From the window

By Tom Briglia

St Kilda 5.2, 8.2, 12.2, 15.3 (93)
Richmond 4.1, 6.3, 9.5. 10.7 (67)
Crowd: 0 at Docklands, Saturday, June 26th at 4.35pm

Panic buying is back. Not sure if I’m going to be able to get out of Brunswick West at all soon, let alone see the Saints play. You might as well afford yourself the luxury or decadence of saying “this is our year” after Round 4. Teams have drifted in and out of matches, in quarters and halves, and the form guide reads just as patchily now as it did in the Monday wash-up a fortnight ago.

As well as an unknown ongoing sickness and death toll, economic collapse and political vacuums, the pandemic is throwing up some weird footy trends, scores and aesthetics, in some ways echoing (on paper at least) the non-professional early 20th century years. Perhaps it’s the slimmed down footy departments and an enforced break for the players. A fourth-game player looks worthy of the Brownlow; Lachie Neale kicked 0.6 and Hugh McCluggage 1.5 on the same day for the same team; while on the day before St Kilda basked in the novelty of accuracy, kicking 15.3, and Gold Coast and Fremantle bettered that within hours with the most accurate first half in the league’s history.

My pre-match notes included the following tripe: “Who better than to play you into form than St Kilda? Of course it was wonderful that a club like Hawthorn were able to get the opportunity to play the Tigers when they were down. Really, this is an exercise in joining the dots between the poor fortunes of a shithouse club and the club just kinda of being not that good anyway.” And this: “We discussed North Carolina TV – our turn for the US MAJOR LEAGUE SPORTS Winners Of Choice. Literally a drive by. idgaf, I’m posting it again.”

The state of the game has been called into question again, but somehow we’ve ended Round 4 of a fragmenting season as the glamour boys. “St Kilda’s sparkling style enlivens low-scoring AFL season” says the ABC. Individual players were back in the spotlight. Dan Butler dominated the post-match coverage and was on SEN in the morning, and by evening he was touted by Herald Sun as the “recruit of the year!” (keeping in mind The Age called us the “story of the year” after Round 5 last year). After the interview, Gary said “Carlton and st Kilda 1.45 at the MCG has game of the round written all over it”.

This wasn’t quite the post-match satisfaction of the Round 5 win last year after Melbourne (keeping in mind the context of where the club/clubs/Earth were at then). Reliability has been evasive since 2010, barring late season patches in 2011 and 2016. We’ve learned that between weeks. Brett Ratten’s warning of consistency (or inconsistency) held true again – Round 1 was played in two extremes, and we’ve lurched between those from week to week since the resumption. I barely noticed Jack Billings having the equal-most disposals on the ground, nor Tim Membrey kicking three goals. Rowan Marshall looked more like the player we – say the word – expected him to be this year. Outside of a new recruit kicking some pretty handy goals, the evenness and will of the team won the day.

No more than a few hours into a week of basking in positivity were we told to saddle up for Thursday night. South Australia extended its border restrictions with Victoria this morning. Gil’s 153 game journey is becoming the reality, but good PR or just accidental PR, yesterday he seemed to vaguely revel in it. The shackles are off, the weight has been lifted, choose your idiom. The pressure of waiting for this kind of circumstance to happen has gone. Now we’re living the shitshow, one in which we might still actually play good footy. I had the thought post-match that this win perhaps makes up for the North game, but no, these are the games, this is the season. No one can really claim a genuine form for anyone yet, but neither footy nor the world necessitates a formline.

***

The team that ran out on Saturday should have been wearing a third jumper in as many weeks. This time, for Maddie’s Match, a purple hot cross bun (with ISC’s odd intrusive positioning of the cross, off line with the club, AFL and sponsor logos). The pandemic meant that after the retail run earlier this year, the player issue run was sitting overseas, unable to be shipped. We took the field in purple socks instead, and for the first time St Kilda wore the red, white and black home jumper against Richmond’s yellow clash, now in its sixth year. Bubbling away was the troubles at ISC. Those had been discussed on my favourite board on BigFooty for some time and confirmed by Saturday. We’re going to be looking for a third jumper manufacturer in as many years.

A scratch match at Punt Road was a chance missed for the second week to show off the crusader (this week: red) as a clash jumper, with white shorts against Richmond’s mostly-black pre-season/training uniform. The 121-31 loss Scratch match sure, but these are the best chances guys will get to get a game. I guess we could not pay too much attention to it for a few days.

***

Events and individuals and circumstances scatter and then rollick back – yes, stars align – at uneven and stirring and wonderful and jarring times. In the week of the match named for her, and in which footy may have settled into some sort of rhythm for the first time this year – marking the first time any round had a before and after on the weekends either side – Maddie Riewoldt’s Liverpool won their first English top flight title in 30 years. Maddie’s Match is about the people closest to you. And the people around you. And perhaps people you don’t know. But ultimately showing care for them. We’re used to going to Maddie’s Match wearing the purple, red, white, and black scarves, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” being performed, and the Saints running out in purple, and the purple hues around the ground. There is a heightened appreciation for being able to be at the game and sharing the space and the weather and the trek into the ground with the people around us.

That doesn’t really exist for the moment. The pandemic has splintered everything in some way. Liverpool’s title is an event that will always be viewed, even partially, through the lens of the extraordinary circumstances in how the club that both promises and consoles us that You’ll Never Walk Alone was crowned. The golden sky at the end of the storm means different things to different people. An impressive, entertaining win by a young St Kilda team brought a few hours of calm.


  • Campbell

    Great write up Tom.

    It’s amazing what recruiting a few players; better than the ones you have, from successful systems and an attacking brand of footy can do for your club and their outlook. It’s a nice change knowing that we no longer make up the numbers every other week. Don’t be surprised if we get rolled. There’s a long history between us and the blues and our games generally have a bit of spice for some reason.

    No doubt Newnes will get 25 and go at 95% EFF with 2 goals….

  • Tom Briglia

    Very. Good. Call. About Newnes.

    And you’re right, Carlton matches in the last few years have been pretty tight with surprise spice. Hard to get too ahead of ourselves with this season (or, uh, anything at all this year). The novelty of Thursday night on Channel 7 is already off the charts.