On the Thursday of each week of St Kilda’s season, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the upcoming round.
West Coast Eagles vs St Kilda, Round 6, 1998
West Coast Eagles 3.4, 6.4, 14.7, 18.11 (119)
St Kilda 3.2, 8.8, 10.13, 18.13 (121)
Crowd: 36,406 at Subiaco, Sunday, May 3, 3.20pm
Season 1998 will forever bring up bitter memories for all St Kilda supporters who were unlucky enough to experience it.
On top of the ladder after Round 14, and second only on percentage after Round 17, the Saints quickly fell away through a series of heartbreaking losses, and crashed out in a Semi-Final loss to the resurgent Demons. Coach Stan Alves was sacked eight days later, after the club looked for much of the season to fulfill the Premiership dreams so close to being realised the season before.
It was a rollercoaster season throughout, with some stirring wins highlighting the better part of the season.
In Round 6, the Saints won their third match – in a row, and ever – at Subiaco, over West Coast after a brilliant comeback in the final term.
The Saints were without co-captains Nathan Burke and Stewart Loewe and coming off a dogged win over Carlton in the wet at Waverley the week before; the Eagles were looking to bounce back after narrow losses to Sydney and Richmond in the previous two weeks.
It would be left to two birthday boys to cover the tall forward timber gap left by Loewe. Both dangerous ruckman Peter Everitt (now with blonde dreadlocks) and Daniel Healy, also working as a secondary school teacher at St. James’ in Melbourne’s East Bentleigh, would finish with six goals.
Two specific events would underline the match, however. Firstly, the controversial goal umpiring decision to award full points to a set shot by Everitt, which would leave the crowd, commentators and Everitt himself bemused, more so after replays showed this was duly warranted.
Second was the umpiring decision awarded to Gavin Mitchell in the final stages of the match, against Eagles defender Ashley McIntosh (who himself could easily have become a Saint earlier in the decade) for holding the ball. Mitchell calmly slotted the ball through for a goal from the angle with under a minute of play remaining, and it proved to be the winning goal. The decision was debateable – McIntosh did drag the ball underneath him, at least momentarily, though the ball did move along the ground somewhat, arguably out of his possession.
With 10 minutes left in the match, the Eagles had pushed their lead – hard-earned after a blistering eight-goal third term – out to 27 points, after small forward Philip Matera converted from a set shot thirty metres from goal.
In the hot conditions, some passages of play proving the Eagles themselves to be their own worst enemy, with spilled marks and ineffective kicks going forward preventing them from landing a true killer blow. Nevertheless, the Saints looked gone. Fraser Gehrig was looking dangerous and had kicked his fourth goal earlier in the term, and Glen Jakovich was playing a typically-commanding role across half-back. Peter Matera was his usual dangerous self throughout the middle.
But the Saints found a way, firstly with a reply from Luke Beveridge on the run from outside 50 metres after a quick handball from Matthew Lappin, and then from Daniel Healy who did likewise after marking from a turnover caused by a desperate Jayson Daniels tackle as the Eagles were streaming out of defence. It was Healy’s sixth goal, doubling his career total coming in to the match.
Lappin played provider again shortly afterwards, as Everitt would spill a one-on-one mark but crumb his own contest, find space and with the outside of his left boot kick another goal for the Saints from 30 metres out; his fifth for the game and second for the quarter. The Saints were now down by just four points.
But the Eagles won the resulting centre clearance and a quick handball from swooping ruckman Ryan Turnbull to Andy Lovell in space saw the Eagles again find breathing space with a couple of minutes left on the clock.
The frenetic pace of the final term ensured that there were still a couple of twists left in the tale.
Enter Austinn Jones, forward of centre on the wing, who cleanly gathered a bouncing ball that had come over the top of a pack, and started to run. The forward line had opened up for him, and a thrilling three-bounce dash whilst being tailed ended in a kick from 25 metres out that just swung in for a goal, and again, this time with under two minutes remaining, St Kilda was within a goal.
And some more frantic football followed; the ball found itself in the St Kilda forward line, and under Ashley McIntosh, then in Gavin Mitchell’s hands, then through the goals.
The Saints were able to hang on for the final 46 seconds for a famous two-point victory.
Robert Harvey had finished with a game-high 34 possessions, with support from Matthew Young across half-back, Jones and Daniels.
But sadly for supporters, moments like these will largely be lost in the shadow of what was to come.
Highlighting the fickleness of the season, the Saints would lose to the bottom-of-the-ladder Brisbane Lions a week later at Waverley in a lacklustre performance. This pair of games would be repeated 15 weeks later in equally as dramatic circumstances; in Round 21, and after a string of losses, the Saints Robert Harvey’s 200th match with a tough eight-point win in the wet of the Eagles at home, and a week later travel to the Gabba to take on the Lions again.
The Saints could finish as high as third if they defeated the down-and-out Lions, but would struggle in a more typical performance expected of St Kilda interstate. A late rally saw Stewart Loewe slam the ball down onto his boot for a goal a second after the siren began to sound, and the Lions had won by a solitary point, with St Kilda condemned to sixth. Another heartbreaking loss to the Swans in the 3rd Qualifying final a week later set up the final humiliation at the hands of Melbourne.
From the heights of 1997, the Saints would continue the collapse on their way to a wooden spoon in 2000, another new coach, and the need for a massive rebuild.
Other installments of “In This Round”:
Round 5 – St Kilda vs North Melbourne, Junction Oval, 1933
Round 4 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Victoria Park, 1993
Round 3 – St Kilda vs Collingwood, Waverley, 1997
Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Moorabbin, 1989
Round 1 – St Kilda vs Geelong, Telstra Dome, 2004
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