Jarryn Geary, St Kilda Captain

by Tom Briglia

Armitage, Steven, Geary.

I’ve always subconsciously had them in the same bunch, although Armitage was picked up a year earlier than the other two. For immediate impact, they weren’t quite the Smith, Brown and Jones trio; all who who were picked up in the 1994 draft and would play a huge role in the 1997 Grand Final season. This modern group at best formed part of the bottom 6 of the 2009/2010 campaign. Indeed, none of them would play in any of those three Grand Finals (it still feels bizarre writing that), although Robert Eddy – the only semi-regular at the time to possibly have a lower profile than Geary – would play in the both of the 2010 editions. Collectively though, the current pack have had far more longevity together than their circa-1990s counterparts.

They all made differing impressions throughout the 2008 pre-season premiership-winning competition, the first time Geary and Steven would play in St Kilda jumpers. Steven would dribble through the winner in the second round, with a minute to go against the Cats in the in Canberra, and Armo would do the same with less time left on the clock a week later against the Bombers to secure a berth in the Final.

58601 (1)Geary would play in the Final win alongside Armo, but I remembered him more for the strapping on his wrist in the first round against the Tigers, which I thought made him look like he was wearing a watch out on the field. Being the first hit-out for both teams for the year meant the game was unsurprisingly flat, but I seemed to remember him and Eddy, also playing his first game, as being relatively busy as Ross Lyon began to make his mark on the team and the Saints shut down the Tigers repeatedly from half-back and through the middle. The game was also memorable (well, not really) for Charlie Gardiner having a massive impact as a roaming half-forward, but he would be gone at year’s end.

The only photo from that match I can find with Geary in is this one. Perhaps fitting, because he’s remained in the background ever since. Only in the last couple of years did it become gradually apparent how highly rated he is amongst his teammates, coaches and staff. It was what was going on behind the scenes the whole time brought us to where we are today.

Armo played a little more regularly from 2008, Geary contributed to the highlights reel in the early 2009 with some handy goals  (winning a NAB Rising Star Nomination in Round 8) and Jack Steven showed several moments of nous as a small forward in 2010 (see the three-goal burst at the MCG against the Cats in Round 13).

Perhaps typical for Ross, it was the far more unfashionable Eddy that got the nod at the pointy end of the season. He missed out on the 2009 Grand Final but played ahead of all three others the week before, despite Robert Eddy Awareness Week threatening to out him to the wider football public as a little more than a bit player.

As Roo’s extended his hand with the captaincy baton over the last couple of seasons, it seemed over the past couple of years Armo and Steven were the most likely candidates to take over. But from the rookie list and a shaky grip on a spot in the 22 for so long, Jarryn Geary is the St Kilda captain.

So here we are. A world in which – officially – Roo won’t be one to lead us to that second premiership cup we thought he’d be holding aloft, something we thought he and the club were destined for from early last decade. A world in which he is the one chosen to be mic’d up for Channel 7 during a match. A world in which “Signed Geary poster giveaway” is a thing.

Never mind Clint Jones being chaired off after his 100th game early in 2012. Relatively speaking, this is a more absurdly wonderful achievement than that; higher and further than anyone thought Geary could go.

image1It remains too high for some supporters. Early last season I thought he might not be in the best 22 by the end of the year, although I felt I’d been proved very wrong by the end of the season. The coaches more than confirmed their view of his worth to the team by voting him to second in the best and fairest. To outsiders he’s a more bemusing pick than Saints fans would see him; to AFL.com.au he’s Jarryd Geary probably trying to secure his spot in the 22 in the final JLT Community Series match last week against Sydney.

So what does he bring to the team? Nothing that’s obvious, but often such is the lot of smaller backman. “Geary” in the goals column remains a novelty, although his back-to-back snags late in the second half against Melbourne in a must-win match as finals came into the equation showed an ability to step up and make a marked impact on a game. His best moment would come against the Bombers in the final minutes as the Saints struggled to squeak home in the same stretch of the season. A horizontal dive to chop off an Essendon forward entry saved a shot on goal, and we’d immediately go straight up the other end and kick one of our own. “Geary” in the best likewise if it’s from someone outside the club, but the high-pressure game he plays on his direct opponent and the situation around him is an example for everyone else to follow across the ground. Sometimes they have to, because he’s the one out on the ground telling where they need to be or what they need to be doing; he’s always aware of what needs to be happening for the team to be in its best position for the next play. As Caro said in her article confirming his appointment, he’s been seen for a long time by Roo as his heir-apparent. Again, a lot of this we need to be told, because it’s not apparent from the comfort of our seats or in the lounge room.

The question of his place in the team based on talent alone might not loom so much for 2017 but more for beyond: what happens as Brandon White, Jimmy Webster, D-Mac and to a lesser extent Ben Long, Bailey Rice and Ed Phillips develop? And perhaps even Nathan Wright? The back half is already pretty full – there’s already Newnes, somehow-in-the-leadership-group Roberton and Savage running around there already, and then you have to throw in the taller guys Carlisle, Dempster, Brown, Gilbert and eventually Goddard.

Apparently no-one works harder than Geary off the track. His acts on the field aren’t always obvious, but as well as being perhaps quietly effective they demonstrate something intangible. In a time where team culture and team attitude can reign supreme over a team of champions and perhaps almost anything else, Jarryn Geary may have emerged as the best example of what’s required for this team to reach the final frontier; what’s required for this club to deliver its second premiership.

 

JLT Series – Game 3

by Richard Lee

Eerily, the third JLT game (versus Sydney) capped off a pre-season that delivered everything that the Saints needed prior to Round 1.

No injuries. Game time into key players. The new faces have been integrated, and have for the most part flourished. And no injuries.

St Kilda’s pre-season, publicly declared focus on defense also came to the fore – especially so, on saturday night.

To half-time the game was following a script that felt pretty familiar. Whilst not quite being in top gear, the Sydney engine room seemed a bit too strong, a bit too cunning. Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker were doing what they do, and the Zach Jones’ and the Callum Mills’ of the side were always ahead of their counterparts by a step or two.

St Kilda, to it’s credit, was still throwing punches albeit whilst seemingly being on the ropes. Tom Hickey was having a career-night, our only true winner; but fortunately the rest of the midfield started to play it’s part too. David Armitage was hustling, Jack steele too and they were also getting some rebound from the likes of Webster and Roberton. As hodge-podge as it was at times, the Saints were forcing the ball forward through a collective will if nothing else.

It resulted in a 4 goal burst during the tail end of the third term, and it was game on.

All in all, the Saints couldn’t capture the win. All night we didn’t have a winner in the forward line. Neither Bruce, nor McCartin nor Membrey (forget Lonie) could get of the leash. And yet both Bruce and Paddy had set shots in an arm-wrestle of a final term. Neither could convert and that was indicative of their performances.

But that’s neither here nor there. The boys from harbour-side were far and away our most difficult opponents during the pre-season, and I think overall Richo and that gang would have taken away quite a few positives. The game plan stood up, the players stood up and again, the new additions made good on what had been advertised as their features.

Bits & bobs

– Jack billings had 25 touches, giving him an average of 24.6 for the series.
– Tom Hickey was equal highest possession winner, with 29 touches (Steele also had 29)
– Koby Stevens was a late withdrawal from the game after eating a dodgy prawn at the team motel
– St Kilda had 4 players with under 40 DreamTeam points Lonie, Brown, McCartin and Membrey

It was really hot

by Tom Briglia

JLT Community Series 2017 – Game 2
Carlton 0.2.2, 0.3.3, 0.3.4, 0.4.6 (30)
St Kilda 0.4.2, 0.8.4, 0.14.10, 0.18.14 (122)
Crowd: Uh…thousands? Princes Park, Saturday, March 4th at 2.05pm

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Who says romance is dead? Well, people like myself who are so desperately alone certainly do. But in the football sense, romance had reanimated itself on Saturday. We had all sorts of it on display, albeit in what was ultimately a meaningless JLT Community $eries™®© match.

Firstly, the setting – the only suburban ground, Princes Park, to make it to the new century. The AFL and Carlton collectively dicked any chance it had of operating as a boutique stadium by Carlton deciding to build a state-of-the-art office building behind the goals, robbing

The stands themselves really are a curious bunch, but the fact that there are several different makes from different eras gives it one mark ahead  There is the wonderful collection on the northern side of the ground, made clearly before logistics allowed them to stay up without the need for view-impeding load-bearing pillars.

The Legends stand is frankly ridiculous; the curved roof an ode to useless 1990s architecture that was trying to bring in the new millennium too soon. The flat angle of the seating means a lot of views from a needlessly poor position. Take that down, take the office building down. They had 25,000 in the other week for the Women’s opener, it wouldn’t take much to bring it to 40,000. For the clowns who got too excited about themselves for bringing Docklands stadium into existence that would apparently be more than enough.

Sitting in the old stands on wooden seats, stands made clearly before the logistical capability of not needing supportive pillars in the way of your view. All this with the 20th-century embellishments of cash-only food and drink outlets, cans of Carlton Mid, the concrete and steel urinals and the rusted taps in the grey, off-white and yellowed bathrooms; outdated advertising signage.

And oh, yes – two VFL foundation teams playing against each other at one’s original home ground on a Saturday afternoon.

The nostalgia for the candy stripe had been fed for the past two years; and as teased by the squashed ISC version for Roo’s 300th last year and this year’s club calendar a much bolder version of the hot-cross bun jumper made its debut. I’ll go into more of that in the forthcoming St Kilda Jumper State of the Union 2017; spoiler alert: It’s sensational and has some functional X-factor others have lacked. But RIP Candy Stripe #2; arguable the best St Kilda jumper ever.

Parking was a mare (if you’re a clown like me and missed the car park entry off Royal Parade entirely), so I jogged it in from a block behind Royal Parade in the heat to make it in time for the start of the second quarter, acquire a couple of cans of Carlton to run up to Matt and myself and see Jake Carlisle kick a goal.

And the footy itself? Uh, yeah, sure. Apparently the equation for the Corporate Name Non-Competition is St Kilda slightly up + Carlton down + 28 degress = blowout. That’s probably not giving enough credit to St Kilda and not giving enough credit to Carlton’s badness [citation needed]. Whatever the hell the Saints were doing in terms of team structure – to go with applying manic pressure not just in tight but to move and cover space across the ground – meant the ball very, very rarely ended up in Carlton’s 50, and if it did then with very little purpose.

The Bont’s already won a best and fairest in a premiership year so as far as I’m concerned the pressure is (in a way, at least) off Billings – the race is over, so he can just do what he needs to do now to be the best he can be. He did some good things last pre-season and early on before another injury busted his chances of a break-out, but in all of the intra-club, JLT 1 and Saturday he’s been a clear stand-out. The only way he could have been better is if he wore his socks up, because the team photo actually revealed he looks awesome with that. Whatever he’s done over the pre-season has allowed him to move more smoothly and get to the right spaces; he moves and disposes of the ball in the exact way I think we all envisioned him doing so when he was picked in the 2013 draft. Silky, X-factor, versatile, and he picked up 30 touches. It’s pre-season, sure, but all of a sudden “Billings to Paddy” is a thing.

Paddy’s still got a little bit of puppy fat but he’s moving even better around the front half than he’s shown. When he’s made an impact it’s often early in games before he comes in and out of things throughout the match, and whilst I could have kicked a couple out there against the Blues he loomed large all day. Membrey did fark all for four touches and My Favourite Hair in the AFL was having a rest, so the versatility is going to be a key factor if we’re going to make it to the relevant parts of the season. So on Saturday it certainly helped that futsal ring-in Josh Bruce was, you know, kicking seven goals. Matt and I said it were talking about how the forwards work together and how it would look if Paddy was playing closer to goal and Bruce was floating higher up – Saturday’s arrangement obviously worked a treat; Paddy only kicked 1.2 but took 12 marks. Ideally Membrey won’t have second-year blues (effectively) and you’re throwing in Roo as well.

That’s just the talls. Gresham is really a midfielder so it was more about Sinclair, Lonie, Wright, Minchington and Benny Long auditioning for spots in the front half. All of them kicked goals and had some impact. Easy to get hyped up but in 42% game time Long laid seven tackles and kicked a goal, and looked more threatening than the others. Otherwise, Minchington has more of a presence than the rest and the best disposal, Lonie can’t kick straight whether it’s in general play or at goal, and Sinclair appears to be a somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades. Wright barrels through things but I’m not sure how much longevity he has as a first 22 player. Our picks 24 and 25 in the 2012 draft are looking, uh…yeah. Long aside for now, until they mature a little more it’s down to which way do you prefer to be frustrated by small forwards.

Ok so let’s do this, nice and simple. Jack Steele. He’s like a midfield version of Josh Bruce. Top-knot, handsome, broad shoulders, decent Australian Rules footballer. Inside and outside he made a great impact and finished 25 touches (second only to Hotline) and two goals. He’s clean, he’s got a lot of awareness and he knows where the ball should be going. Until the trade and draft period this team is still short two first-rounders or one massive midfield name, but our midfield in general suddenly has a lot more depth – throw in Koby Stevens and introduce Gresham, and even Long was at a couple of centre bounces – and let’s hope Ross can build on his breakthrough year last year, Acres keeps developing and Jack Steven keeps skating around.

Dunstan might be the darkhorse here, in the same way Ross was last year. After his debut season in 2014 it felt like he’d gone a bit quiet (injuries have played a role) and an ankle issue in the final seconds notwithstanding, he’s another that looks to have benefited from another pre-season (shout-out to Acres’ much broader shoulders and upper body).

Not sure quite what to say about Carlisle and Brown in the back half just yet – they barely got a look-in on Saturday. That’s the kind of game it was. Also no supergoals were kicked lol.

The 92-point win would have us at the top of the ladder that doesn’t actually exist for this competition. The giddy heights of the 2004 were enhanced by the fact we won the Wizard Cup in a Grand Final that had genuine feeling in front of a sold-out crowd, but we don’t think of that when we look back on that era. This has zero guarantees of being a 2004-type season, but riding high in March can bring special feelings to a Saints supporter. The club has won one premiership in its 144 seasons, but there are no facts in the future.

 

JLT Series game 1

by Richard Lee

If you were to judge Saints are going to be finals contestants in 2017 based off this JLT Community Series, then the only conclusion you could come to is a resounding no. But if you had have told me prior to the game that the Saints main highlights would feature Billings, McCartin, Bruce and Carlisle at the centre of them then I would have taken that before you could say “footy”. And that’s the main thing.

St Kilda burst out of the blocks like a racing car that had been wound-up for several months. What they lacked in refinement they more than made up for in enthusiasm and verve, playing-on at will and pouring forward in numbers. At every contest the Saints were there in swarms and their tackling pressure was dialled up to 11.

Some of the younger faces might have been the ones that got tongues wagging the most (see Billings, McCartin) but truth be told it was 3 time Trevor Barker Award winner Jack Steven that was the most consistent performer of the night. Steven is the Energizer Bunny of the side; his ability to force himself into the contest is up there with anyone in the league. Like, the rest of the side though, his lack of polish and poise with the ball was awfully frustrating and conspired to deflate so many promising forays.

Sadly, that was a theme common in the game more it wore on and a factor in the Power gradually taking the ascendancy. By the final siren the home side had a ghastly 14 more clangers.

Looking past the new faces and how eager they were to impress – Carlisle being the most impressive of them – the cool thing about this performance was how much (for the first half anyway) the side’s look, structurally and otherwise, had solidified. We weren’t playing above our height in any key posts, and we had plenty of bullets left in the chamber to fire when our stalwarts weren’t at the heart of the midfield. And though there was plenty of rustiness skills wise, the side – newbies included – definitely seemed on the same page.

*** Other bits and bobs ***

– Membrey was our most effective forward with 3 majors. When the ball was coming in thick and fast early on he seemed in his element.
– Play of the night was in the first term. Geary (Captain edition) burst through centre and delicately chipped it in front of Paddy who marked, turned and lofted a 45 metre pass to the goal square, where Membrey swooped at the last second for a chest mark. He finished on the run from point blank range.
– At half time, the team’s two leading possession gatherers were Billings and Dunstan (12 and 11 respectively). Billings’ influenced subsided in the second half, but his set shot goal in the third term was a gem.
– I continue to question Jack Lonie’s future with the side. When he gets the ball he often tries to do too much, seeing as he’s ineffective when he’s not in possession. I think in the small forward pecking order he ranks very lowly.
– Jake Carlisle was close to the Best On Ground at half time. He was immovable in many marking contests, and also looked at home pushing right up the group.

St Kilda – Heaven & Hell – The Saints from 1897-2003 DVD

by Tom Briglia

This is probably the most engaging documentation of the St Kilda Football Club’s history. However, the fact it was initially produced in 1996 – just before the dramas of 1997 and 1998 – and then updated in the arbitrary year of 2003, right before arguably the most tumultuous and remarkable extended period in the club’s history, is quite a quirk of fate.

IMG_7711I’m sure it was never on the cards given Sports Delivered’s dwindling number of and interest (presumably) in archival productions since 2009, but I dare say this might be the only in-depth production to chart the club’s story we’ll get. To track in-depth the club’s fortunes in the second century of the competition, i.e. 1997 onwards is something we might have to settle on last year’s Open Mike: 50 Years On special for for the time being. It certainly might be premature to do so now, but should this group salute then a thorough look at what the club the endured in that time up until a premiership would be a hell of a ride to relive (let alone actually experiencing it in real time).

There’s certainly a lot of glossing over in the newly added section, presumably because it was more freshly etched in people’s minds when it was made. The 1997 campaign you’d think was a just a minor blip in the club’s history. Hardly touched when compared to 1965 or 1971, and even the heights of the early 1990s, only Aussie Jones’ goal is shown from the Grand Final itself. In comparison, all seven of Gary Loft’s goals in Round 19 of 1978 are shown (you’d actually think 1978 was a premiership season on a per-minute basis); one of Gordon Fode’s five goals in Round 3 of 1994; Daniel Wulf hitting the post from point-blank to tie the scores in “the worst game ever” of Round 5, 2002 as well as Nick Dal Santo’s kick after the siren with the scores tied; Brendon Goddard’s huge mark in his second game against the Bulldogs is shown twice across two different angles. That’s not to say none of those are worth mentioning, it’s the relative airtime they all receive that’s a little odd. The remarkable capitulations of both 1998 and 1999 aren’t given much attention either; in retrospect they were huge factors in the club finding itself in the position that gave them access to Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Ball, Goddard et al. via the drafts and quite simply were quite dramatic at the time anyway.

heavenhellgold

Gold Edition: Does anyone know the difference?

One little trick thrown in is in the ending of the new version as opposed to the original version. The original closed with Talking Footy‘s summary of St Kilda’s 1996 season in the show’s Grand Final week episode, which ended with a very disappointed Robert Harvey and Matthew Young post-siren after a late-season loss to struggling Footscray that scuppered the Saints’ top eight chances, with the end-0f-match scoreline on-screen. The shot fades to black, and into an almost sombre piece to camera by then-President Andrew Plympton. It works incredibly consistently with the club’s history that you’ve just spent your last two hours being depressed by, before going into a grimly nostalgic highlights package under “Mr. Magic”, and the club song.

The newer version ends with the conveniently forward-looking 2003 season, as the side featuring Riewoldt, Gehrig, Harvey, Dal Santo, Hayes and co. began to gel together. This time, its closes with the team singing the song after the Round 5 victory over – yep, the Bulldogs – with the final scoreline this time showing a St Kilda victory, and narrator the late Stephen Phillips (who returned for the extended chapter) saying “big wins, big performances, and high hopes for the future”; cue the “Mr. Magic” rendition with a bit more buoyancy on the viewer’s part. It seems all well and good then, but knowing what happened to that team – not just in the immediate years following, but ultimately the entire era they were a part of – like anything to do with the Saints, you’re left with a feeling of emptiness.