Round 11, 2019
St Kilda 3.4, 5.8, 7.10, 9.15 (69)
Port Adelaide 5.1, 12.3, 18.3, 22.7 (139)
Crowd: 9412 at Adelaide Arena at Jiangwan Stadium, Sunday June 2nd at 12.20pm China Standard Time
It’s wildly reductive to say we wouldn’t be in this current position if Adam Schneider, Stephen Milne, Andrew McQualter et al had kicked straight on Grand Final Day in 2009. Or if the board didn’t take on a dick measuring contest with Kingston City Council over several poker machines. But we did what St Kilda does best, i.e. not win premierships and make a general mess off the field, and here we are, trying to make a point about being the first club to play in three countries for premiership points. As if it’s something to be proud of. As if we haven’t been shopped around outside of national borders because we aren’t able sort out out shit from Portsea to Port Melbourne.
Captain of the St Kilda Football Club and Captain of Injury Curio Club Jarryn Geary said it was “something to be proud of”, which might have just been spur on the moment mid-week press conference guff, but by the time the club itself took that line on the socials it was apparent the line was from the PR and marketing department of consistently heartbroken and depressed entity trying to convince itself the last 10 years didn’t really happen. We’re now the first team to lose in three different countries, of course.
The New Zealand attempt – which the club has occasionally tried to portray as on hiatus purely because of Auckland City Council – reached its peak in its second season with prominent local coverage after a stirring win the week before on a Saturday night against the Bombers. I dared to think that after going all-out for a rebuild more than a decade earlier, and still on the way down following the Grand Finals, that we could cheat ourselves out completely giving in to the other side of the process. Instead, we shat directly into our pants, Shanghai 2019 style, and lost by three points. We lost to Hawthorn by 145 points one week later and we didn’t win a game for three months. The Road to 2018 was born, which included 10,000 members based in New Zealand. We didn’t play in front of 10,000 people in China on Sunday.
In crowning nearly our most disastrous few days this year (behind a day in Ballarat that upended a couple of lives), we showed the bad kicking is bad footy, whether you’re at the MCG playing off in a Grand Final for your second premiership in 136 years after dominating a season, or playing in a different continent in front of Gil, Kochie, some bemused locals, and some fans who paid too much to go overseas and watch their team visibly struggle to piece together decent possessions in 33-degree heat because they have rampant diarrhoea.
I was struggling in the digestive system region myself due to a bumped up dose of Minocyclin for adult acne (not a drill), and I totally didn’t have to play a game of footy nor coach one. From the mobilisation and urgency early in the season we’ve slowly been ground down by injury and illness and misfortune and incompetence back to irrelevance. Somehow, we’re teetering between Richo being a poor performance away from being sacked and a win away from surging into finals, getting some momentum as a large chunk of our most important players return to the side. That urgency has gone until the injured guys come back, it seems, but we seem to keep throwing up new and wild additions to the list.
Time nor distance has changed our poor starts travelling under Richo. Whether it be Geelong, Adelaide or Wellington in 2014, or Perth, Sydney or Shanghai in 2019, we’ll guarantee that poor kicking and a bunch of other stuff will ensure we’re up against it early on. Again, the get out clause is that our injuries have actually been that bad, and that the team was swimming in turds and possibly sore throats. We haven’t been completely out of a game in any week this year, so this really was an outlier. What wasn’t an outlier given that past five weeks was our forward line and ball movement. I counted two genuinely slick passages of play. Again, though: poo.
Don’t known if it was just me but the ground looked smaller, complete with pre-2005 height goal posts (maybe closer to the Football Park-style taller behind posts), and with the foreign city backdrop was something straight out of Gil’s weird AFLX wet dreams. If he wants an idea of how fucking outdated and tacky that is, like the new version of the St Kilda club song or the post-game light shows at Optus Stadium, he should look at the Western Australia vs South Australia game in Vancouver in 1988 and think about how AFLX might seem in the future.
Bad luck is bad luck of the combined six trips made by teams competing in this one, we’re the only to have pulled off such a royal illness. (Did we officially get it over there? Maybe Blake took it with him? I don’t think so though.). We also had a couple of guys go down in Grand Final week of 2009 with food poisoning. Ironically, Jarryn Geary was the one who almost got the call up in place of Zac Dawson, who’d spent the night in hospital on a drip. Geary has made my own stories of compartment syndrome surgery and the resulting scars sound and look like I slightly bumped my elbow on a doorway a little bit once.
Really this was more about St Kilda than Shanghai. Shanghai simply served as the setting for another true-to-character St Kilda Football Club performance. Robbo was at training but couldn’t play, Acres was an early out but seemed to be stuck there, D Mac, Savage and Billings and Richo and Ratten got sick, Marsh was a surprise illness, Robbie Young was sick according to mpfourhunnid’s account, and then suddenly Joyce and Geary are in, Geary’s doing photo shoots with a royal scar on his thigh not knowing he was going to have surgery on the other leg within days, and Hind and Paton get flown over in business class for ultimately no reason at all.
Meanwhile, at Piranha Park we had Brandon White (in the 1990s style sleeveless-jumper-over-long-sleeve jumper), putting in a raking left-foot kick to full forward and Max King looking unstoppable in the air, and Dan Hannebery collecting 19 touches in his first half of footy in nine months. I’d spent most of the day at the Whitten Oval minding my own blemished skin’s business watching my housemate run around for the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW team, and randomly appearing on the VFL/VFLW Instagram account (one of those, “I mentioned them in the story, but I’d never thought they’d actually repost” bullshit stories). Instagram stories proved to actually be instructive this week, given we’re usually looking at something posted by Jack Steele and definitely not written by Jack Steele, all in the name of Almighty #spon.
This was the kind of day that too quickly devolves into fierce chip and M&Ms devouring through happy Sunday afternoon chat with Matt and Emma and Jess in the lounge room, punctuated by an occasional “FUUUUCK” or a more controlled “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Matthew Parker’s set shot reminded us that among the diarrhoea there was still some class ticking away, and Gresham followed up one of his better games with three goals. But what else to say? Rowan Marshall was yet again our best player, and looms as the type we’ll include in conversations later this century about “the great St Kilda players of the ‘20s”. He kicked a point in the last seconds of the game, otherwise we would have landed with the exact same scoreline as that unspeakable day in 2009. (A goal, which incidentally would have taken us to the same scoreline of a certain day in 1966, but the parallel stops there). His day looked very much like a 22nd-gamer rising out of the shit and assorted virus symptoms pile around him to play in a manner that isn’t dragged down by a bad day for a team, or St Kilda’s bemusing game plan. We’ve become much too used to using this as a marker of a decent player.
The clues to where this one was going weren’t subtle. Let’s quickly reel them off. Marshall dropped a mark in front of goal, Phillips missed, Sinclair missed, Membrey missed, Parker dropped an easy mark in front of goal. I went on a coffee run to John Gorilla at quarter time and by the time I’d come back, Port has managed to score 2.1 in the first four minutes. A Josh Bruce miss took the scoreline to 6.2 to 3.5 and the pattern had been established – we wouldn’t do anything except miss hurried shots at goal, and Port Adelaide would find themselves at 20.3 in the final term before diluting the novelty with some late misses to finish with 22.7, a scoreline we can’t even comprehend.
Time for a quick look at out our scores table for this year:
Not only did the AFL take this game away to a different continent and play it in front of 9,000 freebies, as well as make it a St Kilda home game, but also give Port Adelaide the home game “experience” “rights”, they also shunted it to Fox Footy in the shadows of Essendon and Carlton, which also meant we got Dwayne Russell yelling a bit too much. As the game weakly stumbled towards an early conclusion Dwayne thought it was time to really get things going for the people watching at home, which probably equalled the number of people actually at the ground. Within moments of each other he pulled out “Shanghai shake and bake”, which is a thing that no one has ever said, and that he only said because of the alliteration in “Shanghai” and “shake”, and then he really went to the top shelf before everyone decided to switch over to a vaguely more competitive game of footy and pulled down the “Great Brawl of China” when Gray and Battle had a crack at each other and Josh Bruce got involved. Do we deserve better? Maybe we don’t.
While Kent and Sinclair racked up behinds, and Robbie Young ran out of bounds on his own and then scuffed a kick into the attack – all the while apparently doing something bad to his arm – Bonner pulled out two goals from outside 50.
This is the “decent stretch” of games that Josh Bruce dangerously talked about. Mercifully, we have the week off, but beyond that is the rest of the season that bears a softer draw the players obviously believe they can handle as we all expect a host of important players to come back from injury. The captain, for everything that had happened since running into Jaydn Hunt a few weeks ago, will probably only come back this year if we hold up our end of the deal. As a club, we couldn’t have more spectacularly blundered our way to $500,000. Not sure if there’s too much of a lesson in isolation given the more immediate circumstances. You’ll never be able to stop yourself and others from getting sick. But maybe kick accurately on Grand Final Day next time, otherwise who knows where you’ll end up?