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.
I’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.
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.