In This Round…Round 1

By Tom Briglia

On the Thursday of each week in the lead-up to a St Kilda match, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the corresponding round.

St Kilda vs Geelong, Round 1, 2004
St Kilda 3.0, 8.2, 16.4, 19.8.122
Geelong 4.1, 5.4, 6.7, 9.7.61
Crowd: 35, 042 at Telstra Dome

A new era had been heralded a fortnight earlier when the Saints overran the Cats to take out the Wizard Cup in front of 50,000 fans. In the fallout of the dour contest, Geelong’s Paul Chapman stated the now-famous words that the Cats knew they themselves were the better team.

After an at-times spiteful match between the two bayside rivals, the media hype had reached fever pitch for the return bout on the back of Chapman’s comment, and a police investigation into sexual misconduct embroiling St Kilda speedsters Milne and Montagna that broke in the days after the Wizard Cup final.

The two sides for Round 1 were host to a plethora of young stars-to-be; players such as Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Ball, Hayes, Dal Santo  and Goddard in the red corner, and Bartel, Ling, Enright, Chapman, Rooke and Corey in the blue.

What promised to be watershed years for both emerging clubs started with an even first quarter, before St Kilda’s midfield began to take control under the guidance of senior players Stephen Powell and Andrew Thompson, who would finish with 23 and 26 possessions respectively.

Though Geelong would take a seven-point lead into the first change, they would kick just 5.6 for the remainder of the match, as the red-hot Saints would kick 16.8 and have the game sealed by the final change.

In what would become a familiar pattern throughout the season, blonde bombshell Riewoldt began to dominate the skies across half-forward, assisted admirably by Aaron Hamill. Both would finish with three goals and dominate their opponents in Harley, Mooney, Milburn and Scarlett.

Riewoldt would consistently be first to the ball or in better positioning in aerial contests, testimony to the superb athleticism and uncompromising will he would demonstrate throughout the decade. His third goal came courtesy of a desperate diving mark near where the boundary meets the 50 metre arc at the Lockett end of the city side of the ground; he then proceeded to go back and kick truly with a magnificent bomb.

Hamill would put on a solid display strength and precision throughout the game. In additiong to his own goals he set up one of Gehrig’s second-term goals by finding space in the centre square from a clearance and swinging quickly onto his left foot; his sharp, low kick would hit Gehrig on the lead in the forward pocket 45 metres away.

Gehrig and Milne would be the major beneficiaries of the hard work up the ground; the former would boot seven goals to begin the first of back-to-back Coleman Medal-winning seasons.

Gehrig would spring to life in the second quarter, becoming the focal point of a charge that saw St Kilda kick the last five goals of the first half. His goals would come from all parts of the ground – contested marks deep near the goal square and from the forward pocket, as well as lovely long-range set-shots from beyond 50 metres on his potent left boot.

Milne would kick four, including a goal followed by a jubilant celebration in the final seconds of the game after turning his opponent inside out to set the Saints marching towards a then-record ten successive wins.

Earlier on, he had dribbled two goals through from tight angles at different ends of the ground, and in opposite pockets; the first being St Kilda’s first after Geelong had kicked the first three goals, the other a cheeky finish in the final term to continue the Saints’ party.

A barnstorming third quarter saw Gehrig kick several goals, including one which came on the back of some cheeky roving work after a ball had spilled over the top of a contest 20 metres out from goal, complimenting a quality finish from a set-shot beyond the 50-metre arc (to go with his identical goal at the other end in the previous term).

The exciting Austinn Jones, who had revamped his career since playing off half-back, collected 27 touches and really brought the crowd to life with his running goal from 40m out late in the third term to truly put the game beyond Geelong.

The muted Geelong midfield were serviced well by the always-reliable Cameron Ling and Joel Corey, who both finished with 20 possessions.

It seemed at the time St Kilda was bashing at the door of something great. Something that their fans would be able to enjoy for the years to come, watching a midfield squad of new captain Hayes, Ball and Dal Santo feed Riewoldt, Koschitzke and Milne up forward, on their way to unprecedented success at Moorabbin. But things didn’t quite go to plan – coach Grant Thomas would find himself out of a job by the end of the 2006 season after unsuccessful finals tilts, and a mini-rebuilding phase that saw the competition’s most entertaining on-field side become a toothless, defensive unit. Even come a resurgence and a place in the closing epic of the aughts, Chapman would be proved right once and for all that the Cats were the greater side.

Links:
Purchase the St Kilda 2004 Season Highlights DVD from Sports Delivered
Or purchase the game in-full here

Other installments of “In This Round”:
NAB Cup Grand Final – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1996
NAB Cup Semi-Final – Essendon vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2008
NAB Cup Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1995
NAB Cup Round 1 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2006