Well, that was weird

Round 18, 2014
St Kilda 4.3, 9.6, 15.14, 17.16 (118)
Fremantle 1.1, 3.2, 5.6, 9.6 (60)
Crowd: 16,594 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, 18th July at 4.40pm

We’d reached a point last week where you we genuinely looked like we wouldn’t win another game this year. And that was after 11 consecutive losses, with the general consensus being that next year will be just as difficult. We were at the point where you’re so far into the dark times you can neither look forward and will yourself towards the light, nor look back to the light coming from the good times in your past.

I was resigned to exhausting myself again by writing another draining review, in which we get completely broken down – by at least one of the opposition or ourselves – and talk about how the future is still essentially an ominous question mark. But instead I’ve been sitting here trying to soak in as much post-match coverage, replays, interviews and ill-advised forum posts as I can. Because St Kilda tore apart premiership fancy Fremantle by 58 points, and in the process became one of only two teams to have beaten a side 16 places above them on the ladder. The last time we were on the bottom of the ladder and beat the team in 2nd spot was in 1985 against the Bulldogs, and there were only 12 teams in the competition then.

Obviously the incredible thing about this win is…well, yes, it was incredible that St Kilda won in the first place, but the way they completely blanketed the Dockers and scored heavily themselves (reaching over 100 for the first time this year) was simply unbelievable, and more to the point, bemusing. This review isn’t going to take you through the epic ebbs and flows of the drama that was St Kilda’s first win in three months (to the day). I thought that if/when it ever came, it would be against the odds and take everything to barely get over the line. But this one just took off and get going. Stuff just kept happening.

Corporate Stadium can be  a putrid game to watch the footy, and this was the least popular match in a round in which the fixturing had already pleased no one. One of only two games or not, the 4.40pm time slot is arguably more of a black hole than any other – lost between Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, when people are in transition, heading out, eating dinner, or taking a disco nap. On top of this particular Saturday being particularly bleak, having the Concrete Monolith roof closed anywhere near daylight hours – or ever, really – makes for a woefully sterile atmosphere in low drawing games. There’s no charm aesthetically to the place; there’s no history behind it. It’s just a lot of overpriced, grey seats and the Medallion Club, which thinks it’s the MCC and whose staff try to match their counterparts for tightarsery. The Perth Stadium plans this week revealed intentions for a 60,000-seater, with the potential to expand that to 80,000. That is what Etihad Stadium well and truly should have been in the first place. Too small for anyone to be enthusiastic about it for bigger or finals matches; too small to be an inclusive stadium in which it’s easy to get a decent seat for those bigger games. That’s before we get to the stadium deals forced upon the clubs. And that’s the only option the AFL gave us as a stage for this game in Melbourne away from the MCG, to be shared by 10 Victorian clubs.

Easier to say all this when just about every home game you go to now as a Saints supporter is mostly empty. When it’s going off it can be a cauldron, but this is St Kilda in a post-2009/10 Grand Finals world. Aside from myself, Freo supporters on the route 55 tram into the ground outnumbered St Kilda supporters 1-0. I’ve said before that obviously Brunswick West and Royal Park aren’t St Kilda heartland, but you realise there are problems when the Dockers more of a presence there (or anywhere here, really). There was more purple around Spencer Street and Bourke Street too in the lead up to the game, and I was starting to really get worried. Perhaps that 2001 record for our lowest home crowd there was really under threat. Having somehow cleared that against the Gold Coast, with the expected result against a state’s second side and in the dud time slot I thought the next challenge to that would be the Dockers. (Fun fact: Fremantle logos registered with IP Australia during the formation of the club include Fremantle Dolphins, Fremantle Courage (?) and Fremantle Hammer (??))

The wonderful goodwill generated by Lenny’s retirement I thought might have dragged a few more of our 30,000 members to the game, but it seems like it took dodgy ground management to save us from our own worst turnout, declaring a dubious total of 16,594. The Lenny wave instead rocketed the team itself to ridiculous heights that no one saw coming, and gave us a timely reminder of what it feels like to have anticipation and momentum throughout a game of footy.

Because unlike the last time we won, which was literally billions of years ago, this match didn’t need be rescued before we could even think about taking home the four points. In fact, when was the last time a game wasn’t in a perilous position early? How familiar the feeling of the game being over so soon has become, with for so many weeks the quarter time siren as good as the final siren.

The sign of intent that the side was switched on from the start was embodied in Dempster dropping back into the oncoming Pavlich tractor and getting knocked out. He was out before he hit the ground, and for those of us who didn’t get a clear view of the actual contact (I certainly didn’t and it happened near where I was sitting, so I assume that goes for just about everyone) it was a nervous few moments as he remained without movement. As it was mentioned post-match, his effort was spoken about in the quarter time huddle as an example of the what was expected and required of the players if they wanted to continue on with the work.

Whilst Dempster was down, the play had gone on and My Favourite Hair in the AFL had taken a mark before things were halted. It took more than five minutes for Dempster to be looked at properly and taken from the field but everyone managed to remember what had happened and Roo resumed his place and kicked the goal.

Good start, aside from the fact we’d lost one of the cornerstones of the defence (regardless of what you think of that fact). And I mean “good start” in the sense that we’d kicked the first goal. Cool. We did that against the Cats, remember.

The crowd got a sniff of the intent of side over the next few minutes, with the side in turn getting a sniff that Freo might have been a little complacent. Lenny’s tackles in defence brought the crowd into it, and then Billings hunted down Sutcliffe on half-forward in front of the members but Leigh Fisher was giving his old side donuts and didn’t pay anything. Armo earned a free kick with his own tackle soon after, and his give off saw Newnes bullet a pass to Murdoch on the 50-metre arc.

Murdoch kicked the goal with a really nice long shot. I like him playing in the front half because he’s got a solid body and a good set of hands, and he has a huge kick on him. Those qualities mean he’s more dangerous as a scoring threat across more of the attacking area, with I think three of his four shots from long range. He finished with 1.3 but together with 11 touches and six marks the numbers aren’t bad for a kid playing his 13th game. If he can hit the scoreboard that often it would go a huge way to fleshing out the versatility in his game. (I just hope this isn’t another kid who’s constantly gonna tighten up in front of goal.)

Dunstan was next, again rewarded for a good tackle and again kicking the goal from a decent range. He actually kicked both of his goals from a good distance, one set shot and one on the run at the peak of the third quarter onslaught. I don’t think we think of him of him as the guy who’s going to kick long, but rather the inside mid who might kick 40 at best on the rare occasion they’re called on to get some decent distance. Probably his only real knock at draft time was his kicking, so the way he scored the two goals were a pleasant surprise. He finished with 26 touches, too, following a period in which his output had dipped a little (he hadn’t had 20+ touches since the Port game in Round 12). It was a timely reminder of what he’s already capable of.

In fact, Richo’s on his bandwagon too (who isn’t?), having to stop himself from saying outright this morning on SEN that Luke would be captain of the club at some point in the future. Jack Newnes didn’t do any harm to his own prospects of being 2018-2022 Premiership Captain, with 25 touches off half-back and across the wing and eight tackles, but Richo obviously has his money on Dunstan being the man. I’d still be keen on the co-captaincy and for the next potentially successful era to forever come under the banner of the “Newnes-Dunstan Era”. So I think the wider consensus is we’ve got Dunstan, then Newnes, with Armitage not far behind. Geary is the smokey, unless he ends up at the Cats. I never, ever, ever thought I would say that sentence.

Speaking of bandwagons, how about the BIG RHYS BANDWAGON? A few weeks ago it had broken down and some were questioning why the trade-in to Port wasn’t taken up at the end of last year. If anything it’s broken down now because it’s under the weight of all 16,000 at the ground and anyone watching at home trying to grab a seat. I’ve unashamedly been on his bandwagon since I watched him win the 2009 Grand Final Sprint, although I can at least say that, like many Saints supporters and unlike just about everyone outside of the club, I actually followed him closely instead of just reading up on that solitary dot point on his CV.

So it was brilliant to see him kicking his goals from his shots, but more importantly knowing exactly where to work to across half-forward. It’s clearly, clearly the best way use him, allowing him to use his pace and reach to run off his opponent get a set of clear hands to the footy. As I said with Murdoch – but it’s much more important to the side in Rhys’s case – his ability to find that space and mark across half-forward and kick well over 50 metres (and accurately, as he did on Saturday) means he’s a scoreboard threat in more parts of the forward line.

And again, as it proved a fortnight ago against Carlton, when Roo was freed to move higher up the ground it meant the side had arguably their best field kicker distributing the ball and allowed Rhys to take responsibility in being the focal point, as well as other players being able to move into dangerous positions, rather than being terrified of treading into the path of My Favourite Hair. The best example of this came shortly after quarter time, when Roo led wide outside of the arc and took the mark. He waited patiently for an option to open up, and I dare say if it was someone else with the footy they would have quickly tried plonking it on top of his sensational hair with two other guys next to him. But Roo waited, and if you watch the replay you’ll see Rhys standing just off his man and subtly pointing to the small space he’s about to run to. Just as Sir Robert and Lenny had done so many times for him, Roo placed a short pass perfectly into Rhys’s path and Rhys finished it off nicely.

It was brilliant to see the Favourite Hair-Bandwagon set up finally working in a meaningful way. Oh yeah, and Roo had 30 touches and kicked four goals. Cheers.

I’m not ready to call it that Rhys has “arrived”, but 14 marks, 19 touches and three goals (all in the first half) was a great return. His third goal, from the fifty metre penalty in the shadow of half-time to put us up by 40 points was a rocket and well and truly stamped his impact on the game when it was there to be taken by the proverbial.

It was also that goal that sealed the surrealism of the situation. For the first half, anyway – by that time I was absolutely shitting myself because the crowd was so up and about and the margin big enough for people to be feeling great about things, but still not enough that Freo couldn’t reign it in in the second half. One of the tough things about the plummet to the bottom of the ladder is knowing that just about no lead is safe.

I’d been sitting in my seats in Aisle 33 on my own for the first half, sharing observations and cynical feelings about St Kilda’s prospects for the rest of the game with the woman a couple of seats down from my brother’s and mine. “They must be letting us win,” she said wryly, between our glances of “How is this happening?”. Something had to be up. We were leading by 40 points at half-time, and the idea that Ross had told them to sit back a little seemed more likely than us genuinely outplaying and out-willing a Fremantle side looking to win their ninth in a row and shore up a place in the top two.

I joined Rich for a beer at the Locker Room at half-time, which turned into out vantage point for the third quarter onslaught. And that was our onslaught, by the way – not the expected Fremantle comeback. I hadn’t been that nervous at a game as I was at half-time for a long, long while. I needed that (next) drink desperately (I’d already had one or two at my seats but, you know, I needed heaps more). Was this going to be this generation’s Round 9, 2000 loss to the Bulldogs, when the winless side gave up a 31-point lead at the final change and left Max Hudghton in tears? I remember as an almost-12-year-old watching on TV with my Dad and brother, and going to bed just before quarter time because I was too nervous, only to wake up the next day, go outside and fetch The Age, and see in disbelief (and then through my own tears) the brief on the front page bearing the crushing news. Or perhaps its Round 5, 2002 match against the Swans? I still remember Dee Dee (Dunleavy, as in Grubby & Dee Dee), who we sat behind in the members on Level 2 for several years, saying at three-quarter time to her family, “I’d hate to think what would happen if we lost”. We watched as the young side faltered and relinquished the lead late, only to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. Those games were part of a lowly era in which we couldn’t be sure that the players would see out any lead, nor keep calm when challenged and guide things home safely.

And so it was that I expected a nerve wracking second half. Even if we held on, surely it would be just that, and if not, well…

But Armo quickly snapped a goal from an angle close to where he kicked his third term goal against the Demons in the opening round. Out to 46 points. Surely not? Pav with the quick reply brought things back to earth at least a little, before Jack Billings fumbled in the pocket but his quick thinking saw the ball end up with Roo in the goal square for another.

That Pav goal was the last of us staying tethered to our status as wooden spoon heirs for the afternoon. What happened through the remainder of the term will almost certainly remain the highlight of a lean season; ideally one we can look back on, however, and say that it went a long way to making this club a power again. For now, that’s a long way off.

We saw the absolute best of this season compacted into this quarter. Throughout this game, too, but this is where it took off. Indeed, we can almost boast the embarrassing riches of being able to say “we should have won by more” with a tinge of lament in our tone; 6.8 for the quarter with many of those shots very gettable.

It was interesting that a few guys (namely Lenny, Richo and Armo on The Sunday Footy Show) mentioned that the previous week had seen a few decent signs. Look, if I’m honest, wouldn’t have thought so. You wouldn’t to with a quick look at the score – had Armo missed that shot at goal with 90 seconds we would have been at 2.16, which would have had us pacing another effort from the wooden spoon year of 1985 – 2.17 against Carlton in Round 2 in 140-point loss at Moorabbin. Not to mention North had kicked 13.14 themselves, and had the game sewn up at the first change.

The willingness to compete and hunt in numbers was what ultimately separated the teams. Ours certainly isn’t blessed to too much skill, but it went above and beyond in being first at the ball when it was in dispute and spreading hard into space when we had the ball. Without Sandi the Freo midfield were furthermore on the back foot, and even without Jack Steven ours still dominated from the centre and across the ground. Dunstan, Lenny, Joey and Armo all racked up big numbers, with Lenny and Armo finIshing with 17 tackles between them. Mav Weller had six tackles and made an impact up forward, setting up Joey for his snap goal in the third quarter with a deft handball back over his head out of traffic.

Probably a strange thing to note, but should that third quarter burst go down as the peak of this season, then Farren Ray’s two goals within 30 seconds play are the summit. The high, curling ball was followed by a quick break out of the middle, with the chain featuring Mav and Sav, and a snap from the left pocket. Faz has returned to some of his better form at times throughout this season, and he did it in just about every part of the ground on Saturday. Amazing how he seems to slip under everybody’s radar; I think he might be worth more around the club than we give him credit for.

I mentioned Sav in there; he actually finished the game with the equal most disposals, alongside My Favourite Hair. Again, a revelation that came out of the wash-up, but Richo and Armo spoke about Sav getting a dressing down from the group and how he’d taken it on himself since then to get himself right. It also helped that Richo started him further back, allowing him to be get his hands on the footy and use his run and long kicking to set things up from there, not to mention to push up and supply the forwards also (see Faz’s second goal where he’s received the ball charging off half-back just forward of centre). Things will change at the other end I’m sure, but right now – even with Acres having an injury-interrupted season – the McEvoy trade is paying off.

Which brings us to the ruck situation (at least for the purposes of the flow of this review). Longer enjoyed the closest to free reign at stoppages we’ve seen a St Kilda ruckman enjoy for several years. I’m somewhere in between with Longer and Hickey playing in the same team. They certainly couldn’t now, as neither as probably quite developed enough just yet across the ground. Interestingly, it’s the third forward that for the time being is so important. Is Bruce, for instance, effective enough that Billy can drop forward whilst Rhys gives him a chop-out, and the forward line can still function effectively? Whether or not Billy and Hickey can provide a decent target up forward, or at least have a presence around the ground, it will effect the forward set up also. We won’t know for a while though due to Hickey’s injury. Or injuries, rather. I must say I’m just starting to get a little worried about that.

I quite liked Bruce up forward. Hair-wise, it’s a great complement to Roo. As Richo said, he didn’t get huge numbers but simply his presence (particularly the third quarter) was enough to worry Fremantle, as well as allow for more space to Roo and Rhys. Hopefully he can develop his own influence on the scoreboard.

I think special mention needs to go to Sam Fisher also. He said on the club website that he would play for another two or three years if the body could hold up for him, and if he could maintain the kind of impact he had on Saturday. He’s a very necessary calm influence on a side that is still going to get a lot of pressure coming the wrong way for a while yet.

But yes, it’s easy to get carried away with a performance like that. Everyone played well, really. It was a great day at the footy for a St Kilda supporter. It was three months to the day since that Saturday night in April when the Saints stormed over the top of the Bombers in the second half to put at three wins from the first five games. At the time, facing a winless Brisbane outfit the following Friday, it felt like we might already be on our way back up. That we might have avoided the cliff that everyone told us we were heading for.

Well six days later we certainly found that cliff. Instead of 4-2, we’re now 4-13 and 18th. I really don’t know how much closer we are to being on our way back because of Saturday. We certainly shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves over this one. Freak occurrence? Sign of things to come? Lenny-inspired effort? I think it’s all of those things, but I don’t know how much of each. So for now, just enjoy Rhys running around grabbing everything and kicking goals. Enjoy Dunstan willing himself at contests. Enjoy Newnes setting things up and looking to put on another tackle. More than anything, enjoy Lenny, because he won’t be there much longer. Fuck it, just enjoy it.

St Kilda 118, Fremantle 60

I’m serious. As in…it actually happened.

Review will be up on Tuesday.

Having a look: navigating through the hot ham water

the dude stirring a drink.

Freo brought in a raft of youngsters last year when playing the Saints late in the year in an effort to freshen up prior to September. This time we’ve piled in the D-graders, but that’s just because it’s the best we’ve got right now.

And that’s no disrespect to Brodie Murdoch, Billy Longer, Josh Bruce, and Josh Saunders, who are the inclusions for this week.

But how many teams would each of those four have a chance to break into?

Longer by default is going to have some hope because he’s abnormally tall (in Football Land). Josh Saunders flatters to deceive; he started off the year really well, but faded abruptly in unison with the team’s season falling off a competitiveness cliff. Murdoch and Bruce have barely had enough of a consistent audition under Richardson this year. Bruce already has been given the Maister treatment by being flipped to the opposite end of the park in an effort to see if he can give us anything up there.

That move deserves a bit more attention though…

1)   This is a team whose key defenders consist of Delaney, Gwilt, Dempster – and to a lesser extent – a post possibly drug induced hiatus Sam Fisher. So, it’s kinda poignant when a guy specifically brought in to help out in that area, and then competes respectfully (with his inexperience in mind), is dumped to Sandy and then retooled as a forward.

2)   It really flags that Richo and the selection committee (mainly Pelican) are now fully into experimentation mode. That’s not me accusing them of tanking: there’s no need for St Kilda to be tanking; we’re a terribly undermanned, inexperienced and incapable group of men (men?) right now. That’s a winning formula in terms of getting top draft picks; we don’t need to embellish that.

3)   I thought Bruce was actually fairly encouraging in his performances in defence this year. His last game was against Geelong at Skilled. We all know what a horrid game that was, but it Bruce certainly wasn’t the worst player out there.

4)   By auditioning Bruce up forward this year, what does that say about how the coaching staff view Rhys and where he fits into the Club’s future plans? Does he fit into them at all?

headshake

It feels quite apt that Part 1 of The Lenny Hayes Farewell Tour takes place against a Ross Lyon lead team.

At the risk of awakening the anti-Rossites out there, Lenny’s career rose to a much higher level under Lyon – particularly from a leadership point of view. Through the Thomas era Hayes really got his footy on. Alongside rising stars such as Ball and Dal, and a rejuvenated Harves, he became a reliable cog in what was a deep, midfield machine for a few years there. Dal and Ball were the headline grabbers though. Under Lyon, Hayes was front and centre. His stats may not have exploded into the stratosphere, but he became a real warrior-like player. That was probably accentuated by the football style that became the mainstay of Lyon’s tenure, but nonetheless Hayes really embodied that game plan like no one else.

In my eyes, the key cogs under Lyon, not just from a leadership perspective but also from a structural perspective, were Lenny, Fisher, BJ and Roo. In that order.

Lyon, like most pro coaches is king of deflecting and playing a straight bat; i.e. he avoids singling out players at all costs. But whenever Lenny comes into the conversation and you can tell there’s an obvious fondness and elite respect there. (See his thoughts on Lenny here).

Further, if you were to pick out your favourite Lenny games or memories, undoubtedly the majority of them would be from the Lyon era, such as the Norm Smith performance, the bump on Chapman in the Qualifying Final, and so on.

For what it’s worth, I couldn’t say I rate Lenny higher than Sir Robert Harvey on my all-time Saints players list. I’ve never seen a more dominant, unstoppable player in the red, white and black than Harves when he was in his prime (see 1997-2000). But that’s not the point; they are quite different players. Sure, Lenny may have been able to perfect his baulk that bit more thanks to training for years alongside Banger – but as the years went on I think he was more and more renowned for ball winning ability, and his ferocity around the contest. And doing that time after time after time.

As sad as it is to see Lenny call it a day, I think it was definitely the right call. Of course, it would have been brilliant to have him on the list purely from a mentoring point of view, but anyone who has watched him closely at all this year as seen how the speed and the transition running side of the game has really caught up to him. And, though his ball winning class remains, it’s always somewhat cringe worthy, and sad, to see champions slog through games when they suddenly seem in a different weight division so to speak. I felt the same way about Jonathan Brown for the last two seasons. His marking power was still there, but he was really laboring big time; every time he attempted to twist or turn, I was half expecting his torso to just snap and disconnect from his hips like The Terminator or something.

And those greats of the game deserve to be remembered wholeheartedly for the great years, the great performances that earned them that standing in the game. And not to have those memories watered down (at least temporarily) by years in which we all tip our hats for them getting through games in the name of leadership.

Lenny, as well as the whole Saints midfield will have his work cut out this afternoon though, as the Dockers midfield is arguably the best going around. Fyfe, Mundy, Barlow, Mzungu, Pearce, the list goes on. And of course, we have to mention the biggest player in the game: Aaron Sandilands. Sandilands gives that midfield first use a lot of the time, and at the same time just neutralizes the effect the oppositions ruck can have in the clearances – good luck to you, Billy Longer.

If the Saints are any hope at providing any nuisance value to the Dockers, they must get off to a strong start. Their first quarters have been a big problem over the last five to six games. Last week it seemed that their effort levels around the contest were actually decent, but unfortunately they leaked goals like a sieve.

David Armitage really needs to hit the ground running following on from his 30 disposal game last week versus the Roos. It’s been a difficult year for him. He started the season under an injury cloud, and battled manfully before lacerating his knee versus the Crows. That put him out of action for several week, which meant that both of the Saints most ready and able midfielders – Armo and Steven – have had severely disrupted seasons. That’s been a massive blow that probably hasn’t been highlighted enough; the gap that that has left in the engine room has been enormous – and has only meant Lenny has had to shoulder an unfair amount of the load.

Over the last two weeks, the chatter amongst a large portion of the Saints faithful has turned to who could be in our sights with out first pick (or thereafter) in the national draft.

Whichever way you slice it, the Club just needs to take the best player.

It’s already been well documented that this particular draft has a high proportion of key position players (KPPs); particularly high compared to your run of the mill draft. And so as of as far back as a few months ago names such as Patrick McCartin, Peter Wright, and Hugh Goddard have been flying around internet forums, twitter and the Herald Sun (internet forum?) like crazy. And as far as KPPs go, that’s only the tip of the iceberg: afl.com.au’s Callum Twomey has Darcy Moore, Sam Durdin, and Tom Lamb in the top 10 prospects too.

But my point is that, the modus operandi for Pelchan and his henchman has to be to get the most talent in the door possible. If that means we’d have to play with 22 midfielders and a one-legged Riewoldt next year, then so be it. From there, if you have a lot of valuable players, then you’ve got flexible in terms of trading and so on.

That would more or less be the philosophy of all clubs with their first round pick anyway. Teams are much more likely and willing to look for needs – and role players – with their subsequent picks when there is (seemingly) less at stake, and less likelihood that whoever they’ll take will turn out to be any more than decent anyway – you won’t see any James Hirds or Sam Fishers falling to the 60s these days.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is accentuated by the fact our selection of key forwards over the last 6-8 years have pretty amounted to (finger point to Lindsay Bluth) Hot Ham Water. Rhys Stanley, Paul Cahill, Tom Lee, Spencer White, Jordan Staley and to a lesser extent Arryn Siposs have all come in the door and it’s possible that all of them will end up out the door in the very near future. If you combine Rhys and Lee’s output you maybe get one whole decent AFL player (and perhaps two good shoulders also).

Spencer White though is on the verge of making his debut. Richo has publicly alluded to that already. With all due respect to Spencer, his selection has been more due to the audition process continuing, than to his VFL form, which has by and large been average. I mean he only burst into the Sandy seniors a few weeks back. Granted, he’s had a lot of injury concerns, but every week when I read Paul Hudson’s VFL player breakdown the tone in regards to Spencer is always one of frustration. It usually contains a phrase like “he’s got to learn…”.

Spencer’s inclusion is also part of the process to narrow down which of the key forwards will be part of the Club’s plans going forward.

Whatever you think of the team’s performance this year, next year is sure almost certain to bring some big losses again. But the potential silver lining could be that the team will feel more like Richo’s team.

As with Watters first year (2012), there’s been this unwritten need for the coaches to “have a look” at players. That is, players have been given opportunities, so that at the very least Richo and co. can be certain that Player X will be delisted at years end. (Namely: Dennis-Lane, Dunnell, Siposs and possibly a couple of others).

And that’s quite a saddening point in itself: this year has been much more productive in highlighting players that won’t play for the Saints than in determining those who will. For instance, Tom Hickey is out for today’s game (knee complaint). Hickey has been one of the big finds for the side, yet he’s only played 6 games. Nathan Wright was showing all sorts of nice bits of play in the opening rounds, yet only notched 4 games; Webster has played some good games yet will spend the rest of the year in the medical room also. Templeton’s situation is much the same.

So, that for me, is the much more frustrating part of seeing your team getting its trousers pulled down each week (and knowing prior to the gae that will happen). If we could have come away from the year getting consistent games into Wright, Hickey, Webster and a few others then you could swallow those defeats a little more easily. Instead, guys like Shenton and Dunnell are out there just filling out the numbers.

Now, I’ve just had a lukewarm short black coffee. (Back story: I don’t drink black coffee and I don’t drink lukewarm coffee by choice). Is this what it takes to get up for Saints game day these days? Next week: defibrillators?

Richo would probably love to be able to use some defibrillators at some point in today’s game to get that extra bit of intensity out of his players. Alas, there are no magical tools that are at his disposal at the moment though, and with the likes of Bruce and Murdoch being moved around in the structure willy nilly, there’s more of an emphasis being put on having a look at players than at trying to cajole his charges into mimicking Lenny Hayes. Or Fyfe, Mundy, Mzungo, Barlow, Duffield for that matter.

St Kilda in scarlet, yellow and black – (sort of) setting the record straight

Right, so whether or not you got up at 5am on Monday morning to watch Germany squeak home in the World Cup final, if you’re a St Kilda fan you probably would have seen this pop up on your Facebook feed during the day:
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I got really excited about this one because it was extremely rare public exposure for possibly my favourite St Kilda jumper of all time – the 2005 Heritage Round jumper, which, alongside the Kangaroos’ own version for that Round made for a very nice colour contrast on the field.

There’s a couple of ironies (maybe not ironies, but you know) out of this one. Firstly, St Kilda never actually wore that jumper. They certainly wore red, yellow and black, but – here’s the second one – it was a reaction to World War 1, when the enemy in Germany had a red, white and black flag. The accepted story is that the club changed their colours to red, yellow and black to avoid any link with the Germans, and to bolster the Empire pride a little with the new colours the same as those on allies Belgium’s flag – indeed, news reports confirming this can be found on Trove here, here and here. I made a tweet about the slightly misaligned sentiment in the club’s Facebook post but the club account replied and thought I was having a crack – my point was that it’s kind of ironic that the club made this post when the original point of having red, yellow and black jumpers was to get the hell away from Germany.

Further to this, the arrangement might have been one of added convenience as the St Kilda Cricket Club’s colours were (and remain) red, yellow and black, and it was a chance to align the two more so aesthetically.

I must say, what does make the above jumper seem “old-style” are the continuations of the imperfect panels around the jumper, but unpatterned with red on both sides, echoing the lack of PR-influenced design perfection and assembly-line precision designer and manufacturers had at that time. This can be seen in photos of the club’s candy stripe variation worn from 1897, like this shot of the 1909 team.

So this is where some nitpicking comes in. St Kilda wore two red, yellow and black designs – or, as this Punch article from 1915 described St Kilda, “resplendent in their new colours (scarlet, yellow and black)” - the first from 1915-1918 and the second from 1919-1922. Because the club, like many others, dropped out of the VFL briefly in wartime it only wore the first design for two seasons, 1915 and 1918. This was the design that the club tried to emulate in 2005, but it erred in printing the jumpers before club historian Russell Holmesby and Rob Meredith – creator of the brilliant football resource footyjumpers.com – provided them with the correct information of what the jumper looked like. There are no photos that I’ve come across – neither colourised nor black and white – that depict this clearly, so like so many of all clubs’ older jumper designs, footyjumpers.com is our best guide.

In this case, the jumper actually was closer to a red, yellow and black version of the very popular candy stripe clash jumper worn from 2004-2006, after being worn in Heritage Round in 2003 and based on the 1886 jumper (with a shout-out to the 1893-1909 design, with thicker stripes, worn in the 1996 Centenary Round).

I’ve waffled on about this before, but Rob Meredith (“Mero” as he’s known to many) also submitted a design to the club to replace the candy stripe jumper, which had been given the flick by the AFL for being too close to Collingwood’s. This one was essentially the the candy stripe with red, yellow and black – or, the 1915-1918 jumper – steering itself away from the Magpies and design, and at the same time still being a St Kilda jumper and creating an effective contrast between the darker sides, such as Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Melbourne, etc. (Mero also was the creator of the losing design in the possibly rigged clash jumper poll that saw us end up with the much-derided “apron” design. Two years later and we might have had to wear that in a Grand Final.)

The 1919-1922 jumper is particularly unique in St Kilda history. There are only three designs the Saints have worn as home jumpers that haven’t been vertical stripes – which even then you can divide all of those jumpers into just two groups, the candy cane variations and the tri-panel variations. And those three designs have only been the club’s designated jumper for 26 of the club’s 141 years to date.

The exceptions are the first-ever jumper with the thin red and black hoops and white handkerchief, which we wore last year for the 140 Year Anniversary and is a very close contender with the above 2005 Heritage Round jumper for my favourite all-time Saints jumper. This morphed into another jumper, effectively the same except with a rounded white yolk coming down from the shoulders. It would be 34 years until St Kilda introduced the V design, and then another 75 once that was turfed before the “hot cross bun” design.

There is only one colourised photo of a red, yellow and black St Kilda jumper I’m aware of. It’s of Barney Carr in 1921 from Carter’s Price Guide to Antiques, and there’s something particularly interesting about it:

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Namely, there’s a huge yellow band running across it. This hasn’t really been documented widely before, but that said, none of these jumpers have. Even the club itself CBF waiting for the right information to come through before they decided to print off a technically incorrect design to actually play a (quite important, as it turned out) game in.

Anyway, there’s a whole lot of originally black and white (or sepia tone, or whatever) images of footballers that have been colourised by an artist at the time or later on with inaccuracies on jumpers and so on – see Richmond wearing blue and black hooped socks earlier last century in 100 Years of Australian Rules Football). So I thought that was the case with this image. The only real documentation of it was done by Mero several years ago, and aficionados will notice that above the V is red, whereas Mero would have black:
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This is the kind of thing that without specific written description we can’t entirely discern, and some resources such as images like this and the wealth of amazing information now on Trove are only newly available. They’re important because the difference between black and red in uncoloured photos is negligible. Yellow, however, really stands out. And that’s why these photos are interesting:

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Those are pictures of Barney Carr, Ray Harper, Aubrey McKenzie and Bill Tymms, on Boyle’s Football Photos taken for the “1923 Magpie Portraits of Leading Footballers” series, and to varying degrees (see Tymms’ is lower than the others) all show the band that appears in the colourised Barney Carr photo is actually a part of the jumper, rather than an artist’s guesswork. It also means there was a lot of yellow in the red, yellow and black, and the overall design, once taking into account the allocation of colours to different sections, could be a lot more intricate and unique than thought. As an aside, these shots would have been taken in 1922 and used for the 1923 series as the available shots of the players – as the linked page shows, some players in the same set are wearing the 1923 jumper, which is the first variation of the tri-panel and had very busy sleeves (also worth checking out the markedly different South Melbourne and North Melbourne jumpers).

Perhaps the patriotic streak wore off, or there was just enough contentment after winning a World War because even though Germany changed their flag to red, yellow and black in 1919, the Saints stuck with the colour scheme in the new V design until, as mentioned, they changed back to red, white and black in 1923. There’s no clear-cut reason for this reversion in the way that there was for the initial change, unless it was a delayed reaction to Germany as they looked to rise again after their humiliating defeat. Depending on this, it may also dismiss the Cricket Club link angle. Hitler was only in the very early stages of his rise in 1923, but when the Nazis officially took over things at the beginning of 1933 and introduced two official red, white and black flags – one the tricolour, the other the swastika – the Saints didn’t bother changing again.

The yellow did return as a very effective clash jumper, but was in place of red and co-existed with the white on the hot cross bun design for just two years. Interestingly, it was worn in 2003 after the original had been phased out, but before the candy stripe had been introduced. It didn’t look quite right on that particular design (even with the red finishes on the 2003 version) and was embedded in everyone’s mind merely as a convenient hangover of the Pura Lightstart jumper. It can be used much, much more wisely, as the club proved just two seasons later.

So all of that doesn’t really mean anything huge for us now (the colours I mean, not the World Wars). I think the St Kilda Twitter account got a bit stroppy with me and didn’t reply even the second time to my most burning question: can we please have red, yellow and black clash jumper? Sadly, I don’t think they were trying to cover for any grand plans.

8 of the best (worst)

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Round 15 2014
NORTH MELBOURNE 5.3 8.4 12.7  13.14 (92)
ST KILDA  0.3 1.9 2.11 3.15 (33)
Crowd: 10, 641 at Blundstone Arena

First off, the Saints were given a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this one (despite the Roos being the most flaky team going around). Yet, we as fans deserve more than this.

For so many times this year the effort box hasn’t been ticked.

Richo pointed it out correctly himself after last week’s loss to the Blues when he said that the side is being selective with its desire to work hard. This week, he identified that in the post-match debrief they had identified 8 players who didn’t cut the mustard effort wise.

I dare say that number would’ve been higher at half-time of the game. There were large chunks of the first half where North were able to sweep the ball from half back to deep forward without raising a sweat at all.

And that’s a problem that hasn’t suddenly emerged; this was a thorn in the side of the Saints against the Suns, Pies, and Tigers amongst others.

If there was one thing to get around in the first half it was Rhys Stanley. I’ve never witnessed Rhys attack the footy with that conviction before. Unfortunately his set shot kicking was very wayward, and so he and the team didn’t get any scoreboard reward for the little nuggets of decent play that they did produce.

But it wasn’t only Rhys who was butchering set shots. Captain Nick’s kicking went back to ’08-’10 form. Tom Hickey hit the post from dead in front too – that was the team’s 8th behind I believe. Lenny got in on the action too, missing from barely a metre out on his left foot.

At this point the Saints had actually staged a revival of sorts. Finally there seemed to be a bit of solidarity in defence. Gwilt triggered multiple rebounds from the back half and suddenly we had the Roos camped in their back 50 or so for a good ten minutes.

Unfortunately it came more or less to naught. So wasteful in front of goal.

Luckily, Saint Nick finally kick truly with 18 seconds remaining in the first half to save the embarrassment of going into the main break with the big donut on the scoreboard.

Joey Montagna had been set the task of spending the day on Boomer Harvey. Subsequently, he copped most the brunt of the Fox Footy commentary team’s criticism – Boomer had a pretty cruisy game, and Joey was ineffective. My thing is: the commentary might have been right in saying that Joey wasn’t putting the clamps on Boomer but they also didn’t pick up on the angle that Joey may have been on Boomer to merely give Boomer something to think about defensively.

Early doors and the Saints trusted trio (Roo, Hayes and Joey) were severely struggling. Like I said, Joey was ineffective; he had plenty of the pill but none of his disposals did anything. As early as the 5 minute mark Lenny looked like he was jogging on the spot. Unlike the last 2 or 3 weeks the kicks into the 50 towards Roo were actually half decent (more or less); he was always given a chance in the contest. But like I said, his kicking was off – I wonder if this was at all a result of the fact that he was spending more time further up the ground?

Contrary to what Dermie said, Roo did spend considerable amounts of time up the ground (even in the back 50) in the early rounds. I can even remember him lending a hand around half-back as early as round 1 in fact.

The difference back then – in the good ol’ days of round 1/2/3/4/5/6 (ha!) – was that the team didn’t have lapses in the game when their team defense, and overall resilience, was siev-like. Collingwood was the first obvious example this season of the opposition being able to take the ball from coast to coast like candy from a baby. The Roos emulated this stuff again yesterday.

Statistically, the game shaped up relatively evenly again. It’s just that team’s playing St Kilda at the minute get full value for all their inside 50s and secondly, team’s can really shaft us on the outside for large period.

My stab at The Woeful 8? Dunnell, Ross, Schneider, Ray, Roberton, Dunstan…

Okay, that’s only six. Yeah I realize six isn’t eight.

Totally flying in the face of my own earlier comments: Rhys is possibly one of the eight. He started the game oh so brightly – not only was his attack on the footy great, he actually plucked a couple of strong one-grab marks (particularly one on the right forward flank in the first term). I also neglected to mention that he also had a flashy attempt at a speccy in the early going of the second quarter. His leap seemed quite effortless too, and perhaps he felt too surprised once he was up there to complete what was in the end a relatively easy mark. Somewhat wraps up his career to date – so much promise, but didn’t deliver. Anyway, Rhys completely faded out of the game. Faded isn’t even the right word – he went from being the Saints central target (move over Roo!), to be a complete non-factor. Even in the Saints purple patch midway through the second term Rhys was virtually nowhere to be seen.

I finally agree with something Derm says: the Saints still haven’t been able to determine if Rhys Stanley is a serious long-term forward marking option. That’s probably the biggest thing that needs to be decided upon come the end of the year. And on that note, Tom Lee’s future also needs to be sorted.

Gwilt and Delaney are both possible candidates. Delaney, had a real stinker of a game. I couldn’t bring myself to flat out name his as one of the eight just because he’s had such a solid season. I dare say he’s in the top half a dozen in the Best & Fairest right now, and certainly would be near the top of Richo’s list of Christmas Card recipients.

As much as this game became quite a battle to watch through the dullness of the second half, there were at least some positive  individual efforts worth highlighting.

The most obvious one was David Armitage. He finished with 30 touches, and didn’t stop cracking through the packs all day. This seriously, was actually one of the first times I stood back and thought he was giving a real leadership driven performance. He also racked up 10 clearances and 11 tackles.

Tom Hickey is another one who stood out from the pack. In his first game back in the side since god knows when, he made an obvious difference to the side. His ability to push into the right spots, particularly forward of the centre is something that Billy Longer should be taking notes on. But more importantly, Hickey was taking marks when given the opportunity. Sure, he did butcher a couple of handballs early, and had a couple of lame non attempts at jostling over the goal line, but all in all he gave Todd Goldstein a really good run for his money.

I may not have mentioned Luke Dunstan in the bottom 8 players but, I may as well have. He was very ineffective Luke, like Seb Ross, you could barely notice he was playing at times. That’s not necessarily a knock on Luke, as I feel like he hasn’t looked physically as sharp since he had those injury problems a couple of months back. I question right now whether it’s best to give him a few weeks in the twos whilst he regains his health – is it right to get him to turn up every week getting physically battered whilst his confidence is also probably taking a beating? It’s a tough one.

The trickiest thing working against Richo right now isn’t really the fact that we don’t have a lot of good players, but that the selection process is so compromised.

Not only is there a mandate for Richo to “get games into” certain draftees, but that’s been exacerbated by the huge amount of injuries to reliable soldiers such as Geary, Gilbert, and Fisher (though he returned yesterday) as well as other youngsters (think Wright, Webster, Templeton etc). Hence, the internal competition for spots hasn’t been at the same level since the earlier rounds. And also, the ability for Richo to hold underperforming twats to account is further compromised because of the obvious lack of options.

Probably the most difficult aspect of that to swallow is that, like our very CEO acknowledged a couple of weeks back, we’re more than likely to be even younger and even more inexperienced next year.