Coasting

By Tom Briglia

Round 2, 2012
St Kilda 5.2,  8.7,  15.10,  21.13 (139)
Gold Coast Suns 0.2,  2.2,  6.4,  7.5 (47)
Crowd: 21,032 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, April 8th at 4.40pm

It’s hard to know what to really draw from last night.

The Suns barely lit up (/insert other play on a team nickname here) and they looked like a side suffering widespread second-year blues. It would be unfair to take much away from the Saints, however, because you have to be pleased with a 92-point win the week after such a disappointing loss.

Sunday evenings at the Concrete Dome are generally void of, you know, atmosphere. The weekend is fading fast and the time slot simply is reserved for the games you’re happy to stay at home and watch – see last week’s Port and St Kilda game played in front of a few fans and just as much tarp; last night was played in front of even less (a few St Kilda fans and not much else).

Add to that it was Easter Sunday and the Saints are generally accepted by most as a upper-mid table side at best and this game had all the flavour of steamed celery.

Fortunately Terry Milera was around to get everyone’s mind off all the atmosphere there wasn’t with a brilliant running goal at the very start of the game, and when Sam Gilbert and Big Rhys followed up soon after it really was game over. Simple as that.

There are some things out of yesterday that we can take as genuine positives for the Saints, whether or not we were playing a bunch of kids fortunate enough to have Gary Ablett as their plus-one. Winning the contested ball was obviously a focus during the week and every player worked hard to make sure it was put in practice, and every Saint on the park had a hand in it.

The weight-of-numbers performance had several wise heads at the fore – Roo was back to his better form, Lenny was Lenny (accompanied by happy applause every time he found the ball), and BJ and Dal got a whole lot of the footy.

What had everyone most pleased, aside from Roo’s four goals and overall performance, was the input of a few of the younger guys. Milera could have kicked three or four goals, but two, 15 touches and some effective pressure in the forward half was a handsome follow up to his impressive debut. His opening goal really was great to watch as he moved sveltely through traffic from half-forward before finishing nicely. The forward line looked more dynamic with him in it.

Another factor up forward was Big Rhys, who played his best game so far. It was only his 11th but it seems the best way he’ll develop is simply playing senior footy. His set shot goal early was great for his confidence and his entire game benefited. Rhys covered a lot of ground in the forward half, and some nice body work and hard leads saw him take the kinds of marks he needs to if he’s going to be at least a good player. He’s starting to use his body more effectively in general, whether it be in a marking contest or chasing opponents.

The forward line’s functioning – again, albeit mostly against children – was promising. Rhys, Roo and Kosi all managed to stay out of each other’s way and all took responsibility on themselves to present when they had to. It certainly helped that the midfielders were looking beyond My Favourite Hair in the AFL (it’s hard to ignore that Hitler Youth-style cut) but Rhys and Kosi held up their end of the bargain too. Whilst Roo was able to motor across the ground and present time and time again to go with Rhys doing his own roaming, Kosi crashed packs without the collateral damage to teammates and had the ball fall in the right spots. His body work at the end of the third quarter to get the ball down to Jack Steven was a nice little demo of what he can bring to this team.

Jack and Armo were busy through the midfield and half-forward respectively, although both took turns in both parts of the ground. Jack’s in-and-under work and speed make him a versatile midfielder and it was great to see him having shots at goal (even better to see him kick one). His pounce on the footy and quick handball out to Cripps to set him up for a running goal during the third term blitz was another microcosm of another strong individual performance. He really is becoming an important part of the side.

Armo played the way the kind of game he needs to if he’s going to be a worthy member of the 22. After last week’s disappointing performance, he worked harder around the ball and finished with a game-high 10 tackles as well as two goals and 22 possessions. That’s a handy game by most people’s standards, but his problem has been consistency and the real challenge will be for him to back it up next week against the Dogs. For different reasons Steven, Milera, Schneider (who will be returning in a few weeks) and Siposs are all jostling with Armo for places in the side and he can’t afford to be fickle with form.

On top of those guys there was Tom Simpkin and Jack Newnes down back. Simpkin justified his selection with a strong performance after a good pre-season and Newnes didn’t look lost at all for his nine touches. He faded after a good start, but injury-free we’ll see him again this year.

The midfield really did do the job, Gary Ablett/Definitely God aside. Lenny was back to doing what Lenny does best, and he racked up 27 hard-fought possessions in a performance we all hope signals a return to great form. The side certainly looks stronger with him in it.

Nicky Dal toiled for his 26 touches and six tackles, and BJ put aside his anger throughout his 33 touches and deft disposal but it seemed Joey got stuck into a bit of front-running through the game. Hopefully a return to form for him isn’t too far away, because to have both he and Lenny powering ahead really should lift the fortunes of this side. Round that out with Jack, Dal, BJ and Tommy Ledger, who last night again demonstrated why he’s the only player from this club to have made an impact as the sub (and that his late withdrawal last week was a mistake), and we’re all feeling a lot better than last week.

This week’s Idiot in the Crowd Watch was highlighted by “some guy” sitting several rows behind us (as it’s the first home game of the season I’m not sure if he’ll be a regular in Aisle 29 of Level 2) who very purposefully and loudly declared the umpire a “poofter” after he gave a barely-there free to the Suns. When there are roughly 32 people in the crowd you can hear every word, and he made sure no one was left wondering when he followed up with an even louder, “He is a deadset pillow biter”. Thanks for wanting to make sure we knew, but I’m pretty sure homosexuality isn’t defined by paying free kicks you shouldn’t. Of course, I sat there like an idiot and didn’t say anything to his face.

Aside from that, it was a pretty cruisey evening at the footy. The Saints had an easy win and we could relax early. What would have made it even better would have been if it was played at 2.10pm and not under a roof but who am I to argue with the AFL’s money?

Fatalistic opinions about every team’s season need to be made ASAP it seems but anyone would be wise to just chill out on that front for the time being. As I said, how were we all feeling last week compared to right now about this club? We can have a better idea of where we’re really at after we take on the Dogs, but then we have out first genuine test in the following week against Ross the ex-Boss and his Dockers. But it goes on like that.

It’s a long season we’re at the start of, and the last few seasons have been difficult and draining through all the extremes. Don’t read too much into this one either way, just take the 92-point win and enjoy it.