The intra-club is always an unusual exercise. If your forwards fire that could just highlight a gaping hole in your defence. If one midfield dominates it suggests a lack of depth, and if your defence play well then everyone would blame Paddy. But the weather was nice and I’m a poor student who couldn’t afford to do anything better, so I went anyway. And after AFLX (put it in the bin) what could actually be worse?
I parked my car out in the proverbial back paddock (a strange sign that people still support this club) and attempted to cast my most biased intra-club eye. My initial thoughts were that RSEA Park actually resembled an establishment where a professional sporting team might reside, however I feel as though a giant St Kilda shield should be plastered on the exterior to be seen from the playing deck (after listening to the Saints Insider Podcast this might still be on the way).
From inside, the set-up is fresh and clean. One of the large LED screens had a pixel issue but this was still a long way from the stale beer-carpet smell we all once enjoyed. With new people working inside the set-up, Ratten, Lade, Slater and Bassett (and still Lethlean to an extent), you could sense the optimism and the thirst from the fans for a fresh slate.
It was touted as a family fun day, however a few highly audible expletives starting with “f” and ending with “k” from a disgruntled ruckman put that to a quick and fast end. Already more passion shown for the entirety of 2018 (fist pump). The first-half appeared to be a St Kilda team taking on a Zebras team (plus Blake Acres). Billings, Gresham, Steele, Membrey, Hannebery, Steven, Webster, Carlisle and Long all sat out so some polish wasn’t quite there. Armitage didn’t play (for excellent reasons) and I couldn’t remember if he was still an AFL player (following a quick Google search it turns out he is).
Wearing last year’s light green training jumpers, the Zebras team (as we affectionately referred to them) didn’t do your eyes any favours. Trying to make out what number they had on their backs while competing with the sun glare was a tricky exercise, but pre-seasons aren’t meant to be easy or else everybody would be doing them, right?
VERY loud pop-music from 2016 played in between breaks, and this limited the capacity to express any thoughts to your counterparts.
Josh Battle has assumed cult status quickly and the Moorabbin faithful took a further liking to him, gushing over his seamless transition into the back half. He did look natural, however time playing on Bailey Rice probably helped his cause aerially. New recruit Matthew Parker was the other who had fans frothing. He kicked a few goals and immediately assumed “don’t mess with me” status with his tough-guy tatts, as opposed to AFLX winner and Gatorade Gamechanger® Tim Membrey’s skater-guy tatts. We want him to play Round 1.
I’m somewhat surprised (respectfully of course) Ben Dixon maintained his post as goalkicking guru post-2018. The goalkicking was still mediocre, both from the spot and in open play. In his defence I’m not sure how many of the players he is working closely with in his reduced role were actually playing. Good luck to Ben with his endeavours at the club.
Paddy was putting his head in dangerous places as he always does. He sprayed a few kicks around the ground but was fit and lively and found a lot of the footy, and break-out year may be written in the tea-leaves. He got angry in the final quarter; the entries into the forward 50 were sloppy and he was man-handled by Darragh Joyce and received no assistance from the umpires and made sure he had a word with them. Overall, he made a solid impact and looked as comfortable as we’ve seen him (minus the helmet, which does not look comfortable).
Bruce played a typical Bruce game, kicked a FEW goals, jagged a FEW marks but didn’t finish off quite a few of his marks after doing all the hard work. Blake Acres’ cause wasn’t helped by his selection on the Zebras team in the first half as the opposition won the majority of the clearances and controlled the play.
The ruck stocks are lean. Resident LARPer and former Pokémon GO enthusiast Billy Longer didn’t play, so he had a similar impact around the ground to when he does play. Rowan Marshall was at the contest but was a little slow getting rid of the ball and the opposition caught him out a few times. The Prospect strikes me as the 14-year-old kid in juniors who hasn’t fully grown into his body yet, and who has upside if he doesn’t pursue other interests. Lewis Pierce looked ok and showed emotion, while Equal-Tallest Player Ever Sam Alabakis is still learning.
Dean Kent assumed the Mav Weller role incredibly well by playing “okish”, we need to see more of him. We liked Hunter Clarke and we liked Luke Dunstan, Robbie Young had a turn of foot, no certainty to see him debut though.
Overall, an ok day. The biggest plot twist was the players doing run-throughs after the game that they didn’t know were going to happen. Let’s see what happens against actual opposition out at Chirnside Park next weekend.