Arryn Siposs Posts

Same old jokes since 1873

Round 17, 2017
St Kilda 0.2, 2.6, 4.11, 7.15 (57)
Essendon 2.5, 6.10, 13.12, 17.16 (118)
Crowd: 47,156 at Etihad Stadium, Friday, July 14th at 7.50pm

Ever since I had this platform I’ve whinged about the mere prospect of playing the Bombers, and after Friday night I’ll continue to do so. They’ve always presented a challenge for us. Even when we were challenging in the mid-aughts and they were suffering a sustained struggle they still gave us all sorts of problems. It was a loss to them in mid-2005 that was the catalyst for our stirring run in the second half of the season; we squeaked past them by three points in 2006 at a sodden MCG; they knocked us off with some arsey specials in 2007. Never mind the incredible last match the of 2008 home-and-away season that saw us smash through by 108 points to finish fourth on percentage. Of course, of course, of course it was the mid-table Bombers that would hand us our first defeat in 2009 following My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s post-siren miss, and then they knocked us off twice in 2010, before a thumping early in 2011 that really signalled our post-Gand Finals comedown.

I remember leaving the ground after that 2009 loss thinking that despite the loss, we finally looked like a club that might shirk those moments. That “it won’t matter so much in six weeks”. I remember those specific words running through my head. But here we are.

Sure, we’d accounted for them over the past three years in varying degrees, but the Bombers are now back to playing the fast footy that has troubled us regardless of ladder positions for…ever. It could be this week, it could be last decade, or it could be the league’s maiden season of 1897. Zero prizes for guessing who the premiers and wooden spooners were that year. Their culture of arrogance, aggression and success is entirely at odds with our own. “The past never dies”.

That’s not to say that’s what last night was all about. The Bombers have knocked off some quality teams – Port and West Coast comprehensively, and the Cats. They’ve come close to GWS and Richmond, and had the Swans and Lions fall through their fingers in recent weeks.

Because of that – as well as the aforementioned historical aspect – I hadn’t been this fucking nervous going to game for a long time. Arguably the most even season in VFL/AFL history and the essential cliche of “one week at a time” be damned. The media is growing tired of talking teams up or down, but after four wins the interrobang of Richmond game a few sneaky hopes for 2017 might have crept into the periphery of our minds. We were due a close game at the Corporate Dome television set too.

On the Friday morning Billings had the feature article in The Age, which is probably not a good thing. I remember Robert Walls’ write up of Brent Guerra in the same paper after he’d kicked seven in our Round 9 thumping of West Coast in 2004. We were 9-0 and looked to have the perfect compliment to Milne mopping up after the G-Train, My Favourite Hair in the AFL, Hamill and Kosi, not to mention being raging flag favourites. Guerra was never the same again (but of course played in a premiership…with another club. Twice.). On the same day, in the same paper, Jake Carlisle got a write up too ahead of his 100th game his old club, so it promised to be a big day for him, just like it was for author Wayne Carey with the announcement of Simon Lethlean and Richard Simkiss being forced to resign etc. etc. etc. See how easy that shit is? I’m sure a few St Kilda schoolgirl jokes got a run this week with the selection of St Kilda schoolboy Josh Battle.

So we opened with our first goalless quarter of the year. The opening few minutes gave me the same impression those of our first Sydney game did this year – we’re not switched on. It was last week inverted – the Bombers had more numbers at each contest and running for each other. They set up quickly enough to at least worry us out of the kick into the middle from half-back to open up the game, and when they had the ball off half-back they pulled players wide and kept space open in the middle for that kick that opens the game up. The quality of disposal was on display, too.

There were a few things in those early moments that we could worry about in isolation. Are we missing the option of Membrey going forward? Are we missing Webster’s disposal off half-back? Will we be able to catch them coming off two six-day breaks if this keeps going? And, miraculously, are we missing Billy Longer?

The bluntness of Richo in the post-match press conference was itself an accurate reflection of the performance. None of the above mattered. No intent, no DARE® Iced Coffee with ball. Despite finding himself again in the stepladder role, Carlisle was the only one who looked like he was on a mission. He actually had a few kicked on him by Daniher, but I’m not going to blame him too much for that. It wasn’t just that we were beaten so badly across the ground that the delivery to Joe was of decent quality, it’s also that Joe’s becoming so good now he’s the type of player you almost just concede will kick a few when they run out.

But no one else turned up. Carlisle’s good-time media buddy Billings was missing, Ross was quiet, Steele was a no-show and Steven was vaguely present as Merrett and Zaharakis went bananas in the head-to-head, again, an inversion on the previous week, this time of the Cotchin and Martin match-ups. Jobe’s absence was negligible.

Essendon’s poor kicking at goal kept us in it for a time, but through the second term the gulf in intent and class widened. They hit harder and got lower and it took Carlisle’s presence in the air out of the contest. Brilliant passes to Joe and a slick finish from Zaharakis at the St Kilda cheer squad end were damning, as up the other the Essendon fans ensured the dynamic of the Corporate Dome-style faux sell-out was based around the Bombers. When Newnes missed an easy set shot at their end it became an Essendon home match. When St Kilda showed they’d decided to keep going with the post-match interview with a player on the stadium screen even after a loss, and specifically after the other team’s song had played, and then had the ground announcer say “Go Saints!” before Essendon’s song started again, we looked stupid.

We’d prided ourselves in recent weeks on keeping North to 2.6 at half-time and then Richmond to 1.4. On Friday night we were 2.6 at the main break ourselves. We were up 92 to 10 against the Tigers at half-time and didn’t even end up doubling their score. Essendon were 3.9 during the second quarter but took themselves to 6.10 by the siren and more than doubled ours by the end.

Where was…anyone? I had to ask myself again standing around in the members’ section on level 2, which was flat as fuck compared to six nights earlier. Bruce had marked and turned on the 50-metre arc for a great G-Train goal but that was where it began and ended. There wasn’t even any vaguely interesting inane chat from coming through in the direct audio feed from the broadcaster’s ad breaks, which we’re privy to in toilets of The Doorman. It’s the kind of useless garbage you don’t think about during the week until you actually hear it.

Hickey’s hit-out straight to Green in the last few seconds of the half for an easy Bombers goal was probably where the whole thing was at. It’s hard to say “Longer has finally won”, because Hickey was coming back into the team after three months, including a knee injury, and in a week where no one else decided to run out either. I genuinely felt bad for Trickey running around out there, though. Kind of bemused and infuriated, sure. Peak Longer was something we’d never thought we’d see but if Billy doesn’t come back in next week then I hope they give Trickey another shot. Watching him get shoved around in the ruck, miss an easy shot at goal and walk into the path of Carlisle’s lead, and be outmarked by Bellchambers in the goal square in front of Essendon’s cheer squad felt like we might have been watching someone’s career be extinguished in two hours of footy. I really, really, hope it’s not the case. Holmes has registered 62 hit-outs and 57 in recent weeks but we’d be looking at a Longer-style ruck purposes-only player.

Meanwhile, up the other end Josh Battle was heading towards a Will Johnson-type debut (sans concussion), or perhaps even Jackson Ferguson given he’d been called up in the same week as a pantsing. I’d duly melted on Wednesday night when a tweet with some inside info came through saying the other, other JB – My New Favourite Player – would be making his debut this week. Just minutes later, the club confirmed as much on the site. His first goal showed he could at least kick straight when just about no-one else could. I wouldn’t be totally down on him coming out this week – given he’s still finishing school this was one more game than I expected him to play. Brett Thomas pointed out during the week that he was the first school student debutant for the club since John Georgiou, which is great historically, but also very not great historically. However, Georgiou’s time with the Saints did give us some quintessential 1990s Australian television feature journalism.

Bringing in Marshall surely has to be on the cards this week. Even if Hickey plays again, he can bring in support for the forwards and as well relief ruck duties, and keeping in mind Richo noted he was elevated to the senior list during the week more so to cover for height in the backline. Carlisle ended up going forward as it was and didn’t look out of place, but that’s more of a contingency place.

I use the term “My New Favourite Player” for Josh Battle with trepidation. “My Favourite Player” was Arryn Siposs, but unfathomably my support alone was unable to take him to the heights I was hoping he’d reach as a roaming half-forward. He and his family were massive Saints supporters, too. It seemed to fit. For a time he was genuinely a bright spot in the cold, dark fall-out following the 2009 and 2010 Grand Finals. Instead, names like Siposs, as well as Simpkin, Murdoch and Curren have joined those of Murray, Wulf, Beetham and Moyle from that last generation; those that gave some moments of genuine optimism for the years ahead, but were never quite a part of the serious challenges. Hopefully my ill-structured, convoluted ramblings can make Josh Battle the superstar cult hero his name alone suggests he could be.

Before the game it was nice to think Mav, Membrey, Webster, Armitage, Longer (?), Dunstan, Acres, Goddard, McCartin and to a lesser extent Minchington and Wright weren’t out there. The depth is building slowly, but it’s the trend line you need to look at. If the team isn’t psychologically switched on and isn’t working to provide a weight of numbers across the ground, or take the game on with the ball in hand, I don’t think Richo himself can do much more until we trade for or draft in some more class and quality. Otherwise, we’re hoping for some Seb Ross-style development from a bunch of guys. We’ve seen it happen in a few guys this season already, namely Billings, Sinclair and Roberton, but we’ll need more of it before we can slice our way across the ground, peak-Hawthorn style.

Given the type of season it is, of course it’s easy to get carried away with the next 11 weeks and feel like might be a chance of snatching premiership if we could only just scrape into the eight. That might be true, The list of guys playing for Sandy and the type of performance we turned in was a reminder that this group is still developing, let alone incomplete given our strong hand going into the trade and draft periods this year.

That didn’t change the sting of the loss immediately afterwards. We would have been sitting in the top four at the end of the night – as we should have been the previous Saturday night – had we won. Instead we were reminded what it was like to lose a game that genuinely meant something in the context of the season. It had been a long time. Welcome back to that disappointment.

The RWB 2015 Season Review podcast

It’s that vague time of year again in which Rich and myself break some copyright laws in an attempt to enliven the inane chat that makes up most of our podcasts. In this case, it’s our 2015 Season Review and that rubbish chat is sadly maximised as this one is another feature-length presentation from RWB HQ (this time the Brunswick West one). Who’s in Tom’s Top 5 Hair at the club and who threw up next to Rich in the back of the taxi?

Jack Billings Day/more good stuff needed please

Round 14, 2014
St Kilda 4.3, 6.5, 8.7, 10.10 (70)
West Coast 3.2, 8.6, 12.10, 15.13 (103)
Crowd: 17,317 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, June 22nd at 3.20pm

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It would be unfair of me to say that the small sense of optimism I had for a decent result yesterday was quashed when I learnt that Joey was a late withdrawal and had been replaced by Clint Jones. But the the small sense of optimism I had for a decent result yesterday was essentially quashed when I learnt that Joey was a late withdrawal and had been replaced by Clint Jones.

Yes, yes, on the surface that’s a little harsh on CJ. But I think it reflected more on where we’re at the moment, rather than the presence of one player who’d had the indignity of being dropped two weeks in a row, and also bears the indignity of not quite being able to kick an Australian Rules football.

See, my reaction had more to do with the attitude towards the team that absolutely everything must go right to win a game, and without a senior player who’s arguably in our top two or three I thought a win would prove to be beyond reach. And that’s only if the Eagles were really off their game.

So it was a pleasant surprise that it was well and truly the inexperience and the unheralded that were largely responsible for us finishing 63 points closer to evens than seven days before. It’s still a 33-point loss to a team that at best will only scrape into the eight, but after last week’s debacle at the Cattery we’re all feeling a least a little better about things. For the next few days anyway.

West Coast weren’t bad, but they did enough to win comfortably. A headier midfield featuring Priddis and, of course, ex-Lyon youthheap victim Mark Hutchings, as well as a more reliable forwardline set up featuring Darling, McGovern and even Lycett kept things in the Eagles’ control.

I had some of the best seats in Corporate Stadium to watch another loss thanks to my RWB cohort Rich’s father, himself a long-time St Kilda supporter, offering a spare Medallion Club ticket he had. I’ve been fortnate enough to have a Social Club membership and sears for a number of years now, so this was just the second time I’d sat in the section. The first was nine years when the lowly Bombers still managed to dick us and put us a six wins and seven losses after Round 13 in 2005. The following match was the beginning of Kosi’s wondrous streak, as well as the best part of the season’s journey that saw us into a heartbreaking Preliminary Final.

Pre-match I’d entered the club’s #SaintsScore competition and entered with 71 (still not sure if I got the prize – I couldn’t find anyone who picked 70 or 69), and until just a few minutes before the game I was looking good for the crowd number too. This was despite Richo’s best efforts in putting out the message to get Saints fans to the game and make it a “hostile” environment for the Eagles. As my brother Matt said during the week, “if you’re still going to Saints games you don’t have a hostile bone in your body”. We’ve been heartbroken and psychologically battered over decades by this club and that’s not changing any time soon. We’re specifically not “hostile”.

So I ended up getting there early and for the most prestigious part of the stadium, Gate 8 really is at the furthest point of the stadium, certainly from the busiest area around Gate 3 and the bridge and so on. It’s probably the windiest. Basically it was just myself, a trickle of Eagles supporters – I assumed maybe a few who’d travelled wanted to go about it properly and get some decent seats – a school group and some other extras. The lowest home attendance we’ve had at Corporate Stadium – 14,018 to see us push a flying Port all the way (Caydn Beetham with 24 disposals) – I really did think was going to get done today. But the attendance ballooned out a little around the opening bounce to over 17,000, but it was only a few minutes after the game as the players were going out to give the freebies to the fans that I realised just how much of that was the Eagles’ contingent.

And again, Corporate Stadium fails to feel like a true home game, even playing against a side based a few thousand kilometres away. The guys on the trumpet ripping out the Eagles’ woeful theme song didn’t help at all, but there may well have been more coin in it for him than playing ours.

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The Saints started pretty well this time, and instead of lasting 12 seconds last week they managed to last an whole one quarter on top. It was the structural purpose that seemed the most obvious difference from last week. There was a lot of movement in the forward half allowing for clean possession across a few players in space going into attack, rather than just looking out for My Favourite Hair in the AFL. That didn’t stop one passage though where for some reason his mere presence warranted a short kick into traffic at the tip of the arc with more space beyond, although just having a considered possession at that point of the ground was refreshing.

Roo himself would only kick one goal for the day, and quick kick from the pocket in the third quarter. Rather, we went into quarter time on the back of Jack Billings somehow kicking three for the quarter. Two really nice set shots and quick collect through traffic just a couple of metres out helped us to four goals in the first quarter after five for the whole match the week before.

Funnily, he got a soft free kick early this week as he did against the Cats. That one he shanked and I’d wondered if we’d recruited a kid who seemed to be a genius with the footy but just couldn’t kick straight in front of goal, but this week he did the job and then some. He finished with 25 disposals, three goals – and was in prime position for two more, but Terry Milera was looking for Roo outside and Big Tommy Lee went for it himself – and a match equal-high of six inside 50s, with all of the above including kicks on BOTH SIDES THANKS VERY MUCH CHEERS for 100% efficiency. And now he’s officially the Corporate Rising Star Nominee for this week, making 2014 the first season since 2003 we’ve had multiple nominees, which that year were Joey, BJ and Ball. Next step is to sign him up for billions of years, because naturally slick players who can get possessions and kick multiple goals like this are vital cogs for any club that wants to boast a premiership team. WARNING: Previous St Kilda Rising Star Nominees include Brodie Atkinson (1993), Brett Moyle (2000), and James Begley and Caydn Beetham (2001).

Interestingly, it was CJ that kicked the other goal in the first quarter, but not quite vindicating Richo and casting my opinions to depths of footy opinion, left to languish for all eternity with 95% of BigFooty posts. He didn’t do an incredible amount otherwise, he only finished with 13 touches but did finish with two goals. We know his best role now – as a vague harasser of the footy and surrounding traffic in the forward half – but the selection situation in the past two Thursdays has officially decreed him a depth player. Lenny might miss next Saturday so he actually may complete a reprieve hat-trick of sorts, although the selectors might want both of Dunstan and Curren to come in, with Schneider and Saunders also a chance. The second quarter saw him team up with with and Minch for some really good running work out of defence, and he and Lee gave a really good scrap up forward after some of the customary poor delivery. But the third quarter saw CJ dick a promising passage of play on the rebound with a basic skill error. Ah, the old “undone by an Australian Rules football” trick. Surely it’s time.

In between those better harassing second quarter efforts (featuring minimal actual disposal by CJ) there was one passage of play which really stood out, following an arsey West Coast goal from traffic and it was started by Billings opting to go on his right boot up the wing. Firstly he looked incredibly poised doing it – more poised than most guys at the club now on their preferred side – and it found Simpkin, who up the line gave to it to Ray, who found Roo pushing up and got it to Lee near the 50-metre arc. Lee’s set shot, simply, was woeful. The game would finish with our most potent target an 18 year-old standing at 185cm and 76kg. There might not be so much shame in that now with the universal recognition he’s had since the Nomination was announced, but that doesn’t cover the need we have for a tall focal point in attack.

Lee was still managing to move up the ground to present an option, but even Delaney was somehow managing to push up and then offer something to the guys coming out of defence. Head Simpkin up forward found some synergy with Billings, turning his man around and knocking the footy over near the boundary to kick forward for Billings to run onto it, and then Billings in the third marked on 50, settled and kicked to Head in the pocket. The notable thing about Billings’ kick was that it forced Head closer to goal and onto a better angle.

That came in the third quarter and West Coast’s midfield had gotten on top. By half-time even I wasn’t overly worried about losing our first draft pick, and neither were LeCras and Kennedy, who teamed up to reprise the play-on-from-a-few-metres-out fiasco at Adelaide Oval that Port pulled a couple of weeks ago.

One contender for Pick #1 had just won back-to-back games for the first time ever this same afternoon to edge away from us, but Brisbane remain the biggest threat to us being able to actually have the choice between Peter Wright and Patrick McCartin. After yesterday, out of the two I’m still more keen on McCartin as I think this club is crying out for a specialist key forward (he’s the same height as Roo) rather than a guy who’ll float between ruck and forward – and of course do a great job of it – but maybe not bring that consistency in structure. We’ve also expended plenty of energy into getting Hickey and Billy Longer into the ruck department. Of course, we might well push for a trade for Cameron or Patton this year or next (depending on contracts and BigFooty rumours), so a player like those or another presumably top pick of ours next year will fill that forward role anyway*. This is my point – right now, if you put Wright into our side at this minute, there’s not much vision in terms of team balance, but of course I’d take him if I knew we’d have a full-time focal point up forward.

*Spencer White still exists. He’s likely the type to ultimately float around half-forward, unlike McCartin/Wright/Patton, but I think that’s a moot point until he actually gets some more game time now that he’s back from injury.

I don’t think the Head Simpkin experiment up forward can last. It’s such a shame he’s not a little taller. He actually did a couple of good things (see the Billings links) but his shoulder forced him out of the game, so what we saw was a little limited. I’d hope Tom Lee is given another crack this Saturday; he could have given his goal over to Billings but I think the confidence he may have drawn from at least having that on the board would have been wasted on Billings. His stats weren’t great – six marks as a lead-up forward, 10 touches, 1.1 and a couple of shanked kicks. But there’s something to work with, he’s evidently a confidence player and right now he deserves another shot. Also, he’s only played 13 games.

Should Head come out then there’s Rhys, Dunell and My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs to choose from to play across half-forward. I wouldn’t mind Rhys if only to alleviate the need to bring Tom Lee out of position and into the ruck. Dunell I dunno. He wasn’t given a great chance in the first place though. Lamb – cool. I was surprised he got dropped the other week but like Tom Lee there’s just something that the coaches seem to have as a non-negotiable that isn’t so obvious to us non-coaches in the crowd (funny, that) and they’re not getting right.

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Sunday was a pretty good day for youth all round, even without equal favourite for 2018-2022 Premiership Captain, Luke Dunstan. His co-favourite/co-captain for that in Jack Newnes played one of his best games, giving some real drive off half-back with 24 touches and six tackles. He loves the physical stuff too and then once he’s got the footy backs his longer kicking to break the lines or allows team mates further afield the chance to make a move into space.

Also off half-back was the much-maligned Sav, who certainly doesn’t need to be gifted a shot at wearing the NZ jumper on Saturday against Richmond, which for some reason in an NZ-themed game. He was actually pretty good; it’s one of the easier positions to play on the field but someone still has to do it will, and the way he set bullocked through a few West Coast opponents to set up Lenny for that goal was the kind of thing we were hoping he’d bring from the Hawks. Maybe another spell in the VFL has straightened him up.

Mav Weller also gets a mention but FFS kick a goal. Some guys worked really hard for him to have a couple of shots on goal and he sprayed them. Look, 21 touches and seven tackles is exactly what he’s in the side for, but if he kicked half (two) of his shots his game suddenly looks a lot, lot better. His brother Lachie looks like he’ll be going early in the draft and is the slick Rolls Royce opposite to Mav – if we could snare him (we’d have to upgrade a pick though) they’d make a formidable and remarkable brotherly pair.

Richo highlighted in the post-match that BIG BILLY had one more hit-out than Nic Nat, but he left out the part where one of those was a few metres out from the West Coast goal and went directly to their advantage, and that Scott Lycett won a further 17 hit-outs himself. On the flipside, it would be great if he had a chop out from another genuine ruckman, but can Hickey and Billy be in the same team? Neither are incredibly mobile, although was on several occasions seen to be ambling vaguely towards full back on his own. Hickey can at least go up forward and kick goals; when Billy finally found himself at the centre of a big pack deep in defence he jumped and put his hands up, only to miss the ball entirely.

Hickey returned to the VFL this week, but will probably need another week there. This stretch of games surely will have done Billy a lot of good, but the logistics of the ruck set-up are going to be very muddied for some time, and that’s before taking into account the development of Holmes and leader-in-waiting Pierce.

There weren’t really any absolute stinkers on Sunday, but some guys maybe just didn’t quite cut it. Terry dropped a chest mark unopposed near goal for some reason. He also almost took a great mark with the one hand, but I his problem is that he almost does a lot of things. Shenton had one of his lesser days but I still think he’s worked himself into a stretch of form that over weeks is enough to keep him in. Ross was quieter but what did you expect? I must say some of his touches were a lot slicker (handball over the shoulder early) than what we’ve been accustomed to. Minchington…yeah? I think he should stay in, he has a crack and oh yeah it was his third game. Twelve touches and a goal I think get him over the line, on paper anyway. Murdoch only came on as the sub for a quarter but still managed to cough it up deep in defence.

This would have been a pretty forgettable game if not for Billings’ performance. Should all go well, we’ll look back on it and declare it a breakout game for a player who went no to do really great things for this club. In the short-term, his performance – and you could perhaps include those of Newnes, Weller and Savage in there too – serve to just get us through this week. Billings said it himself on yesterday’s announcement: “Before we know it we’ll be playing finals.” I really enjoyed him saying that. It was both maybe a little naïve and optimistic, the kind of thing you’d expect from an enthusiastic fan. The difference is, he can do something about it not just now but when we’re there, too, and even at the age of 18 he’s shown some very, very good things. For now though, we’re flogging off tickets for this Saturday’s game via two-for-one deals.

Ah yes, the old “Top team at their home ground interstate and you’re rubbish” game

Well, only a few weeks ago commentators and so on were herald the Saints as this year’s Port Adelaide.

Obviously they’re wrong, and we’ll get to see just how wrong today when a rejuvenated Port Adelaide Football Club sets out to stay on top of the AFL ladder, as well as showcase its new home ground, the current darling stadium of the league.

The way Port Adelaide play their footy means that if they’re switched on then the margin of this one might well reach triple figures. They’ve taken out captain Boak and Matthew White, but the Pies could afford to rest Dane Swan and Brodie Grundy for us and they still won by 86 points.

Even then, the Saints still managed to string a few minutes at a time of decent footy, although for the most part we’re still looking for glimpses or good games from individuals more than anything. It’s a real shame My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs was dropped; I actually thought he’d really improved his work rate last Friday and had done enough for another chance. Big Rhys Bandwagon’s been steered into the VISY Park driveway for a bit to take on Chris Judd himself, and I guess it was time. I was apprehensive about it because I didn’t think the alternative was quite ready, but both BIG TOMMY LEE and Sam Dunell (slightly less fanfare) are coming in to keep things stable in the front half and apparently keep the pressure up.

Dunell seems to have earned senior selection ahead of a couple of others on VFL form this year and I hope he takes his chance. The back end of 2012 saw him get a few games and whilst his numbers weren’t astronomical he did show some real poise and mobility. Last year he and the whole club went a little AWOL so let’s see what he’s got for us this time.

As for Tommy Lee, I think you can bank him leading to all the right spots, it’s just if he’ll hold them regularly enough (certainly in his first game back at the top level) and what he’ll do following up the contest with or without the ball. Yes, yes, we’ve all talked about (and for most of us, got it wrong) what we traded for, but pick 12 is something you don’t just wave around, even if it’s part of a package. And come back to me when Spencer White looks like he’ll be playing senior footy any time soon (yes, he’s been injured but where was he going before that?). But that said, I really like Big Tommy Lee. He’s only played a few AFL games too at the end of the day and if he ends up playing every game until the end of the season that would be huge. He might have to play relief ruck on occasion too, perhaps with Josh Bruce, so he’ll earn some coach’s points if he can hold is on there too.

So, RIP Favourite Hair-Bandwagon Forward Set-Up for now. Is there a perfect world in which My Favourite Hair, Lee, Rhys and Sippa can all co-exist? Dunell I’m not too fussed. For now, anyway. Regardless, none of those Non-Favourite Hair options are a suitable replacement for My Favourite Hair, but they’re gonna have to start getting their shit together because  the post-Favourite Hair world is coming.

Not sure if anyone’s had the chance to check but by last dollar is on My Favourite Hair looking pretty happy over the last day or two because his Favourite Goal Celebration Partner Josh Saunders is back into the team. It will create a really interesting dynamic immediately post-goal too (on the rare occasion there actually is one), with Roo and Saunders having the inherent attraction towards each other but Big Tommy Lee in and keen on getting right up into the goalkicker’s grill ASAP for the first high-five.

Head Simpkin is in, too. That’s different.

It looks like Tom Curren has lost out in the “Other” midfielders’ category, and Armo didn’t even need to come back in. He’s been taken over as the emergency…emergency though and the way Richo’s alluded to it this week there’s a sneaky chance he might come in. CJ surely won’t be sub a second time around and Mav Weller surely gets a full game after literally five seconds last week, so perhaps Saunders gets the green vest and a chance to ease his way back in.

Maybe Jack Billings? You’d almost say he’s due for a rest, but with Schneider out with an infection he almost becomes quite necessary across half-forward, and his class is obviously above that of Saunders’. Who knows? He might be the one to come out for Curren. Milera back in the team might smooth over that a little, and it won’t be Brodie.

Ahhh, so, Saturday twilight. It’s not terrible but it’s not one of the good ones. Perhaps all the better for no-one to see us with, because this could get all kinds of ugly.

My prediction: Port Adelaide by billions.

Fading into the night

Round 11, 2014
St Kilda 3.2, 6.2, 8.5, 8.6 (54)
Collingwood 7.2, 10.5, 14.8, 21.14 (140)
Crowd: 34,855 at Etihad Stadium, Friday, May 30th at 7.50pm

When I arrived relatively early at Corporate Stadium on Friday night the screens were inexplicably showing the Round 22, 2008 game, when St Kilda stormed their way into the top four on the back of a 108-point win over the Bombers.

It was the last game of the home and away season and several other teams had frittered away their chances that round to claim fourth spot as their own. The Saints were no sure thing until the final minutes, kicking 7.6 to 0.1 in the final quarter and squeaking through on percentage in probably the most exciting 108-point win in history.

It seems a lifetime ago now; in fact that Ross Lyon team predates those that would play in three Grand Finals in the following two seasons. And the last quarter of Friday night reinforced that, as Collingwood kicked 7.6 to 0.1 in the final quarter to the charge themselves up to third, and leave the Saints at third last.

So by stealth our season has been driven face-first into the turf.  We were looking at 4-2 a few weeks ago, and instead we’re nowhere near improving on 3-7.

The club was incredibly quiet over the bye. It’s hard to compare exactly with other clubs just how quiet given each is in a different situation, but I think the administration might have thought that given the losing streak the members and fans were keen for a week off themselves. Hard call to make though when your finances are up the proverbial. Do you make noise only to reinforce how rubbish things are? On the other hand, you can’t necessarily just disappear because we’ll be disappearing over Bass Strait or the Tasman soon if the club can’t get things right.

I say that because the only thing that really happened were the redundancies of Chief Operating Office Terry Dillon and Commercial Operations GM Shane Wakelin. They marked Finnis’ first real moves as CEO, but also broke open a little a potentially developing story about the club’s very poor financial situation. This is certainly a big move, but it was an off-field move that needs more to be made public so people can at least join the dots for themselves. Nothing doing for the rest of the week, so the club managed to contain the story only that day’s footy news cycle.

Even with the refresher there were a whole lot of people totally not keen on going on Friday night. The crowds are waning; as I’ve said they’re the Saints’ lowest since 1995 and Friday had only 34,000. This at a game featuring the league’s highest drawing club, and including the whole bunch of freebies the AFL handed out (obvious due to the fact they’re usually seated in neatly arranged groups a long time before the start of the match, as they were on Friday). Certainly most of those who bothered to turn up would have been predominantly Collingwood supporters, but are we that toxic a brand at the moment that Magpies supporters can’t be arsed seeing an easy win over us? Let’s flip that around – have you supporters jumped that far off us? The club’s membership tally has been sitting officially at 29,992 for a while now – someone just buy a pet membership FFS. Three years ago we were within touching distance of 40,000, now we might not scrape past 30,000. Not even half of those turned up for the Gold Coast game, and not many more on Friday.

Sadly, the empty stadium that you walk into on game day is gradually moving from an uncomfortable and foreign site to one that’s expected. A pre-game drink at Livewire again afforded us a prime view of an empty, cavernous concrete monolith. Especially on a Friday night, with a number of people turning up closer to game time, it seemed most people on Level 3 certainly were the freebies. They really weren’t treated to the best of games and I dare say they would have been a little disappointed when being handed the tickets.

Earlier that afternoon I’d looked up at the TV at RWB‘s Seddon satellite HQ to see a replay of the Round 19, 2012 Collingwood-St Kilda game that we lost by a goal, with the AFL admitting the incorrect decision had been made to pay a free kick against Milne in the final few seconds with the ball spilling to Armo running into an open goal. Regardless of the result, it was probably the closest we’ll get to the Pies for a while.

That game on Friday’s were yet further evidence of the good and poor recruiting in recent years between two sides that has consistently finished in strong positions on the ladder. Collingwood had Fasolo, Thomas, Sidebottom, Elliott, Adams, Seedsman, et al make genuinely meaningful contributions around the ground and on the scoreboard. Most of the guys St Kilda picked in the corresponding drafts were rubbish, and whilst some of our young guys did some good stuff, we lost by 86 points and our best result this year is now getting the number one draft pick. Collingwood have every right to be looking at a second premiership in five seasons after knocking us off in 2010, after making finals in the several seasons before then and in each since.

It was the kind of game in which we have to settle for mostly glimpses of the future rather than commanding four-quarter performances from the younger guys. The Newnes/Billings/Siposs rebound goal was as good as it got, although Newnes was one of few who could claim to have been busy throughout the four quarters of the game. He’s slowly getting to the point where he can run through the midfield a bit more regularly, although he’s not a genuine mid. I think having him running from the backline and between the arcs really suits him though, because it’s a good mix for him of being able to run and set up as well as put in some hard body work in close. He’s averaging over 20 disposals so far this year and in his last two games he’s had 29 and 26. Anyone getting that much of the footy really should have decent skills and I think he’s improved – the pass to Billings ideally would be his bread and butter. His thought process behind how he’s using the ball has progressed too and he’s definitely one of the bookies’ favourites for 2018-2022 Premiership Captain.

Next in that chain of play was Billings, who I must admit completely forgot existed until he took that big mark in the third quarter, a few minutes before the passage. He was a fair way out but surely they need to catch his inaccuracy out early. He’s kicked 7.10 and and a lot that he’s missed have been from pretty close range. Jack was pretty quiet with only nine touches and a behind. I’m not too fussed – he’ll have down weeks and he’ll probably need more weeks off at times. I think it says something that even when he’s quiet he’s still pulling down huge grabs and delivering long kicks forward to the perfect spot.

Which brings me to the end of the chain, My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs. Richo didn’t rave about him when he was brought up in the post-match interview, but I think that was had to do with both of Lamb genuinely needing to work more on his defensive game, which was a knock on him in the VFL early this year, and just keeping him on honest and focused psychologically. It was only his second game in the seniors for the year but already he was working harder and presenting further up the ground, and he took a few strong marks in his decent tally of seven.

I think with Lamb it seems a little more clear cut than fellow foil BIG RHYS BANDWAGON as to what exactly his role his in the team. He’s clearly a forward, and one that would roam around the arcs and pushing out. Obviously he needs a little more in the tank, and you could probably throw in Tom Lee to the same boat. Rhys had another pretty off night though. He started handsomely with some hard running on the flank and then a great kick to Roo, but that felt like it was pretty much it. He was also put in defence when Delaney went down, which did fark all for anyone except Travis Cloke.

There seems to be a little confusion over how many goals Tom Lee actually kicked in Friday’s mid-season VFL practice match. Richo came out and said it was five in both the presser and on SEN the following day, but the club site is saying it was three. By Richo’s own comments he won’t be playing for at least another week, but it sounds like he’s getting close. The anticipation is growing, too. Obviously different

Right now the forward set up is a clear structural problem. My Favourite Hair in the AFL is doing everything human possible in his situation to get things going, but some of the delivery on Friday night was absolute slop, otherwise you could expect the ball to have moved too slowly from further up the ground and for the Pies to have plugged any holes in our attack by the time it got anywhere near the arc. Even then, he can’t do it himself. Rhys needs to hit the scoreboard a lot, lot more, otherwise he’s going to end up in the territory he’s worked so hard to get out of, which is being in the side simply because of his height. Not sure about having both Hickey and Longer in the same team just yet. And I’m not one to harp on about Lewis Pierce’s famed leadership qualities, but he was second best only to Armo for the Zebras on Friday in his first hit-out coming back from some time on the LTI list. Because right now it’s going to take a lot more Lamb for the Favourite Hair-Bandwagon set-up to work.

But I’m not sure exactly how much more than a training run the Zebs had against Casey. Jimmy Webster was “omitted” from the senior side, presumably to be rested over the VFL’s state match weekend, but it sounds like he may as well have run around for Sandy in that one. Assuming he’s physically right to go next week I’m assuming you’d bring him back in. But who do you take out? It’s not a like-for-like for Delaney and Weller are both chances to miss so that problem might be sorted a little more easily.

Also of note in the younger guys department was Cameron Shenton. I’ve written him off billions of times, but like Sippa he’s built on his performances this year and 24 touches was at least on paper a handsome reward. He takes things on and there’s nothing about him or his appearance that suggest Rolls-Royce flair but he just charges through, even when he’s running through space. Whilst he’s mature-age, this was just his fourth game and there’s the occasional knock on his disposal (like just about every one of our guys) but he’s looking really comfortable with the ball in his hands and seems to know exactly where he needs to be.

Brodie Murdoch came in for his first game for the season after disappearing off the face of the planet in the first part of this year and played across half-back as well. I’m really just bringing him up to tick him off because he simply just needs more games. His win in the one-on-one with Elliott in front of the members was much appreciated by all. He finished with 15 touches and I’d be more than happy for him to be there next Saturday.

Going back to the ruck, Longer had 31 hit-outs but I have no idea if he played well. The Age had him in their best for the Saints but I wouldn’t have picked it. He doesn’t have the presence yet that Hickey does around the ground, and unless Roo, Rhys, Lamb and Tom Lee can sort that forward set-up out (Spencer White I’m not even considering right now)

For some reason CJ was the sub, but ended up playing all but five seconds of the game, because that’s how long it took for Steele Sidebottom to take out Mav Weller. Which is a real shame; I really like Mav and he really seems willing to work as hard he can to be in the senior side. He’ll definitely come back, but he might be a forced out for next week. Armo surely comes back in, and you’d think it would simply be a straight swap. Otherwise CJ’s in trouble because Dunstan we actually *need* and Tom Curren can actually kick an Australian Rules football.

Seb Ross you could probably throw in to the same group. Again, got a bit of the footy but I’m not exactly sure what he did with it. He’s an inside player but the one time he had the chance to look really good was in the second quarter when the Saints were up and about; Roo had just kicked a goal and Terry had put on a brilliant tackle to catch a Pie holding the ball in the centre. Seb ran past in space, but it seemed he wasn’t sure about the kick himself and couldn’t even hit a 50/50, let alone a St Kilda lead. Pick 24, huh? Give him more time. Give him more time regardless of his draft pick, but it’s reasonable to be unsure about things.

Terry, meanwhile was again really good. For once his presence without the ball made him feel as if he impacted the game more than his numbers suggested. Some good tackles and some chases, too. Only 14 touches but I think he might have found some mojo. If he could hit the scoreboard more that would really round things out.

On the flipside of small forwards, Adam Schneider was real custard. Five tackles was the most that could be said for his game, because that number very nearly matches his possession count. Has the game passed him by? Not sure if we’re at that point yet. We might be getting there, though.

Now, a quick look up at the TV on Friday afternoon would see our part-time ruck coach and Channel 9 megastar from The Block Darren Jolly lining up for the Pies, as well as now departed modern day club champs in BJ, Dal and Dean Polo.

That night we were wearing the second-phase version of the current clash jumper, with the bemusingly out-of-proportion horizontal white panel of the cross. On Friday night wore the Indigenous Round jumper in which this year, for the first time, all teams would participate in. It made for an incredibly ugly round of footy overall, although I think Adelaide and the Hawks absolutely nailed theirs. I’ll save the in-depth analysis for the upcoming next instalment of St Kilda Jumper Talk vol. One Million, but visually I wasn’t too keen on our version. I didn’t dislike it, more that it was incredibly subtle, especially from the stands (“stands” ≠ whatever the hell Etihad has). The incorporation of yellow could have been greater, but that, along with the very subtle diamond pattern breaking up the edges of the red and black slabs, created an almost gradient-like effect. But I could talk about this all day, which I will at some point this week.

For no reason I think it’s time to point out that Luke Dunstan’s name is spelt wrong on the players’ name magnets used on the whiteboard in the weekly Selection Insider (with the Watersun ad at the start featuring easy-listening Radiohead remix) on the club’s site. It’s just spelt “Dunston” but gee I thought he’d by now commanded a little more respect than that? He had 20 touches and a goal and I think he’s found an equilibrium for this year, or at least an equilibrium until he becomes hampered by the effects of the training and playing load of an AFL season. Still the necessarily eponymous favourite to lead the Newnes-Dunstan 2018-2022 era for mine.

For now? Nathan Buckley said Travis Cloke would soon tear a game apart. Would Friday night be that game? All signs pointed to “Yes of course, it’s St Kilda”. An interesting stat did pop up during the week – Luke Delaney is the number one player in the league for not conceding in one-on-one marking contests, having only been beaten in one out of 31 before Friday. Dare I say Cloke moved a lot more freely after Delaney got injured, but I think when you kick five goals and help yourself to 23 touches and 12 marks in an 86-point win then, yeah, I think you can say you’ve played a decent game. He obviously didn’t think he’d returned as he rejected a post-match interview with Channel 7, but if this is just a stepping stone to him playing really good footy then Collingwood are going to be very dangerous.

One of the bad things about having so few members this year is that the seats which haven’t been taken up are then available from the stadium for any supporter to purchase. We in Aisle 33 thus had a very large number of Collingwood supporters around us, and were far more numerous and vocal than us Saints. Another week, another thin cheer squad. At half-time in our Monday night *home* game against Carlton, for some reason at half-time the Blues put on a Mars promotion, Mars being a major sponsor of theirs, in the 50-metre arc at St Kilda’s cheer squad/members end. On Friday night outside the ground there was a large Renault promotion featuring a handball competition. Renault, of course are chiefly known in the AFL community as a major sponsor of Port Adelaide. Not only is the major corporate presence outside the ground an organisation not associated with the opposition, but one that’s not associated a team from the same state at all.

The eras of decline and rebuild of football clubs are not just felt on the ground and on the ladder, but on the bridge outside the ground and in the stands, too. It feels like the club itself just goes away for a while, waiting for that time when our hopes for the club are realistic and relevant again.