Everybody has them

By Tom Briglia

Round 10, 2019
St Kilda 2.2, 5.7, 8.10, 9.14 (68)
Carlton 3.4, 5.4, 6.6, 8.7 (55)
Crowd: 35,058 at Marvel Stadium, Sunday, May 26th at 3.20pm

A few weeks ago I opened with some sloppily-worded stuff about Bob Murphy’s rhythm of the season. That crappy Saturday night against the Eagles was a descent into that rhythm. It can be a terrifying plummet, or an autonomy-sapping submission to a phase or a period or way of life. There is movement and it’s taking you in one direction to a place you’re not quite sure you want to be, or if you’ll know what to do when you get there.

It’s another thing to have landed in that place, and to live that way of life. On Sunday we had said farewell to the weekend’s daylight as we entered the Concrete Disney Store at 3pm (1pm if like you wanted to catch a glimpse of Max King teasingly running around on an AFL-approved artificial stadium but in a Sandringham jumper). By the end we were glad to be out. So what exactly are we doing?

All we had to do was show up and vaguely win. That’s about as heavy as the burden of expectation has been for some time. The anticipation at the ground in the moments before the opening bounce of the Crows match was belted out of us with every long kick down the line, and all that is left from the roar of the crowd as Jack Billings’ shot went through after the siren against Melbourne is the Fox Footy broadcast rolling its way through the solar system.

***

By Friday night, Richo was playing a supporting fodder role in Brad Scott story line. Here I am, trying to pick the least offensive mid-range wine and a relatively cheap bag of crinkle-cut chips for a close friend’s birthday dinner, and Matt’s sending me screen shots of Channel 7’s Twitter account talking about North weighing up the future of Brad Scott with “St Kilda possibly being his next home”, and whether or not St Kilda should or would move on Richo soon to get to the front of the queue for Brad Scott was deemed worthy of an SEN on-air discussion. In a low-stakes Ross Lyon job, we might have been welcoming John Longmire to Moorabbin after all 13 years later.

Richo’s position seemed strangely secure, and I say strange as in, “Gee media, I think you’re the only ones thinking about this”, but again in the wash-up we’re needing to deal with the reality of what we’re explicitly trying to achieve. Break down the opposition, keep them to a low score, and we’ll vaguely kick a higher (but still low) score via questionable ball movement, questionable forward line activity, and questionable kicking for goal. Zero surprises when the final score comes in at 9.14 to 8.7. We’ve kicked 10 goals or less in every game except for two this season; and our scores have come in bizarrely similarly: 15.5, 10.16, 9.12, 10.14, 15.5, 10.8, 10.10, 10.10, 10.11, 9.14. Josh Bruce had dangerously said this was the beginning of a “decent stretch” of games, and we’re apparently the fittest team, so this shouldn’t have been a problem. But it kind of was. But we won. So this gets put in the “just…leave it for now” column.

Parker missed two set shots and then nailed two in huge moments in the third and fourth quarters, including what was our solitary goal in the last. Bruce on the siren at half time was huge, but these moments are magnified when you’re only kicking nine goals. How does that stack up against the defining moments of an AFL season? We’ve forgotten. But I’ll take those Parker moments every time. He and Gresham and Long brought the personality back to a team that retreated to its room for the weekend over the past month.

Some other things had returned. The celebrations were back. Dunstan showed off his gym work to the cheer squad and Parker let everyone know about both of his goals. When the game was really in the balance Ben Long made sure the opposition knew about it and hit Casboult very hard. It wasn’t just good to see that, but this wasn’t the early in the game, let them know you’re there stuff. This was the last quarter, and if it literally went arse up Casboult was away in space in the centre of the ground. Parker followed that up later with a wild block at half-back, even Dunstan’s calculatedly careless hit had a lot going for it. Rory Laird’s hit on Lonie was a marker in this season; he didn’t necessarily do anything wrong but in a team that had gone out of its way to celebrate goals harder and let the opposition know some shit’s not appreciated, no one went to Laird. It hadn’t been seen since. The Carlton players went to Parker on the three-quarter time siren for a whole lot less, so it was good to see Long and Parker return the favour in a big way when it really counted.

***

This game in isolation didn’t mean a huge amount. We win, and so we should have; we don’t and Richo may or may not be sacked but most probably not because of injuries (do we ignore the previous five years?). This was an exercise in physically running out onto the ground, doing stuff, and checking the box. That much was done, and we feel more relief than anything else of being on the winners’ list again. Richo hyping up the team’s progression and the return of Geary, Lonie, Webster, Carlisle, Hannebery et al is some fluffy PR stuff that forms a shadow in the periphery of our day-to-day. We’re neither here nor there, and this season at least has an asterisk until those guys are back. Richo gets an out, but maybe we’d all accepted a hard reset over the off season.

The footy itself bleeds into the rest of it. Games aren’t so much of an event. Certainly not in this moment; the optimism has subsided for now (we’re at least able to say “for now”, for now). We’re just happy to be out of the house because once again we’ve got sucked into the week-to-week vortex. It’s easy to see why the club holds out in not listening to fans about excessive noise or fan engagement or cover versions of club songs and self-fulfils its purpose of making our home ground a home TV set. The best part was hearing Carlton’s classic Fable Singers version of their theme song running back to back (given the logistics around the circumstance of the pre-game ceremony) into the St Kilda cover version that no one asked for, and showed up the the cover version again as tinny, tacky, instantly more outdated than the Fable Singers versions would ever be, and again shat all over the pathetic attempt by the AFL that the audio was of “diminishing quality”. The Fable Singers version is bold, it’s rich, it sounds magnificent, and it sounds like Carlton. It has the weight of the arrogant, successful Old Dark Navy Blues behind it. The full arrangement takes over the stadium because it both aurally sounds fantastic and it means something to the Carlton fans. In the same way Richmond could be strong and bold during their 37-year premiership drought, their song and the fans’ response to it reminded us of where the club had come from. It maintained something brash and bold and arrogant and aggressive about the club, even in its lower moments. In the whirlpool of the season those are moments and key elements of the club that do matter. Our song means nothing and represents nothing now. It feels like we don’t have a club song. The reception to it is noticeably muted since it was brought in, pre-game and post-game. It sounds weak, as if the club was told by the AFL they needed to listen to them when it wanted to test some “fan engagement” shit at the Concrete TV set, and we aren’t in a position to say no.

The club maybe should pay attention to these kinds of things that actually mean something to fans. Maybe it’s because Saints Magic exists, the live event spin-off of The Streak DVD. Worthy cause, absolutely. Worthy event to mark 10 years of? I don’t know about you, but that might be the second most upsetting match of 2009. It represents exactly what we couldn’t do when history really mattered, and that we’re marking something like that in this way is the club going out of one hell of their way to remind us that the season delivered fuck all. All we have of that season – because of Sports Delivered giving up – is a far-too-short, hastily put together DVD by the club (via Sports Delivered) that has Tony Jones calling Farren Ray “Farren Lay” and music inappropriately playing throughout the whole thing, and no sense of the idea that the season was a six-month fucking story a decade in the making. Lost to history in-fucking-deed.

***

A curio of the rhythm of the season is that that as winter sets it actually breaks down and blurs everything. In the moment, you get lost the rhythm, among the components. Instead of going over the highlights and Richo’s press conference ASAP, the 58 tram trip home was spent listening to Paddy’s interview on Triple M in the pre-match. That was difficult to listen to. I think the broader attitude amongst Saints fans, or any fans, or any humans, would just be hoping he is healthy enough to do day-to-day stuff as he did before.

In the depths of the season – the furthest away we are from the optimism and the let’s-watch-everything attitude of the early season to the optimism (but most probably reflection) and the let’s-watch-everything attitude of the business end of the season – this was another “every week” in the “we go to the footy every week”, but among other “every weeks”, each as regrettable as the last until you see Matthew Parker’s celebration of Ben Long’s hit pop up on a slickly-edited season highlights package in Grand Final week or on a YouTube video several years from now, and you wistfully think about that extra time you had on your side then.

The cold weather finally forced its way through. I burped on the tram accidentally on the way in, and I didn’t quite have enough layers on for the way home. Low to mid-range meats-as-comfort-food summon me, I get off the tram at Union Square Coles, I choose the pork sausages with Kakadu plum and lemon bullshit, I walk home, and whether I choose to or not, forget it ever happened.