Cross my heart

By Tom Briglia

Round 14, 2019
St Kilda 3.3, 4.6, 5.7, 8.11 (59)
Brisbane Lions 4.6, 7.8, 16.11, 17.13 (115)
Crowd: 22,885 at Docklands, Saturday, June 23rd at 4.35pm

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This was the day in which the rest of the season started. The day we pulled out the ace up our sleeve. We never bother with a poker face; we’d been talking about this with a deranged smile, waiting to dump it on the table and cash in the chips. Decent showings in the pre-season with new players making an impact on a new game style? Wait until Hannebery and Carlisle come in. Top of the ladder on the Saturday night of Round 5? Wait until Hannebery and Carlisle come in. Struggling for the four following weeks against four premiership fancies? Wait until Hannebery and Carlisle come in. Entering the “decent stretch” of games after that difficult block, with what has been perceived to be one of the softest draws in the competition? Wait until Hannebery and Carlisle come in.

Never mind that there is still Lonie and Webster and Steele and Steven and even White to come back in the coming weeks, never mind Geary, Paddy, Roberton and King. It says a lot about the hype around these two guys that they weren’t developed in the St Kilda system, an underlying self-hatred of where this club is at. Carlisle had been proven in red, white and black already, and we couldn’t wait for these guys that came from mysterious, better places can come in and shake things up in 2019.

Richo warned us it might take a while for them to settle in, but the day took a sharp but probably never unlikely turn, and we’ve got bigger things to be worrying about.

***

Let’s pick off some easy stuff first. Hannebery paid us back by getting low and taking hits in contests every time it was required of him, extracting the ball when he needed to, yelling orders from the wing when the game started shifting late in the second quarter (from the near the top of level 2 we could hear him screaming from his spot on the opposite side), sprinting back to add an extra number and then sprinting half forward to present an option to our player with the ball only to be ignored. Sharp passes off his left foot were more direct than most of our field kicking all year, and his contributions were swatted away twice by dropped uncontested marks on the wing that broke the whole thing down.

He might have been talked about more than any other Saint this year but it hadn’t quite been minted. It was specifically surreal watching his post-match interview and hearing him talk about “us” and the game’s developments and what needs to be worked on in terms of…us. As in, the Saints. His game wasn’t necessarily a step above everyone else’s, but he was clearly a step above everyone else we have. Most disposals behind only Seb and Lachie Neale, and his own most disposals since the 2017 Semi Final.

Seb and Gresh were among our most prolific and frustrating players. Seb gets a lot of the ball, so he’s doing something right, but Hannebery’s showing was enough to shut up any of our illusions as to how good Seb actually is, heir apparent to the captaincy or not (he long until Hannebery is a smokey?). The concept of genuinely good teams and good footballers that impact the competition has become so distorted and buried in the past few years that we mistake our relatively better players for guys that other teams and opposition supporters would genuinely be wary of. Time and time again, Seb been a chief offender when it comes to composed delivery across the ground and effective forward entries. His Harvey-esque stops, props and neat passing from early in the season are now a curio that emerged in what is now itself an aberration. Even in moments of more space and time he shanked a kick forward to Kent on one of our better rebounds passage, and then he missed a running shot on goal. He’s the captain.

Likewise, Gresh is getting enough of the ball in a role that he is still settling into at this level, but yet again he’s slicing the ball or trying to kick it around his body or trying to get hit the roof with it; even a simple drop punt to Hannebery for what should have been his first goal in Saints colours became an awkward kick with an awkward bounce, an awkward situation with a man over the top, an awkward decision and an awkward miss (Hannebery should have kcked it either way). Gresham’s woes with possession for the moment might be that he’s getting more of the ball in higher pressure situations, but there remains is a gulf in his offerings and bit by bit its sucked out some of the polish from his high half-forward work. Maybe even Gresh isn’t immune from the famous St Kilda development system trappings.

And then there is Jack Newnes. From career-best form and being a huge reason for our early season whatever-the-fuck-that-was, to one kick and seven handballs last night. Newnes had survived his Four Tackles phase last year and is now the holder of most consecutive games in the competition, a state which for good reason did the rounds over the past few days. Although most would say he’s disappeared (although he has been a consistent BOG on the podcast), Newnes is not a Dal Santo or Milne, but it appears something’s going on and strength or conviction would need to be shown by someone at the club to make a selection statement. He may well just be ticking down to free agency. If he’s injured, then fucking do something about it. We saw what it did to Mav in 2017 and we saw what it did to Newnes himself last year (despite weeks in which he admirably battled in a forward line position).

***

Round 14, 2019. Round 14, 2009. Ten footballing years – the calendar anniversary is July 5th. Whether or not we’re drifting through this year because of our own making or not (i.e. injuries) is beside the point. what were we able to do when we had control, whether you start the clock since Richo stepped in, or start the clock at 2.30pm on Saturday, September 26th, 2009? Geelong lost this weekend too, but they’re still one game clear on the top of the ladder.

What has that Sunday afternoon counted for since? We got a poorly-made season highlights DVD out of it (eventually) as the historical document of arguably our best-ever season, and then we got the real-life event version of 2004’s The Streak DVD where players basically just talked about a win we had once. It ‘s a long way fall towards Saturday twilight frequenters from the birthplace of the 3.20pm start (i.e. the AFL commission taking its first steps towards all its members being present on the dias for the presentation of the Premiership Cup as fireworks and LED confetti pours over them, each of them smiling manically and trying to get a hand on the Cup among the coach and the captain and the players).

***

Even in China we had a sort-of excuse that meant some of us could say “well, we haven’t been blown off the park aside from the time a bunch of guys we were shitting rampantly”. Last week, Richo pulled out the ol’ “there was actually too much sweat on the ball” line to have some sort of cover for butchering the footy. This week there is nothing. Brown wouldn’t have made a difference, nor Geary, nor Paton, maybe five of the other guys. Physical presence? Never heard of ‘em. Hunter Clark kicking a weird high ball to nothing in the middle of the ground for a cordial invitation to the Brisbane Bears Fitzroy Football Club to score a goal? You got it.

Carlisle is a physical presence of surety but so is Brown, I thought Brisbane might have had enough tall humans to have both in, but Marsh’s versatility might have got him in (as well as his efforts on the other King last week). Turned out weren’t competitive in the air, or anywhere. Hipwood and McInerney were hard to touch, McCarthy took an uncontested mark in the goal square, and Charlie Cameron was too much for D-Mac once they got isolated (and teammates actually kicked the ball vaguely to the advantage of forwards).

This was another comprehensive overwhelming of the player group in a game that had been built up to have something on the line. This has traversed seasons, playing lists, and season contexts. The way the team plays. The scattered development of players. Who are our genuinely good players? I don’t know what else needs to be said about where this team and where the club is at. What’s going to change? The first five weeks is the same anomaly that the GWS and Richmond games were in 2017, and which the club kept trotting out well in 2018. The opening several rounds of this year aren’t a guide to anything, rather just freak events in which every decent corporeal and intangible component of a specifically unsustainable type of footy aligned for a short period. We were fooled into giving the entire club an out because 2018 was so bad. How can the absurdity of that not be acknowledged more than it is? (Joke’s on me, I write this for nothing and the club didn’t really listen to any questions I had about why they changed the song without saying anything.) A fucking football club that deals with millions and millions of dollars and has access to some of the best in science and medicine and research and just about any and all other resources got an automatic pass because it was so bad. Sure, take more of our money, maybe that will help. Yeah sure, we’ll spend a shitty Saturday at your shitty game at your shitty home ground. Never mind anything that happened since September of 2011. Never mind anything that happened since late in 2013. Never mind the list managers and footy professionals who don’t actually need to really ever deal with supporters or caring about a club. Never mind the people in suits and board members that came up with the Road to 2018 and the marketing team and the PR reps that put it all together and shat it out all over a depressed and desperate supporter base. Shut up and keep buying memberships, it’ll be sorted out later.

***

Five scoring shots in five minutes proved to be ominous, Rich danced around Carlisle (who was clearly underdone), Hannebery’s first kick was perfect and met with a simple dropped mark, a floating hacked ball to half-back fooled Marshall and Armo, following on from Dave’s near-disastrous drop in the final moments of last week, and he tripled down on it late in the game. Seb joined him too in there.

Funny that guys like Hind, Wilkie and Parker who brought their specific tools last night that no one else really offered had none of their development at this club. Hind in particular; where the fuck has he been all year? He showed this kind of thing in the pre-season, and then showed composure three times when no one else could (and not in his natural position, either). Leave it to him to have to kick two goals and for Parker to push and shove with some guys to wake up the rest of the team. The Gatorade GAMECHANGER® got stuck into Hodge at some point, but that was mostly it, apart from Hannebery hitting him on the lead at one point in the second quarter.

***

We all saw the third quarter.

***

You might have got the texts too; the club was flogging guernseys for $15 off at the game to celebrate the bidding war that Jack Billings arranged for two years’ time. The month off actually going to the Concrete Disney store was partially refreshing. The tram in to the game had some vague sense of anticipation as I took my usual place as the entire St Kilda-supporting cohort on the Route 58 tram.

But there wasn’t even 23,000 at the game. Most of those were streaming out ahead of three quarter time. What happened to the Hannebery and Carlisle thing? What about the $15 off on the jumpers? Where’s everyone going? If this club got kidnapped and shoved into the back of an AFL van headed straight to Station Pier, would we be able to actually get enough people or money moving quickly enough to stop it from happening? We’re about to rebuild again, again. I’m not sure what I was really expecting after a third shitty win against the Gold Coast that might have saved extended the coach’s tenure. A lot of me really did think something was going to change this week. Surely it was time ? The fans would realise would all realise it was just the injuries and everything was actually fine and we’re set to go again. We’d be selling out the Corporate Dome and Roo and Kosi and Lenny and Bally would be taking on history. Just like old times, right? Fans chanting “LET US IN” outside the ground and climbing up on and trying to break down the shutter gates at quarter time? Police in riot gear with assault rifles trying to calm things down when fans rush to the fence when Gresham snaps one from the pocket? Hannebery to kick the first goal, and Carlisle to kick five? Get fucking serious. We were 14-0 ten years ago. Where did that get us?

  • Campbell

    I’m not even looking forward to this. It’s getting ugly.

    How is it that a guy like Hind looks like a potential All-Australian and our team, littered with 1st and 2nd round draft picks look that pedestrian it’s hard to watch?!