists the team’s biggest dobbers of six pointers throughout the years – surprisingly including young Richo at number five. Just imagine where he could be if he could kick straight… All this and nicely animated menus, featuring the classic club theme song playing along behind it, adds up to Tiger heaven.
With almost two and a half hours of highlights – and no omission of such lowlights as that Bulldogs thug Liberatore king-hitting Matthew Knights, Alan Bond taking the helm of the club and the mega financial woes of the late ‘80s which threatened the club’s very existence, just for starters - Fighting Fury is a fabulous memento for any die hard Tigers fan, offering the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves that they haven’t always been heartbreakers. It also serves as an intriguing document of how quickly Danny ‘Spud’ Frawley’s hair went from dark to grey after taking over the coaching reins.
It’s a no-brainer, any dedicated Richmond fan should rush out, wrap their hands around Fighting Fury and handpass it into their DVD player as soon as possible – otherwise Richo may go all pouty-pouty on your arse…
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "