Time to recalibrate, restock, rethink

by Richard Lee

Round 10, 2017
Bulldogs 2.2, 5.6, 10.9, 10.8 (90)
St Kilda 2.1, 3.2, 5.5, 7.8 (50)
Crowd: 34,685 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, May 27th at 1.45pm

I think the Bye has come at the perfect time. Not just for players, but for fans, administrators, Twitterati, trolls. We played the Premiers and we got TKO’d in almighty fashion; we were unsteady on our feet even in the opening stages.

There’s a flimsy quality to the team defence right now; a lack of incisiveness in our attacking movements. Two weeks off, may just give us a fighter’s chance to make the Crows sweat over on their deck.

I’m not sure the Dogs are the titans that reigning premiers of the recent past presented themselves as (see Hawthorn, Geelong) but they are the gold-standard in running football. And they ran us ragged.

By the end they were queuing up to rub salt into the wound. Stringer had 5 goals of his own, but there were 8 other goal kickers. The forty point margin felt flattering. Midfielders and utilities alike were pouring forward, sharing the ball and finding space with ease. Even debutante Tim English looked like he was going to score at one point.

With this in mind it’s apt that Jack Newnes was our best. He had 35 touches (7 marks, 8 tackles and a goal) and he didn’t stop running. Most at The Club claim he’s our best in that space (alongside Captain Jarryn) and it rang true yesterday. He was possibly the only of our engine room that could go the distance running-wise.

Generally, we looked slow. Our tackles were broken. Tom Boyd was sidestepping through us like David Campese, we made Daily Bale look like Magic Johnson.

It wasn’t until very late in the last term that we were able to replicate our own arc-to-arc run and carry. Minchington, Acres, Gresh, Minchington, to Gresh (or something). What happened? Gresh mistakenly turned down a set shot from 40 meters in order to try to hit McCartin with a flaccid drop-punt that ended up in a no-mark and the umpteenth potential rebound for the Dogs.

That felt like a telling snapshot of the game. Good intentions, effort, but no efficiency in any of the execution. Even the chain of handpasses between Gresh, Minchington and Acres seemed to happen at a snail-like pace. I think Hugh Goddard recovered from knee surgery and re-injured his knee several times in that space of time.

That was the fourth quarter, when the result was beyond doubt, but the real damage had already been done.

The thing I keep coming back to is: we keep hearing from all and sundry about how good our depth is now. Steele must have done about 5 articles/interview alone describing this. Depth is one thing, but depth in quality is another. We’ve witnessed what a big drop off there is between Webster and the rest of our other back flankers; half-forward flankers continue to get rotated in and out of the side on a near weekly basis; Longer presence instead of Hickey presents crimes to ball sports around the globe. And those midfielders? They’re just not there.

In regards to our midfield: More often than not this year though we haven’t gotten good enough returns from the supporting cast. And by supporting cast, I mean anyone outside of Jack Steven and Seb Ross. On the, oft-contemplative walk across the Etihad bridge yesterday I voiced how “if you lock down Jack Steven you are 90% of the way to beating St Kilda”. For all his flaws, and I’ll come to them, the three time Trevor Barker Award winner still possesses skills that our others can only hope to achieve in AFL Evolution. The break-neck speed, the relentless running; our midfield outside of his output there can look decidedly blue collar.

And yesterday was the complete crystallization of that reality.

The full-time stats describe that we had 32 more tackles than the Dogs (we had 95), yet our pressure game was completely dismantled. Tackles were laid but they were of a Jack Lonie quality: a nuisance and half-baked.

Yet things looked so promising early. Two of our early goals (Billings and McKenzie) came from virtually point blank after we had gotten through and out the back of the Dogs defence. This usually signals that you’ve picked apart the other team’s system. The backline trio of Geary, Roberton and particularly Carlise were marking nearly all the Dogs entries, and from there, we seemed to have options galore on the spread.

Per our whole 2017 to date we didn’t make hay whilst the sun was shining. Paddy and Gresh were the main offenders; the latter missing a set shot from barely 20 meters out. An ensemble of Mav, Billings, Newnes, Gilbert etc continued to run rings around each other in order to handball or shank to the next stationary person. Some of it was worthy of Benny Hill background music.

It wasn’t just ominous in that we didn’t take our opportunities, it was that you knew the Dogs would respond with vigour. The Bulldogs story this year has largely revolved around slow starts, clawing back and then just doing enough. They hit 4th and 5th gears on Saturday.

Johannisen was outstanding. He was the main conductor in their half backline and midfield sweeping and cutting through our press like butter. Murphy, Easton Wood, Caleb Daniel and many others got in on the act and ran rings around and through us.

That was the startling thing actually. The Dogs’ early goals did come on the rebound, but by and large we were able to hustle back and force them wide. I’m presuming that’s what Richo was referring to in the post-match when he said he was happy with our “method” particularly in a defensive sense. But the shift in the game came when the St Kilda pressure cooled such that the Dogs could routinely go through us; handballs were being made in the tackle, sidestepping galore, speed and lots of it.

There are so many numbers that are dished out and consumed en masse these days. If you dive into any stats break down of a game or a team, you can find yourself in some sort of rabbit hole inception type scenario. However, one stat that does seem bang on is our 5-5 win loss ratio. That sits us in 10th (as of Sunday May 28th 8:05AM). Middle of the ladder, middle of the road; fighting, alongside the a cluster of sides, to sneak into the very bottom of the eight.

Currently only one of our wins comes against a side above us (Giants); against the Cats and Dogs we ended up woefully short. Four three quarters against the Cats we withstood the heat, and we went toe-to-toe. Yesterday was much different. We got dismantled and manhandled, and our defensive system was picked apart with ease.

The main conundrum right now is, what the approach is in regards to the team’s outcome for this year. I feel like that answer will dictate a lot of selection dilemmas that are starting to arise on a weekly basis. Up forward presents the most obvious questions. Do we go with Bruce? How much time does Riewoldt spend up forward? Are we prepared to develop Paddy McCartin in the 1s whilst he’s still learning, still adapting to the Big Time?

This might be stating the obvious to some but, we are not going to win the premiership this year – as open as the competition is. Of course, I would be happy to be proven wrong on that one (#freemanwildcardsecondhalfoftheyear). So if we’re not going to claim the big prize, and that is what the Road To 2018/Whatever five-year-plan we’re on now boils down to, then what are we doing this year? I think most would agree that Paddy, Goddard, Freeman are (if fit) must-haves in our next contending side. Rice, White, Marshall and a few others might be too, pending opportunity. The current lineup still feels like it has a fair few placeholder players; they’re there and they’re decent, but when it comes to the crunch they’re not what we need. Are we going to just bunker down and hope that the last legs of the elder statesmen can pull this team into the finals?

So that’s where we’re at. Different parts of the team are currently pulling in different directions. McCartin still needs time, as does McKenzie (if we think he’s going to make it), as do several other players who ultimately will need to come in if we’re serious about winning a flag. Fans, however, are going to have to be content with said players making mistakes – possibly at the detriment of us winning games in the now – in order for them to grow. The easy thing is to say “we need Dusty/Fyfe/Kelly”. Would I like one of them? Of course. Do we need one of them? Most probably. But no matter how that situation plays out, we’re still going to have to also watch guys like McCartin, Goddard etc go through growing pains. We just witnessed the likes of Billings, Acres, Dunstan and a raft of dudes go through that over 2 or 3 years, so of course that’s hard to swallow. (We still see Billings etc make soul-destroying mistakes – so go figure.) That’s just how it works. The fact that we’ve started winning some games, and competing more regularly, doesn’t change that. McCartin has played 21 games, unfortunately he’s not Chris Judd, he’s not ready-made. Joe Daniher has just become a reliably decent forward (after 80 games) on the back of playing 4 years of consistently playing in the seniors.

(For what it’s worth I thought Paddy was one of our shining lights yesterday. Obviously he made some glaring mistakes. But we had 22 players that did, it’s just that Paddy’s unfortunately happened with the goals beckoning. The great thing was that Paddy was involved, active and up for it for four quarters – which isn’t something that could be said for many of his games to date. He also was effective both up the ground and within the 50m arc. His final quarter goal from 50m was just desserts for a promising performance. He was unlucky in hitting the post from a similar angle 2 minutes later. Like Richo mentioned post-match, anyone who has actually followed Paddy properly to date knows that his marking is the very least of our concerns. He’ll be fine in that regard).

The omission of Josh Bruce was derided by some dimwitted pundits like Terry Wallace, for putting the individual (presumably McCartin) above The Club. Anyone who has actually watched the side properly over the last two years though knows that’s rubbish. The Bruce omission was the recognition of ongoing problems with the team. Outside of the Hawthorn game, win or lose, we have struggled to maximize our good play. And that doesn’t specifically mean the tall forwards, but the smalls too.

Losing yesterday, in comprehensive fashion, should again reinforce to the Footy administration at The Club that there are more fundamental issues for us to overcome outside of whatever the win-loss column represents.

 

Dogs 90 Saints 50

by Richard Lee

** THE MATCH REPORT WILL BE UP THIS AFTERNOON. STAY TUNED. **

Boy, oh, boy. That was a doozie.

That was quite soul-crushing. I want my Saturday afternoon back! Much to think about for the Saints.

Jack Newnes was really good. The 21 others? Question marks galore.

Stay tuned for the report.

Chess-ing with the chess masters

by Richard Lee

Round 9, 2017
St Kilda 3.2, 5.4, 7.5, 10.8 (68)
Sydney 4.2, 7.3, 12.8, 18.10 (118)
Crowd: 29,7744 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, May 20th at 1.45pm

(A bit of) “horses for courses” was one of the reasons that coach Alan Richardson offered up when discussing Paddy McCartin’s inclusion into the side for the Swans game.

In recent years we’ve barely had enough animals to fill the stable, let alone specialised horses for specific courses.

The McCartin inclusion was noteworthy for the man making way for him too. Josh Bruce has been a mainstay of this ‘new era’ ever since he lit up Metricon Stadium in early 2015. This omission stood out as one of the few occasions Richo has wielded the axe on a winning side, let alone a key cog in a relatively settled structure.

In fact, the group has been navigating a lot of uncharted waters of late: winning on friday night footy; toppling the League’s most fancied side; fending off rivals despite not getting out of third gear; coping with being the hunted; Billings rising from the ashes. All signs pointed to the Saints possibly kicking the hype-o-meter into overdrive on Super Saints Saturday…..? I tried.

Nevermind that the Swans had strung together two wins, including a demolition job on the Roos, it seemed the Saints had found a formula, collectively and individually, regardless of external forces or opposition.

Yeesh. It soon became evident that in Kennedy, Hannebery and Parker the Swans possibly possessed the best 3 players (in a vacuum) on the ground. That renowned engine room burst out of the barriers, and in response the Saints just seemed off the pace. Quarter time saw the margin at one goal in Sydney’s favour (Buddy being well cloaked by Nathan Brown at this point), which seemed confounding given how lackluster the Saints came out of the gate.

In fairness, despite being set back on their heels early, the home side arrested the momentum steadily and the last 10 minutes of the quarter was played in the Saints forward half. The major flashpoint was 100-gamer Jack Newnes’ collision with Callum Mills, which ended up being his last “contribution” to the game. That incident resulted in a goal to Jade Gresham, after slick hands over the top from Hotline Billings. On second look Mills’ bump on Newnes seemed pretty reasonable, yet the lack of response from Saints onlookers still felt weird.

And unfortunately, that was largely symptomatic of the Saints’ afternoon. They continued to fight, continued to pressure, continued to try to prise open the Swans resolute defensive zone but the spark never came, the momentum never shifted. Despite the game still being in the balance at half-time, it was hard to find individuals that were winners. Seb Ross’ continued his white hot form in the center of the ground, Jack Steven was as tireless as ever, Jade Gresham effective up forward and Gilbert unflinching in the contest. Thereafter, there wasn’t much. Oh, Billings was sneakily awesome.

The Swans properly killed this one off in the final act. Buddy started to get more involved as the counter attack opportunities piled up, and the Saints became more desperate. After coughing up numerous clangers in the third term, as we tried to force the issue with more play-on and more kicking into the corridor, the Swans continually Dared(™) St Kilda time and again into risky disposals through the corridor. And time and again we didn’t have the instinctiveness, the sharpness or the poise to pick those locks. In turn, the likes of Hannebery, Newman, Cunningham (before he left the field), Papley and Rohan feasted on counter-attacks and goals out the back.

In the aftermath Richo described it as “our footy didn’t work”. It did feel like, to a degree, this was a game of chess in which we continually ran into dead ends strategically; like a Formula One race where we showed up with the altogether wrong tires for the entire weekend. After the dust of the initial skirmishes settled and the Saints effort had resolved itself, the tactical battle settled in.

One glaring difference from the Saints recent form, was the stinking performance of the back six – Nathan Brown aside. I exclude Brown because, despite Buddy kicking 4, I don’t think he was at fault much in those pieces of play. Buddy got involved late, when St Kilda’s defensive structure had frayed at the behest of trying to push the ball. Particularly notable was how down Dylan Roberton was on his blistering 2017 form. He can be forgiven, as he’s been remarkable so far this year. But his usual precision and decision making completely deserted him on Saturday and this seemed to reverberate through the rearguard. Jack Carlisle and Daniel Mackenzie both were very nervy with ball in hand. Mackenzie’s disposal is usually a positive, so I’m happy to let this one slide, but his lack of pace was evident – particularly when we’re used to the wheels of Jimmy Webster.

Whether this loss lifted the lid on a glitch in the system that Richo and co. have installed, will be unveiled moreso over the next several weeks. The Saints have gotten enough credits in the bank lately that it’s easier to forgive and forget this one. On the evidence of the year in totality, Carlisle and Roberton aren’t going to clanger that much, Steele isn’t going to fluff that many handballs, and Mackenzie won’t have worry about Buddy chasing him down in the coming games.

I do think that if there’s a takeaway for Luke Beveridge (and other masterminds) to hone in on, it’s to get in the face of Dylan Roberton as much as possible. One moment that’s burnt into my brain is when he took a handball receive on the back of the center square immediately he had two or three Swans in his face, stopping him from driving forward. Making him revert to going sidewards or backwards just deflated our rebound so much.

Maybe teams will also rest their best midfielder on Joey Montagna. Like I said, Hannebery had a picnic on Saturday and Joey’s kicking never looked loopier.

In fact, the job security of Joey, along with his old-friend Rooey has actually been an ongoing topic in my head this year. The ineffectiveness of both of them has become more and more glaring over the last two or three weeks – strangely, as the team has had it’s most success. Both Joey and Roo just had players stream and stroll past them with ease on Saturday. In an overall sense it brings into question the logic in playing Joey behind the ball. I don’t remember him making a spoil in my life; there was no reasonable match up for him against the Swans.

I actually feel sorry for Roo. He shouldn’t be playing. He started the year well, but since he miraculously rushed back from injury he’s never been himself or looked physically right. He came back in an almighty rush, and you feel like he’s paying the price for that.

Both players are of such a high Football IQ and experience, that they’re always going to find their stats. Roo can play on one leg and probably squeeze out 20 touches because he attracts the ball so much and because he has the VIP I can-go-anywhere artistic freedom role. The thing is, the last two to three in particular he’s actually being forced to be up forward in a more permanent sense because physically he just can’t run properly. His motor isn’t there; when the ball hits the deck he’s unable to make even a faux pressure act. He wasn’t even able to muster the energy to dish out a vicious spray to a teammates when a lead wasn’t honored.

I declared earlier to friends offline that I don’t think St Kilda’s next premiership can’t contain Roo and Joey. That, perhaps, says more about what I think the window timeframe is for this group rather than their individual status right now, but I think the last couple of weeks have put a new spin on that. There’s been so much talk about how much our newfound depth has helped propel us and I can’t help but think that that should mean that Joey’s spot isn’t a given. In Bailey Rice, Brandon White, Jack Lonie, Darren Minchington, Nathan Wright, David Armitage (when fit), Nathan Freeman (again fitness pending) we have many that offer a lot in that area.

(I would include Gilbert in this group too except that his new role as the fake Ruckman has make him almost indispensable. He was arguably our best player on Saturday too).

And now that the team has obviously shown it can perform sans Riewoldt (see: the Giants game) it only gives more momentum to the idea of developing McCartin more in the seniors – particularly now that he’s shown he’s actually too good for VFL level.

One thing on McCartin: he’s barely 13* years old. Secondly: the team’s momentum this year, should not make rearrange Paddy’s development timeline. He’s in his third year; he’s only just turned 13 (21 that is) and he’s only just chalked up 20 games. Just because we’ve now become a good side, doesn’t alter his timeline. The biggest thing McCartin can do this year is stay healthy; he needs as much continuity as possible.

Look, he wasn’t in our BEST on Saturday. He wasn’t close – no getting away from that. But it’s near impossible to critique the forwards properly on a day when our ball movement was such a plague on everything we did (and didn’t do) for the day. Paddy wasn’t near our best, but neither was Membrey, Roo, or Mav. As with Mackenzie, I think we need to hold on judging Paddy until he’s gotten 2 or 3 consecutive senior games under his belt. We’ve afforded Jack Billings about 50, and Luke Dunstan far, far too many, so can we at least give them 3?

I don’t think many Saints fans would have a problem conceding that Sydney have quality individuals that pound-for-pound we can’t quite match yet. What is hard to swallow though is that our footy “doesn’t work” so to speak. We’ve come too far now to throw a red flag on our system, our footy, as a whole.

 

Bits and bobs

– Shares in Billings Co. have never been higher

– We have an abundance of small forwards yet none of them can string performances together – Mav’s form has almost hit rock bottom.

– I feel like every time Billy Longer fails to catch a ball he brings the Club into disrepute. Shameful/embarrassing.

– Another 27 touches for Blake Acres, yet he’s probably become the most polarising player at The Club. He had 18 at half-time, but it didn’t stop him from copping a torrent of abuse from the St Kilda Social Club area.

Good, bad, ugly, etc.

by Tom Briglia

Round 8, 2017
St Kilda 4.3, 6.5, 9.8, 12.13 (85)
Carlton 4.0, 6.1, 9.3, 10.6 (66)
Crowd: 38,014 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, May 13th at 2.10pm

 

Version 2

 

Saturday afternoon, the roof was open, two founding VFL teams with plenty of youth and on the improve. A huge crowd expected after last year’s sell-out, and fair to say both teams have shown further improvement since then. What more could you ask for?

By Monday’s wash-up we had the captain and coach apologising on behalf of the St Kilda Football Club to the Carlton captain for some pretty sordid sledging, whilst the latter had gone over to a player lying on the ground injured and had a crack at them.

It might have been the day we saw the genuine break-out game from Jack Billings, but certainly for now this one’s in a weird category – certainly for Saints fans – all on its own. There was the good, the bad, the ugly, etc.

For about 15 or 20 minutes we might have been sitting around thinking, “Well, we’re good now.” Weitering had blatantly shoved Jimmy Webster in the back en route to the opener but for a period after then we were looking at a Saturday afternoon stroll with all the extravagant thoughts that come with being 5-3 after years of dishing up garbage. In 1997 we were 4-4, in 2005 we were 4-4, and in 2010 we were 5-3. What does that mean? Nothing, because in 2009 and 2010 we were in front in time-on of both Grand Finals and came up with donuts.

So, uh, Saturday. Our midfield weren’t just working hard but they looked slick after their huge performance last week, albeit against not quite the same opposition. The around us heading into the weekend was about the maturity of the group and it could handle backing up a huge performance like that. After HUMAN OF THE DAY Jack Billings snapped our first we were witness to probably the cleanest break out of the middle for a goal we’ve seen in a very long time – Longer with a clean hit-out to Steele, who kept composure and importantly, his arms free in a tackle to give off to Newnes running past, and he bulleted the kick to Bruce on the lead who managed to actually hold on to the grab and kick the goal. It looked like we were gonna be fine.

Carlisle was looking ominous. Playing off Weitering after a contested mark he set up the first goal, and Billy Longer was already looking more than competitive at the stoppages.

By the time Brown’s punching kick down the middle was cleaned up with a smart knock-on by Sinclair to Dunstan, who kicked long to the advantage of Membrey (almost spoiled by Acres who was looking to get involved ASAP after last week) and rewarded the work with a goal

But that was as comfortable as it would look for the rest of the day, really. Even when Billings kicked his fifth and took us out to a four-goal lead in the third there was an expectation that Carlton would hit back again, as they had around the midway point of each quarter.

It wasn’t until after the Blues’ quick flurry of chances early in the last that we were able to put a clamp on their kicking game that Bolton seems to have brought over from Hawthorn. The Blues have a lot of young guys they’re well drilled, patient and disciplined, and they didn’t go away. Once the ebb and flow of the game was in their favour they were able to control the ball across the ground, working hard to provide options for each other coming out of the back half.

Even once we put the brakes on in the last quarter we still had to work hard to keep them at arm’s length. The inside 50s read 41-24 at three-quarter time, and the handball count 161-83. They were some clues as to why we were only five points up, and Carlton were up and about after a melee that is now infamous amongst melees. Cool. We’ll get to that.

***

I don’t know exactly how Leigh Montagna will go down in the annals of St Kilda history, but before Saturday he was the only Saint alongside Darrel Baldock in 1965 to have kicked five goals and collected 30 possessions or more in a game.

In his 50th match, Jack Billings joined them. It was the game we’d been waiting for him to play since he led the comeback against the Bulldogs early in 2015. He’d started this season as whipping boy but within two months he’d been threatening to do just this, whilst having a growing impact along the way. He was more than the difference between the two sides – five goals, 30 possessions and 12 marks in a 19-point win. Four goals out of six at half-time; five goals out of a team total of 12 on a day in which we spent much of it burning opportunities going forward. A strong team doesn’t only mean everyone always contributes evenly – it also means different players will take responsibility to pick up the slack when an off day hits.

It was a long way from the first three games earlier this season in which his borderline-seagull performances had him getting easy touches off half-back and having the Diet Caffeine-Free Billings impact we were worried was going to linger. It hit a low against the Lions – 14 touches and not much else, and I would have had him in line for being dropped ahead of Paddy that week. The switch to a more forward-focused role was still to be tried in earnest this year though, and I’m sure that if it was obvious to me then people actually professionally involved and invested in his development would have been all over it.

When we as Saints fans talk about what he’s capable of our reference point is that comeback game in 2015. On that particular Saturday afternoon he kicked 4.2, including some very, very classy finishes in key moments, to go with 22 touches and seven marks. Our next reference point would be his 30-possession, two goal, 10-mark game against Collingwood in Round 3 last year – it was the first time he looked really comfortable moving much higher up the ground, but he had the scoreboard impact as well. Like Saturday, the common links are that he provides a marking target across the ground as well as hitting the scoreboard.

The Collingwood match saw him start either closer to or in the forward line, and it immediately gave him more focus and more purpose: a goal-kicking or goal-assisting target anywhere from close to goal (see his goal from a pack mark in the square) up to around the 50-metre arc, otherwise a target when going forward which allowed him to offer his smarts across the ground to move into position as well as use his disposal, rather than just cruising past a stationary player and using only one half of that package. Until the weekend, however, his kicking in front of goal was borderline comical and showed there was, for this stretch anyway, one part of his game that his confidence was still a little shaken. His return was 4.12 from a mix of set shots and snaps this season. We’d taken him at pick 3 to have the composure not just across the ground but in dangerous positions to create goals and opportunities, or finish them off. Finally, it clicked.

It’s become common knowledge that he went to the coaches and players in the off-season to go about improving his game, and was in turn challenged by his teammates. Saturday provides landmark performance for him, but doesn’t represent a normal performance for him, or anyone really. Perhaps it might give him a confidence in front of goal that lifts his accuracy, which would certainly make some of his games this year all of a sudden much better. Otherwise we’re looking for him to ultimately improve in the same way players like Ross, Webster, Roberton, etc. have shown. The class and skill he brings to the side will come to the fore with that progression. It felt for a long time – I’ve come this far without mentioning The Bont – that the onus has been on him to deliver on his potential, particularly given we’d taken him before, uh, a best-and-fairest winner in a premiership year player. The often-agreed 50th game milestone as a gateway to the next phase of a player’s career might have proved to be on the money with this one. He might have blown that so far out of the H20 on Saturday that the onus might have been flipped onto us, to not get too carried away and to temper our expectations. We as Saints fans are traditionally prone to a Messiah complex.

***

Murphy and Carlisle have provided the tabloid story of the week via a smack in the nuts and some sledging, about, uh, other stuff tabloids like. There’s a bunch of things I take away from it and my head ended up forming more of a rant than what I usually put down on this blog. I’ve put it in point form more for myself than the reader, but it certainly should help. They’re all pretty hard and fast.

  • If the roles were reversed, each club’s supporters would be reacting in the same way as the opposition’s are right now.
  • I think the sledging was pretty shit. Sure, it’s part of the game and all of that. But is that the kind of thing that you really measure someone by, or challenge someone on? What about yourself?
  • People using the word “cuck” to describe Marc Murphy is fucking gross (see above).
  • Running over to a player on the ground who’s in pain and/or injured and giving them a spray is lame, whether you’re the captain or not.
  • Someone from the Blues obviously wanted to throw some good old-fashioned 20th Century Carlton Football Club weight around and get a better story for them out to the press immediately and the media were keen. The Age ran with Murphy won’t “pursue action” over the comments. Whatever you think of the sledging, I don’t know what “action” he would technically be able to “pursue”. With no-one in the media saying much on what the sledging was about until Monday evening then wording like that on the part of editors it opens St Kilda players to being guilty of far more reprehensible stuff. The article also said that “The Saints and Blues have both privately accepted some fault after the heated encounter”. The Herald Sun went with the old “media identity says a thing which is now news because we said so” line of “Premiership coach Paul Roos says St Kilda’s personal sledging of Carlton captain Marc Murphy is a blight on the entire club”. Easy one for the paper to go with without their dislike of the Saints coming technically from their own mouth, but then it would go on to say, “The Herald Sun understands neither club wants to take the issue further, given there was sledging from both sides. A Carlton spokesman said Murphy would not be putting in a complaint, intent on moving on from the incident.” (Might be worth pointing out they have had Landsberger writing some specifically positive stories in the past few months).
  • I don’t know if a specific player code needs to implemented, but perhaps I’m being too generous on players’ standards. It should be pretty evident what’s a dog shit thing to go after a player about and what’s not.
  • Geary and Richo apologising is a welcome change. I say that with many asterisks a lot of mixed feelings. As a club we’ve been hung in the media much more painfully for a lot less in the past – and perhaps not as much for a lot worse.

I deleted a tweet about Murphy and his captaincy that I shat out in anger at three-quarter time, after I yelled things including calling him a “fucking dog” and “weak prick” immediately afterwards (with the small child directly in front of our membership seats present). I didn’t know whether to leave the tweet up for posterity once I learned more about what has happened. It said, “You’re ***amazing*** Marc Murphy. Great captain, leadership, etc. etc.” and ended with “#clown”. I’m still happy about Geary’s response to Murphy going over to Carlisle, followed by Steele and then…pretty much everyone else. But with more context the tweet becomes tribalistic. None of the things that happened on the field cancelled each other out; they all add up on top of each other. It felt spiteful in the seats for much of the game, but perhaps I’m in hindsight only colouring the frustration that we felt about how the match itself was panning out.

After the game I only saw Geary and Joey shake hands with Murphy (Joey might have been having words though). They had a chat and Geary gave Murphy a pat once they were done. Comments from SEN presenters were again used as news fodder to feed the, uh, SEN news cycle. There might actually be something to be learned out of it – even Damien Barrett was sounding considered today – but yet again some parts of the media made themselves the news. Before Geary commented publicly the Herald Sun we running a story based on something Wayne Carey said. And so it goes.

***

I don’t know if it was just me but as we were all sitting there wound up at the final change – Saints and Blues supporters for different reasons in that particular moment – I think the “Saints in the Seats” or whatever the fuck segment on the big screen kind of sapped the atmosphere. I was already having a ball with the roof open, allowing us to enjoy the Concrete Dome as a footy ground rather than a TV set on a Saturday afternoon watching two clubs with a combined 297 years of history. It was a fierce contest and then we get match-day presenter Emma Davenport being told to talk to a three-year old at realistically the one point in the day the crowd was totally not up for that kind of thing. Obviously it was pre-planned but I would hope even by today’s standards we’re invested enough in the game by that point to not need that kind of thing.

Also for the Seinfeld files, I’m not liking the club’s decision to play the song once after the win and then go to the faux-crowd chant version immediately afterwards, and then Emma for a player interview before going back to the song. They’re really trying hard with this chant thing but I’m still under the impression that if they took it away it would never be sung by the fans as an organic expression. Before the game I think it’s actually pretty good – for those of you 1. still reading for some reason (Hello Campbell and Harry) and 2. who haven’t experienced it, the chant is played as the players come out onto the ground and goes straight into the traditional club song as the players break through the banner. The timing could be a little better, as they go to the song maybe a few seconds too late, but it’s a much, much better build-up than some name-a-hit early 2000s track. Post-game is a bit different at the moment. Playing the song once and then going to something that the fans really aren’t sure about (and then a player interview) really drags on the atmosphere. It’s fooled Andy Maher and I’m pretty sure if fooled Ben Dixon after the game too when he was talking to Junior Burger for the Fox Footy broadcast, but otherwise I think that’s it. It’s best kept for the pre-match.

(Bonus Garbage: Fortunately the club has ended its pretty bizarre experiment of taking out the drum roll at the beginning of the song. My dream is to be at the MCG on Grand Final Day for a St Kilda premiership, and for the final siren to be followed immediately and loudly by the drum roll intro of the club song. You can crush my dreams by throwing away leads late in consecutive Grand Finals, but don’t take away my dream with a weird admin decision.)

***

The context of this week’s win is only complete sitting after the previous week. This was the first time this group has claimed a genuine scalp and had it on them to prove their mettle as a serious team. They were headed in the second half last week by a juggernaut-to-be that had several times demonstrated superior class and talent. The response was players like Acres, Gresham, Sinclair and Ross to step up and outwork their more fancied, fashionable opposition. This week they were being pushed by a young team who were sticking to a plan and responding effectively to each other and their coach. This time, the response was to will themselves to a win without too many highs to cover over the come down from last week. Again, it was achieved by hard work and on a day where so much was created by ourselves, let alone a buoyant opponent.

The three-quarter time siren going when it did was probably a good thing. It was probably the best thing at quarter time and half time, too. Carlton’s youth has brought a lot of energy and so much out of players like Murphy, Gibbs and Kreuzer. Once they wrestled the momentum back during the quarters it was tough for the Saints to take back – they kicked the last three of the first quarter, two of the last three (albeit out of four in total) in the second, and the last three in a threatening five minutes just before the final change. We’re making a habit of games being decided by final quarters. We’d better get really good at this.

Billings aside, and perhaps Ross’s goal in the last, the highlights reel probably belonged more to the Blues. Alex Silvagni’s smother on Robertson, Williamson’s goal and the team reaction, the presence and skill in a number of moments from Cripps and Charlie Curnow. The reaction from Geary to go to Murphy was exactly what you want, too, but the darker undertones of the game are what will resonate most for the wider football public. We’ve long been a club that lacked enough of a hardarse factor; on Saturday we went too far in searching for it.

Indeed both clubs were looking to get it out of sight and out of mind as soon as possible amidst the public fall-out. From a footballing sense it wasn’t a memorable match, although it might prove to be as important a win as last week’s. But can you really completely separate the game from the psychological and the emotional?

The People v GWS [No 119] (2017)

by Tom Briglia

Round 7, 2017
St Kilda 2.4, 6.7, 10.9, 16.12 (108)
GWS Giants 4.2, 7.6, 11.10, 12.13 (85)
Crowd: 21,160 at Etihad Stadium, Friday, May 5th at 7.50pm

I’ve spent this weekend with a relaxation head-start of 25% [citation needed] owing purely to Friday night. Footy can do that to you; the Saints can do that to you. For this week at least, the road towards a second premiership is starting to take shape.

It’s also the sensation of having a win on the first Friday night game in more than two years. The last time we’d had the weekend to stew over the state of the Saints was in Round 3 of 2015 when Collingwood gave us a 74-point belting in our first official outing in Candy Stripe #2. It was also not-so-memorable for being Paddy’s first game; the club wasn’t able to get the usual PR and fanfare milage out of it because Roo came up sore that evening.

The last time we actually won on a Friday night was against Fremantle in Round 20 of the awful 2011 season as we made a late charge into the finals. We won by 41 points that night after a big last quarter, and Ross the then-boss was just 41 days from being the ex-boss. What does that all mean? Fuck all.

Conventional business hours on Friday morning had KB calling for the Tigers to jump on  Paddy after he kicked seven in the VFL on the Sunday and wasn’t selected. Not sure if KB thought he was “Fitzi” (note the “i” at the end, most probably to make sure everyone knows they’re not talking about Fitzy, but who cares), but Anthony Hudson and Garry Lyon decided to take it up that night on SEN as the lead talking point for the conversation before the game. Hudson said it was “put on the agenda” by KB and Garry ran with it so I guess that’s news now. Rohan Connolly made a passionate mention of Fairfax cutting jobs and the potential loss of journalists, but Garry shut him down, so yeah, that’s where we’re at I guess. The news is apparently made by the media now, not reported by the media.

Fitzi’s revelation (or whatever) of Fyfe coming to St Kilda was much of the rage for too much of the week. Saying it was a St Kilda board member who leaked the info was probably a bit too obvious and an easy giveaway that it wasn’t a St Kilda board member. Of course the club would have spoken to Fyfe, and he might well be on his way to us – you’ll get that from the ITKs on BigFooty – but every club would have spoken to him, or would like to speak to him. The thing that ruined it for Fitzi was him saying that Fyfe’s all but signed for a specific figure. That’s way too easy for Richo, Fyfe’s management, et al. to say that’s technically not true. He might actually be close to done, but unless there’s a Buddy job we won’t know for incredibly certain for a few months.

Even amongst all of the trade talk wankery this still felt like the biggest build up to a St Kilda game for a long time. Last year’s North game late in the season had some talk going into it, but it was more shits and giggles and too much had to go right for us from there (easy to say “too much” in hindsight but that’s what happened) for us to finish in the eight.

I was late to the ground as usual for the agreed meeting time – 7pm with Matt, only to be greeted by him on the bridge to receive an early birthday present. It was a 2006 Candy Stripe #1 clash jumper, one of the Saints jumpers I don’t own from this century. He’d also stumbled on a 2011 Vague Cross jumper a couple of weeks ago which he kindly purchased for me – I am now the proud owner of the worst (2007-2008 Apron) and second-worst clash jumpers in our history.

There weren’t many people wearing Saints colours around the ground at 7pm, nor were there anyone really wearing the faded version of the opposition. Do Saints fans want to turn up for anything? Rubbish crowds so far this year against Melbourne and Geelong were followed by a paltry 21,160 on Friday night. Yes, I’m aware GWS fans are family members, corporates, or AFL ring-ins, but we apparently have more than 39,000 members.

Perhaps the news that we’re keen on returning to New Zealand over the next few years show we’re still lacking in not just members overall, but that they’re not putting their hands into their pockets and taking out a bunch of cash for the Moorabbin fund. Turning up to the games more would help a little too.

Very rarely do I have good feelings about anything but by Wednesday I was feeling good things about this one. I’m not sure exactly why. If you’re pushing for a top eight spot then you probably should take apart a team that’s lost two of their five games by 86 points. Maybe that one felt clinical enough to think we’d smashed through the glass ceiling of large Australian Rules victories.

By Friday I’d calmly brought myself down to earth and was back to expecting something not quite so enthralling as what transpired. Matt and I agreed it was the kind of game where the  the members’ section comes in up and about, some umpiring goes against us, we miss a few easy shots, the opposition’s class has them kick goals out of their proverbial and by the time we’re being run into ground in the last quarter we’re sitting shitty and frustrated by our lives as St Kilda supporters.

Somehow that didn’t happen, which was fortunate for RSEA Safety because their hand-out hard-hats worn by some in the cheer squad would have been frisbeed at the back of Heath Shaw’s skull. Not sure why the St Kilda crowd more generally booed him. As much as I don’t like his on-field personality as an opposition player, I don’t quite categorise him in the same GW$ category as Ward and Scully. At least he won a premiership with his club before chasing dollars. If the Saints fans were upset about the 2010 Grand Final Replay, well…of course we’re all upset, but his side won a premiership and ours didn’t. That’s the long and short of it.

Richie turned to me at half-time and pointed out that we wouldn’t be able to win the game at the pace we were trying to play it at to that point. He was right – another Geelong job was on the cards and we were being cut to ribbons on the rebound too often. The third quarter saw the defenders beginning to settle on the ball a little more and look to move laterally or be more patient for an option to open up. The Giants were able to open up a 17-point lead and in that moment were just a break away from being able to open the game up or put themselves in a position where they could comfortably keep us at arm’s length.

The challenge demarcation was again presented with Smith’s monster on the three-quarter time siren, but at this point in the game things were far more dire. Richo spoke after the Geelong game about how disappointing it was that the second and third tier of players that had failed to step up in that situation. It’s increasingly necessary that the respective development curves of guys like Ross, Billings, Acres, et al. now take in their impact on games when the gauntlet is thrown down. There’s a lot more accountability of what they do within games, beyond just the general upward tick of development we’ve been looking for over the past few years. So it was in the absence of key roles from My Favourite Hair in the AFL and Joey that others would have to take that step if we were any chance of pulling this off.

But to start the third quarter Newnes had fluffed his kick to Bruce one-on-one on the rebound and Scully’s classy finish had the Giants within sight of a win. Our mids were set to get smoked and Matt and I were feeling comfortable about noisily potting Billy Longer’s performance until it slowly dawned on us that he was playing a huge part (literally) in their ability to get some sort of shot at the clearances. By game’s end we would have won that count, and the midfield in general had been given a chance to work their way on top of the masses of talent of the Giants’. Billy had looked cooked about five minutes into the game, barely struggling to make it to contests around the ground in time to nominate himself before someone like Gresham would have been forced to fill in on the spot. There was at least a method or some planning in the Bulldogs playing Dunkley and Lin Jong as the ruckman in the centre bounce; they went out of their way to not have a ruckman lumbering after the play. For a time, this just looked lazy. We took it to another level late in the first quarter after Wilson’s brilliant goal through traffic on the 50-metre arc and only had two players ready to set up at the resulting centre bounce – Longer and Ross. Membrey was the only player who decided to wander in before the umpire put the ball on the deck – still leaving us one short – and ridiculously it was him that won the ball at ground level and fed it out to Seb. But Billy’s shut me and a whole lot other people up for this week, or at least until his ineffectiveness around the ground becomes a serious issue. His physicality at the contest was telling and something we’d lacked – our mids will definitely say they’re happy having that around. Hickey’s injury in the VFL on Saturday might mean there’s not much choice anyway until Rowan Marshall is upgraded.

So, uh, back to the third quarter.  We’d managed to take charge of the pendulum and after some nervous minutes J. Billings did his best to emulate J. Bruce last week, and was bailed out by a trademark Marshall Mather slice shot from three metres out. It was a type of profligacy that isn’t reflected in Billings’ goal scoring tally. Gresham turned up after his one-possession first-half with a snap soon after that looks a lot classier after multiple viewings. His ability to balance himself so quickly, think his way through a situation and execute a play is something we don’t quite have enough of. He would only have 10 possessions by game’s end but they were among our most important. All of a sudden we were back within a goal, for Membrey and Ross to miss back-to-back set shots, split by an equally-inaccurate Heath Shaw kick-in that fell into Seb’s hands. After a cagey few minutes Shiel kicked a Rolls Royce-type goal from a couple of steps on 50 and we might have given it in there.

Sinclair and Gresham combined for Gresham’s second, and then one of the more remarkable but understated passages of play on the night came. It ended with Newnes goaling to draw us level with two and a half minutes left before the last change. From a mark, Tomlinson went down the line on the broadcast side to a large pack forward of the wing. The ball cleared the pack and bounced up. Geary (C) knocked it out of the air to Steele facing the wrong way near the boundary; his quick hands in to Webster were answered with a lightning handball by Jimmy over his right shoulder in traffic to Geary, who immediately turned and gave it off to Joey. Joey’s trademark long, loopy kick was barely met by Acres who had climbed on Davis about several minutes too early for the fall of the ball. “That’s poor” said Bruce reflexively, and everyone in the crowd thought the same thing. Sitting in the members you could feel it was one of those moments in which everyone is in agreement that a particular act deserves a free kick against. The umpire was too, but an unconfirmed Saint’s lack of awareness saved the moment. Watching it back on the replay the umpire is out of frame as Acres goes up, but both Matt and I were watching him as he put his whistle to his mouth – only to have his legs tangled up with the St Kilda player running past. The last frame in which you can see them both before they go out of shot is with 2.47 left on the clock – at a guess it’s Sinclair, and the umpire took a tumble and by the time he’d seen where the play had gone Billings had swooped past and delivered to Minchington, who gave it off the running Newnes for what Dennis Cometti might have once termed the drive-by goal. It wasn’t necessarily match-defining. I think most Saints fans would say we’re due for a piece of good luck like that. Sometimes it’s just your day. Smith’s huge goal on the siren was still to come, and it had the GWS guys up and about and Joey cracking the shits at Riewoldt for not putting pressure enough on the kick.

Three moments in the third quarter had demonstrated the gulf in class between the two teams, and certainly had me thinking we were in for a repeat of the fourth-quarter fade-out against the Cats. It was how they’d kicked three of their goals. There was the classy Scully finish as the Giants went coast-to-coast after a Jack Newnes shank to a mostly open forward line; the Dylan Shiel finesse on the 50 arc, which looked sensational from our seats in line with his angle; and on the clutch Devon Smith moment on the siren. Just like a fortnight ago, we’d needed to work incredibly hard to get what felt like disproportionate reward to the Giants. Their slicing forward that happened earlier in the game had been largely thwarted once the pressure gauge ticked upwards in the second quarter from our end, but these moment showed they didn’t need to be given much at all to punish you. A massive win against the Hawks had our the put queries over our ability run out games on the backburner for a week, but here that challenge loomed again.

The next tier of players that Richo called on to step up did just that. Again, it was the ability to do that in the moment that meant so much for their development, as well as showing a positive response to Richo’s message. That said, we were in touch at three-quarter time without the huge input from Roo and Joey because of guys like Billings, Wright and Sinclair in the front half and Webster who had come prepared for a big night and made an impact from the start.

Billings again starting up forward brought him into the game immediately. He had 1.2 and eight touches at the first break before pushing up higher in the second and third quarters, and I think as much as he has been trying to find some consistency and form over this year perhaps the coaches have equally been looking for the best role for him. Playing off the back half makes sense given the quality of his disposal but it looks like playing a role in the front half gives him more intent. He deserved a third at some point but brought himself undone in the goal square as mentioned, and then missed a snap in space later on to completely ice the game. From whipping boy/seagull earlier the in year, he’s slowly shut people and now got them talking again about him, but for genuinely positive reasons.

Sinclair played a similar but higher role and despite a few early nerves – similar to last week – his disposal improved positioning was really smart. He’d first played that type of high forward role really nicely in the Round 3 win against Collingwood last year and it showed off a quality in his field kicking that we hadn’t seen much given he’d begun his career much closer to goal. His inclusion with Koby Stevens appears to have made an instant and positive impact on the team balance – the midfield has retained its grunt, already heightened with the addition of Steele – but Stevens has so far offered more in terms of disposal than Dunstan and Armo (with an asterisk due to his ongoing injury issues), whilst Sinclair offers footy smarts and better between defence and attack.

Wright had come in for Mav who had a rolled ankle, and yet again didn’t have too much of the ball (12 disposals) but hit the scoreboard with 2.2 and seven tackles. His 25 touches a week earlier for the Zebras show a pretty consistent formline owing to difference in standard. Do you take him out immediately for Mav if no one is injured or dropped (or suspended, i.e. Koby Stevens)? Perhaps Minchington, but he quietly racked up 17 touches, 1.1 and seven tackles himself.

You could mention Gresham here too. One disposal at half-time, three goals by game’s end including the sealer. He was one to have an impact at times of genuine challenge during the game, rather than respond to rev-up or a break between quarters. His first two goals came at critical times in the third term, when it looked like GWS were about to pull clear, and his third goal had him again in perfect position for the fall of the ball and he goaled coolly on his left to finish the Giants off. Hunting around with Sinclair and Billings has the team right now looking a lot sharper.

For all the queries you can throw at his game, Bruce made two particularly important contributions in the final term. He’d had four touches at three-quarter time – not sure if it was the delivery or him but he seemed to impervious to the age-old art of marking, with just one clunk at the final change and two by game’s end. That second came when he at last got some split (*2015 Buzzword*) on his opponent and some Seb Ross class got it to him neatly and he extended the lead that Acres had created. Gresham’s third goal owed a lot to him as well – Stevens and Ross combined in the middle and Membrey had to go up against both Davis and Tomlinson and was good enough to split the contest and bring the ball to ground. Bruce busted in and held off Taranto who was close to the fall and guarded Gresham from Tomlinson to make sure had more time and space to finish.

To take the chain of Gresham’s third back further: the heightened pressure level in the final term had the Giants scrambling for territory with rushed disposal in a similar way that we managed to force Collingwood into a few weeks ago. Scully found the ball on the wing and with his left went searching for Patton, who was with Carlisle. That might have presented a problem if Patton managed to at least cause a real contest, and the ball had bounced in his favour. But Jimmy Webster had worked well clear of his opponent and glided past to kick across to Newnes, who went to Stevens. Webster himself, like Billings, had a few hiccups at the start of the year, but has now become a key part of the defence. The acquisition of Carlisle and Brown can’t be underestimated not just in their isolated worth – Cameron and Patton managed just three goals between them – but their presence has released Webster and Roberton to play in and improve their more natural roles. Webster was a part of the Jack Steven snap goal chain as well, with a bullet to key talking point guy of the week Blake Acres.

He’s threatened to really bust a game open this year and again, Blacres really took his opponents on when he could and jetted into space. He has a habit of being caught by his jumper but still rocketing himself out of the opponent’s grasp, even when being slung around a little. When Richo specifically mentioned “fourth- and fifth-year players” in the post-match press conference of the Geelong game that we was disappointed didn’t take the next step when the game demanded it, I think most Saints fans would have had Acres in mind. He has shown his versatility and X-factor in patches and whilst this wasn’t a massive four-quarter performance, it was a massive final quarter performance against arguably the most talented team in the competition. He kicked two goals in as many minutes early in the final term playing as a forward target, to take us from nine points down to the lead. (Worth mentioning here that Sinclair was the one who delivered expertly to him for the second goal). Acres followed that up with a party tricks fast handball over the right shoulder to Geary running out of defence – I’ve said it before but he’s shaping as an old-fashioned and/or very modern utility player.

I’ve glossed over or completely neglected the huge games from Seb Ross, Jack Steven and the midfield in general, but (I’m still surprised I’m saying this) we’re getting used to those. The depth is growing; the output of the guys that have been there for a few years like Ross and Steven continues to lift, as well as being boosted by recruits Steele and Stevens and younger guys running through. As I said, this game showed a difference in class but you can’t fake the kind of attitude and hard work it took to get the job done across the 22 on Friday night.

The game had a lot of those moments where in that particular second you think this whole thing is going somewhere. Geary’s huge tackle on Patton was an early warning of the intent. But then in huge moments there was Gresham’s goals, Acres’ hands after his own pair, Seb Ross’s delivery to Bruce, Carlisle’s spoil in front of the members between Devon Smith and Heath Shaw, Steele and Minchington shutting down a GWS rebound attempt in final couple of minutes. Even in isolation they can represent so much.

Last year I remember thinking (and writing) that the second half of the season was set for all sorts of novelties associated with a rebuilding team. An 88-point loss to the Crows had us 4-7, and we’d lost Hugh Goddard for the season. It was the first weekend of June and it seemed to have promised a long, cold winter full of Jackson Ferguson, Will Johnson and Nick Winmar-type appearances from bottom-of-the-depths players. We backed it up with what remained to the end of the season amongst the two most enjoyable matches – knocking off the in-form Blues in front of a sold-out Docklands on a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the long weekend, and then the three-point win over the top-of-the-table Cats.  Richo spoke after the game of the importance that this doesn’t become “an event”. Whilst those last wins set off an incredible second half of the season overall that saw us miss out on the finals on percentage only, they were immediately followed by a loss to the Gold Coast who had lost their last 10. Another challenge to the maturity of this group comes on Saturday in the form of Carlton, who loom as both potential easybeats and potential threats.

In hindsight this game is mostly about what happened in the second half and/or last quarter. It’s about a whole lot of younger guys that we’ve been banking a redevelopment on taking what might be a landmark step. For the next week it is, anyway, until Saturday’s game makes its own impact on the ongoing narrative. This is just part of the journey, but a good part. On the siren of our Round 7 win over Carlton in 2013, I took notice of the reactions of Ross and Newnes particularly. “These are the kinds of wins that not only gets us as supporters attached to the players, but those players really attached to the club”, I said in the review. In the four years since we sacked our coach, sunk further down the ladder – the furthest you can go – and after Round 7 of 2017 I’m saying the same thing. The difference here is that guys like Ross, Newnes, Acres, Billings, Carlisle, Webster and Gresham – some who weren’t even at the club for that win four years ago (indeed, that was Webster’s first game) – those players owned this one. As supporters we find ourselves more and more looking to these guys to step up when things get tough.

It wasn’t until watching the replay, after Jack Steven booted home the icing on the cake from the goal square, that I learned something interesting from Bruce (not for the first time): in the previous 98 rounds, we’d only been in the top eight at the completion of a round three times, and never beyond Round 2. That’s now four rounds out of the last 99. The rebuild hasn’t truly worked until we’ve won a premiership, and after everything that happened across the last generation (and, realistically, the several before that) as St Kilda fans we’re wary for next week, let alone the years to come. But this win felt different. That sense of purpose and a sense of direction is back. There are some times in which you feel that, quite simply, it’s time.