A win’s a win, cue credits, now leave

By Tom Briglia

Round 13, 2013
St Kilda 7.2, 10.3, 15.6, 16.8 (104)
Melbourne 3.0, 5.4, 7.5, 10.9 (69)
Crowd: 28,751 at the MCG, Saturday, June 22nd at 4.40pm

If it wasn’t a milestone game for three of the club’s top players then last night would be condemned to being  looked up occasionally on AFL Tables or Final Siren to confirm novelty stats, such as Mitch Clisby becoming the second Demon in three seasons to debut against the Saints wearing number 50.

Otherwise, at best in a few years we’re looking back at games like this because guys like Murdoch, Newnes and Ross are a part of a premiership tilt and we see the vision to think, “wow, look how far they’ve come”. We’ll probably also think a lot of peoples’ hair looks silly and the jumpers look “very early ‘10s”, although I’m not sure how much tighter-fitting they can get than the current ISC template.

Sort of, but not really, on that subject, on the way to the ground, a guy got onto the train at Seddon with me wearing the early 1990s jumper with Philip Morris as the sponsor, and the old-style large, simplified logo. I was thinking how great it would be if the logo returned to that style and and size, particularly with the black cuffs now it would make the jumper seem ever darker. Someone mentioned something similar at the 2011 AGM and in between saying “right” a whole lot times Greg Westaway noted that the AFL has regulations for the size and placement of club logos (likewise advertising logos), so I’m not sure if they could. The thing is, the logo they currently use on the jumper is an exact replica of the club logo, so if they used the old simplified version would it be subject to the same kinds of rules? Incredibly appropriately, once within Yarra Park I walked past a guy who was wearing the fantastic 2006 Heritage Round jumper – which wasn’t quite the true reflection of the 1980s jumpers it was meant to be – but features a very prominent logo. It also looks like a cross between the home jumper and the 2009-2010 clash jumper.

Seeing the jumper temporarily distracted me from my stupor of walking to the MCG to see two founding teams of the competition play in beautiful sunshine on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, wait a minute – it was actually four o’clock and the start of the match was another 40 minutes away because the AFL wanted to please its TV buddies.

Distracting me was the fact that there were several girls collecting money for Rowing Australia. I think they said something about getting them to the World Championships. That’s fine, good luck, you’re working hard, but from a purely “ME” perspective the thing with that is, a footy club means so much to people. It represents a lifestyle, it represents years of memories and stories and traditions. Sports like rowing are all about the participants. They don’t represent me. They have nothing to do with me. They’re just some guy I’ve never heard of (that’s not true, a distant relative of mine rowed in the Olympics last year). What am I giving these people money for? If we’re playing stereotypes, maybe it was a Melbourne Football Club thing?

In fact, the trip on the way to the ground was riddled with novelty bits and pieces. At Footscray station an old person got on the train with a battered old office chair. Foolishly, I offered them my seat. They were obviously set, and there was a lot less rolling around on the flimsy chair than I thought there would be.

It was a lot more eventful than I thought the game would be, despite the turbulent week both clubs had had. I wrote my thoughts on Milne late in the week. It doesn’t need to be gone over too much again other than to say I still think it would have logistically impossible for him to play. He’s been treated haphazardly enough in regards to the issue over the past nine years, and I don’t think it would get better if he played this week. Any and all treatment of him by players and fans alike would be scrutinised incredibly heavily – as it should be, but my point is we’d realise just how complex and messy this situation is and that it needs at least a couple of weeks to air. The problem with the club’s loose plan of having him within a few weeks is that the first hearing of the case is on July 5th, and we don’t know what will come to light on that day.

Also in the red, white and black corner was the fact that it was My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s and Dal’s 250th games and Dempster’s 150th (but you wouldn’t know that last part). It was one reason for the players to get up and about for Saturday if the Milne issue hadn’t totally drained them.

The red and blue corner was home to its own bombshell during the week, but one that was confined to the football world, and I think that we were all expecting to happen at some point. I was expecting Neil Craig to at least rejuvenate a side that hasn’t looked like they wanted to be there for a while. I honestly do feel for Mark Neeld. You could argue that he wasn’t up to taking on the job at the time, but I don’t think the club – from board level to the players – was going to do a lot of coaches too many favours. Craig’s did some good things at Adelaide I but I think his legacy there would be one of missed opportunities in the mid-00s, and I think the “coach sacked during the week” factor alone would have freshened up the Dees more so than Craig. The team has been that bad for most of the season where it would probably only translate to so much anyway, but the way the Saints had been travelling this season meant all sorts of things could have happened.

As it turns out, what happened was really just a rubbish game of footy between two struggling sides, and fortunately for humanity there was a minimal number present. Only 28,751 were there to see possibly the club’s greatest all-time player and one of his best teammates in their 250th, but you could also say they were there to see history’s worst club and the modern era’s worst club squaring off. See, St Kilda could have made that tag irrelevant had it won a premiership in the last decade, but it didn’t, and so now it’s just back to being shitty old St Kilda again. However, like at start of this century, there might be a plan for it. But we’ll have to wait.

The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind had come into the side for his mate’s big day, and also because a whole lot of other guys were injured. That’s a lie – one was injured, one was scaring us that we’d wasted pick 13, and one is apparently next Buddy but in several years’ time. It also brings him to 198 games, and I genuinely would love to see him play 200. Within a minute or two of the first bounce he found himself already five metres behind the play, but finished the quarter with two goals. On paper it seemed like he belonged, but one of those goals he was lucky that he (arguably) got taken high after inexplicably trying to dish off to a marked Roo at the top of the goal square. He didn’t have much to do with things from then on.

There were a couple of moments like that. Roo got a lucky hold free directly in front, and CJ did his best impression of Roo on 2009 1st Preliminary Final night which saw the captain gifted a goal from the square.

CJ has scored a goal from one of his puppy dog kicks after some quick hands from TDL and Newnes. As rubbish as Melbourne were – sloppy and stagnant – it was nice to see six different goalkickers for seven by quarter time. TDL and Ross were amongst them on top of their good efforts around the ground, and that list had grown to 12 by the end of the game.

Jack Steven started really well, winning a few clearances but even under limited pressure he wasn’t quite getting them to the right spot. They seemed to just tumble into the air a little haphazardly and a bit too wide, but the more he does it the better he’ll get at it, and I’m not going to get whingey about 30 possessions. But we’re not going to be playing Melbourne every week.

Dempster had a ripper start to his 150th, kicking it straight into Kent at full-back when he had more than enough numbers around him, who kicked their first. Even that early on, I don’t think anyone got too upset by it. The game was littered with moments like that – not necessarily as costly, but equally as clumsy.

The highlights were more about players working continually hard – Swat highlighted Dal’s 13 contested possessions in the post-match – than flashes of brilliance (ha) but there were some bits and pieces by younger guys early when the game was alive that were worth noting. Head put in a great contest down – certainly better than his effort on Dawes off the play – Dunell outmarked Byrnes and delivered a precision pass to TDL, who played on goaled, and Milera put on a big tackle in the forward line and followed it up in the pocket to set up Roberton for a shot at goal (albeit one that hit the post).

Late Withdrawal Lotto had Sam Fisher winning the jackpot, which wasn’t just the week out but the entire season as revealed the following day. That’s a big blow to an already undermanned defence that is struggling with just about anyone over 6’5”, but on the flipside it opens the door for Head Simpkin or the Ferg Burger that much more. That said, one concerning thing in the first quarter was that the Dees seemed to get goals too easily on the rare occasions they went forward. There was the Kent goal, which also came about because of his effort to pressure Dempster, then Blease’s nice snap goal straight from a Nathan Jones centre bounce clearance, and Jack Watts presented well, got a free and kicked straight.

As mentioned, Head got the nod (omg get it?) this week, having been on the Missing Persons list effectively all season. He’ll be back on it for two weeks after smacking Dawes (assuming they don’t challenge), however, and all of a sudden the backline is looking even thinner. Mark down 10 goals for Jack Riewoldt next weekend (a large majority of me isn’t joking). If they bring Ferguson back in I doubt we’d ever see him again in post-final siren.

My brother and I decided to watch the second quarter in the Social Club. Things were a bit more happening in there, probably because there was a roof. Also Gilbert McAdam was in there, which made it a more relevant space than the ground itself. The Social Club did go off with the Roo to Milera to running BIG RHYS BANDWAGON goal, however, and considering the members turnout overall it was very busy in there at half-time. I think we were all keen for a drink though.

Melbourne were all over it for periods in the second quarter, but they opened the term with four straight behinds and the Saints still managed to win the quarter. That had well and truly vacuumed out any atmosphere there wasn’t at the ground. When Milera attempted a little kick off the ground early in the third I observed it in my thought process as “almost exciting”.

The second half descended into farce to no-one’s surprise. As one of the few people in our N3 section behind us exclaimed, in the third term, “It’s lucky they’re so shit”, because the Saints weren’t necessarily so far ahead because they’re a competition juggernaut. Roo provided a genuine highlight by kicking to Terry from the wing, and then accepting Terry’s ball forward only a few seconds later for a shot at goal. Head put in a great hit on Spencer, and Armo moved nicely on the wing (albeit through not much resistance) and TDL and Terry worked nicely together to snap a goal.

Jack Steven’s early dominance settled a little but he was busy throughout for 30 touches. Armo was pretty good too, although it’s games like this I’d like to see him really take the opportunity to stamp himself, as he did against GWS. Not to make him some kind of flat-track bully, but he’s got to start somewhere? A few games like that a season is what we’re after.

The old firm in Joey and Dal were all over it and so the game was well in control. I spend the least time on this blog talking about guys like them because they mostly do a good job week in, week out – certainly Joey this year – this will be another of those weeks, other than to say they were both great and the club needs to have these guys around whilst the younger guys are coming through.

I wondered if Melbourne actually cared enough to go through all the effort it would take to improve during the game and back from the situation they found themselves in through the third quarter. I don’t think they did.

Really, on the way to a 49-point lead at the final change a more typical passage of play was Farren Ray kicking on his left (probably just for the practice) to the bemusing forward target of Clint Jones, who was appropriately outmarked by Nathan Jones.

If the game probably had jumped the shark by then, the rest was was The Simpsons from season 9 onwards. TDL kicked out of mid-air on the wing (although it did somehow turn into a goal), Dunell put in a really good effort to take a mark in the forward pocket on a tough angle but missed, only to get a chance 30 seconds later from a fluffed kick-in, and miss by even more.

Not sure what to say about the final quarter other than it was rubbish, and it didn’t really remind us why winning is so enjoyable. Wins are only coming around once a month, if that, at the moment, and this felt like a waste of that experience. A big final quarter would have been nice for the fans to be in a bit more of an upbeat mood by the time Roo, Dal and Sean were carried from the field.

Swat pointed out that with guys like Newnes, Ross, Murdoch, etc. in the side they would tire towards the end, as has happened a few times this season. There’s a few inexperienced players in there that aren’t strictly “youngsters” so that might come into it too, and it was great to Ross and Newnes taking another little step forward and being busier for longer. But considering the opposition, the tapering performance and the occasion itself it was a flat day at the footy. The days of big wins in real style are gone for now.

Swat also said a win’s a win, and I guess we had to run with that. I had a family friend’s 21st southside near my parents so I enjoyed a pizza from Remezzo and a few drinks with my brother before heading there and telling other people about the faffin’ that went on at the MCG.

As I said, Fisher is out for good and Simpkin will miss, so perhaps against the Tigers Rhys has to go back to defence and be second/third ruck to Big Ben (assuming he’s alright to go) along with Kosi, who surely remains in the side on his ROAD TO 200. Saunders literally got dropped after playing one quarter of footy, but for the same reason I didn’t like that (it wasn’t a bad quarter, too) I don’t want to see Murdoch miss after coming in. Terry surely stays this time after one of his better games – 21 touches to three quarter time – and TDL was lively too. Sandy’s game yesterday was pretty sad state of affairs for the Zebras but maybe – Ledger, Curren if they upgrade him or or Saunders, apart from My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs, perhaps – will be banging down the door. Nathan Wright didn’t have a huge game but he’s shown he can slot in pretty easily to the seniors and I have no hesitation in having the Hard-arse Triumvirate being reunited.

Webster put in some really hard efforts – particularly on in the third where we worked hard to get low to a contest in defence – and had nine touches coming on as the sub so I hope he’s kept in too (I’m sure he will be). Dunell was busy across the flanks and so apart from a possible forced change with Head and perhaps CJ there’ll be minimal moves made at the selection table otherwise.

Back to yet another 4.40pm game on the weekend, this time in the even blacker twilight hole that is Sunday evening. Being a reciprocal home game it means maybe seven or eight more Saints fans will turn up at the MCG than if it was just a regular away game, or hell, if it was just a regular home game. It doesn’t really make a difference if there’s no roof, I assume it’s the same small amount that turn up anyway. The Tigers are genuinely a good team now. I could play the “they haven’t beaten enough good teams yet” card, but that doesn’t concern us so I’d expect them to do things pretty comfortably over us. We’re 18 months into this new era, but are still some things that will take getting used to.