Adelaide Crows Posts

Croweaten

Round 12, 2017
Adelaide Crows 5.6, 8.9, 11.11, 16.15 (111)
St Kilda
 1.1, 2.4, 3.10, 7.12 (54)
Crowd: 46,082 at Adelaide Oval, Friday, June 9th at 7.20pm CST

Croweaten

One year and four days before Friday night, St Kilda was hammered at the Adelaide Oval as the Crows welcomed us to what was set to be long, cold winter.

The 88-point loss came just three weeks after a 103-point loss to the Eagles, also on the road, which in turn followed a seven-point loss to the unbeaten North Melbourne that ended murkily. Two wins against the bottom two teams in Essendon and Freo had steadied things leading into the Adelaide game, but we were shown up in a big way by a much classier and smarter football side.

The Sunday evening in 2016 was further dulled by Goddard (H.) who, in his first game for the season, vaguely changed direction and in one second lost his next 12 months of footy. We were thus staring down a much wider, deeper barrel of weekly novelty 22s that come with the back half of lost seasons in a rebuild. There was no Carlisle and Brown yet, and Goddard offered the only real opportunity to get the development process in the back half ticking over from Dempster, Fisher and the forgotten Delaney. Were we going to be watching a combination of any and all of Coughlan, Payne, Rice and White, with maximum Minchington, Lonie, O’Kearney and Holmes?

Adelaide Oval’s introduction to the AFL as a full-time venue coincided with our 27th wooden spoon, and our average losing margin there had been 63 points ahead of this weekend. Meanwhile, Adelaide this year had kicked the late 1970s-esque scores of 147, 153, 140 and 143 at the venue. It was an ominous formline. Which has a strange thing to think and feel; a month ago we’d beaten GWS on a Friday night in what felt to be a stirring occasion for the club. Three weeks later the bye couldn’t come quick enough.

Further compounding things was that Adelaide was celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 1997 premiership. We were only happy to oblige by wearing our faux-throwback clash guernsey (as magnificent as it is) to really help the Crows celebrate and, as Cameron Ling pointed out on the broadcast, their three-quarter time score of 11.11 (77) was the same as their own in the 1997 Grand Final. Our three-quarter time score on Friday of 3.10 (28) was just shit.

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Welcome to winter

Round 11, 2016
Adelaide Crows 6.5, 11.11, 16.14, 19.19 (133)
St Kilda 1.2, 4.2, 5.5, 6.9 (45)
Crowd: 40,896 at Adelaide Oval, Sunday, June 5th at 4.10pm CST

And with that spitting, hissing performance, winter began.

Australian football is seen as a “winter” game but winter really just covers the second half of the home and away season; during which St Kilda seasons typically break down, decay and disappear into the pool of our collective memories of the one long journey we’re on to see that second premiership. Sometimes we’ve made it through winter, but we know that even when it seems the stars have aligned for us and the spring sunshine promises what we’ve been waiting for it doesn’t necessarily come.

The 2016 season may well now have established a distinctive first half and a distinctive second half. The finals are effectively out of reach now as a mid-season slumpline begins to form and the injury list. This week also marked the official establishment of that first half – one down week, followed by two up weeks:

  • Round 1 – up I guess; a bit of an outlier given the contrast between the frisst three quarters and last in the wake of a shortened pre-season
  • Round 2 – down; smacked without a whimper by the Bulldogs
  • Round 3 – up; a stirring a win against Collingwood
  • Round 4 – up; pushed Hawthorn all the way
  • Round 5 – down; squashed by GWS
  • Round 6 – up; strong win against Melbourne
  • Round 7 – up; almost knocked off the undefeated North Melbourne
  • Round 8 – down; the West Coast match
  • Round 9 – up; a third quarter for the future setting up an eventually comfortable win
  • Round 10 – up; not without panic attacks but an admirable final quarter
  • Round 11 – down; the Adelaide match

Once you move out of the “always-rubbish” phase to “still occasionally rubbish but capable of a good win” phase it can actually play on your mind a little more. At least when you’re always going to dish up slop you know what’s going to happen and you can enjoy the social aspect of watching a game a little more, whether from what suddenly appear to be overpriced membership seats or the confines of the lounge room with ham and salami puff pastry pin-wheels and Virgin Marys.

I say “Virgin Marys” instead of beers (or indeed, Bloody Marys) because I’d decided to try and test out a ride on the wagon for a bit. At least if things went south quickly again after the long trip from Brunswick West – sans usable headphones after one of the rubber things decided to stay at home – I’d have something novel to (want to) throw across the room (I would never have the guile to actually do that).

Fisher was one of this week’s victims of the club again trumpeting it’s clean bill of health before multiple players went down. His injury at training on Thursday might well be the beginning of the end, being the second hamstring injury he’s had in the space of a few weeks. Potential future captain Goddard got a clear shot at a month or so if he could just do enough to stay in with Tommy Lee also circling.

Later in the week it also emerged Longer was having sustained symptoms of concussion and would also be out for a month; Freeman was pulled out of the Sandy development squad on Friday with hamstring tightness (as opposed to the “awareness” a few weeks ago) and then would you believe it, D-Mac is a late out with “illness” with Jimmy Webster coming in. Both Webster and Lee had been photoed at the airport on the way there with the rest of the team but the club had specifically posted a shot of D-Mac on social media at training the day before the game (“jet fuel can’t melt steel beams” fans go bananas with that).

The game was set to be a match-off between the two forward lines given the relative lack of quality key defenders on each line. Fisher out hurt but like the West Coast game – which he also missed – it wouldn’t matter if our midfield was getting smashed and we did have him and Carlisle in; if the ball use going in his unpressured and the forwards are moving smartly there’s no stopping that. So the midfield battle would be big, and probably as Richo had mentioned earlier in the year the key would be to create turnovers in play and keep the game moving rather than for in stoppages and winning the ball from those. From the start, there wasn’t even a battle. Instead of Kennedy et al getting the clean runs it was Jenkins, McGovern and Tex.

The last time I trekked the hour-plus from Brunswick West to Casa de Briglia in Ormond was just three weeks ago and we’d lost the game within six minutes of play. There’s not much I can really do personally once the Saints have run out – I can’t really say, “and I was determined to not let it happen again” because basically I just have to sit on my arse and hope we’re not rubbish.

Like the West Coast game that day there wasn’t much to say about anything or anyone; unlike the West Coast game no kicked a goal in the first six minutes, but 22 scoring shots to 4.2 at half-time made that a moot point. Last week I wrote 4,000 words about I’m not sure what. After this, I barely have it in me to crap on for half of that.

My Favourite Hair in the AFL was already off barely by the time you could register what was what after Tom Hickey decided to get take his Stephen Merchant impression out on to the ground and take out our captain and best player within a minute or two.

Gresham again showed genuine skill and composure for his great snap goal from the pocket but even that in itself presented a troubling mirroring component to the Eagles game. His goal was the only for the quarter as the Crows held the ball in their half of the ground dangerously for a large majority of the quarter. Rather than being patient and working hard to create an option switch the play or create movement in or through the middle of the ground, it felt like every possession out of the defensive 50 was a high kick to a pack featuring Hickey and maybe Bruce and whilst Bruce took a few marks when he got some sort of split on his opponent throughout the game the up-and-unders gave us fark all. The more it happened the more you wondered what different outcome would magically present itself but hey, these guys get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to do this so who would I do be to question any of that.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a St Kilda belting (particularly in an unforgiving interstate venue) without some comedic relief. Murdoch tried to intercept a sharp ball towards the Adelaide goalsquare and on the less-than-50% chance he would get it at full stretch instead created an even-more-chaos ball, a gift which Charlie Cameron duly honoured with another Adelaide goal. It came just a few minutes after McGovern took a towering mark at the top of the goalsquare with his direct opponent Webster caught somewhere between the pack and the top of the hill, and Josh Bruce of all people the nearest to the target trying so many ways in vain to affect a spoil.

Armitage had two possession and Matt Crouch had 17 at quarter-time and whilst the Armo lifted a little the damage was done. Mum in her Steven Baker 2009 white player issue training jumper, Matt in his 2008 apron clash retail issue, me and in my David Armitage 2014 New Zealand player issue jumper, and dad in his Tom Murphy Gold Coast player issue home jumper, home shorts and clash socks (???), and Evan in some grey hoodie. The mood was flat and the Virgin Marys could only do so much (Mum was on the Bloody Marys so was probably coping better than the rest of us).

Before Hugh went down the second quarter was punctuated by how many times Adelaide turned over the ball and so easily got a scoring shot out of it. There was simply no endeavour; the players were surely at one of the airports still or the plane hadn’t landed. Dempster rolled out some of the St Kilda-style character-based comedy by spooling Geary, which Dwayne exacerbated in the commentary by marking down the spoil to Tex.

I’m not sure what make of Geary essentially being our best player on the night. He kept Eddie Betts to 1.2 in a side that kicked 19.19 and to little influence otherwise. I mean, people talking about Roo and Joey being our best being somewhat of a problem is understandable but also is aaa nod to their longevity. This is something else; a lot of people would have struggled to have Geary in the 22 for much of the last couple of years.

By half-time, Hugh’s season was over. An innocuous turn that screamed “ACL” given he hit the deck immediately and seemed to be holding the right (i.e. wrong) spot. The shot of him watching the game from the boundary in a moonboot brought only temporary relief – it wasn’t an ACL, it was a ruptured achilles; but he will miss 12 months anyway.

It was a night in which amongst the general hammering we lost our young forward and back future pillars in respectively sickening ways. Hugh had endured a horror return to the side in Jackson Ferguson-style as Cameron and Lynch supported Jenkins (whose 7.3 matched our 6.9), McGovern and Tex with ease and he wouldn’t have known where to look. All of a sudden he was on the ground with a face of devastation and the Adelaide crowd’s commendable reaction as he departed from the field a reminder that this was just a shitty thing happening in front of us, regardless of what jumper they wore.

Paddy’s was a bit different. Somehow Jack Newnes’ handsome face steamed through Paddy’s skull before it copped another knock to the back of the head in the traffic. To see him lying motionless with his arms raised but his eyes opened and several very concerned medicos around him was sickening. Hugh’s injury in the shadows of half-time had sucked whatever little was left out of the game; if you didn’t already feel slightly nauseous watching the horror show then this definitely brought the buckets out. Continuing to pay watch the game from that point felt like some form of perversion, whether it was hoping for a 100-point loss to add extra heat to the blowtorch or wincing at any physical contact, lest there be another Paddy collision, or any St Kilda player moving slightly, lest there be another Hugh rupture.

All of a sudden the immediate future of one of our most exciting players is in doubt, and the others’ has been ruined beyond that. Riewoldt and Dempster might join Fisher on the sidelines, Jarryn Geary is our best player and Luke Delaney may have to be reminded he is a St Kilda listed player.  The second half of the season will most likely see a refresh in this year’s exercise of younger or inexperienced guys getting games put into them – probably Tom Lee and maybe even Delaney, as well as D-Mac, Marshall Mathers, Blacres, Lonie and Eli. Footy moves fast, wherever you might be on the ladder or in your development.

Then we had our forward line coach Aaron Hamill to look forward to reiterating on Open Mike why it was no coincidence we’ve won one premiership since 1873. And probably a reminder that this whole journey could – and possibly should – have been over in 2004.

The way home on Sunday night was a rare silent journey, with my headphones out of action. Sunday felt like a changing of seasons, so to speak, for the 2016 season itself, right on the completion of its first half. Injuries for the next month at least will force a mini restart in giving young and inexperienced guys games. How close we were to being 6-4 with major scalps has given way to looking towards another high draft pick and reading up on the countless articles that may or may not gives us some vague indication about which guys could possibly but probably not fulfill our most pressing need, or another need altogether.

The silence of the trip home in the chill and the dark felt like an appropriate moment to take a breather rather than go over the game and stew in something by Braids or Marissa Nadler. Winter is here, and there are some cold months ahead.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 11

Jarryn Geary – 2
Shane Savage – 2
Jack Steven – 2
David Armitage – 1
Tim Membrey – 1
Josh Bruce – 1
Jade Gresham – 1

Totals
Jack Steven – 18
Nick Riewoldt – 17
Seb Ross – 9
David Armitage – 8
Leigh Montagna – 8
Tim Membrey – 7
Jack Newnes – 6
Sam Fisher – 5
Tom Hickey – 5
Jack Billings – 4
Josh Bruce – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Shane Savage – 4
Blake Acres – 3
Jade Gresham – 2
Paddy McCartin – 2
Jarryn Geary – 2
Sean Dempster – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1
Mav Weller – 1

A time to be so small

Round 14, 2015
Essendon 1.0, 5.1, 7.3, 8.4 (52)
St Kilda 5.3, 10.8, 17.9, 25.12 (162)
Crowd: 38,020 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, July 5th, 1.10pm

It goes without saying – or even the need to say – that the entirety of this round was overshadowed by the awful death of Phil Walsh.

Awful not just because of someone of his unique influence on so many people over so many years was taken away at an early age, but the tragic circumstances that surround it. Somehow there’s a further downside, in that this wasn’t the ending of those troubling circumstances; for his wife and daughter particularly this is just the beginning.

For the myriad proposals made from the time the news broke on Friday morning to when Gillon fronted the media, there was no certainty with which anyone could say their own or any particular proposal would realistically trump any other.

The precedent set on Friday night of having no club songs, banners or pre-match music during games and at breaks was an incredibly simple but appropriate way of emotionally and logistically acknowledging the unbelievable news we woke up to on Friday morning. Having the Adelaide/Geelong game cancelled alone was probably the best course of action amongst a number of also imperfect options. Sadly I couldn’t tell if the number of arseclowns on various Big forums related to Footy (and out in the general public also) talking about how “unfair” the agreement was to the Cats for Adelaide to not forfeit and give up all four points was a surprise or not. This extended to people worried about how fair any Brownlow votes or SuperCoach points arrangement would be. What I am pretty sure of is that the most unfair thing was that Adelaide’s coach was murdered. That’s a reality we’ll never get used to.

Arriving in our near-front row Level 3 seats with Matt, Tiarne and Angie it was hard to not be taken aback by just how hushed the stadium appeared out of reverence for the situation, despite us all being aware of the arrangements made before the weekend proper. A mutual, en masse state of shock to be more succinct. In a way it was what going to the footy was like perhaps 10 years ago – I might be underestimating that figure – and whilst it could have been a refreshing change to being blasted by all the bells and whistles the AFL says we asked for, the sombre context of why it was so, with the image of Phil Walsh gazing over us from the big screens, permeated through every aspect of the day. Both teams were met with a rather muted but appreciative applause from the crowd. Muted, and tempered still with no song or flag-waving kids or (as far as our home games go) drum roll intro loop to heighten the anticipation, and knowing that shortly we would all be observing a minute’s silence for a murdered human being that we were all at least publicly familiar with and, yes, influenced by. Appreciative, though, because we were at the footy on a Sunday afternoon and that of all things it’s typically the four points that are our chief concern. As Friday demonstrated, to even been there at all was something worth celebrating.

A moment’s silence – the AFL never really consistently quite got the full minute posited for ANZAC Day fixtures – and then a game of footy to be played.

I like to think of myself as socially progressive and quite a rational, reasonable thinker* (*What I actually do moment-to-moment and day-to-day may differ strongly). However, if there’s one stereotype I’m totally in for it’s that of footy clubs and the characteristics of their fans, although I feel it contributes to the identity of the clubs a massive amount (but does not, as some fans think that they do, contribute to what actually happens out on the ground). In an era in which the AFL has tried to mostly do the opposite – although I dare say moves to reverse that are slowly being implemented – it’s one piece of lazy thinking I subscribe to. And so with that, Essendon has always been the team I’ve despised playing against more than any other. The attitude of inherent success and superiority that has flowed from the hierarchy down to whichever loud supporter has been invariably around me/on the Hot Topic Board on BigFooty is one that on Sunday appeared to finally be irrelevant in an era in which multiple cycles of the national draft and overall equalisation system have been observed, measured, emulated and improved on several times over. It’s the same we appear to have seen with Carlton, although the Blues at least, with SOS involved, seem to have now acknowledged as much.

Of all clubs it was us that have sent a thunderbolt through the Bombers. In the footy sense, of course; hyperbole and melodrama seem even more useless in a time like this. The current Essendon and Carlton situations obviously are very different, but for the first time it’s genuinely difficult to tell whether or not the supplements saga (now specifically referred to as the WADA Appeal given it’s reached that stage) is solely to blame for the predicament the Bombers have found themselves in. When Jobe and BJ – arguably their two best players – finish with 15 touches combine you think something really weird is going on (or that Jobe is on the precipice of giving in his season due to injury). Given the context of the day a surreal feeling was embedded in whatever would take place. That we would witness St Kilda’s biggest ever win and score against Essendon and fifth-biggest win in the club’s 142 years certainly had the game itself giving us probably the key football talking points by the end of the Round.

Going from what I caught of half-time interview on the big screens (I was just getting back from purchasing beverages) the Bombers were having a 1965 premiership players reunion at the ground (in all sincerity I didn’t catch the two players from that day they were speaking to). How much do you hold that over another club on a day like that (again, I’m talking in the footy sense)? They’ve won 16 premierships, and 1965 obviously was over us, with the Bombers coming from fourth to knock us off on the big day after we’d finished on top of the ladder. The next time we’d finish on top the same would happen – against Adelaide.

My point is it served as a small, subtle reminder. The game saw some incredibly exciting footy from a really young team that for another week this year is flavour of the, uh, week. But for everything we’ve enjoyed since early 2004, we still haven’t been able to complete the mission. The Bombers have done so four times since with extended periods of finals and Grand Final appearances.

It was the arsey Gilbert dribble along the boundary when he was pinned in a tackle that would ultimately end up with Dunstan [NEW HAIRCUT] for his goal early in the last that said as much about the game as the woefulness emanating from Bombers HQ. It was the kind of day where everything seemed to come off for us. The trick in all of that is dissecting which parts belong to the immense pressure and movement we displayed throughout the day, and which parts came from the Bombers being completely

Cale Hooker’s three goals fortunately won’t belong in the Daniel Healy file given the result, but don’t tell me you weren’t thinking when he kicked his first early on that who else better to play against when you’re Essendon and trialling a defender as your key forward? With Carlisle out and Daniher proving to be more of a project player than first hoped – I do think he will be a great player; it’s more that the timetable is a little longer than it seemed it would be at first – Hurley required down back, Bellchambers AWOL whether he’s out there or not, Giles languishing in the VFL and Ryder now at a different Australian Rules football club on paper some problems were already presenting themselves.

In the end it didn’t matter because we brought out our best game for three years and Essendon there worst since, I would hazard a guess, some time in the middle of last decade. This would prove to be our 2nd highest score since Round 17 against Richmond on a Saturday afternoon at the MCG, missing out by only one point to 128-point win against GWS three years ago. In what should have clearly been not just the club’s biggest win ever (which remained at 139 points) but one of the greatest winning margins of all time, we could only kick 2.1 in the third quarter and a wayward 6.6 in the final term against what quite possibly will be the weakest team we will ever play, given their unique circumstances (never mind, because even if all goes to plan they’ll be knocking us, Melbourne and Bulldogs off for premierships over the next decade).

Simply it was the relentless pressure across the ground for four quarters that was the genesis of every attacking thrust. Even Sinclair’s brilliant running goal out of the middle – the cleanest of the day – came about because he anticipated and intercepted Heppell’s quick handball from the centre bounce. The tackle count of 61 belies the pressure acts and knock-ons in traffic to advantage or at the very least to create some movement around the ball, and not mention that we had 141 more disposals.

One of the pleasing [COACHES’ BUZZWORD] aspects of the game was the even spread of goalkickers. My 2nd Favourite Hair in the AFL was due for a modern-day bag and his 5.2 was punctuated by his hard running and solo effort at the beginning of the second quarter, which saw him harass Gwilt chiefly and finish with the ball and a running goal from around 50 metres. It completed a hat-trick of goals for him after some really physical contests and smart positioning late in the first quarter had him with 2.1 at break. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I still can’t believe that right now he’s good at footy. He’s still a novelty. Like a really bashful G-Train.

The next key forward with a decent plate of sausages was My Favourite Hair, who pushed right up into the backline early to get involved. Bruce ended up finding some more space in the front half and work his way into the game, and Roo also was an anchor for the rest of the team to work with, whether it was when the maniacal pressure had us switching from defence to offence in one tackling movement or when looking to sure things up when attacking options or movements were scarce. And this isn’t about whether or not he gets a ton of possession, it’s about the other guys working with his positioning and presence. I was worried on Sunday and I’ll be worried this Sunday he’ll get an arsey cork from one of the spoilt GWS FIGJAMs (Bugg) and miss Maddie’s Match the following week but you’d think even if he did a knee he’d be out there for that one.

I know it’s an early call but after Justin Sweeney, Matthew Ferguson, Charlie Gardiner, Ryan Gamble and Beau Milkster it looks like we’ve finally found a competent “third tall”. Last week the knock on Tim Membrey was that he got to a lot of contests but probably didn’t take as many as he should have. This week he took 10 marks, had 16 touches and kicked 2.1. Not bad for your 10th game.

He’s not a forward but for pure “Wow, that’s odd” factor Dylan Roberton’s 31 disposals – and let’s face it, entire season – has been a very pleasant surprise. His injuries were probably ignored a bit too much given the criticism he received last year. Maybe he should keep having more kids because the latest one seems to have spurred him on that much more as it is. He’s had 31 touches, is looking more fitter and more mobile than ever, and is proving to be a more effective rebound player than more were expecting. Whilst I’m throwing these around, I’ll huck in Billy Longer too – 18 touches, eight marks with some really good contested grabs included, and 35 hit-outs. Not much by way of first-choice opposition in this one but what more could he have done? Again, I think Hickey has been done a disservice by being played as a forward, but with Membrey, Roo and Bruce all of a sudden gelling pretty well (for one week at least) it’s hard to see either of them drifting down and adding a whole lot more height should both of the be name in the same side.

Surely Jack Lonie’s officially been taking way too many cues from his faux-dad. Great to see him get a Rising Star Nomination; we’ve had a distinct lack of those until recently because I don’t think most Saints fans knew who Alistair Smith, Nick Heyne, Paul Cahill or Daniel Archer were, let alone them coming to the attention of Corporate Rising Star committee.

On that, how much better did we look having both Sinclair and Lonie running around? Their disposal counts don’t show much, and their tackle counts also undersell the kind of pressure they put up forward. Whether it’s with or without the ball they’re so consistent and mature given their age and inexperience it’s difficult to think that this time last year none of us would have even known their names. Lonie could do with some real attention on his finishing, but he was the first one to point out in a couple of media interviews that he’s kicking the hard ones and missing the easy ones. His 1.3 took him to 10.12 for the year. Dare I say I’ll be keeping an eye on the running tally ahead of Grand Final Day ~2019 given who he’s taking orders from.

That man Schneider moved past an opponent halfway through the last and from relatively close range smacked it into the post. This time it didn’t matter, because the game was over 45 minutes earlier.

I’m not going to call it and say we’re on our way to challenging for a finals position, because our younger guys are more infinitely likely to tire towards the back end of the season than we are to bowl over enough of Richmond, Port, Geelong, North Melbourne, Sydney and West Coast. We lost to next week’s opponents GWS in Round 1 and similarly looked to have kicked the game away against our Round 17 opponents the Dees the other week, before needing Max Gawn to get a hit out to the completely wrong spot with 41 seconds left and a calamitous communication error on everyone’s part to get over the line. But what if we did? Suddenly we’re nowhere near Darcy Parish, and after Billings and McCartin at pick 3 and pick 1 we could be headed for some clown with pick 6.

Armo and Jack Steven keep humming along, and it’s safe to say that Armo has finally reached that level we’d been hoping him to reach, say, I don’t know, sometime by any of the 2009 or 2010 Grand Finals. As I’ve said before on this, I probably tend to overlook the really good, consistent players because what else can I say? I don’t know if he’s quite captain material in the off-field sense but how much of a relief is it to see him playing like this? Steven has reassured us that 2013 wasn’t a fluke in different ways recently. Despite a quiet game by his standards his double effort in the winning passage of play against Melbourne showed he is able to stand up in the most pressing situations, and then he produced a nearly complete game on Sunday with 29 touches, 11 tackles and some of the better use of his speed post-last year’s injuries.

Drilling further down into the midfield, the Dunstan/Weller/Ross triumvirate is an interesting one. At their own paces they’re slowly carving out their roles in the team, and I would have said pre-season I had reservations about how good a team could be with three inexperienced (Weller not so much though) but not overly dynamic players in the same 22. Dunstan’s shut that one down by showing he can drift forward and hit the scoreboard, and likewise Weller who’s now kicked 7.1 in the last five games. Embarrassingly, I have to admit I don’t recall seeing one of Ross’s 25 touches, although having seen the replay twice his quick hands in traffic were what kickstarted a lot of good movement. I would have said with Jack Billings due to be back soon that perhaps Dunstan might make way, particularly given he was the sub as he was due for a rest, but regardless of Billings now missing at least a month just try dropping one player from  Sunday’s side.

The final siren was again met with a muted reaction. Whilst everyone in the stadium could see the Bombers had hit possibly their lowest ebb through this entire sage, Saints fans could quietly take away one of the most complete performances you could hope for from a young side, and until the next match optimistically ponder all it could mean for what heights this team and this club could rise to.

But there was no post-match song played and any glee harboured in our hearts for the on-field win was set aside as the players and the fans united again in silence in a display that proved that we are humans before anything else, whether or not your red and black had a dash of white in it on Sunday.

This wasn’t necessarily about footy taking a back seat. It can’t for too long even if you try, because inevitably, disturbingly – but it some ways, and for some, comfortingly – our lives and the wider world will keep moving. In the longer-term this weekend was more about where footy sits in your life. This game and these clubs are a part of who we are; this wasn’t about whether they’re more or less important than the other things in life, but rather how they fit into and influence those.

Saints wear new clash jumper again; lose

Round 7, 2015
Adelaide Crows 3.3, 9.3, 15.6, 18.13 (121)
St Kilda 3.3, 5.8, 7.12, 10.13 (73)
Crowd: 43,532 at Adelaide Oval, Saturday, May 16th at 1.15pm CST

Well I hope we enjoyed our Flavour of the Week status. Fortunately we didn’t give it over in borderline ridiculous circumstances as the Dogs did against us, but alas the ride is over.

Not that Richo would think of proclaiming anything that Malcolm Blight would. “Ride of Your Week”, certainly, but we’d banked some goodwill the prior week against the Bombers. Either way, following The Comeback we’ve got Tom Hickey on SEN, Jack Billings in the Triple M studio, Richo himself on Talking Footy and Billy Longer doing the lead-up press conference. It’s just that easy.

Before the Doggies game I suggested (just vaguely, and I’m not sure to who) that if we had a chance to knock them off it would have a lot to do with them being drained after their win against the Swans. I drew the parallel on everyone’s favourite Saintsational forum to our Round 7 performance in 1998, in which the bottom of the ladder Brisbane Lions knocked us off at Waverley the week after we’d stormed home against the Eagles at Subiaco the week before.

Obviously in the third quarter last week that thought was nowhere near my mind as it appeared regular programming had resumed, but given what what transpired then for the sake of consistency I had to say, well, the same would apply to us yesterday. I think the thing about yesterday’s performance was that you could have picked a result like this regardless of The Comeback ever occurring, let alone the week before and causing a massive hangover. The 46-point margin is certainly decent but it wasn’t the after grog bog it could have been.

In fact it was My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s awful collision that had him knocked out cold immediately that probably effected us more. Not that it was the difference between winning and losing, but rather we weren’t able to deal with the structural change and it clearly affected our ball movement.

Following last week and a number of people’s quite reasonable suggestions over the years, Roo was quite clearly playing high up the ground, and we had Hickey playing more mobile and several times found himself around contests with Longer. Bruce was anchored more so as per usual but wandered up to the wing early pre-Roo’s concussion.

There weren’t any signs of struggling to back up early because we kicked the first three goals and the pressure around the ground was right up. Newnes kicked the first from a 50-metre penalty, which would be the first of many the umpires paid throughout the day to both sides and for the most part reasonable. The hometown whistle is something any supporter of the visiting team to SA or Subi dreads, with every contest an apparent threat to all that is good and true. It only made a couple of appearances, glaringly for Charlie Cameron’s pair of goals in the second quarter, but we’d had Schneider get away with an arsey throw in the first and one to Billings in the second at the other end which neither were taken advantage of, so the decisions themselves certainly didn’t change the momentum or state of play.

Poor execution going forward became plagued our game throughout, and the signs were there early. Sinclair and Newnes put some really good pressure on the Crows at both ends and once we got it back up forward Hickey dropped a proverbial on the lead. Soon Roo in his new/old position provided the link out of the back half, and Eli’s great kick to My 2nd Favourite Hair in the AFL Josh Bruce in the goal square had things looking solid. To be reductive, the talls were in the right spots and the supporting cast – Eli, Sinclair, Schneider etc. were buzzing around and being generally annoying.

Speaking of which, I’d set up a lonely camp at the Great View Hotel after Matt and Evan were late withdrawals, and Richie was out of the country taking in much nicer weather through the week. It was just myself watching the Saints and then several gentlemen watching the other game on the other smaller screen but the benefit of audio. Most were inexplicably Hawthorn supporters, for no reason splashing out on the beers rather than a ticket to watch two Victorian teams at the MCG on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Baffling at best, but the real centrepiece was the one year-old’s birthday party going on in the function room (Happy Birthday, Lotta), which for some reason had the adjoining door open all door and thus parents, prams and an exorbitant variety of small children literally running around at all times. The talkative but seemingly kind and level-headed kid with the puppy balloon was the clear winner, otherwise it was a few Dads talking about their Supercoach teams spilling out also.

I’d had a slow start to the day so fortunately it was just a couple of blocks from my own home to get there and get back (something handy to have in hand should things end poorly). It was hard to get outwardly excited in my state but when Hickey got his chance to make amends and crumb a big contest in the goalsquare, with more than a guiding hand from Bruce, it was three goals to zip and a few cautiously excited texts started flying around.

That particular chain hard started a little earlier when had Bruce found himself making space in a marking contest for Longer close to half-back on the counter, and Schneider caught Sauce Jacobs out. The switch found Roo, and his kick ended up falling into the square where Bruce had worked all the way back to. Early yes, but Our Very Own Stephen Merchant’s rev up he gave Bruce and his fitness during the week was only just becoming evident.

Unfortunately that was just about the end of it. From that point is was 18 goals to 7, or more tellingly we only kicked one more goal than Eddie Betts from that point. Probably the other defining element of our games this season has been the ease with which the opposition can quickly move the ball out of our attack and hitting the scoreboard. I’ll get to Roo in a minute, but there’s no control group pre- or post- his and Lonie’s concussions. Geary and Montagna as late withdrawals hurt of course, but that wouldn’t have stopped the number of attacks launched by the Crows – particularly from our defence – that saw them shred through the middle for clean delivery to a one-out or forward in space. Often that was Betts, and whilst Geary was the man most suited to him Betts would have kicked a few of those anyway, just like Tex would have with or without Delaney in the team because there’s only so much the defender can do in those situations.

Let’s get to it. Roo’s concussion was sickening, particularly at the time given how long much extra care the trainers seemed to be giving him. It’s easier to talk about now that we’ve seen him up and about, and as always it’s really wonderful to see the crowd giving an injured opposition player a warm reception as they come off the ground, as well as the opposition trainers assisting in the post-injury care.

As I said, it hurt us more structurally than being one down did. Lonie had already been subbed off by this time with concussion, and given how relatively innocuous his incident looked (also an attempted tackle) with no sound at the bar I actually didn’t realise the hit had been that bad until after Roo had gone down. I don’t have any heat maps or anything but when we moving the ball it felt Roo’s presence was really lacking, and Hickey and Billy found themselves far too close together around the ground. The momentum had already swung Adelaide’s way, too – Eddie had taken a huge mark in the square following a debatably not being paid a mark in the pocket previously, and then Tex kicked a huge goal after the quarter time siren to level the scores after a weak Sav effort allowed the Crows to run away with the footy when we were a kick away from an attacking chance of our own.

By the siren we’d lost Joey, Geary, Lonie and Roo. It was time for someone to really make a statement, and Steven butchered the kick forward from the opening bounce of the second quarter. Then Hickey dropped another sitter and Billings missed the shot from the aforementioned reverse hometown whistle free, and who else but ex-Saints fan and ex-Saint Tom and first round draft pick to kick the next couple of goals and set the Crows up? Both goals came from two quality involvements from Tex further up; firstly a perfectly positioned kick to Lynch in the pocket which allowed him to draw the free, and then a one-motion take of the ball on the half-volley and sharp hands to Sauce Jacobs running past which again ended with Lynch.

In the end it was Josh Bruce who took it on himself to press up and provide an option. It looked like Lever was on him for much of it which probably helped him a little as Talia had (I’m sure) moved to Hickey, but that’s the benefit of having both Bruce and Hickey stepping up in the forward line and stretching the opposition defensive stocks, even when Roo isn’t there.

His five goals yesterday meant he’d kicked multiple goals in six of seven games this year. Perhaps ironically, the only match he kicked a single goal in was the Bulldogs game, in which he kicked 1.3, including the zero pressure shot after the siren. He also yesterday became the first St Kilda player to kick at least five goals three times in a six-game period since Riewoldt over the end of 2009 and early 2010, an overlapping period in 2009, Rounds 16-20 in 2008, and Rounds 16-21 in 2004 (to go with 9 goals in Round 15 that year). Milne did it over Rounds 8-13 in 2004 but that was the only time in his career, whilst you’d have to go back to the G-Train, who managed it in overlapping periods from Round 16, 2003 until Round 18, 2005 – as well as the last six games of his career (or at least before retiring the first time) – for any Saint to have done that with any regularity. I know it’s a very arbitrary criteria but I’m using it to compare the kind of return he’s given us in this period to what other Saints have over the past ten-plus years.

The most impressive thing about his game though was that he kicked five goals as well as consistently pushing up to the wing to make the contest, take the mark and provide that next link. How many times did we see him do it after quarter time, and several of those ended in serious attacking ventures (two of them Dunstan behinds, who at times is a bit of a Lenny in front of goal).

Incredibly we led the inside 50 count in the second quarter 16-11, but the Crows kicked 6.0 to 2.5. It was around this time that Channel 7 cut to a shot of Rory Sloane in the coaches’ box, next to David Teague’s questionable hair. The Adelaide Advertiser had run with a sensational back page, led by whispers of ex-Saints fan Rory going to what will probably be Moorabbin by year’s end. The story had built through the week, beginning with Matt Finnis on SEN early in the week and by the time Richo had talked about how outstanding everything about Rory is it had become the talking point leading into the game. Whilst it wasn’t necessarily the midfield that was our problem – but rather a lack of pressure and endeavour that allowed Adelaide to cut through far too easily from back of centre – I really do think the club would love one guy who be the real midfield general in three-to-five years’ time when theoretically we’ll be challenging.

Yes, obviously Armo could be that guy, whilst Steven still talks like a shy 12 year-old, but Rory is someone who’s been a class above most for a lot of his career and he’s still only 25. It’s also worth pointing out there is Weller, Dunstan, Billings, McKenzie and even Acres still coming through and will varying degrees of impact, whilst we still may get a top tier young guy in the next draft or two, or snaffle someone like Shiel to add some real A-class youth. Not sure what we’d need to give up for Sloane though, and I’d probably rather go to the draft if we end up with a top five pick again.

The midfield didn’t have the kind of supply this week – chiefly from Billy Longer given Hickey’s a forward at the moment – as Sauce Jacobs dominated the hit-out count and around the ground. He found the ball 23 teams and was a part of a number of counterattacks. Billy himself I actually didn’t think was terrible considering it’s his 32nd game and has just turned 22; he got to a lot of contests but perhaps fell back into his old habit of not being able to, you know, take a mark. When Charlie Cameron got his second weird free close to goal Billy looked like he was about fulfil the destiny I’ve imposed on him of going Lazar Vidovic on everyone around him, but unfortunately he managed to control his emotions.

Bruce couldn’t do it all, despite following Hickey’s lead and doing some nice crumbing in the goal square himself in the third and even then it’s still a novelty to watch him playing genuinely good Australian Rules football. With Hickey and Longer struggling with some of the fineries of the mark Bruce got in on the act, as well as missing a couple of shots at goal. It made his return of 5.1 and 12 marks seem all the more remarkable because it very, very easily could have been more.

We didn’t seem as dynamic going forward otherwise, and there were structural difficulty parallels again with Roo missing at short notice in the Collingwood game and after quarter-time in this one. Eli and Schneider were busy early but that was pretty much it and neither kicked a goal, Billings had a decent impact higher up but kicked 0.2, Lonie was out of the game before you realised he was there, Sinclair – in his temporary farewell game before going back onto the rookie list – just didn’t have a great day and the mids – Dunstan as I mentioned, Armo and Mav all missed their shots. Hickey obviously had a presence as far as the talls went but finished with 1.2, including a miss late after a gallant run through a couple of opponent and finding space which would have put us within four goals with a whole lot of momentum and plenty of time left. It was probably the closest I got to being clearly animated about the game, but the frustrating footy overall, a couple of pints and and a whole lot of small children had worn me down over the afternoon.

Not sure what to make of Sandy’s demolition over Frankston today. Saad kicked four but like Schneider will need to be back on the rookie list within a few weeks. Membrey kicked three, Tom Lee kicked a couple in what’s now a rare foray forward and Minchington kicked two. Minch is our forgotten guy who actually can bullet a pass and kick a couple of goals, whilst Lee might be a very slim chance if Roo doesn’t come up. Acres surely comes in after getting plenty of the ball and a couple of goals so there’s a few to come in, as well as potentially Montagna and Geary, for a few others both up forward and through the midfield. McKenzie might come out. His numbers will tell you he only had nine touches but his presence seems to offer a lot more than that. There’s no rush either way for him. Curren had 31 touches for the Zebs but I CBF.

Appropriately it was Betts who sealed the game with some slick hands and then cleverly finished a chain of possession close to goal after Sinclair up the other end put everything into a set shot but didn’t quite make the distance. Delaney gave away a free kick to Tex shortly after who delivered the icing. It wasn’t unexpected – and arguably it was inevitable – given everything that had happened through the afternoon, but the performance overall did leave what was perhaps a hollow feeling compared to the two games previous.

It’s difficult to tell what kind of team will turn up at the stage in development, and more so one that will again have a couple more changes. West Coast are second on the ladder for some reason and we play them on Saturday, and whilst I don’t think we’ll win I don’t exactly know what form that would take. For every memorable game like The Comeback – although not typically of that magnitude – there are countless in these leaner years that we simply forget. The team doesn’t turn up, or the young guys have an off-day en masse, or the disposal going forward is butchered. Roo’s hit and Bruce’s five might stand out for the minutiae in later years, but otherwise yesterday won’t be revisited too many times; banked in the back of the mind but rarely called upon.

The fondest of farewells

Round 23, 2014
Adelaide Crows 4.2, 11.5, 15.5, 22.9 (141)
St Kilda 2.2, 3.3, 8.7, 9.8 (62)
Crowd: 44,969 at Adelaide Oval, Sunday, August 31st at 2.50pm CST

Ok right, so before I start there’s probably a couple of things to point out.

Firstly, as I touched on in last week’s review, it’s difficult to not make a post at this point in a season like this a de facto season review. That’s mostly for the questionable podcasts that Rich and I put together. We’ll have time to produce some faff in the coming weeks.

Secondly, I don’t want this to be entirely about Lenny, because really Rich and I can post whatever we want whenever we want and I’d rather give Lenny a devoted post but I might not, although this will probably end up revolving around him anyway.

Richmond was the feel-good story of the round (and potentially the year), but their win also rendered the rest of the weekend – i.e. this and the Suns-Eagles match on the Sunday as dead rubbers. Otherwise, given West Coast’s sizeable victory, we would have been set up somewhat for a revenge opportunity for Adelaide. It was in the final game of 2008 that we stormed to a 108-point win over Essendon – Robert Harvey’s final home-and-away match – to knock Adelaide from fourth spot and grab the double chance for ourselves, having been 5-7 after Round 12. Had the Tigers lost on Sunday and the Eagles won by the margin they did, the Crows would have needed to win by something in the order of 126 points to make the eight. Given their style of play, firepower up forward and St Kilda’s lowly state it wouldn’t have been utterly impossible. But ultimately, just like this entire paragraph, it was moot.

Indeed, it would have been reasonable to expect that Adelaide would come out a little flat now that their season was cooked, although they’d been pretty inconsistent even when their season was still alive. Probably the closest thing we were going to get to a win was Lenny taking the record for the most tackles by any player; he needed seven to equal and eight to break the all-time record set by Jude Bolton. Lenny’s ferocious start with six tackles in the first quarter made him a monty to break it, and by game’s end Bolton’s record had stood for less than 12 months. Given the tackle numbers of others currently playing the record will stand for at least a couple of years.

Otherwise the game eventually turned out as expected. One of the first passages of play forecast St Kilda’s day, really – Lenny knocked it out to Jack Steven, who kicked nicely to Rhys leading low just out from the 50-metre arc, and he kicked terribly to no-one. So many times throughout the day we would see Lenny on the inside, Jack running through the middle and then, uh, maybe Rhys on the lead too, sure, if he was around, but the point is that either the kick inside 50 would be off or there’d simply be not much on offer.

Indeed, within two minutes we’d resorted to Plan ZZ and were bombing it to Clint Jones inside 50. Whilst we actually had a fair amount of the play for much of the quarter it took a holding free to SPENCER WHITE ROADSHOW to get things going. Again, like last week, he had a touch of the G-Trains about him: the barely-there follow through with the kick, and the resulting floating and swinging drop punt kick. The ball barely crossed the line and had to go to a goal review, but the hype machine was gearing up early.

He would have another couple of shots – both coming from handsomely placed kicks from My Favourite Hair in the AFL to good leads – but both were hard against the boundary and on the wrong side for a left-footer. One went through but was touched off the boot, and the second didn’t score. Spencer didn’t trouble the scorers throughout the rest of the game (not many did) but I thought he moved alright across attack and the supply certainly wasn’t outstanding in either quality or quantity.

His co-young tall forward in Big Rhys Bandwagon (is it still a Bandwagon? I think Spencer is the Money Man right now) started well and took some strong marks (particularly pushing up high on the wing), but was still prone to spilling a simpler grab. I think the important thing was that he got to a lot of contest right around the ground, all the way up to half-back – his contest started off the chain that resulted in a really good coast-to-coast goal featuring Faz putting in some really hard running and a lovely finish.

From the couch one thing I noticed properly this week was Dylan Roberton’s new haircut. It’s rather disappointing; he began in Round 1 with the tight ponytail/bun, but now he’s just a questionable footballer. Matt texted me to point out that Josh Bruce had supplanted him as the club’s OK-but-not-great cool player.

As I said, quality going forward – indeed, quality anywhere – was in short supply for the most part. Sadly, wistfull, wonderfully it was Lenny that put in the most direct, slick hit up forward, and it was to his old mate Roo. That was the kick that went out to Spencer for touched kick, and curiously Channel 7 cut to Andrew Welsh on the boundary interviewing a heavily breathing Joey for about six seconds. Not sure if I’d seen that before and I’m completely against in-match interviews, but not doing them all year obviously didn’t help anyway.

The Crows looked very hesitant moving the ball but once Delaney slipped onto his arse and Tex ran away from him to kick the Crows’ first it was one-way traffic. Despite the best efforts of Newnes, Fisher and Dempster in defence, the Crows went from trailing at the 25.34 mark of the first quarter – the quarter went for 29 minutes and 51 seconds – to leading by six goals just 6.36 into the second.

Bruce and the team couldn’t stop talking about Lenny’s tackle count, nor hometown retiree Truck Rutten, and were officially counting down to a game that actually mattered when Bruce described Jack Steven as “all buzzy”.

Jack was really good – one of the very few Saints who had a presence throughout the entirety of the match, and who looked like getting things really moving the right way. His brilliant run through the middle with a few bounces was capped off with a brilliantly placed kick that turned Talia inside out more than Roo did, and he in turn capped that off with one of the worst set shots of his career. It was that kind of day; Wright went to ground as the ball came into defence and got collected by Delaney as Eddie mopped up and kicked a goal; Shenton was having an absolute cock of a game and twice turnovers goalside of the centre circle that should have led to scoring opportunities went awry purely through our own doing.

Things were so dire that we went back to Plan ZZ. Mav hit CJ’s lead and he leant back and actually kicked a really nice goal from the angle. What would turn out to be CJ’s final game had some up and down moments. Roo was getting increasingly frustrated – he pushed up twice out of attack to be met with a kick out on the full and then, for old times’ sake, another CJ special. CJ then kicked well to Rhys, who went to Lenny and another great kick of his to Roo pushing up on the wing saw Roo’s urge to kill fading, as for his sake we anxiously counted down towards the end of the season.

I actually liked Mav’s game. His numbers say 17 touches and six tackles, which aren’t world beating but reflect the kind of game he plays. He did some hard running and attacked the ball and the contest pretty well, and his six tackles were bettered only by You Know Who. He almost created play of the day, chasing after his own errant handball at half-back, pushing past his opponent in the process, fending off and then his good kick to Rhys subsequently fluffed.

Likewise, Seb Ross found the ball in all parts of the ground seemed to be a lot more settled with the ball (although many had better numbers). The commentary team were going ape droppings for him, but I think they wanted to be nice because it’s Tim’s nephew.

Billy Longer was subbed off at half-time for Brodie Murdoch. I’m not sure that it said too much about anything though. Brodie was probably stiff to not have actually started a game, but he took his chance and had a really impressive third quarter. It was the first time he really consistently used his size and his boot to take marks (he took six in half a game) and really gain some ground. Again, he looked most dangerous up forward but floated higher up. If he can improve his tank enough to do that repeatedly then that boot can be put to good use in a lot of parts of the ground.

Gwilt started forward in his final half for the club, and I was ready to advise the club to get a new name for the club’s irreverent player interview series because I thought Schneider might be joining him. But Roo combined with Spencer, who gave it off near the flank to Schneids and he expertly broke through two Crows for a goal.

It’s all about how many of these senior guys setting the example you can have. Schneider just doesn’t consistently have the same kind of output as guys like Roo, Joey or Dempster to outweight the opportunity that could be given to a younger guy. I have to admit, the difficult part about writing that sentence just then was that I couldn’t use Lenny’s name.

Fisher is another senior guy in the “may or may not be there” category for 2015, but he was just about our best player yesterday. The fact that he’s gone from seemingly semi-retired to one of our best and certainly most reliable says a lot about his ability and I wouldn’t hesitate giving him another year. He’s certainly not moving as if he’s hampered by any of those recent injuries, so if they’re not going to be chronic you’d back him in.

But not so for CJ and Gwilt. Their departure was a decision made for them on the preceding Tuesday, and the word is they wonderfully, admirably chose to not make it public so as not to take anything away from Lenny. Regardless of whether they find a home at an AFL club next year – CJ exited in the manner of someone retiring, and the news this week ironically has Gwilt tied to the Crows from next year – these are players integral to the 2009 and 2010 campaigns which, whether we like it or not, will remember throughout our lives. Neither was blessed with natural talent; CJ may well remain for many years the only AFL player who couldn’t kick an Australian Rules football. But they did what any person who describes themselves as both reasonable and ambitious yearns to do, and that is first and foremost get the absolute best out of themselves. In Ross they found the coach who could mould the team that allowed them to find a football home in, and against expectation they thrived and were deeply respected.

Seeing CJ in the arms of his partner was at once sad and touching, and there was something appropriate that CJ would go out with no fanfare outside of the club and those closest to him. Likewise Gwilt; the image of him carrying Lenny off with Roo is far more dynamic in hindsight, with the knowledge that he and the players around him knew it would be his last time in a St Kilda jumper.

Absurdly, had we kicked straight in the third term we might have gone into the last quarter with a very faint sniff. But by the end the arse had really fallen out and we essentially got given a taste of our own barnstorming send-off last year, with Eddie (Betts) giving off to Truck Rutten who kicked a goal on the run in the final minutes. It wasn’t great viewing from a St Kilda perspective but any Saints fan at the ground for last year’s day out will understand what a nice moment that was for the Adelaide players and fans.

And so, with that, the St Kilda Football Club finished a season on the bottom for the 27th time. No-one has done that half as many times, and the football world collectively sees us being back where we belong.

The heavy tone of reminiscing that comes with a retiring great of what Jake Niall called the “Riewoldt Generation” is different. The surreal party last year in which Kosi, Milne and Blake all retired was in the lingering shadows of the 2010 Grand Finals jsut three years previous, and (rather incredibly) had the Saints swept the string of close games they lost in 2012 they would have finished in the top four (it was also a year in which only a two-goal third quarter deprived the Saints from easily eclipsing the club’s all-time greatest winning margin).

But time and circumstance have changed the way we think about and understand those years, and indeed the entire decade of back-to-back five-year periods under GT and Ross respectively that form probably the most incredible (in the true sense of the word) and otherwise second most successful period in the club’s 141-year history.

This time last year we were looking back on the Grand Finals (and some other choice moments) as part of an era that was still raw in the memory, and the three retirees represented the club’s movement to deeper into a new time with new faces on and off the field. Lenny’s retirement has been a little different. Very quickly stalwarts such as Dal, BJ and (to a much lesser extent) Big Ben all moved home, and the faces of those who took the field in those Grand Finals are now few and far between. Now that period seems distant, and Lenny and co. have been swamped by new faces who ideally will forge incredible memories for the club and those invested in it. His retirement tour was a celebration of his career that was synonymous with those better times and bookended by the club’s 25th and 26th wooden spoons, beginning just before the initial trough of 2000 and ending with the subsequent 2014 crash.

Writing for this blog, and perhaps ironically for someone so enwrapped in the fortunes and trials and tribulations of the club, I spend far less time talking about the consistently good players than I do all others. I certainly like the idea of being irreverent or realistic and it’s an easier to be facetious and stay grounded that way; I don’t do it to muckrake or sensationalise or whinge. I also do it because, quite simply, it’s naturally more interesting week in, week out to write and read about in depth the talking points. Because we know that Joey is going to rack up a whole lot of possessions and show the younger guys how to go about things professionally. We know that Jack Steven can get plenty of the footy and give us some real pace. We know that Roo will ignore everything he hears from over the fence and will himself to another contest when he can’t. And we know Lenny is going to give his heart and soul no matter what the situation.

These are the things I’ve certainly taken for granted in writing any piece for this blog. I think it’s something I’ve taken for granted anyway. I will miss him terribly as a St Kilda player. We all will. The enduring image of Lenny Hayes is that of measured celebration and focus after his goal to bring the Saints within eight points in the final quarter of 2010 Grand Final Draw.  It sums him up well – that he knew there was always hard work to be done. Over the years it will probably prove to be the most enduring positive image of the club’s 2009 and 2010 campaigns; the slow motion, the face stern, the AFL Grand Final logo peeling off the clash jumper. That he’s a Norm Smith Medalist makes fans proud, but mournfully reminded that he, Riewoldt and co. never played in a premiership.

I don’t know Lenny personally so I can’t talk with any authority about what a great guy he is, or whatever. I’ll leave that to his teammates, his opponents and those closest to him. But I watched him play for St Kilda nearly every week for 16 years; long enough for younger fans to not know a St Kilda Football Club without Lenny Hayes. The way he played showed that he was always reliable and had a huge heart. In a footballer, or indeed in any person, what more could you want? How wonderful it was to have had him.