Round 16, 2015
St Kilda 2.5, 3.8, 4.10, 10.13 (73)
Richmond 2.3, 8.6, 13.8, 13.11 (89)
Crowd: 45,722 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, July 19th at 4.40pm
Nearly two years ago I wrote what is by far and away still my favourite piece for this blog. Not that I’ve got an amazing back catalogue, but personally I’d had a remarkable day to write about.
It was written just before my parents left indefinitely for the UK as a result of Dad taking on a job in London. That game – Round 20 of 2013, against the Hawks – was the last we attended together before he left, and as was typical of that year it was a pretty flat affair.
But to go with a night punctuated more by sentiment than the footy itself, I’d ended up having a big afternoon, too. To try and put it briefly (as it’s all in the original post), I’d been very fortunate to be invited to a Saints in the City function on the day of the game (which was on a Friday night) at The Point in Albert Park, attended by St Kilda supporters and identities. MC’d by Danny Frawley, a number of past players were in attendance (Loewe, both Wakelins, Peckett, Thompson, Hamill, and others) and My Favourite Hair in the AFL himself came down to say a few words to everyone. The real thrill was being sat next to his Dad – many will be familiar with Joe Riewoldt – and speaking with him throughout the afternoon.
As I said in that review, he was warm and enthusiastic with everyone. At the table he sensed I was feeling a little out of my depth and he did everything to make me feel welcome. He was like that from the absolute start. As a few of us chatted before being seated he came up to our group, and all of us being St Kilda members and supporters, very sweetly and genuinely said, “It’s great to be amongst family”. Indeed, for me the entire day was about that. I’d spent my life going to and watching the footy, and I’d done all of that with Dad, I wrote. It was a special and constant element of my life that I wouldn’t have for some time.
The piece I wrote certainly got more feedback than any other piece I’ve done. One of those people who offered their thoughts was Maddie Riewoldt, who not only said she herself enjoyed the piece but that she’d shown Joe and that he’d “loved it”. It was a simple Twitter exchange – many people I follow and who follow me would have tweeted back and forth with her far more than I ever did – but I couldn’t have been more thrilled. For all the shit I talk on here, and for the very few people who actually read it, I’d felt that I’d perhaps done some justice to something that meant a lot to me.
So how bittersweet it was to be going to the footy together as a family for the first time since my parents’ return for Maddie’s Match. Joe’s words on that day were amplified in so many wonderful and sad ways given what he and his family have gone through.
Mum and Dad had arrived home from their journey the day after the Essendon win, so this was their first Melbourne game back. It was so wonderful to be at the footy with them and Matt, but just a fortnight after the shock of Phil Walsh’s death we were all again arriving at the footy in rather emotional circumstances. Without trying to claim anything more than others on the day, for me the links between the games we went to together that bookended their trip couldn’t be ignored.
Whilst Maddie’s Match arose from an awfully sad situation, this had an element of celebration. That we know that someone clearly loved so much by her family and so many others would inspire something of true value, not just so that people didn’t have to experience what she did but that they could also get the chance at living a life that she was denied.
Obviously the Jack link is incredibly strong, but I still taken aback just by how much both St Kilda and Richmond fans took on the message throughout the week to wear purple. Again, we witnessed first hand just how much people can be united, and indeed on Sunday we were in the unique position of outwardly making that happen.
As for the purple through the St Kilda jumper, I thought it looked great. For something that in any other context would have looked more like either a novelty or an EFL or DVFL jumper, it somehow nailed the occasion respectfully and aesthetically. I’ll be writing more about it in the upcoming edition of “St Kilda Jumper Talk”, which will be anticipated keenly only by myself so no need to look out for that one.
We’d spent over a decade in the first row or two on Level 2 as Social Club members and Matt and I had test the Social Club area on Level 1 for the past two seasons. To mark their first Melbourne game back we’d gone for Level 2 seats behind the Lockett end goal, and I’d suggest we’ll be back there next year in the Social Club section. I certainly don’t mind Level 1 – if anything I certainly prefer the noise levels, with the Level 2 structure amplifying anything around you. But the view really is sensational at an otherwise lacklustre place.
As odds would have favoured the game had a pretty cagey start. A quarter-time scoreline of 2.5 to 2.3 suggested chances for both teams, but from our perspective poor or slowed movement meant a lot of those were only half-chances or from tough positions. A questionable goal review decision and J. Riewoldt kicking into the man on the mark from close range had the game feeling like it was well and truly in Richmond’s control well into the term. The Tigers were working incredibly hard from side to side to shut down any chance of the Saints cutting the through the corridor or opening up one side of the ground, otherwise we literally dropped the ball when we had possession. Any DARE Iced Coffee we had was often undone by our own lack of Australian Rules football skill.
It was a quarter of few highlights, with Paddy’s strong mark high up and beautifully weighted kick to a running Roo the standout. It wasn’t necessarily ideal if you’re keen on taking four points from a top four contender, but it was exciting that one of the few quality acts was by a third-gamer showing off different parts of their game. Hopefully it’s an early sign of a so-far underrated mobility in his game – we know he’s highly rated moving through traffic, getting split (lol) on his opponent and smooth on the ground.
In fact, it was probably Paddy who gave us the best moment of the second quarter too. His scramble and body work on the ground in the goal square, then dive to wrestle it out of Deledio’s hands and quick give off to Mav for the latter’s second was something you can’t teach. That it came from a guy whose size belied his awareness and agility on the ground, again, was something we all should have taken note of. Whether or not he’ll be the type to run up the ground back constantly we’ll wait and see, but he’s already shown a willpower to effect the contest around him in whatever way he can.
My 2nd Favourite Hair in the AFL was typically playing higher up by owing to the Tigers constricting the Saints he was next to unsighted. Damned if I saw any of his nine touches other than his goal in the last quarter, although I didn’t need to look far into the highlights to find the kick out of defence to set Mav up was from his boot. Small comfort but good to see he kept working hard and doing the team thing all the way into what was clearly his quietest day of the year. He’d kept Rance quiet for a half, in the sense that we weren’t good enough to string successive AFL-standard possessions together and actually get it anywhere near either of them. His run at the Coleman is like a diluted version of Stewart Loewe’s in 1996 – massive start in the first half with the side up and about, but ultimately waning with the team’s wider fortunes of the season.
It was such a shame that Roo wasn’t completely OK for this one. I don’t think it was ever really in doubt whether he’d play or not. But the kilos of strapping around his leg showed he clearly was hampered and the club’s already said he’ll be facing tests again this week. I think a lot of people would be in for the idea of him having a week off. From the calf/purely football point of view at the very least it gives something close to our (ideally) future forward line a hit out together.
The calf didn’t completely stop him. His goal at the start of the last quarter kickstarted the comeback. But it took the 52-point three-quarter time margin to overwhelm his endeavours, ultimately. He looked incredibly drained in the post match presser, as you’d expect.
Not sure about equating the last quarter comeback with the day’s tagline “Fight Like Maddie”, as the first journo in the post-match. I assume Richo, resplendent in ill-fitting t-shirt (despite him having maintained quite a decent shape), felt he needed to send a feel-good message to go with the genuinely positive sentiments of the cause the day represented. We’re not quite approaching the parallels between the ANZAC Day match and ANZAC Day itself that simply are hyperbole; given the sporting nature of Maddie and the Riewoldts (and Nick and Jack’s boots alone) I don’t think they would have minded too much at all. I’m specifically talking more along the lines of that I think trying to find those links is really giving the players a bit too much of an out for some of the worst three quarters we’ve played this season. It seemed as though Richo really was genuine in talking up the effort through the last quarter, and whilst he would have plenty to say about the lesser points of the game behind closed doors I do think the nature of the day allowed – and perhaps needed – some positivity to flow through the camp afterwards. But I really thought that as a whole, given the emotional circumstances, the build-up over a number of weeks now and the fact it was our biggest home crowd since we were genuinely competent and probably for some time again, this game was really, really disappointing.
Not sure how much you need to get paid per year to hit a target on their own when you’ve got yourself in space, or to not give up the footy by handballing directly to an opposition player. When it’s senior guys doing that you can feel whatever proverbial you choose. Gilbert has plenty of endeavour but is cataclysmic, Fisher was too slow in a way he hasn’t been before and Joey was almost there with him, despite the 27 touches and goal. Geary put in the kind of performance that keeps people on the outside like myself never entirely convinced of him. Schneider was already dropped from the team.
It was a momentous day in more than one way. We were to witness Hugh Goddard’s first cracking of the shits, and his first game with his best friend that’s a number 1 draft pick, Paddy, and Paddy’s first goal. We also saw Paddy achieving the feat of wearing three AFL games in three different St Kilda jumpers, having appeared in the the clash, New Zealand and now Maddie’s Match jumpers.
Hugh’s 13 touches probably didn’t reflect how much of a presence he had throughout the game, for better or for worse. He moved around the back half well and was quite partial to the cheeky one-twos, but he also found himself caught out on the wrong side of a couple of one-ones close to goal. The Lennon snap close to the line was quality but Hugh would have been disappointed he didn’t put more body work into both the initial and follow-up contests. That said it felt like between Fisher, Dempster and Gilbert there was a lot less cohesion than usual. That could be put down to some St Kilda-style incompetence but the way Richmond move the ball is very precise – not to mention how much harder and faster they spread and moved in general – and really undid our set up going forward. Either way I must say I was surprised they had all four of those tall defenders in the same team, but Hugh is at least a lot more versatile.
Not that anything really functioned that well all day, but it was rare off-day for both Jack Lonie and Jack Sinclair. Not sure if the chemistry simply hadn’t developed with Eli in there instead of Schneider – and still no Billings to boot – but it was one the lesser performances from the small forwards. Sinclair was a real let-down when he came on. Even though he had the fresh legs for the final term he looked like he struggled to find space and get to the right positions and his set shot from right in front (albeit after being paid a mark from a terrible kick which I’m sure bounced up to him) barely made the distance from 40 metres.
Whilst there didn’t seem to be much purpose in the high balls landing in the forward 50 ad nauseum, there certainly wasn’t much pressure or presence when the game was really one the line from Lonie or Eli once it hit the deck; the latter’s most obvious contribution was being The Celebration Guy With the Goalkicker after Mav kicked our sixth for the last quarter.
Mav was the only one who seemed to be able to master it and find a way through Richmond’s set-up in the front half – and that goes for all of our full-time forwards, big and small. He did it in three different ways for his three goals, too – the first a mark jumping back with ball and some follow-up smarts to find it on the way down, the third being in the right roving position to capitalise and Paddy’s brilliant desperate work on the ground, and his aforementioned third was the what would prove to be the last of the game, and it’s pinnacle – a surging run and long-range kick on the rebound that registered our sixth goal in 19 minutes, and genuinely brought the most unlikely of victories within reach.
It was just too much. Whilst Richmond didn’t kick a goal in the final term they were good enough to stop us from kicking a goal after the 19-minute mark of the last term, even after kicking six in that time. Very few games this season would six goals in the first 19 minutes of the final term had us still facing an uphill battle; that’s how disappointingly off we were on arguably our biggest day of the year.
So – again, isolating the footy itself – a flat and frustrating affair for Mum and Dad to come back to. They timed it well – the only full season they missed was the one we finished on the bottom, and Dad has seen too many of those in his time.
In that review nearly two years ago I wrote that simply supporting a particular club and the way you do so creates a legacy. What have you seen, who do you share it with and what do you pass down? My life as a St Kilda supporter is nothing without the experience of my Grandpa and my Dad as St Kilda supporters; everything they’d seen throughout their respective times and the experiences I’d had with them.
When Mum and Dad left my brother and I – dear cousin Evan, too – were going to watch the Saints without Dad for the first time, and if Mum wasn’t there then we were without her to talk to about the day we’d had. It was a new part of our history as supporters, and now again we find ourselves in another. Despite the tragic situation, Sunday had a sense of optimism and new beginning. The MRV will bring all means and effort to a number of difficult situations out a purely altruistic wish. That people are out there working for the benefit of other people.
For purely personal reasons for Matt and I there was a similar tone, but one that was in heavy contrast to day’s official theme. As I said, it was bittersweet. We have our Mum and Dad back, and Sunday felt like the christening of their return. Given the context of the day there was even more appreciation for that, if that’s possible.
There’s nothing quite like having the closest people in your life sitting in the seats right beside you. Sunday reminded us in so many ways of that. Sunday wasn’t simply about the game itself. This was about enjoying the time you have with the ones you love. “It’s great to be amongst family.” It was Maddie’s Match, and it was Maddie’s day, too