Adelaide Crows Posts

St Kilda 50, Adelaide Crows 136

whatthehellwasthat

“What the hell was that?”

Yeah, we’re gonna have to put up with that kind of thing from time to time for a while yet. But it’s a big come down after the positivity of the first three games of the season.

@RWB_Rich will be taking care of this week’s review, hopefully having it up here for you quicker than I have in recent times.

@RWB_Rich’s Eljay Connors Medal votes for the game…

3 votes – S.Dempster

2 votes – L.Hayes

1 votes – N.Riewoldt

Mentions of honor: Josh Saunders, J.Geary.

Submit your votes in the comments section…

 

And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad

Round 3, 2014
West Coast Eagles 3.2, 5.4, 8.8, 12.11 (83)
St Kilda 1.5, 6.6, 7.8, 8.10 (58)
Crowd: 36,448 at Patersons Stadium, Saturday, April 5th at 4.40pm WST

Basically I feel like the mood is as if we’ve all taken some Lovan.

Actually, in my case I’ve taken some Oxynorm due to some follow-up surgery stitches, but I think I’d be feeling the same anyway after Saturday night’s positivity-laden loss.

Indeed it had plenty – Luke Dunstan was there doing Luke Dunstan stuff, Eli too, Jack Newnes – and it’s left us with an optimistic spin on things, but it’s also just brought us back to earth gently. The dizzying heights of two wins to open the season have given way to humbler ambitions for now, but as supporters they’re ambitions we feel we can take on with optimism.

In all honesty I went into the weekend expecting to have the floor mopped with us. Yes, we’d won two games from two, but they were against the two teams that finished below us on the ladder last year. West Coast had won two, yes, and against two sides that not many people rated, But they’d smacked them both, including Melbourne, who they beat by 76 points more than we’d beaten them one week previous.

The “House of Pain” is also a thing again, and the punters wielded their ridiculously bloated influence on how people perceive upcoming sports events and had the Saints beyond $13 for the win.

They were right in the end, but as Rich said shortly after the game, this was arguably St Kilda’s best performance of the year. For most of the game they were able to harass, break down and take on an opponent all of a sudden rated in the top handful of the competition.

It started slowly. In fact, I barely got to Rich’s Richmond RWB Headquarters for the bounce, fresh from the night before’s surgery and undersetimating the length from Bridge Road to his apartment. But that was ok, he and Tamar were to welcome me and pizza was there shortly after. It was the kind of game I thought I’d need several-plus beers for, but I had to settle for Coke.

Shuey quickly had two shots at goal against Tom Curren though, and the Coke was seeming a little weak. But slowly they turned the screws around the ground even on the vast expanses of Subiaco/Corporate Name Stadium space was becoming a premium. Geary’s chase on Le Cras was a feature, reprising the pressure he put on Coniglio late in the previous week’s match near goal.

It was apparent pretty quickly that the execution of the footy wasn’t up to scratch, and it was a theme that would run throughout the match and prove costly later on. CJ battled wilfully yet again, but twice going forward in the first quarter butchered good chances.

Two early subs threatened to throw things around for both sides – the luckless pair in Glibert and Le Cras – but as expected the Eagles’ big mean were the most threatening. The Saints couldn’t close the deal going forward and in very St Kilda-playing-interstate fashion the Eagles managed to work their way to Kennedy up the other end. Soon after some more hard work to get things forward came undone, and Darling was allowed to get around two Saints, hoisting it high for Savage to harmlessly float past the contest with his arms vaguely in the air and Sinclair taking the mark in front of goal.

I didn’t even see Gilbert before the shot of him injured on the bench came up. The club’s come out and said it’s severe bruising and soreness, so crucially nothing structural, but then crucially he’s out for 4-6 weeks anyway.

I have reservations about Saints.com.au using words like “phenomenal” to describe Dunstan’s game. Of course he played a great game, and in context you could deservedly throw in a whole bunch of stronger adjectives – after all this is this the best start to a young Saint’s career since…Dean Greig? Brett Knowles? Although those were probably limited to debut games. But “phenomenal” is when a Jimmy Bartel or Steve Johnson kicks three or four goals to with 20-plus possessions in a game in a premiership year. The good news is, Dunstan can’t have done too much more at this point in his career to demonstrate he’ll be as valuable to us as guys like that in the future.

The thing I took most out of the quarter time break, aside from more pizza, was that John Worsfold’s daughter has one of the fantastic modern “yellow peril” replicas. Surely West Coast have the biggest waste of potential when it comes to footy jumper designs. They’ve had great designs in the past which they’ve improved on now, such as the “traditional” away jumper, (notwithstanding the sidepanel details), but their home jumper is absolute custard. One half of the jumper is navy (dark), the other half is yellow/white (light). The useless panels on the back, the inexplicable presence of the white panel on the front…awful. Their training jumpers have long been much worthier of being the clash jumper as opposed to the token white effort.

So it’s hard to outright classify the game as “frustrating” given the context, but there were a number of frustrating moments even through the second quarter, which is where the Saints took some control of the game. BIG RHYS BANDWAGON actually wasn’t too bad, but he undid a lot of good work to slow the Eagles right down and have them static behind the centre circle. A wayward kick went straight to him but he dropped the simple mark, and the Eagles were lucky enough to take it away and end up with a shot at goal.

It took a really good Jimmy Webster effort to foil Kennedy but then once the Saints actually got things forward themselves Curren missed Eli, and whilst Rhys put in two good efforts to lead and mark Maister couldn’t get into the right position closer to goal and there was no one down to help out. Soon after Geary took the intercept mark that Rhys should have taken several minutes before and set up Roo, but Roo’s walk-in was poor and he shanked it. Maister followed it up by again not being able to get into position close to goal to be on the end of a good Savage entry. But things changed soon after that.

Regardless, I think Maister’s had enough chances at AFL level this season in which no one would entirely begrudge the coaching staff for dropping him for at least a week. He’s only kicked one goal from three games, although his primary role is to mostly lead further up from goal, and create either a link or goal kicking option that way. I think the conundrum here (already well acknowledged) is that he works admirably hard to provide that option and get to contests, but he simply won’t mark what he needs to. If anything it feels like the percentage quota he comes into the games with has decreased since last year. Given I don’t think there’s too much improvement left in him, ultimately the selectors will have to say to themselves – ok, do we want someone who we know will get to these contests and provide these options, but won’t take many marks is running at one goal every three games; or, after the weekend, do we give BIG TOMMY LEE a crack? (And the have to say “Big Tommy Lee” in capitals.)

Tom Lee has been given the excuse by the coaches for his quiet VFL form  in the past few weeks that he was behind in the pre-season, and he delivered on the promise that better was coming. Four goals in the VFL isn’t anything to sneeze at, despite some people talking it down in some unnamed forums. I’m not sure what else you want him to do? Ok, you know what? We’re taking the four goals off him. They’re gone. Now what do you want?

It was overshadowed only by Jack Billings’ last quarter theatrics and Jason Holmes’ comical attempt at a kick. I think for the first time since he joined the club CJ isn’t the most unreliable disposer of the ball. There’s a big chance Big Tommy isn’t even physically ready yet, but if he is then it’s worth finding out right now just how much he has in his tank (which has its own questions), how many marks he can hold, and how damaging he can be in front of goal.

There may or may not be an extra dimension to this. It’s BIG RHYS BANDWAGON, and in the last couple of weeks he’s started taking a few more stronger marks around the flanks and providing a valuable link. Without trying to complicate things even more for a hypothetical, even his role is linked somewhat to the ruck stocks of the day, but if he’s able to provide that link more often and more reliably – particularly if you can back in more contested situations – on top of Hickey more effectively floating floating, then Tommy Lee’s underdone tank for now might not be such an issue. He might also be able to impact on the scoreboard a little more.

Naturally, it was My Favourite Hair in the AFL that really sparked St Kilda’s move. Two goals in succession from a really strong mark and then to finish a nice passage featuring Rhys presenting high, and some great delivery from Eli. We’re all getting our rocks off with Eli’s actions in and around goal but his delivery to Roo several times this season has been great, and certain improvement on what he’s been used to for probably most of two of the past three seasons.

Eli was involved in the handball string with CJ that saw Dunstan creeping out the back, which was pleasing because in just his third game he knew exactly where to run probably when Eli got the ball, because by the time CJ found him he was well and truly on his way to goal.

Roo then began a counterattack that finished with Rhys making us all work harder as supporters than necessary and giving to Joey, who finished calmly from the pocket. My Favourite Hair had pushed well up the ground and drifted into the wide shot as the Eagles tried being patient, but he was in the right spot in the right time when they turned it over and he got things moving the other way.

The Eagles replied with Darling taking a huge mark at the top of the square. It became more noticeable as the second half wore on, but the Eagles’ talls allowed them to kick long and high into space or even to a contest in a dangerous spot and there would be Kennedy on the lead or Darling taking a grab. The Saints had to be incredibly precise if there were numbers back, and with Mackenzie wearing Roo like a glove guys like Joey and Dunstan were required to step up and take responsibility for hitting the scoreboard also. The great thing was that they did – Joey’s goal late in the second ensured we would go into the main break in front and that West Coast would lose their first quarter for the season – but more guys were needed to do the same and we only ended up with eight goals by the final siren.

Cruelly, it was Eli who gave us all the biggest hope of all of winning the game, before stalling the momentum by missing an easy goal just 15 metres out to widen the gap to three goals. His goal, however, was a set shot in the pocket and was quality.

Strangely, the goals effectively dried up from that point, just a few minutes into the second half. Dunstan (probably going early but I’m already tempted to add a, “Who else?”) was able to settle and kick an important set shot in the final quarter, but Eli’s miss was followed immediately by an arsey Priddis snap and it was the beginning of the end. I’m certainly not blaming Eli for throwing away potentially match-winning momentum, but if anything I’m highlighting because there simply weren’t enough petrol tickets to begin with. The GWS game a week earlier was a pretty tough affair, and the trip to Perth with a lot of inexperienced guys was going to be a heavy load to carry. And so it was.

The last quarter was rather joyless. The pressure was still there but had dropped, Jamie Cripps was kicking goals FFS, and things almost seemed to reach a point of damage control after having gone into the quarter only a goal down. It wasn’t a true highlight but the fact that the tired Saints kept the Eagles to “only” four goals in the quarter was encouraging in itself.

There are a few things to take out of this game. The loss itself wasn’t overly surprising given the context of where the teams were at heading into the weekend, but certainly for me the positives were much more pronounced than I thought they’d be.

Losing by 25 points was a head start; as I mentioned I gave us no chance whatsoever in the lead up. I’m certainly a cynic, but I’ve enjoyed getting on board the Richo/Eli/Dunstan bandwagon like nothing else in the past few weeks. And what the hell, throw Jack Newnes into there as well for some reason.

But it was the way they went about things, and it went right across the team. As Richo and anyone given media duties has said over the summer and the past couple of months, the focus was to be a competitive team that was tough to play against. And that’s exactly what they’ve done in the past few weeks. Obviously the skill set isn’t there yet and simply won’t be for another year or two at least, but we’ve now seen them bring a really strong style of play and mindset to a game against a more widely fancies side and it’s held up much better nearly everyone thought it would. Watters spoke a lot of big, positive words and I really liked that. I really do think that’s what he wanted this club to become (I’m referring to his “juggernaut” comment) and he wanted to do all the right things to make it happen. But come 2013 there was a disconnect between his words and what the team did on the field and what the team were gearing up to do that season. Yes, he came at an awkward time in terms of scheduling a plan for the short-to-medium term, but Richo is completely on message and has the players doing likewise both on and off the field.

The personnel having an effect is the obvious next point to mention. My Favourite Hair in the AFL is doing all sorts of great things, Armo looks like he’s taken at least half a step up so far this year, Joey’s been really solid, Farren’s close to his great 2009 form. and CJ, for all his faults, is one of the best examples in application on the field and on the training track. Dunstan, Saunders, Newnes, Hickey, Eli, Wright and others are all having varied effects on the game itself but it feels now that there presence has been positive for the team and themselves.

A quick mention to old mate Jamie Cripps: it increasingly looks like he won’t develop into too much more than a quick crumbing forward. Pick 24 in the draft – seriously, what the fark were they thinking? Throw Sam Crocker (such a failed project he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page) and Tom Ledger on top of that from the 2010 draft. It really is amazing how bad the Ross Lyon-era draft recruiting was – as a supporter it genuinely upsets me how pathetic indeed the recruiters were in that time. As for Cripps, I’m not sure if the Eagles thought they’d get the speedy running back-flanker that we thought, but they certainly didn’t give up pick 24 for him, and that’s after he’d had two years of development. It does say a lot about what a traditionally strong team thought about our first round pick in a Grand Final year – a bit-player worth effectively a third-rounder.

As mentioned before, the weekend’s result was buoyed by the VFL performances of Billings and Lee, with a number of other guys across the ground putting in strong performances. Bruce, Simpkin, Ross, Milera (yes, he still exists); hell, even Jason Holmes looked good in the ruck and finished with 32 hit-outs. All of a sudden, there’s a little more structure to the place.

St Kilda won’t go in as favourites on Sunday, even though after two wins and a promising, honourable loss (there, I said it), they face an Adelaide Crows outfit that hasn’t won a game from three starts. I don’t think it’s just yet time to start declaring us certainties and looking down on the Crows as easybeats/also-rans/etc. Once everyone’s form settles we’re more than likely still going to be at the wrong end of the ladder (that’s ok, drafts are exciting in these eras). But this week I’m trying to make the most of being having reason look forward with some enthusiasm.

St Kilda Jumper Talk: 2014 Edition

Like the pre-season itself, it’s become harder over time to take the jumpers made for the NAB [Whatever it is now] seriously.

The mid-90s saw several designs that would be regularly worn throughout following premiership seasons. North Melbourne’s 1995 blue yolk with stripes and Kangaroo was one of the first an instant favourite, and was the club’s away jumper for several seasons.

St Kilda took things a step further, adopting the hot-cross bun design worn for the 1996 Ansett Cup premiership as the home jumper a season later – and very nearly it became a premiership jumper (and thus, perhaps, the club’s home design in perpetuity).

The design completed the treble in 2002 when it was demoted to away jumper status (in the days when “away” jumpers weren’t necessarily “clash” jumpers), and was the basis for 2001’s infamous Pura Lightstart one-off and the resulting, improved clash jumper with red trim worn for 2002 and 2003. Incidentally, the first appearance of the “Yellow Peril” was against Carlton in Round 20, 2001, and its last appearance was against Carlton in Round 20, 2003.

Other examples of those times when 60,000-plus would attend a pre-season final include Melbourne’s first stylised M design, which inspired a couple of away/clash jumpers over the next decade, and Adelaide’s 1996 design – which was pitted against St Kilda’s new hot cross bun design in the quarter finals – which would inspire the Crows’ clash jumper all of 12 years later. Also, there’s Fitzroy’s pre-season jumper worn in 1995 and 1996, which featured half-chevrons that were echoed in what for all intents and purposes should have been St Kilda’s clash jumper in place of the dreaded “apron” design, but for a potentially rigged vote.

Fast forward nearly two decades and St Kilda this year ran around in two of its three NAB Challenge games in the popular (several people I follow on Twitter can’t be wrong) “Stickman” jumper.

The jumper was a competition winner’s design, hence a couple of elements markedly differing to what you’d see from the typical manufacturer-designed…designs.

Firstly, there’s the all-red back, which has never occurred in St Kilda’s history. Designers have typically steered well clear of using anything other than white to dominate a clash or alternative jumper, even with teams that don’t have white in their colours. St Kilda’s been no exception since the AFL really started standardising (well, to a point) their guidelines for clash jumpers, and that came around the time they told the club to find a design to supersede the very popular candy stripe jumper (which ended with the apron jumper disaster).

(more…)

St Kilda and Fremantle: The Bizarro Rivalry (update)

The Ross Lyon defection brokered a new sensational chapter in the ridiculous rivalry between St Kilda and Fremantle, which I’d written on in 2010.

Whilst Ross took things to a new level, this past weekend threw up a couple more very interesting links:
– St Kilda’s first Grand Final appearance was in 1913, against Fitzroy. Freo will make their first Grand Final appearance 100 years later.
– Freo’s strange decision to wear their clash jumper on Saturday makes them just the second club to do so in a Grand Final. The first team to wear a clash jumper in Grand Final was St Kilda – also under Ross – in 2010.

Here’s the original post, “St Kilda and Fremantle: The Bizarre Rivalry” (I’m not sure why I didn’t take the golden opportunity to throw in the Seinfeld reference then and there) from 2010:

St Kilda and Fremantle share one of the most bizarre “rivalries” in the AFL.

As the two least successful clubs in VFL/AFL history to date, it’s not all-important clashes between competition juggernauts that this rivalry has been based on.

Rather, it has been a mixture of the unique, incredible and questionable, with occasional flashes of both genuinely brilliant and sadly woeful football being played.

It began immediately – although inconspicuously – in 1995, when Fremantle played their debut AFL match in the Ansett Australia Cup against the Saints at East Fremantle Oval. Whilst the match itself was normal enough (St Kilda would win by 35 points), this would be the only time (to date) the Dockers would actually play in Fremantle in a competitive AFL match.

In Round 14 of the following season, St Kilda would break through for its first win at Subiaco, and in Western Australia – of course, against Fremantle – in a game which produced great goals from both sides.

The next clash between the two came on ANZAC Day of 1997, with Fremantle – in 10th place and the Saints in 16th – weathering a late St Kilda challenge to win by a straight kick. The return bout was played on a ridiculously blustery day at Waverley in Round 20 of that year, with Fremantle in 10th place (again) going into the match whilst St Kilda was second on percentage, on its way to a second minor premiership. The Saints that time won a scrappy game by 13 points after the Dockers got within a point in the final term.

St Kilda co-captain Stewart Loewe would be stretchered off in Round 9 of 1998 at the WACA after an awkward fall in which his head ended up making contact with his knee. Despite a thrilling running goal from ruckman Peter Everitt, the 4th-placed Saints were overrun by the 13th-placed Dockers in the final term.

After several years of minor quirks, things were about to get really weird.

Continue readingRound 15 of 1999 will be remembered for the mark that was taken by umpire Peter Carey. Early in the match, Docker (and former Saint) Adrian Fletcher centred a short pass to Brad Wira on the wing, only for the experienced Carey, who was in the path of the ball’s trajectory, to take the mark and call for a ball-up. Needless to say, the incident was a massive talking point in football circles, though ultimately it would take its place in VFL/AFL history as a wonderfully unique and humourous moment in a game that has a habit of throwing those up from time to time. The Dockers would go on to win the game by 23 points, and send St Kilda’s season into a further downward spiral.

By the time the two teams met in Round 12 of 2001, both teams had new coaches and were sharing 14th (St Kilda) and 16th (Fremantle) places on the ladder; by season’s end they would be 15th and 16th respectively. On this Saturday night at Subiaco, the Saints won their third game of the year after a young Stephen Milne sprang to life in the final term, on his way to kicking three goals and giving the Saints a 10-point win. However, captain Robert Harvey would seriously injure his knee in a gang tackle that continued well past its use-by date; with the ball locked up amongst the scrum, the umpire inexplicably chose to let play continue, long enough for the Dockers players to force Harvey to the turf as his knee buckled under him.

It would also be Malcolm Blight’s last victory as coach for the Saints, with his brief tenure at Moorabbin ending just three weeks later.

The next season threw up a couple more notable matches – in Round 2, the fast-finishing Dockers would roll the Saints by three points at home after trailing for much of the day, and in Round 17 St Kilda played a rare home match at Princes Park and defeat the Dockers in a dead-rubber in front of just 8,078 fans.

A skip to 2004 would find Brent Guerra breaking Docker Byran Schammer’s arm in a devastating bump as a barnstorming St Kilda extended their winning streak to seven to begin the season, as well as Fremantle wearing their predominantly white away/clash jumper for the first time in the return match in Round 22 at Docklands.

A trio of thrilling matches followed. Strange, thrilling matches.

In round 2 of 2005, St Kilda won their first match of the season by a solitary point at York Park in Tasmania. The Saints would overhaul the Dockers in trying conditions, with Aaron Hamill earning a free kick for holding the ball and scoring the winning point – but not before a final Fremantle charge into their forward line, with defender Luke Penny expertly safely punching the ball out of bounds in the final seconds from a marking contest.

The infamous “Whispers in the Sky” clash was a dire battle in Round 21 at Subiaco. St Kilda were pushing to solidify a top four spot after being outside of the 8 after Round 13, though tipped by many to win the premiership on the eve of the season. Skipper Nick Riewoldt has broken his collarbone in Round 14, and stand-in captain Justin Koschitzke had powered his way to stunning form and lead the Saints’ fight for redemption. He earned 11 Brownlow votes in just five matches, and with Riewoldt back, he was seen as a key component to St Kilda’s premiership hopes as September neared. Fremantle, meanwhile were hoping to return to finals action after St Kilda had knocked them out on the eve of the 2004 finals series.

What happened on that Friday night is now a part of St Kilda-Fremantle rivalry folklore. Awful and questionable umpiring decisions went Fremantle’s way all night, gifting the Dockers several goals and depriving the Saints of several chances of their own. Koschitzke would injure a quad muscle in the third quarter, and he would not be fit enough to return to the side, which bowed out in the preliminary final several weeks later (had St Kilda defeated Sydney in that match, he would have been a huge chance to return for the Grand Final).

The final term was an old-fashioned thriller. In the final minute, with the Saints up by a point, Justin Peckett was run down by Luke McPharlin just outside Fremantle’s 50-metre arc; the resulting kick forward saw Justin Longmuir take a spectacular mark over the top of the pack just 25 metres out from goal. His kick was straight, and the Dockers had won by five points, and were to face reigning premier Port Adelaide the following week in the final round for a spot in the finals.

Channel Nine reporter Tony Jones – travelling back to Melbourne from the game after Nine’s coverage – claimed that he heard umpire Matthew Head, who had made a number of the decisions that went Fremantle’s way remark, “Now I know what it feels like to have a victory”. Several other passengers made the same claim as Jones, but the AFL cleared Head of any wrongdoing after an investigation into the matter that week.

Though they would start strongly, Fremantle lost to Port Adelaide the following week and finish 10th as the Power clinched eighth spot. St Kilda would go on to record two amazing victories over the following two weeks – their biggest win in the club’s 132-year history over the Brisbane Lions, by 139 points, and a brave eight-point win over minor premiers Adelaide in the First Qualifying Final at AAMI Stadium, to secure a home Preliminary Final and a week’s rest.

But the centrepiece of this rivalry – so far, at least – came in Round 5, 2006; the final installment of this trilogy taking place where it started – at York Park (now Aurora Stadium) in Tasmania, referred to as “Sirengate”.

The Dockers were truly dangerous in 2006, and were only knocked out a week short of the Grand Final. Though notorious for poor interstate form, on this day they were all over an inept St Kilda, who were making another slow start to a season. Though the Saints would be in with a chance all day, that chance seemed to have disappeared as the clock counted down to zero as a desperate Dockers defence forced a stopped in the Saints forward line, with their team up by a point. The siren sounded, and Fremantle players around the ball began celebrating a hard-fought victory.

But the siren was quite faint, and umpire didn’t hear it – and play continued from the stoppage well after full-time. The Saints forced the ball to Steven Baker, whose flying shot at goal – a number of seconds after the siren – missed to the left, tying the scores. The umpire then awarded Baker a free kick for a hit he got as he kicked it, and so he was to take the kick again, with the first behind taken back, and the Saints again down by a point. As this was occurring, Fremantle officials had stormed on to the ground to remonstrate with the umpires, with coach Chris Connolly finding himself arguing with St Kilda player Lenny Hayes. Verbal stoushes were springing up between officials, umpires and players left, right and centre, and amongst it all, Baker missed again. The game was a draw.

St Kilda coach Grant Thomas declared the game “one for the blooper reel” in the post-match wash-up, whilst Connolly was understandably furious. Fremantle immediately took the issue to the AFL. Sensationally, the AFL overturned the result during the week, with final score officially at 13.15 (93) to 14.10 (94), the Dockers victorious by a point.

The sides would meet again at Subiaco in Round 20. To date, this match is the most important game the clubs have been involved in against each other, with a top four spot up for grabs. Fremantle trounced the Saints, with the only highlight for St Kilda being a goal kicked by Brendon Goddard from an enormous kick late in the match; from just inside the centre square, Goddard’s kick would go through the goals at post-height.

The Dockers would finish third on the ladder, with fellow Subiaco tenants West Coast in first place. Though they would lose the Second Qualifying Final to Adelaide away, they won their first final of any sort at home against Melbourne a week later. Sydney knocked them out a week later, otherwise the MCG would have been set for an all-Western Australian Grand Final.

Several things of note come out of this. Firstly, St Kilda would have finished third on superior percentage if the “Sirengate” result had stood, forcing eventual Grand Finalists Sydney out of the top four, and forcing a Western Derby as a First Qualifying Final. Instead, the Saints finished sixth and limped out of the finals series in the first week, losing to Melbourne in the Second Elimination Final. Of course, if the Saints had won that game – which was a good chance of happening through the final term – they would have faced Fremantle in a semi-final, bringing the two teams face-to-face in massive game; as it happened, Grant Thomas would be sacked just days after the loss to the Demons. The other point worth considering – albeit a hypothetical one – is if the AFL would have overturned the result the way it did had Baker actually kicked a goal from either of his shots, “winning” the game for St Kilda. It’s one thing to overturn a draw, but to  completely reverse the outcome of a match would have made this issue far, far greater, and a much more daunting prospect for the AFL.

The following season was a disappointment for both teams. When they squared off in Round 20, with the Saints hoping to snatch a finals spot under new coach Ross Lyon, a collision between Steven Baker and Jeff Farmer would be the talking point of the competition for the following week.

Farmer left the ground concussed, with blood pouring from his face, after evidently running into the back of Baker. No umpires nor cameras saw or captured the incident, but a Fremantle trainer said that Baker had been malicious in the collision, and this was influential in the seven-match suspension Baker received. The Saints appealed, but this fell on deaf ears from the AFL. The decision would prove costly for the Saints, who were now without their star tagger as they were coming up against West Coast the following week, a must-win game for the Saints. The Eagles’ midfield of Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr were able to run far more freely and eventually the Eagles would win by eight points; though St Kilda defeated Richmond in Round 22, they would finish the season in ninth position after Adelaide also won their final round match to knock St Kilda out of September calculations.

Round 13 of 2008 saw a spluttering Saints wielding the axe on senior players Nick Dal Santo and Stephen Milne after just three wins from the previous ten games of football. Ben McEvoy, Robert Eddy and Jarryd Allen would all debut for the Saints on a dogged Friday night, with the Saints prevailing by eight points. It would be the beginning of a remarkable turnaround for Ross Lyon and his men, who would win eight of their final ten matches in the home-and-away season to finish fourth, including the return game at Subiaco in Round 20 which Stephen Milne played out with a grotesquely swollen cheek. The Saints would fall one week short of the Grand Final.

The Saints would go one better in 2009, as Fremantle were again finding themselves at the wrong end of the ladder. In Round 4, the Saints crushed the Dockers by 88 points, and keeping the visitors to a scoreline of 4.4 (28), the joint-lowest score at Docklands. Of course, that record is shared with St Kilda, who could only manage 3.10 (28) against Collingwood in Round 6 of 2002.

Most recently, their 2010 NAB Cup semi-final match was nearly called off, after storms ravaged the Melbourne CBD, leaving Etihad Stadium with internal roofing damage. The players ran out for a later start to no crowd in attendance, and the 5,000+ fans were eventually let in over the first quarter, but only allowed to be seated on the bottom level. St Kilda would win a position in the Final easily, but would lose that to the Western Bulldogs, who were making their first Final appearance of any kind in 40 years.

And now on Sunday evening, the two teams will be squaring off, and coming into this round are occupying the top two positions on the ladder. It’s definitely the first time this has happened with these two clubs; Fremantle will be looking to be on top of the AFL ladder at the completion of any round for the first time in their history, whilst the Saints are going to be entering a lengthy period of time with injured captain Nick Riewoldt. The football world will be watching this intriguing clash, which will hopefully be remembered for some good football, promising individual performances and solid teamwork. As long as no umpires take marks or feel like “having a victory”, or the siren fails, or there are unseen and inconclusive clashes which result in massive suspensions, or storms unleash fury over Melbourne, then there’s a good chance that just might happen.

But who knows?

Links

Umpire Peter Carey takes a mark in Round 15, 1999

Justin Longmuir kicks a goal after the siren to win the game for the Dockers in the “Whispers in the Sky” match, in Round 20, 2005

“Sirengate” finish Part 1, Round 5, 2006

“Sirengate” finish Part 2

Brendon Goddard’s monster goal, Round 20, 2006

Big chance for Big Ben (and littler Jack)

One of the things that sticks in the gut about Ross the ex-Boss’s departure was the apparent gap he left in the list.

It’s something that’s been widely discussed and acknowledged, and was addressed in a couple of ways over the weekend, both positively and negatively as far as the Saints are concerned.

The trainwreck quinella that was Mother’s Day football on Sunday featured ex-Saint and ex-Saints supporter Tom Lynch kicking 10 for the Crows against GWS. The Saints hadn’t won their game yet so some thought things were looking bleaker, but on Monday night an entertaining win with solid contributions from a number of younger guys had us all feeling better about things.

Lynch has finally got his chance after being further down the queue behind Tex and the Porpoise, and Kurt Tippett as well in 2012. Easy to take away something from his bag on Sunday because it was “only” GWS; that idea certainly has currency, but you have to acknowledge at the same time that no-one had done that before against either expansion side.

He’ll get a chop-out from Jenkins, and Jacobs and McKernan will probably float down forward. With Maister back and both Big Ben and Big Tom Hickey selected it means the BIG RHYS BANDWAGON will be parked defence again, probably next to the tallest forward, with perhaps Gwilt or Fisher on Lynch. Gwilt isn’t a natural full-back, however, and really struggled to contain Henderson in the Blues’ manic last quarter on Monday.

As the for things in St Kilda’s corner, we get to see guys like Ross, Newnes, Hickey, Webster and co. run around and have a chance to back up strong performances. It’s a shame Nathan Wright misses but he does the chance to freshen up after a string of games christened his career. It also gives Webster the chance to have a crack at a full game, and for him and Newnes to have a little more responsibility to bring things forward from half-back.

The game also gives a chance for Jack Steven and Big Ben to make their mark further on the club. Both are coming off arguably career-best games (Jack certainly) and for them to back it up in foreign territory would be huge for both them and the team. It would certainly bring my dream of Big Ben as 2017 (or ’18 or ’19) Premiership Captain a step closer to reality.

Not sure where My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs ends up. With Big Beau back in the side it might certainly take some attention away from My Favourite Hair in the AFL, but might loosen up Lamb a little too much where he’s playing perhaps too vague a role between the arcs. I only say that as a bad thing because it seemed he didn’t quite have a defined focus when he was playing loosely off the backline earlier in the season.

Hard to pick how the Saints overall will go in this one just because of the heavy presence of youngsters. They might again be competitive – as they have particularly been in the last three weeks – but we’re still a while away from that translating into strong scoreboard performances. Even a depleted Carlton side nearly ran over the top of them.

Weaker opposition or not, Adelaide will have taken a lot of confidence out of Sunday’s win. Led by Dangerfield, their top line is operating very well but the whole side isn’t operating at the 2012 levels that took us all by surprise. Lynch isn’t going to kick 10 and is still second choice behind Walker. Hard to see them having only won one game at home by the end of Round 8, but there’s plenty to look forward to on Sunday either way for the Saints.