Still that thing you remember

By Tom Briglia

2016 NAB Challenge, Game 2

The genuine, provable exceptionalism that applies to the St Kilda Football Club is one that has been mostly of its own making, but with more than enough added fire and brimstone from the footballing gods. Some footballing atheism does need apply here to keep a Saint sane (enough).

Some easy, recent examples: a goal umpire bemusingly calling a clear Tom Hawkins poster in the 2009 Grand Final a goal; the bounce of the ball from Lenny Hayes’ desperate forward foray one year later. Where we all need to focus here ultimately, are elsewhere – if we put our destiny back within our own autonomy and take the will of the gods out of it, then we needed to kick straight in that crucial second quarter of the 2009 final stanza as we made our move (not to mention the final quarter); in 2010 no matter where Lenny’s kick bounced – whether through for a goal via luck or Stephen Milne – there’s still time on the clock for anything to happen. Again, this is not to mention the ball bouncing the other way and Milne’s opponent running off with it with Collingwood one point up – just as likely as either the ball bouncing through for a goal, or the outcome that did transpire. And again, if we’d stayed in touch in the second quarter rather than let their lead blow out, the challenge that presented itself in the second half would have been significantly reduced.

But these are moments in history reserved for a different time of year. For conversations throughout the finals series, and more pointedly, Grand Final week when we become reflective and think about where the game has led us to on the eve of the pending season’s showdown. Right now, we’re still waking up from the off-season and getting used to thinking about on-field matters – new players, player and team development, interchange rotation changes, whatever it might be, rather than the arduous grabbing at fark-knows-what for stories and content in the hotter months.

However, this is the St Kilda Football Club we’re here to whinge about, and football atheist or not let’s take this to the modern-day pre-season, in which the weather’s played some weird games with us specifically in this decade in a specifically otherwise forgettable format of the game.

The Saints and Lions have met several times in the pre-season in the past ten pre-seasons inclusive (surely there’s a weird conspiracy there but that’s one for the actual authoritarians on this level). Three out of three played up north in that time took place in novelty football Queensland locations (the Gold Coast still qualified for this in 2009) in either the wet or ridiculous heat, and so it was probably only a matter of time (maybe some football atheism required here) in which scheduling a match in a near-tropical part of a climatically unstable (and growing more unstable) planet would result in tonight’s, uh, result: nothing, because there was way too much extreme weather.

The irony here is that the only way this game could have received less attention would be if it actually went ahead – 3.40pm on a Sunday in Mackay (local time) in early March technically doesn’t even exist in the VFL/AFL world, let alone as a black hole time-and-place in the season proper. As recent history would suggest, throw St Kilda into the mix though and the weather will follow. This, more specifically, is where the football gods would come into it and you can’t do much about it.

In 2010, when the competition was in its final year as a straight-up knockout competition, it was St Kilda and stranger-than-fiction bedfellows Fremantle who almost had their semi-final cancelled because a sudden storm damaged Corporate Stadium enough to at least postpone the match after thorough ground checks and the teams ran out and began the game in an empty stadium. Two years later, the pre-constant headline Bombers had their Cessnas (I guess?) turned back because of stormy weather, and the Saints (half of them in Murray Bushrangers jumpers) ended up playing a rain-soaked intra-club match.

Two years later (sensing any patterns?), the weather came along again just before ran out to play against the Bulldogs in Geelong for some reason; on this occasion the game actually went ahead and the heavy conditions gave us two Eli Templeton specials on which he still largely pins his reputation to.

And so, two years later, here we are again – definitely not wet, because we were nowhere near it – but matchless and with an extra two or so hours in our lives all of a sudden. Football gods or whatever your divine beliefs may be, wtf. The only takeaway here is that whether it’s after five months of waiting for the season or 50 years for a premiership (or 93 for those that were there from the start), no matter what we do this is still unmistakably the St Kilda Football Club.

  • Neil Freeman

    Just got home from NAB Cup match number 3 Melbourne v St Kilda.
    Cheer squad absent with no banner and the squad starting late at nearly the end of the 1st quarter. Whats happening?
    Etihad stadium strikes again with outrageous pricing for overly cooked and triple salted food. Window casing by the AFL on more affordable football is just a charade.

  • Tom Briglia

    Hey Neil, if you haven’t already I’m sure you’ll see the AFL’s season launch ad in due course, which has the tagline “You make the game”, referring to us, the fans.
    A few things on this – I don’t mind the no banner for a NAB Challenge match but the St Kilda cheersquad is something that has appeared weaker than others over the past 10-15 years, even with the faux-success of that time. I mean that in terms of size of representation (although I couldn’t give you numbers to back it up) as well as in terms of presence on game day. It’s worse for away games at Etihad and the MCG, although I dare say Saints fans more widely are guilty of not turning up in enough numbers for those, period.
    Etihad Stadium, on the other hand, is the complete antidote to the trends in the last few years that have seen fans embracing clubs’ spiritual home grounds and the opportunities to watch their own VFL teams (and occasionally NAB Challenge) games there. It’s so easy to see through an ad campaign like that at a time when fan satisfaction with the grounds – whether it’s the ticket pricing, food pricing, or overall atmosphere – and the game itself (although some things that might give us a better game have been introduced, but that’s to be seen) are probably at an all-time low. I know we get the whole home-ground dressing up now at Etihad but it’s hard to escape the concrete monolith aspect of the place which was quite deliberately introduced by people who thought the 21st Century would be about wanting to feel like you’re watching anything on TV from your living room.