St Kilda wears a different, awesome jumper; also they win

By Tom Briglia

Round 7, 2013
St Kilda 3.5, 7.7, 10.8, 11.11 (77)
Carlton 2.4, 3.6, 4.11, 9.14 (68)
Crowd: 34,054 at Etihad Stadium, Monday, May 13th at 7.40pm

My two favourite things happened last night. St Kilda wore an awesome, different jumper, and St Kilda won. But mostly, St Kilda wore an awesome, different jumper.

Like last year’s Round 7, Monday night sojourn, I headed to Corporate Stadium in the cold (albeit via very warm Number 8 tram) expecting to see the Blues mop the floor with the Saints. And like last year, we all got a really entertaining and encouraging performance that yielded four points. Again, I was very happy to be wrong.

Mother’s Day weekend and the unfortunate effect of almighty television (and by extension, money) have made these clubs willing participants in what’s becoming a traditional fixture. I don’t know that any supporters of the teams playing genuinely like the concept but I know that if it was someone else playing, I’d be watching it on TV.

The AFL can justify it further because they know there’s enough supporters that will turn up to the actual thing no matter what time it’s played – there were more than 34,000 of us there last night and we didn’t get home until around 11pm at least – and they’ll take any and all advantage of that. I don’t know why they can’t just play this game on the Friday or Saturday instead, but I guess you’d need to bump another game to the Sunday then and after the shambles that were on display in both of the Mother’s Day games this year any club would be excused from wanting to avoid it in future.

Last night marked my debut at Aisle 31 on Level 2, after six years in line with the goal posts in Aisle 29. Having been in Vietnam for the Round 4 match against the Bombers, it was strange going to my first home game at Etihad so late in the season. Incredibly, the Saints only play four home games at Etihad in the first 16 rounds, so it will be a while yet before I settle in there anyway. It was just me and several empty seats on either side of me on this occasion – my brother had broken his wrist in all sorts of ways playing for the De La Salle Thirds over the weekend and was sporting a new industrial-size cast, dear cousin Evan was weighed under by Year 12 obligations and Dad wisely preferred the comfort of the couch on a chilly Monday night.

I’d been pumping up the 140 Years jumper on Twitter and this page through the week, and I felt more than justified in yapping about it when the team ran out. I thought it looked really fantastic, and yes, as I’ve said on this several times before, I’d take the design as the full-time home jumper in a heartbeat. It’s bold, it’s simple and it looks a little mean, too, much like the 2005 Heritage Round red, yellow and black jumpers.

Considering the recent history of the club both in recent years and recent weeks, the atmosphere amongst the St Kilda crowd certainly felt different. The urgency and expectation were diminished a little. To celebrate 140 Years (not just last night, but this year) perhaps feels a little hollow after recent Grand Final failures, and it’s been made clear that this developing side won’t be making any impact on September for this year at least. However, after watching Geelong with envy on Friday night, I must say I was feeling better about things by the end of last night.

It was a patchy opening by both teams, with the Saints keen to get started on missing gettable goals. Milera, Geary, Joey, Farren, and My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs were all guilty; Milera would kick three behinds before his first goal and Geary missed another shot in the second quarter. The half-time score of 7.7 should have been something more like 10.4, but it feels like we’ve become used to wasted opportunities over the past year or so.

Particularly early on I thought the Blues would prove to be simply too solid, and it felt like it wouldn’t take much for things to go their way. They were awarded possibly the first 50-metre penalty given for a push in the back BEFORE a mark was taken, were gifted a goal in the square for an off-the-ball incident and then Milne’s clanger set up Walker to run around for a while and then kick a goal. As for the Saints, for every time Jack Newnes took on his opponent and bullet-passed to My Favourite Hair in the AFL, or Jack Steven doing the same which ended in a great running goal to Roberton, there were soft efforts early from Dempster, Siposs and Steven.

But as things sorted themselves out, it proved to be the Saints who really turned up to work hard. Roo’s double effort early, moving up the ground, and then back deep before leading to mark and kick his first goal, set the tone for his night. It set the tone for everyone else’s night, too. He’s a man whose premiership window has closed, but he continues to play as arguably the club’s greatest captain.

For all the hard work out there, this team will still be prone to inconsistency not just within games but within quarters. On top of the wayward kicking for goal there were also a few aimless entries going into attack in the first, juxtaposed with the passage of play that led to Roberton’s goal, or Wright’s setting up of an isolated Roo in the second.

It certainly helped that Ellard and Yarran came off with hammies early, much like Waite’s suspension and Carrazzo’s late withdrawal. It set the rest of the game up to be played in effectively two waves. The young Saints would go full throttle for the second and third quarters, harassing and working and dashing their way to a 33-point lead over a depleted Carlton by the final change. However, they’d used up all their juice by then and en masse were more ragged than the Blues. Once Mick got their forward structure straightened up with Henderson thrown into attack, Carlton knew they’d be a chance against a side that had largely not been challenged like this before. They’re only human, indeed.

Until that final twist there were some really great signs across the board. The senior players did their thing, with Roo the obvious standout, and took it upon himself to bring the Tip Rat into the game after #44 had had a slow start (also they both looked awesome in the jumper); if Dal didn’t quite fully awake from his slumber then he’s certainly stumbling through the hallway towards the bathroom, and Fisher was a general in defence. Milne ended up kicking two goals and having a hand in a couple of others; there were a few clangers on his part but watch his reaction when Siposs kicks the goal in the third – that’s something really valuable to have around the club.

But it was the contribution by guys on the rungs below that has us all feeling good about the future (for this week at least). Obviously there’s Jack Steven, but Big Boy WOWEE BOY OH BOY McEvoy played one of his best games. Having Big Tom Hickey in the side meant he could drift around the ground and into defence without taking too much artillery away from the stoppages. His presence down back was pivotal on several occasions, particularly late in the game. He’s again at the front of the pack to be the 2017 Premiership Captain, but I’ve been thinking of revising that to 2018 or even 2019 Premiership Captain (stay tuned for that one).

Jimmy Gwilt’s return was great timing in the absence of Sam Gilbert, and The Official 140 Years Jumper Model, like McEvoy brought some real stability to the backline. He really struggled with Henderson in the final term, but most defenders would with the ball coming down that often and with that much space available in the Blues’ forward 50. There was also Geary, who did a very nice checking job on Marc Murphy.

The younger guys particularly have given something to really look forward to. Roberton played another solid game off half-back (including his nice running goal); Jimmy Webster had his family home burn down 10 days prior but ran out with his brother and led the team off after getting nine touches in a quarter and a bit of footy. As Swat said, has showed “almost too much composure”. Then there was the sensational Hard-arse Triumvirate: Newnes took the game and his opponents on to go with some nice disposal, likewise Nathan Wright who worked commendably hard, and Seb Ross collected 21 touches in his best game thus far.

The Only Ross at St Kilda seems pretty unassuming for a first-round draft pick. He certainly doesn’t have a huge profile or a flash haircut like My Favourite Hair (which looked awesome with the jumper) or Armo, but Jobe’s cousin has taken obvious steps forward in his outings this season. He’s not the quickest guy but he’s really composed and knows how to use the ball – his quick give off to Newnes at half-back set up the passage for Armo’s third-quarter goal.

Perhaps it’s he and Newnes behind Big Boy McEvoy in the 2017 Premiership Captain stakes currently. Newnes’ confidence clearly grew over the off-season and as his body strengthens and he gains experience he’ll be more and more involved in the play off half-back and through the midfield.

Wright is probably in a similar situation, but you’d actually want him across half-back right now the way he was playing before being crudely hit by Eddie Betts. I hope he doesn’t miss too much footy, although the break might freshen him up for when he comes back to the side.

It’s easy to gush after wins like this. A whole lot of young guys showed really good signs and, for this week at least, they could become anything. Simply, it’s great to see these young guys really taking things on. Especially in such an awesome jumper.

If I said the BIG RHYS BANDWAGON had never looked better, I’d be referring first and foremost to the fact that Big Rhys was wearing one of my favourite St Kilda jumpers of all time. He did some nice things and really wore Hampson all night, but he’s still yet to stamp himself as a natural defender. No matter what end of the ground he’s at right now he’d look a bit unsteady I think, and at worst he’s gotten another full game into him.

Siposs looked more at home up forward again (he too looked good in that jumper), so perhaps he’ll be seeing a little less of the defensive 50. His disposal makes him worth having further up the ground, but he showed some good smarts close to goal both in the air and at ground level. He followed up his 2.3 against Collingwood with 1.2, so hopefully he can get his radar going again soon.

Milera and Saad reprised their better moments of 2012 and played much more meaningful roles, although they drifted in and out of the game. Milera still is a little wasteful in front of goal and could be a really damaging player if he rectifies that. Saad was busy, laying five tackles and kicking a couple of goals, including the most important of the night. It was punctuated by him celebrating first with Seb Ross – moments like those get you excited about the future.

The feel-good vibe fell away at some point during three-quarter time – maybe it was the boos for the giveaway winner on the big screen? – and it felt like watching the bad old Saints in the final quarter. The second and third tier guys were out on their feet, senior guys were making mistakes, forward 50 entries looked nervous, and “Some Guy” had been thrown up forward at the other end and was dominating for the first time in his career.

It certainly wasn’t for a lack effort. Newnes was demanding the footy from a kick-in in the last quarter, a really positive sign that he was keen to take responsibility at a key moment in the game, but guys like him will need to do this a few more times before this club makes a serious trek up the ladder. There will be “up” weeks and “down” weeks in this development period. The Saints managed to hold on, so this is an “up” week, where we feel really good about the recruiting and Scott Watters. We should really enjoy it – the players certainly did, and so they should have. This guy did, too – can someone PLEASE gif this? [EDIT: HERE IT IS!]

It felt like a win for a win’s sake. The supporters who turned up enjoyed watching kids put up a really good fight and be rewarded for their efforts. The possession was wayward at times and the pressure dropped off late, but the intent alone was enough to get them over the line.

Of course, there’s a wider context to it – not for season 2013 but for the years ahead, in that it’s wins like these that younger players build careers on. What I really loved was the reaction of the young guys on the siren, particularly Ross and Newnes. These are the kinds of wins that not only gets us as supporters attached to the players, but those players really attached to the club.

Also the jumper looked awesome.

  • Campbell

    Seriously Gif-able that clip, as soon as i saw it on monday i was in hysterics. I was so impressed by Ross and Newnes, in particular i the way they both tackled. I haven’t seen such ferocious tackling in such young players for a long time, it was truly fantastic to see. Really pleased that Siposs is starting to get more involved too!

  • Tom Briglia

    Guys like Ross, Newnes and Wright weren’t afraid to get into and move through traffic, both with and without the ball, which was a great sign. Even Jimmy Webster was prepared to wear some physical pressure if it meant he could give time for another to move into space before dishing it off.

    Siposs again looked more comfortable in the front half. With the kind of personnel currently taking care of things down back and Maister out, there’s a more defined role for him up forward, too.

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