Round 13, 2018
Gold Coast 4.2, 9.7, 11.12, 11.12 (78)
St Kilda 3.2, 4.6, 6.11, 11.14 (80)
Crowd: 10,181 at Metricon Stadium, Saturday, June 16th at 4.25pm
Thanks to the likes of the Dees, Bombers and Carlton’s own demise, the hounds of the media had not been as frenzied as you would have expected when it came to a team that some pundits (I’m looking at you RoCo) had tipped to be finish as high as the top 5.
That said, the spotlight had been ratcheted up; anxious, cautious, loyal Saints fans usually reserved to ciggie breaks in the parking lot had suddenly found their voice even in the public spheres of talkback radio and such.
It must be said that, despite carrying along several fresh newbies, the side had at least – aside from the Swans game – stemmed the bleeding in a performance sense. Against the Pies, Tigers, and Eagles (in Perth), there were definite takeaways however vague.
And despite the debacle that was the Swans game, you felt that the side – and the Coaching team/Match Committee – had found a new course for this season. Ed Phillips? Yes. Hunter Clark? Yup. Throw in Josh Battle, Bailey Rice, Coffield, presumably Brandon White pending health and an un-concussed Paddy McCartin. There were suddenly some green buds from which could be nurtured, to give this side a whole new complexion. There was a sense of a small silver lining.
And it’s with that in mind that so many loyal fans were baffled beyond belief when the team sheet was handed in for the now critical Suns game. In some ways, it should have seemed predictable. With the wolves at the door, out goes Phillips and Coffield; and some of Richo’s faves slide back in.
In my mind at least, the significance of this game had been dulled down in previous weeks as I had mentally resolved that this was essentially, if not a “rebuild” year, then definitely a “rethink” and a shift of course. The W-L columns had receded into the background. It’s about finding players and, more importantly, developing them. Great, get a McCartin, get a Billings, but once they are there you have to do right by them; they’re not sea monkeys.
Granted, of course, the looming prospect of the issue of the coach coming to a head did amp up the hype leading into this game. My thoughts on Richo? Generally speaking, I don’t think he comes across with the conviction or the strength that the figurehead of an AFL club needs to exude. For the most part this year he has reflected the fans – a lot of head scratching. And to top it off, it would be easier to swallow or empathise with if not were it for the incessant positivity and hot air that was coming out his mouth (amongst others) about our Finals chances and the five year plan and bla bla, in the lead up to Round 1.
Three quarter-time. Staring down at a 31 point deficit. Somewhere between evacuating the homemade rosemary and mozzarella pizza out of the oven, and finishing off the sriracha honey sauce for the chicken nuggets, I overhear the gleeful cries that Daniel McKenzie has got us back within a kick of hitting the front.
A remarkable turnaround. And despite anything and everything, this was a marvellous display of character from a group who have been stamped accused of a lack of maturity, leadership, resilience, et al. Of course, whether this is a flash in the pan in that regard, only time will tell. And it has been well documented how insipid the Suns have been in last quarters this year.
This is a pocket of air, of much needed breathing space whilst the likes of Richo, Finnis, Hammill and the rest of the lackies around the football department flounder and grasp for life jackets whilst the Club is being turned upside by Lethlean (and god knows who else at City Hall etc). And for me, that’s that. As I mentioned before, in Phillips, Clark, Coffield, White, Battle (who again stood out on Saturday night) and to a lesser extent Rice, the Club has stumbled upon (not by design) some of the tonic or the pathway by which we can navigate out of this mess that we’ve created ourselves.
That works both ways too. The relative success of that shiny new bunch has only further underlined the shortcomings of the likes of Mav, Sav, Geary, Newnes, Dunstan, Lonie and the rest of the deadwood that I can’t even stomach conjuring up from the depths of my memory. With all due respect, it was damn telling (and plain nice) that it was Gresh and not Mav, who was able to kick the game clinching goal. For those playing along – Mav actually had a set shot from about 50 to put the Saints in front with about 1:45 left on the clock.