“Come Armageddon, come”…Oh no wait, it’s ok, sort of.

by Tom Briglia

Round 10, 2016
St Kilda 5.4, 6.8, 7.9, 15.11 (101)
Fremantle 3.0, 7.1, 10.4, 10.7 (67)
Crowd: 17,927 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, May 28 at 4.35pm

I began last week’s review talking about my dread of coming up against the Bombers, who always seem to dick us no matter our respective situations on and off the field are at the time.

Whilst the prospect of playing Fremantle immediately after the Bombers presented two pretty similar assignments – two opportunities for a young team to redeem themselves against depleted, unfancied opposition somewhat after a pasting by the Eagles – Freo presented its own psychological difficulties for Saints fans (on top of simply being ravaged by everything that goes with being a Saints fan).

My dread for playing Freo this week was simple – the Saints and Dockers are the combatants for the ridiculous and not very wonderful Bizarro Rivalry. The Dockers were incredibly on the precipice of becoming the equal-record holders for worst start to a season by a previous season’s top four finisher (certainly outright for a minor premier), but who better to save them from sharing that record than their Bizarro rivals, the historically pathetic Saints?

The clubs are into the 22nd year of weird shit happening, with a bunch historical coincidences sprinkled over the top. Fremantle played their first ever official game against the Saints in 1995 in the opening round of the pre-season, which remains their only official game in Fremantle; an ANZAC Day showdown with Freo winning by a goal in 1997; Stewart Loewe knocking himself out and Peter Everitt kicking the clumsiest goal of the year contender in 1998; umpire Peter Carey taking a mark in 1999; the Saints winning their last game under Malcolm Blight win Robert Harvey doing his knee and a young Milne kicking three goals in 2001; The Dockers coming back and snatching a late win with a long bomb in the first game St Kilda wore the hot cross bun jumper as an away jumper in the home and away season, and then winning the return bout at a home game at Princes Park in 2002; the Saints winning in Perth to go to 7-0 for the first time since 1966 and looking odds-on for a premiership, and then the Dockers wearing their white clash jumper for the first time ever  and playing for a finals spot in the last match of 2004 against the Saints; St Kilda winning by a point in Tasmania after a dubious late free kick to Aaron Hamill in Round 2 and then Troy Longmuir’s winning goal after the siren in the “Whispers in the Sky” match in 2005; Sirengate in 2006, which in isolation was the difference between Freo’s first top four finish and St Kilda’s sixth and first-week final exit; Steven Baker and Jeff Farmer’s clash and Baker’s long suspension in 2007; one of the worst games ever as Milne and Dal Santo were dropped and McEvoy, Eddy and Allen all debuted and the last quarter went for 23.56 in 2008; St Kilda holding Freo to what was at the time the equal-lowest Corporate Dome score, shared with…St Kilda…in 2009; And so on and so forth. This is without mentioning Ross Lyon, Zac Dawson, and the 2013 and 2014 pastings St Kilda gave premiership-fancies Freo, and that each club made their first Grand Final appearances 100 years apart.

***

Ok look I’ll get this out of the way. Sam Landsberger’s pathetic article about Nick Riewoldt post-match last week – and his equally pathetic responses to criticism of it online – as well as the Herald Sun’s glorifying of it, in the same week that Brad Hill was charged with assault and received fuck all coverage was really disappointing. At no point did Sam address why he included a whole section talking about St Kilda’s bid for a women’s team and the appointment of Peta Searle, instead deciding to step back from the article when it was convenient and saying “your words, not mine” when challenged on why he attempted to make it appear that either Nick or the club has an inherent problem with treating females, as well as saying “End of story” in one tweet simply to outline that the event had happened, and that therefore it deserved his story. Which it doesn’t; something simply happening doesn’t necessarily warrant a warped story and the pushing it received by the newspaper. He also took editorial duties and said “filthy remarks on innocent StK staff disgusting”, although no one else in the footy world seemed to particularly make a big deal of it. I outlined last year the clear bias against St Kilda that the Herald Sun had during the trade period and the Carlisle saga, which I think is worth mentioning given his involvement in that as well as this.

Interestingly, it seemed as though there was some contrition on the Herald Sun’s part. Their coverage of the match including an inset photo of Roo taking a selfie post-match with a fan and Gresh – with no irony or mention of the week’s “news” and by Sunday afternoon Landsberger had selectively tweeted about Armo talking on Triple M about Roo winning a seventh best and fairest this year and playing on in 2018, as well pointing out the strength of his stats this season himself.

The whole thing actually reminded me that I may or may not recall a current Herald Sun footy journo possibly calling Nick Riewoldt a “retard” repeatedly in the 2010 Preliminary Final. Anyway.

***

So a young team on their way up but with the inconsistencies that come with this awkward early development phase, coming off a relatively unconvincing 46-point win – albeit one that featured performances from three young forwards that gave cause for feverish optimism – up against a coach who for all intents and purposes should have held up our second premiership cup with our current captain, and his team trying to avoid some very unwanted history. On a cold and wet Saturday as winter storms along, hidden away in the 4.35 timeslot (Who decided on “4.35”?), in the mostly empty confines of the Concrete/Corporate Dome. It reeked of the depressing depths of a long footy reason, so Freo ftw, surely. So like last week, I used my massive $10 bonus bet on a weakened opposition to at least salvage something out of the potential wreckage, because I work hard and I play hard.

Hotline and Webster were suspect outs this week; at least that was my not-so-hot-take on it until I remembered Billings indeed ended up in the rooms at some point during the match against the Bombers before playing it out with not too much effect. Webster on the other hand already has a conveniently-timed illness because I dare say he was close to being dropped, and is hanging out with at his gf’s house on club’s orders. I’d love to be told to do that but I’m desperately, desperately alone.

Discussing the ins and outs with my dad over the phone on Friday, in my infinite wisdom I declared Brodie Murdoch would be playing probably across half-forward and pushing up the ground, completely unaware that Richo that morning had specifically said at the presser that he’d be playing across half-back. Sinclair, the other inclusion, would obviously be floating around the forward half and has been underrated a little this year I think in his value as a link player pushing up the ground as well as playing his usual small forward role.

The 55 tram ride into the ground from Brunswick West is always a little strange, having grown up with the St Kilda fervour that accompanies the train ride in along the Frankston line. In fact on the 55 there’s none at all and there are as likely to be many GWS fans on it as St Kilda fans (i.e. fan, singular; i.e. me) as there were for the Round 5 match. Given the time this weekend’s match and the weather on the day there was barely anyone on the tram at all, let alone a bunch of people on their way to see a C-grade match in the nothing hours of a grey Saturday.

Richie is away enjoying Europe for a few weeks, hence why all four of you RWB readers are stuck with me for a few weeks, and Evan was getting his second round of 21st birthday celebrations underway, so it was an opportune time for dad to rejoin the match day line-up of myself and Matt after he decided family was important enough to miss out on a terrible match of footy last Sunday. We reprised the Kangaroos pre-match build-up of burgers and drinks at the Savoy before it was time to take a deep breath and take the field as the next team with the pressure of “just don’t fuck it up” coming from the rest of the AFL world; which was still waiting to burst into laughter at the expense of whoever had to listen to an outdated pop-rock intro and then “FREO, WAY TO GO” after the final siren.

Like last week, the raging battle of nausea vs apathy threatened to consume us all at half-time as Essendon planted themselves within reaching distance at half-time. With the comfort of hindsight, as nausea vs apathy played itself out at half-time we were bracing ourselves for the possibility of nausea followed by apathy, or perhaps nausea followed by a sickly mix of more nausea with apathy. At three-quarter time the buckets were ready. No amount of Ativan would be able to cover this. As Matt and I talked about late in the game, we were both psychologically preparing ourselves for a best result of a close win, and having to simply prepare ourselves from the point of Paddy’s smart goal late in the third quarter of around 45 minutes of feeling sick and partially not enjoying living for that amount of time, with the expectation that it was happening, that St Kilda would be St Kilda and gift Fremantle their first win of the season. And out into the cold, unfriendly Saturday night we would go.

The early stages of the match felt a long way away by that time. Shane Savage ran out onto the ground with his son for his 100th game. He was one of the players that really needed to lift last week after half-time and actually did. He’s come a long way after being VFL fodder for a club hurtling towards its 27th wooden spoon two years ago. Maybe his new half-back partner Brodie in time could present us with a similar case of improvement, and the prospect of having two booming kicks off half-back – albeit belonging to two very different types of players – was an interesting prospect for the bigger forwards working up the ground, as well as providing that extra option for the long kick at goal just beyond the arc. Brodie put that on show with a brilliant sausage in the first quarter.

That’s not to say Webster doesn’t have a huge kick, but the upside of his possessions is based more on precision and it felt as though he’d been missing a little in general of late. The pressure on the players to perform from an individual aspect given Richo talked up Billings’ and Webster’s prospects of coming straight into the team would surely give guys like Brodie and Sinclair a bit of jolt, right? RIGHT?

Well it seemed to work because Brodie was heavily involved in the first half, beyond his great goal. It came after a couple of Freo goals which had followed a blistering start that had us up 4.3 to 0.0 and some guy behind us having a ball constantly yelling all things anti-Ross (Lyon) and things vaguely based on “Owen 10/0 and 10” etc. I wouldn’t have gone there myself but the start really was entertaining, highlighted by Membrey and Paddy looking to pick up from last week’s performance. Membrey smartly found space on the lead and kicked the our third, whilst Paddy followed with number four from a brilliant one-handed finish on the way down from a marking contest.

The midfield wasn’t world beating but the pressure was up early, and even though Freo scored three of the last four goals of the quarter, including Walters frustratingly kicking one in the fi nal seconds, we still looked dangerous. Despite leading the possession count 118-79, some goalscoring opportunities were hurriedly missed or poorly thought-out under pressure which meant the 5.4 return from just 11 entries could have been far more devastating. It said a lot that most of the that possession count came from guys in the back half who were weathering Freo’s entries – Gilbert started well and equalled last week’s seven-possession full-game tally by the first break; Fisher was on his way to doing a solid job on Pavlich, Roberton was roaming around doing whatever it is he does and has 12 touches; Joey had his regulation sevens and Newnes (including a goal) and Savage had six apiece.

Even as Fremantle were closing in the second quarter Matt and I agreed that it was Brodie Murdoch who we felt safest with ball in hand. He looked composed with the ball and kept things moving without trying anything beyond his capabilities. The strange thing about the term was that we were only a goal or two away for much of it from really blowing open the game and getting the lead out to around the five-goal mark, but more wasted opportunities in front of goal and Freo’s pressure in the back half meant we crawled to half-time with 6.8 as Lachie Weller and Ed Langdon kicked a combined three goals in just over four minutes to have Freo within a point at the main break.

Freo were playing old-style Ross Lyon footy and it was working; I remember thinking in Round 4 of 2012 when Freo played the Saints at the Concrete Dome for the first time post-Ross exit how it was like watching St Kilda play St Kilda in Fremantle jumpers. I felt a little similar at times on Saturday, as Freo found patience and kept control of the ball in the back-half, waiting to pick apart the Saints at the right time and make their move forward. If they didn’t score directly from the entry it was a massive battle for the Saints to get it out of there and the longer it stayed in there the more the Dockers’ confidence grew in what they were doing, as well as the risk that the Saints would concede.

Some days you just think, this is not our day, and by equal measures others things happen where you think, this is their day. Lachie Neale talking a mark above his head at the edge of the goal square is a sure sign that things are working for Freo, but when Matt Taberner is pulling the old one-two and kicking goals on the run off-balance from 45 metres out for Freo’s tenth of the last 12 goals for the game to give them a three goal lead in third-quarter then surely, surely this was their day. We could only sit and watch and take it in; this was happening. In the shadows of three-quarter time we were headed for Sam Landsberger’s favourite day of his life.

Paddy’s quick thinking on the goal line to poach back a major just before three-quarter time – keep in mind Lachie Weller missed a snap shot less than a minute later – at the very least arrested the Dockers’ control and relieved the scoreboard pressure (easier to have that idea in hindsight). Thirteen points to claw back from the final change, and by then Barlow, Pearce, Neale and Hill had been dominating the midfield battle for essentially two quarters with Mayne busy across half-forward and there was no reason to think they’d be going anywhere. Their team defence was stifling any movement from the Saints out of the back half and it felt that it was rare and difficult opportunities like that presented to Paddy late in the quarter that needed to taken.

So somehow we kicked eight goals in the last quarter with charged home for a 34-point win. Where the hell do you start with that? I guess as per Richo’s post-match you see that forwards were isolated against their opponents one-on-one more often, rather than the bomb-and-hope mentality we were forced into in quarters two and three. This was owing to a huge last-quarter performance from David Armitage, who had 13 touches and got the midfield going along with Jack Steven and Seb Ross, who wasn’t as prolific as the week before but was still just as smart with the footy. Armo probably won’t be the elite mid we’d hoped he’d be 100% of the time but elite-grade quarters like that – not to mention the 17 tackles he had throughout the game – to go with Steven’s usual busy performance and the emergence of Seb Ross all of a sudden make the midfield bat a lot deeper. There’s still Nathan Freeman to come in potentially, and as I say every week I dare say we’ll be bringing in an elite mid via trade or free agency either this year or next.

My Favourite Hair in the AFL stepped up as well, finding the ball 10 times the length and breadth of the ground in the quarter and kicking 2.1 amidst it all. In another great performance playing across the ground, he ended up with 24 touches. He looks as fit as he’s ever been and again, it’s testament to his longevity, dedication and skill that he’s put himself in this position, one that benefits the team from his own presence across the ground whilst allowing the next gen forwards in Bruce, Paddy and Membrey game time, and importantly game time with each other to fast-track their development and cohesion.

Bruce finished with two after having fark-all to do with it for three-quarters; ironically his first goal out the back of Paddy’s one-on-one was one of the very few occasions in the game where one of our forwards was at the drop of the ball near goal, let alone actually do something. His run-in goal as a result smacked of the G-Train at his cheekiest, and he was able to charge to the right spot in space late in the game following Steven’s soccer of the ground to Paddy on his own, who lowered his eyes instead of blazing away and hit Bruce on the chest close to goal.

Paddy only finished with nine touches but again, many of those touches were quality. I’ve mentioned his mark in the first quarter and his creative second goal which would prove to be the first of the last nine goals of the match we’d kick. Not only did he hold his position in the contest, but he reacted immediately for the next move. In the final term he had a contested mark on the flank bemusingly disallowed for being touched, but under pressure from two Dockers he managed to fire out a handball which ended up with a goal. His lead and mark on the opposite flank as the team was surging was met with a huge reaction from the members’ wing, but he just overcooked the centreing kick. He made up for soon after, however, with his composure on the way to setting up Bruce. It was pleasing to say he had a genuinely positive impact on the game, and up against much more fancied opposition next week will be a great test for him. Really promising signs for another week though, but on top of it all I’ll always be terrified of Petracca.

It’s harder to underrate than overrate younger and more inexperienced guys but Tim Membrey came out of the grind and the whirlwind again as the team’s leading goalkicker on the day with three. He’s kicked 14.8 in five games since coming into the team this year, and, if you’re like Richo and would like to “park the West Coast game”, he’s kicked 14.6 in four games. Over all games since he came in Bruce has kicked 13 goals, Riewoldt eight and Paddy four. One thing which wasn’t so obvious on Saturday were his efforts in contests high up the ground, particularly with ball close to to the deck, and the number of times he was able to force it to a teammates’ advantage or get it out directly to a teammate. His 15 possessions, six marks, four tackles and 3.2 reflected another very decent all-round game.

It seems as though the tall forward triumvirate is the key way to go, with the small forward stocks going through a bit of a momentary shuffle. Gresham has grown with every game, which he showed with his run, bounce, rebalance and perfectly-weighted left-hand handball over traffic on the way to Weller putting the Saints in front (Roo naturally a key part of that chain higher up the ground). “Only” 13 possessions in his seventh game, but with seven tackles and the last goal of the match – from a rare genuine crumbing effort from a small forward – were the icing. Like Billings he’s very composed with the ball and is quickly learning to press up the ground effectively, and I’d to think this week his disposal effectiveness had picked up overall as well. With Billings to come back in, assuming his ankle is ok, you would think Sinclair would be the one to come out after failing to hit the scoreboard and picking up only nine forgettable touches (including zero in the final quarter – the siren sounded with the ball in his hands). Not sure if Webster comes in for Murdoch, who did quieten down in the second half. With Sandy not playing due to the state league representative games it’s difficult to get a gauge on the what the coaches might be thinking should the injury slate be clean come Thursday. Weller had had a few lean weeks but made some important contests as a lead-up forward when we made our move early, and again when we made our move late, kicking the goal that put us in front.

So, ultimately it was an incredible relief. The nausea and apathy battle, with a lot of parallels with the week before, simply gave way to a pleasant exhaustion.

It’s important to have some sort of empathy in this situation. Not particularly for Ross Lyon, but for Freo fans. Their club is only in its 22nd season but are shaping up to be the kind of club St Kilda was in the 20th Century (and, well, to the current day too. And including from establishment in 1873 to joining the VFL for the inaugural 1897 season. So uh, be the kind of club St Kilda is).

A couple of weeks ago in concluding my review of our thrashing by the Eagles’ I said now’s not the time to take anything for granted. But really, no time is. I remember how awful the 2011 season felt, particularly after the media found us easy targets in the off-season for the “Schoolgirl” “story” now that we weren’t a premiership team (again, compare this to the Hawthorn coverage in the trade period against the St Kilda bashing, and again this week with the Herald Sun’s difference in coverage to the Riewoldt “story” and Brad Hill being charged with assault. If you’re not winners you’re dispensed as roadkill, and whilst they haven’t had quite the same off-field dramas as we had, Freo and their fans are there right now. After three seasons of being a red-hot premiership chance, and perhaps four if you include the fact that they were 10-points away from playing off in a Preliminary Final in 2012, it’s an awful, awful time when your fingers slip, you lose grasp and you’re on the way down. That was us five years ago and it still hurts to think about. As fans there’s only so much you can do about it, but it’s a brutal competition and really, you can’t take anything for granted wherever you might be.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 10
David Armitage – 2
Tim Membrey – 2
Nick Riewoldt – 2
Jack Steven – 2
Sam Fisher – 1
Paddy McCartin – 1

Totals
Nick Riewoldt – 17
Jack Steven – 16
Seb Ross – 9
Leigh Montagna – 8
David Armitage – 7
Tim Membrey – 6
Jack Newnes – 6
Sam Fisher – 5
Tom Hickey – 5
Jack Billings – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Blake Acres – 3
Josh Bruce – 3
Paddy McCartin – 2
Shane Savage – 2
Sean Dempster – 1
Jade Gresham – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1
Mav Weller – 1

Bruce, Paddy, Membrey, etc.

by Tom Briglia

Round 9, 2016
St Kilda 2.5, 5.9, 12.10, 16.13 (109)
Essendon 1.4, 4.5, 7.8, 9.9 (63)
Crowd: 29,026 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, May 22nd at 4.40pm

Ah, the Bombers. I’ve written ad nauseum any time they’ve come up on this thing how much grief they’ve give us over the years, no matter what the state of play. At the depths of their oughts misadventures they pulled an arsey win over us in 2005 to put our season on the ropes; and we could only knock them off by three points the following year in the wet at the MCG. In the peak of the GT/Ross decade they knocked us off for our first loss of the season in Round 20 and then twice in 2010.

Strangely, in amongst those we’ve managed to register our two biggest ever wins over them – the 108-point win (which could have been more if not for inaccurate kicking) in the final home and away game of 2008 which snuck us into the top four, and then last year that was eclipsed by a 110-point win, which also featured our equal 13th highest score in 143 years and as it sits our 2nd highest in the past decade. In a season in which both teams were features of the bottom round of the ladder, it was a pleasantly surprising performance and one of the highlights of a season in which green shoots began to emerge, albeit on the sad weekend immediately following the murder of Phil Walsh.

Which brings us to Round 9 of a season in which from a football perspective we’ve supposedly made progress and the Bombers are having a year off as 12 players sit out suspended under WADA sanctions. The thing is, this is the St Kilda and Essendon football clubs we’re talking about, so before we look at last week’s results you know it’s quite possible the Bombers and their fans will be looking at this game as a big opportunity for their second win of the season. If they hadn’t beaten Melbourne I would have been going the big vom on the 55 tram on the way in, but that’s been held over for Saturday’s game against Freo after the Tigers dispatched them in the hurricane at Subi on Saturday night. Just the regulation nausea of any lead up to at Essendon clash then.

Essebdon were treated as winners after getting within reaching distance of the undefeated Kangaroos last week, despite not kicking a goal until the third quarter. A week earlier we were for all intents and purposes running over the top of them, but after that and the win against Melbourne it seemed the group was exhausted and evidently all bar Seb Ross, My Favourite Hair in the AFL and Jade Gresham could be arsed making the trip to Perth. Against an Eagles outfit as dangerous as any other on their respective home turfs calamity duly ensued.

After a 103-point loss you wouldn’t thought that you’d be going into the next two games as favourites but that’s the nature of both this season as well as being a developing side. Realistically, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing if we dropped both, but that would be some serious slump after a couple of wins and genuinely good showings against premiership fancies in the early part of the season; collectively enough to assume that that’s close enough to the slightly more likely type of side that will run it in Saints colours.

There was freshness to this side that we hadn’t seen before – all of My Favourite Hair, Josh Bruce, Paddy and Membrey playing together for the first time. It won’t happen too many times but it needs to be done before Roo exits, whenever that may be.

Add to that the inclusion of Dan McKenzie and the a chance of Gresham to back up of efforts last week and there was plenty to look forward to through that nausea that accompanies every Essendon clash. Richo had thrown around the confidentiality clause in his pre-weekend presser by naming Paddy as a certain starter and offering Hickey up as “crook” with Holmes to come in if he couldn’t shake off the alleged lurgee, but it wasn’t to be and the Longer/Lewis Pierce/Holmes contest of being closest to the pin continued.

Somehow Jarryn Geary continues to survive and it was a little disappointing to see Sinclair dropped, but time had certainly run out for Lonie. Eli being flown over as an emergency for that tripe didn’t do him any favours to get a stronger look-in after his best-on-ground performance in the VFL against Collingwood outside of AAMI Park a fortnight ago. Acres naturally was dropped, but he’s rarely been able to afford one not-even-that-quiet week in the past, let alone two and an angry singling out by Richo at quarter time that echoed 1990s-style individual pastings from Sheldon and Alves.

I rocked up to the Corporate Dome after trekking across the bridge through a Trevor Barker Oval-style gale whilst Acres, Lonie and Eli were there actually there leading the possession count for the Zebras at half-time. A drink or two at the Locker Room with Matt, Footy’s own Lewis and Evan and his partner Sophie before we headed to our seats. Lewis and I were a little more nervous than the others as we talked missed opportunities of the past just to really get ourselves in the mood.

Let’s get to it – what shouldn’t have been surprising was if we went to the footy on Sunday and saw arguably the worst game we’d seen in years. If last week was bad from a St Kilda perspective, try watching two teams constantly dicking themselves for a half of football in what was a hot, incredibly unsexy mess. Half-time saw nausea beginning to battle apathy in the eventuation of a tight contest towards the end. Fortunately things turned, but it was a draining experience en route.

Hotline Billings began in the backline but it wasn’t until the third quarter when any cohesion across the ground began to appear was it apparent that he was being used as the Port Adelaide 2014 spitter. It worked once or twice I guess and he worked hard across the ground for his 18 possessions but he missed two gettable set shots which would have rounded his game out nicely. He remains in a slump but he simply has to stay in the team – I don’t think too many would argue with that anyway.

Reward for effort has been a bit of a consistent, if background theme for this side this year. The Port Adelaide fade-out could reasonably have been attributed to the one game missed out on in the NAB Challenge, and the Hawthorn and North Melbourne games were sore points for a young side that had thrown everything at much more fancied opposition and not done too much wrong, but had nothing to show for it. The first half was a lesson in this in a different – it was us doing the damage to ourselves going forward that was costing us and wasting the dominance in front-half use and forward-50 entries, a comparison that read 39-17 in our favour at half-time with just 5.7 and an eight-point lead to show for it.

Richo quite rightly pointed out in the post-match that Josh Bruce’s own game was an accurate reflection of the side’s. In the first half he worked hard up and back in what has been something close to My Favourite Hair’s role over the past decade, but wasn’t able to affect too much until Paddy picked him out in the pocket late in the half with a perfectly-weighted kick, and Bruce returned the favour with a strong mark and stepped off his line snap the goal. This came after in the first quarter he’d dashed out ahead of everyone for what should have been a straightforward completion of a counterattacking goal but Geary botched the long kick, which only vaguely needed to favour him, but forced him out too wide and Ambrose ran him down. In the second half he was the recipient of a short pass in the back half of the centre square which he duly dropped, unmarked, and in his embarrassment tried a little too hard in finding the ball, spinning out of trouble (or attempting to), and finding a target further up the ground in the form of blazing away and kicking straight to an Essendon player. Soon afterwards he found himself on his own with the ball in just forward of centre and decided to kick it as long as he could to an Essendon player.

The tone had been set by Gresh in the first few minutes, who picked up where he left off. One of the few players who visibly showed any fight against the Eagles, he was busy early but after showing some composure with the ball in hand as he looked for options high on the flank; he found one short, only to fluff the kick, which he followed up only minutes later with the fluffing of what should have been another easy hit-up in the forward-50. He started the second quarter in a similar fashion – he certainly wasn’t the only offender – and might be running out of a little puff in this stint in the seniors but he had the opportunity at times throughout the game to experience the responsibility of being in the middle for the centre bounce. Lonie finished with 28 touches and four goals and Templeton 30 touches, so dare say at least one of those will be coming in next week. It’s tempting to give Lonie another week or two to really drive home that he needs to earn his spot but he’s obviously a step above VFL level and next week is the state league representative match against the SANFL so there’ll be no hit-out for them if they’re selected. Gresh might make way for the fresher legs anyway given next Saturday against Freo is a match coming off a Perth trip and then a six-day break, which might be a bit much for the first-year player. It’s worth pointing out here that Sam Gilbert collected less than 10 possessions for the third time this year so, uh, yeah.

Riewoldt made his presence felt all the way up and down the ground and as Michael Gleeson pointed out in his report for The Age, this was the first time since Round 24, 2011 that we won a game without Riewoldt kicking a goal. The second half – in particular, the third quarter – may well prove to be the first step in the handing over of the keys to the St Kilda forward line, but until then Roo was working hard just outside the arc to keep the ball inside the front half for little return as everyone from Gresh to, frustratingly, Joey were shanking entries.

The first half, really, had two highlights – Seb Ross and Jack Steven. Seb Ross is somehow nearly our best player now. I don’t know what the hell happened but I was royally incorrect about him. The full pre-season has done him wonders and allowed him to be fit enough to take a big step step up and be able to his natural ability across the ground and in different situations; whether it’s in tight, whether he’s the first kick out of congestion or when he’s hitting up a leading opponent. His disposal has improved incredibly and he’s proven himself to be a very, very natural footballer. Throughout Sunday he simply knew where to be at all times, and arguably the highlight of his game was when he drifted forward, stopped to evade one Bomber, and off a step snap a curling goal under pressure from another. That he finished with 37 possessions not only reflected how much of the ball he had, but how much value and presence he gave the team with his considered disposal.

Jack Steven was the other and he had 40 touches by the time Sandringham’s own Mitch Brown snuck through his fourth goal just before the final siren. Whilst some mention must go to Armo for really lifting halfway through the second quarter when it became apparent that the side was in danger of becoming disenchanted with the waste of effort, it was Ross and Steven that really kept things going in the engine room to at least have us with some sort of lead and to have kept Essendon to four goals for the half.

Actually there was a third highlight and it was Sam Fisher’s falcon.

Half-time was beer time. The aforementioned nausea vs apathy battle was raging as we sat back in our seats with a new Carlton. We were on the precipice of losing to Essendon, it seemed, whose fans had been brought into the game and who we might have to deal with afterwards, and with faux-enforcer Baguley of all people threatening to be the X-factor for the Dons across half-forward the Shame Alert was extreme.

Again it was Matt who provided some sort of footballing wisdom that I’m not capable of and said it was more likely the Saints would break it open in the quarter. What would need to take place for that to happen was, fortunately, something that could have been changed with a simple half-time message/bake from Richo and that was to simply lower the eyes with the footy in hand and for the forwards to make sure they were providing viable goalscoring options. We were certainly more likely on weight of inside-50 and time in forward half numbers along and the Bombers struggles to hit targets as much as we did, and had a lot less of a threatening forward line set-up (Baguley’s ever-annoying presence notwithstanding). But I don’t think anyone thought we would be witness to a quarter of football that on its own may have kickstarted the core operations of our forward line for up to the next decade.

When the three-quarter time siren sounded it ended a quarter in which Bruce, Paddy and Membrey had kicked seven goals between them. There were several highlights to choose from, among those Bruce being the beneficiary again of some slick Paddy work. Paddy was up and about after nailing a huge set shot after timing his movement perfectly to the 50-metre arc was the ball came down from a quick turnover in the square, and then he’d executed a classic full-forward’s lead from deep in attack as Steven charged through the middle and sent it to him perfectly and followed it up with another goal. Worth pointing out here that Paddy got a lot hugs from teammates as celebrations rather than your Nick Riewoldt high-fives as he charges back to centre-half forward post-sausage circa 2005-2010.

But Paddy’s disguised kick to Bruce as he feigned a run up from the point of the arc on the boundary line really showed both the quality and maturity of his football nous. He doesn’t get huge numbers – they were his only three possessions in the quarter – but when he gets it he’s either worked hard to be in a good position or he does something good with it, or both. From what had been probably the most frustrating game to watch – the week previous perhaps ahead, actually – for the year had turned into something incredibly exciting. The movement from the forwards was smart and the delivery was finally for more considered, and we had three cornerstones of our future putting on a clinic. It helped that they were kicking straight as well; Membrey turned his 1.3 at half-time to 3.3 by quarter’s end, having got onto the end of a clever Roo entry off the captain’s left foot and then displaying his aerial capabilities as Luke Dunstan planted a kick from a clearance perfectly between to Essendon defenders for him to spring up to. Just like the Melbourne and North Melbourne games, he demonstrated his versatility in being able to find the ball in dangerous positions in different ways – a contested mark, a big leap and a handy lead was how he got his three goals – but he also worked hard on the wings, which his tally of nine marks reflected.

Paddy likewise; he finished with 10 marks in his most impressive performance by a long way. The decision to drop him back to the VFL and freshen him up certainly paid off as he moved more comfortably and smoothly than we’d seen him. His deft tap of high-bouncing ball over to Joey running past in the forward pocket to set up Hickey in the last quarter was the icing on his cake.

By game’s end the trio had kicked 10.5 and had 24 marks between them. Bruce, after arguably his worst half – aside from his strong mark to do justice for Paddy’s good work in the second quarter – somehow finished with five goals. The lift from Dunstan, Armo and even guys like Savage and Billings in the third to complement Ross and Steven helped enormously, and Roo’s presence up the ground went up again. He finished with 24 touches and the fact he could be so effective across the ground allowed for something necessary and productive to happen.

Of course, this probably isn’t going to happen every week. We’ve got a winless Freo next week and given the bizarre history between the two clubs anything can happen, let alone whatever may happen as we continue to wrestle with this development phase. But on Sunday, when it looked like we’d dug ourselves into a hole, we feel like the players worked hard to get themselves out of it and banked something genuinely exciting – not just for the sake of the day, but for how we feel about where this club is going.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 9
Seb Ross – 3
Jack Steven – 3
Josh Bruce – 2
Tim Membrey – 2
Luke Dunstan – 1
Paddy McCartin – 1

Totals
Nick Riewoldt – 15
Jack Steven – 14
Seb Ross – 9
Leigh Montagna – 8
Jack Newnes – 6
David Armitage – 5
Tom Hickey – 5
Jack Billings – 4
Sam Fisher – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Tim Membrey – 4
Blake Acres – 3
Josh Bruce – 3
Shane Savage – 2
Sean Dempster – 1
Jade Gresham – 1
Paddy McCartin – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1
Mav Weller – 1

[Sandringham match review title]

by Matthew Briglia

Following underwhelming word counts and countless grammatical errors, chief editors of RWB Thomas Briglia and Richard Lee became increasingly tired of polishing up my pieces to an acceptable standard. My fate? Well I was asked (forced) to endure four quarters of the Peter Jackson VFL on my Saturday afternoon. With no formal work arrangement or contract in place, I didn’t really have much of a choice. I decided I would head down to watch the Sandringham Zebras apply their respective craft and keep my spot as a writer at RWB.

I arrived at Trevor Barker Oval with a positive attitude and an open mind, keen to make a mends for my lack of previous endeavours. I can’t comment on the opening 10 minutes of the match, parking was a minor issue and I ended up parking in the proverbial back paddock, not a good start…Sorry Tom and Richie! I flashed my Saints membership for free entry and assumed my viewing spot on the hill, it felt extremely similar to standing on Platform 2 at Melbourne Central station with a train fast approaching…for the entire four quarters…the wind was strong. The lack of shielding and protection made me extra determined to find some form and get a recall to the comforts and even just the basic seating set-up that Etihad Stadium provides.

The opening term for Sandy was pleasing, the ball movement was slick and they utilised the breeze well and nailed six goals to just the one against a reasonably strong Casey line-up. It was relatively downhill from quarter-time, however. Whilst still being in the game on the scoreboard Casey seemed to control the play in their forward half for the remaining three quarters, and even when the Zebras did go forward the entries into the forward 50 weren’t necessarily tidy and the ball was rarely trapped in the attacking 50 for long enough to generate genuine opportunities, the wind I dare say being a real factor, almost eliminating the ability for Paddy to be competitive in the air.

Even the bench was scrappy which I feel is a strange thing to type, however changeovers from the interchange were unorganised and slow. Darren Minchington was evidently frustrated by this, and Trent Dennis-Lane appeared to play the role of the interchange steward at times – probably not what he signed up for as Zebras captain. For me as an observer however, I was focused on the individuals who are currently St Kilda-listed and their form out on the ground. Other than Nathan Wright’s uncanny resemblance to Eminem/Marshall Matters, my personal highlight was the form of Daniel McKenzie. At 19 years old when the game was played (Happy Birthday to Daniel for Tuesday), Daniel competed really strongly all game, and what was most impressive was his ability in the air, managing to clunk a few pack grabs from long kick-ins and around the ground. You feel like at this point in time him and a player like Blake Acres might be competing for a spot, certainly worth watching his space, I’d say a firsts game is imminent.

If Tom Lee was going to pack the form in his suitcase to Perth that he took down to Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday he would have been a welcome inclusion. He enjoyed accumulating mid-twenties touches and his kicking around the back half was accurate, minus one viciously untidy kick in. He didn’t seem as nervous as other players chipping the ball around the defensive 50, and he didn’t at all just blaze away and kick long which would have been a much easier option considering the breeze. He looked mature out on the ground, was creative coming out of the back half and seems to have now truly recreated himself as a defender. More than happy to see him in Saints colours again soon.

One of St Kilda’s number-one whipping boys Cam Shenton was really dangerous, provided scoreboard pressure and has done so a few times this year at VFL level. Provides good pressure and always gives 100%. He reminds me of a park footballer who rolls up in his beaten up ute and Hard Yakka’s to training; not the type of opponent you want on your tail all day. With the small forwards for the Saints not yet settled, I’d like to see him in the forward half of the ground rather than down back, despite being a whipping boy for Saints fans at Etihad Stadium, I think he’s worth another chance. He’s 188cm – the same height as Tim Membrey – can certainly compete and mop up at ground level, and really pushes himself to affect a contest in the air. You at least know what you’re getting.

The last special mention goes out to Brandon White. New on the Saints list and seems like he could fit into the back brigade. Reminds me of a third musketeer to compliment Newnes and Webster. He’s tough and plays with some passion to the last inch; a teenager who even managed to a clobber a Casey player or two and have them marching off to the bench. Jarryn Geary is possibly keeping Brandon and Nathan Wright in the two’s at the moment, and both would put up a fight if required later on in the season.

Paddy kicked two goals; the conditions didn’t help him at all. Laid some good tackles and was tidy when he had the ball in hand but didn’t set the world on fire. Hugh Goddard played down back against a strong Casey forward line including Chris Dawes, with Sam Fisher and Sean Dempster holding up the fort for the time being he has time to develop in the twos before hopefully slotting in nicely with Jake Carlisle in 2017.

Sandy went into the last quarter only three goals down, the final margin 31 points, however 38 scoring shots to 22 in Casey’s favour was one of the more telling indicators for how the day played out. Despite the canteen being unable to tell me if the pies were ready or not due to a few technical issues and me having to order a pasty instead (who on earth orders a pasty?) it was a really enjoyable day and atmosphere down at Trevor Barker Oval. Hopefully I’ll be reporting from the comforts of Etihad Stadium come Sunday, enjoying a beer, a seat, a windbreak and a pie which I can be told with conviction is ready to consume!

“What the hell was that?”

by Tom Briglia

Round 8, 2016
West Coast Eagles 9.3, 12.5, 15.8, 20.12 (132)
St Kilda 1.3, 1.9, 2.10, 3.11 (29)
Crowd: 36,140 at Domain Stadium, Sunday, May 15 at 4.40pm WST

13241216_10208852985939838_7418918836241539104_n

After the great showing against Melbourne and then the incredible exhaustion that was last week’s loss to North, it was probably welcome by Saints fans that we got to take a breather out of sight and out of mind in the Sunday Twilight Zone timeslot, and with the width of Australia between most of the supporter base and the team itself on game day.

We could all gather on a Sunday evening and relax, game situation permitting, in our families’ Ormond homes and eat nachos and Mum’s goulash. Just a typical footy viewing experience in the 21st Century.

For the first time this year, as we get into the routine of the day-to-day and week-to-week of the footy season, I wanted to avoid anything and everything to do with the footy media covering the ins and outs of what was a rather painful finish last week. I didn’t want to watch the Goldstein/Hickey ruck contest, I didn’t want to watch Mason Wood holding on to the footy in the final seconds, I didn’t want to post futile Twitter comments about specific poor umpiring decisions that didn’t go our way during the game but did go theirs and how it wasn’t just the Goldstein free that had an impact on the result. But there was some comfort to be found Luke Dunstan’s reaction after the siren – the players found the experience upsetting too, and here we had rare proof.

So on Sunday I stayed on the 55 tram beyond Bourke St and stayed on until Flinders Street, got a motivational coffee from whichever shitbox franchise was closest to my body and got on the train and then bus to Mum, Dad and Matt’s in Ormond. Matt sent a joke text about Lewis Pierce being a late inclusion which I took seriously. Not funny, Matt; you know I’ve been pining to see his leadership skills that the club flaunted upon his drafting for years now.

The nagging question in my mind during the week was along of lines “Would there be a let-down in effort following two very strong showings?”. I couldn’t figure out whether if we’d won it have would have been more likely to lead to a “week off” for a young group prone to inconsistency, hidden a continent away, but given the effort I think that was probably a moot point – it would have been about whether there was reward for effort last week or not, and we leave it there in the closing hours of last weekend.

Given the stage of development of the group perhaps this was good timing for a little slump given the winnable (believe it or not, we’re able to say that now with some confidence) games against Essendon and Fremantle in the following weeks. Another big showing against the Eagles and surely the young guys would be cooked for a bit.

Well, they were definitely cooked and a week off it was in-farking-deed. No-one bar Seb Ross, Jack Steven, Joey and my Favourite Hair in the AFL and maybe Jade Gresham apparently made the flight over (I never thought I’d include Seb in that type of bracket) as the Eagles essentially went out straight of the middle at each opportunity for six goals within seven minutes and 25 seconds of play (literally).

We only made two changes to the line-up for this one, with all the emergencies getting a cheeky look in by being flown over with the team and avoiding being blown away by Casey and the bay breeze at Trevor Barker on the Saturday arvo. The changes were at first refreshing, however; Sinclair was genuinely missed against North as Lonie and Minchington failed to have much impact in a game in which we really needed more fire in the front half, and the stoic but ageing Fisher was replaced by Roberton – obviously popular with the coaches given no VFL time required to come back from his injury.

On the surface, the problem was that this was one game you’d need a Fisher, particularly with no Delaney or Goddard in, or even throw one of those guys in just the sake of having a relatively larger human body in the vicinity of the defence, given Kennedy, Darling and to a lesser extent Nic Nat would effectively be left to Dempster and uh, maybe Gilbert and Roberton. That’s a concession of a lot of height and expertise in playing the defensive roles required to quell giants like those.

It turned out to be a moot point, and we’d paid a heavy price quickly anyway. Richo quite reasonably pointed out post-match that given West Coast’s dominance out of the middle he wasn’t sure how much difference Fisher or a bigger body would have actually made given a lot of the goals were from hit-ups – good kicks into space that the Eagles’s forwards worked smartly to create, and our guys simply weren’t aware or switched on enough to negate.

Much has been made of the Eagles’ rather curious drop in form outside of their own Corporate Name Stadium but I thought the size of the ground might actually give the Saints something to work with, much like the MCG did in Round 3. That admittedly rather had to do with the width of the ground, allowing the Saints to use freer options wider as Richo talked about on SEN last week, and Domain Stadium, whilst the longest ground in the competition at 175 metres, is actually on of the narrowest at 122 metres (the MCG field is around 141 metres wide). Would we struggle to make room for ourselves if we were coming forward anywhere from the back half? I thought it would mean having to be bolder in numbers running with the ball from the back of the centre circle to cut through, and Riewoldt here would be key to prove either stability in the back half or an option for a get-out-of-traffic kick. This was where Sinclair has been good for us as well, pushing hard up to provide an option by foot wide and his field kicking has been great, but he’s been able to run forward with the play and have a presence there too. Again, it was something we really missed against North and where Lonie and Minchington’s quiet showings hurt us. But for all that pre-match wondering and postulating – we could all have spent hours together in the Fox Footy Lab comparing graphs and heat maps and overlaid graphics – it counted for fark all. The Eagles were relentless and played their home ground as the scene for a non-stop onslaught. Possessions and merely attempts to provide a presence around the contested ball by guys like Acres, Billings, Roberton and Savage were fraught with anxiety as the referred pressure took its toll, and on many an occasion led to turnovers and West Coast goals – Sav’s gift to Kennedy in the first quarter the best example.

Work at stoppages was talked about in that same SEN interview with Richo, and North’s ability to break away from those for most of three-and-a-half quarter last week ultimately got them over the line. Until that’s remedied we’re best when the ball is in motion, and we’re able to apply pressure and turnover the footy whilst keeping the game moving. No prizes for guessing that we’re gonna need to be talking about work at stoppages a whole lot more this week. Hickey was off (Richo said it was worst game – certainly for the year) and from the lopsided opening bounce (not that it mattered as the subsequent centre bounces proved) Nic Nat had a day out and there was an unadulterated supply for the West Coast forwards, with Kennedy taking a mark a few meters out from goal seconds into the match an ominous welcome to Perth.

Richo rightfully cracked the shits at the players in the quarter-time huddle – he’d obviously blown his stack mere minutes into the game so had time to prepare some verbals of good quality and quantity – and Fox Footy showed him specifically taking Blake Acres aside and giving him a cleaner, 2010’s version of a Ken Sheldon to Craig Devonport. Blake responded with fark all and, given how quickly the coaches have been willing to drop him back to Sandy, surely sealed his spot in the Zebras’ line-up next week.

He certainly wasn’t the only one that was disappointing to the point of being dropped. Lonie is the obvious next in line, and given Gresham genuinely gave good effort in the second half by trying to meet the Eagles’ physicality and get his own ball and get things moving – albeit with some wayward kicking – and that Richo went out of his way to talk up his efforts post-match, I’m sure it’s going to be the Seaford local also in yellow, black and blue next week with Blacres. Sinclair should be held onto given he was coming back from injury and his role would have suffered given how effective the Eagles’ pressing and pressure was across the ground. Lonie had six tackles, which are the kind of numbers that kept Minchington in the side for an extra week or two, but I can only remember one of those and he’s otherwise been barely sighted in two games now. Eli didn’t get a chance to back up his 36-possession game in the VFL the previous week as he was flown over the Perth but might be one to come in.

I’m certainly not writing Lonie off altogether here; we know that he’s capable of making an impact on games of footy. Obviously he’s just not in the right headspace – him and probably 17 others yesterday – but he seems to be having a case of the second-year blues. It happens. He’s a kid. Blacres likewise, and even Billings, whilst his numbers are up this year on a consistent basis, still goes missing for large parts of games. Yesterday he seemed quite overwhelmed by the tenacity the Eagles brought to their game. He wasn’t the only one, but it sticks out a bit with the younger guys and when they might have looked a little off the boil at times already this year. It’s part of it.

Less excuse can be made for Gilbert’s six touches, as good as he’s been at times this year, and another lacklustre performance from Mav. Mav’s obviously a football generation behind Gilbert but Joey is a football generation ahead of Gilbert and was again in our best, and having him and Jack Steven being left one-out in the goal square against Kennedy and Darling at different times in the game is a good look for nobody. It was guys like Dempster, Roberton and Gilbert that should have been making sure that didn’t happen, not getting wandering around getting six touches as a senior player.

Membrey had five touches after kicking eight goals in two games. Aside from a strong mark wide on the wing in the first quarter his contribution was mostly two squandered goal opportunities in the second and fourth quarters from about 25 metres out in front. I’m not sure if it’s enough to take him straight out for Paddy after two really good performances coming straight back into side; Paddy certainly didn’t do enough to smash the recall door down on the Saturday in admittedly very tough conditions but who knows, Membrey might be in the same basket as Blacres when it comes to the coaches deciding what is it that they do that constitutes them being selected week in, week out.

Of course, it was a lean day for all the forwards; the ball was rarely in attack and often they were caught too high up when there was a turnover and weren’t even in the forward line, or the disposal going forward – particularly from just ahead of centre – was simply atrocious. Riewoldt managed to get his 22 touches and 10 marks and again had a presence across the entire field, but only managed 0.2. Bruce presented all day for little return; he finished with 1.1 from three gettable shots at goal. Indeed, there was a theme; 1.9 at half-time and 3.11 come the final siren reflected a few things – not just the Eagles’ pressure on shots at goal but how difficult they made the positioning of set shots and the inability of our guys to convert when they actually got a decent chance.

Our lowest score since Round 6, 2002, the week after the infamous “worst game ever” draw against the Swans when GT decided to throw the numbers back behind the ball as if we’d put ourselves in front in the final minute before the opening bounce. Both that game and last ended with a St Kilda player in tears after the siren (Begley in 2002), and both times we were blown away the following week. For differing reasons; GT thought he’d try the same trick on eventual premier Collingwood and we ended up kicking 3.10; we were simply too early in our development to put it down to inconsistency also, we were just rubbish (we’d lost by 122 points at the Cattery the week before). This time around we’d taken it to the reigning three-peater and the lossless ladder leader, not to mention pulled off a couple of decent wins so this was more to do with fickle nature of being at this early (but slightly more advanced) stage of development.

This game strayed into comedic realms at times, rather than staying simply in the old-style depressing-trips-interstate by-St Kilda-feelings-of-sinking sphere. The rain made a lot of players look silly a lot of times, with the moulded soles of their boots obviously not able to handle the moisture and adding random slippages to the game at least made things a little interesting. Newnes’ unforced slip over nothing in the final term on the outer wing was genuinely funny. Even Mav’s goal was kind of comical – but mostly on a different plane; this was more in the Caydn Beetham vein of “and they decide to that now” grim-faced smile of a St Kilda supporter when the game’s well and truly over.

Strangely, it was the kind of day in which the still poorly-haired Seb Ross announced himself further as a genuinely good midfielder, if only because he was able to continually get the ball – 31 possessions in all – and use it half-decently when the team was getting an absolute smacking, and not just racking up numbers when the going’s goos. Richo referred to him as a “shining light”, which, again, I have to admit I never, ever thought I’d hear be said about Sebastian Ross. But here we are. It’s a strange time to be alive.

Still, Jack Steven’s decent performance notwithstanding, it was another game that shows we really are short at least one A-grade midfielder in this team that we’re building, and that free agency and the trade periods over the next year or two really are going to be nailed. And, uh, Freeman stays healthy whilst simultaneously collecting more than 10 disposals in VFL Development League appearances. Priddis alone proved that in the opening term; with five minutes left before the first break he’d had 10 contested possessions and had the game set up for them. Yes, we still have the development of Acres and Gresham and Dunstan and Billings et al to look forward to as well as guys that will be going through the midfield (some more than others), but I feel like this group needs someone just slightly more senior to be the focal point of the planned rise up the ladder. Armo’s close but too inconsistent and probably too immature as a footballer relative to guys like Selwood, Mitchell, and so on (let alone not being in their league as a player, period). Jack Steven is great but shouldn’t be the spearhead really.

A lonely train and tram ride home back to Brunswick West on a Sunday night after a close loss or an absolute shellacking – or wherever it may be that you’re going – can be an isolating experience. These are the resulting weeks of performances like that where you question the positivity you had about the club’s direction mere days ago. But that’s the nature of this stage of development. Late last Sunday afternoon it seemed as though – indeed, we were – overrunning the competition’s only undefeated team late in the match; that same time one week later our follow-up challenge had been shot to piece in less than 10 minutes of play. In the next two weeks we play the two bottom teams on the ladder. Now’s not the time to take anything for granted.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 8
Seb Ross – 3
Jack Steven – 2
Leigh Montagna – 2
Nick Riewoldt – 2
Jade Gresham – 1

Totals
Nick Riewoldt – 15
Jack Steven – 11
Leigh Montagna – 8
Jack Newnes – 6
David Armitage – 5
Tom Hickey – 5
Jack Billings – 4
Sam Fisher – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Blake Acres – 3
Seb Ross – 6
Tim Membrey – 2
Shane Savage – 2
Josh Bruce – 1
Sean Dempster – 1
Jade Gresham – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1
Mav Weller – 1

A rare moment of insight

by Matthew Briglia

Amidst growing professionalism, the football landscape has become littered with cold clichés. Interviews with established players generally provide us with the 5 to 10 football phrases of the moment, that are at that point in time slowly and quite boringly revolving around on the football rotisserie, which at this point in time I don’t have much of an appetite to feast on.

Frankly, I would prefer if with my annual membership pack a player (senior or even rookie listed) personally came around to my home and took a small leak in my trouser pocket if it meant we could have something real for that season. As fans we are currently hearing the “inside our four walls we’re really confident things are going to turn around quickly” as a clause to get out of answering a question with any substance or just admitting that things simply aren’t going that great. “Our best is very good, but our worst is very poor,” this one is interesting. Combining the facts that you’re a professional football organisation, talent scouts have scoured the country (and now even other countries) high and low to find you, you practice football most days because it is your job and you receive monetary compensation to do so, sure let’s hope your best is reasonable. The fans want more! Bob Murphy has sky rocketed in the popularity stakes, why? Not only because he’s a likeable guy with Irish charm but because when he opens his mouth and speaks he provides us with the insight of what it’s actually like to be an AFL footballer, or maybe even what it’s like to be a human who happens to be an AFL footballer.

Luke Dunstan’s outpouring of emotion after the final siren on Sunday against the Kangaroos was a refreshing change of pace; a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it was real, it was raw. Take this event on face value without reading further into it. We don’t know about Luke’s private life (that’s one for the four walls, insert slant eyed half smile emoji). As fans that haven’t experienced the ultimate success you feel desperate and willing, sometimes you sit in your seat, deflated by what you’re watching as your team gets overrun. You feel like you couldn’t care anymore, you almost feel like you care more than those who are actually wearing the jumper. You watch Sam Gilbert’s uncomfortable looking ball drop and think that maybe after 10 years it wouldn’t be so awkward…the emotions rise…shout out to Sam Gilbert for being a good sport and taking a selfie with me on Fitzroy Street last year, and then even doing a follow up because the angle on the first one was all wrong.

Leaving the ground on Sunday Saint’s fans were emotional (savage, brutal, frustrated, violent, disenchanted, all of the above). The greatest comfort for me however was found in Luke Dunstan’s public display of emotion, it showed that I support a guy who cares about what he’s doing and what he’s trying to achieve and that he’s trying bloody hard to do it. Luke’s performance was fine, I can’t speak on his behalf, but if I may I dare say he was upset about the fact the team didn’t win, not because he probably won’t get a Brownlow vote.

It would be pathetically obvious to jump online, locate a generic meme creator, get a picture of Luke Dunstan vs Kangaroos, add to the mix Nick Riewoldt v Brisbane Lions, Max Hudghton v Western Bulldogs and show the world how much of a real man you are because water didn’t leak from your eyes because you don’t care about anything (maybe I should give people more credit, but right now I’m not going to). We’re all hearing the big big sound from the West of the town, that allegedly this GWS side is going to take the AFL by storm and no other team will ever win a premiership ever again, but after a few gutsy displays come round 7, 2016, I’m on board this passionate Saints outfit. KNOCK KNOCK…just kidding.