Barry Hall Posts

How we didn’t necessarily want to be

Recently turning 25 came with it an expected yet still slightly painful quarter-life crisis.

From 24 to 25 feels like you’ve aged at least nine to 10 times that overnight and it requires an honest look at yourself in a glass coated with metal amalgam, or as many people refer to it; a mirror. You assess your finances, relationship status, career progression and then naturally of course you weigh up whether or not you will ever witness a St Kilda premiership. Now no longer at the tender age of 24, this plight had been turned up a proverbial notch almost instantaneously. Amongst brushing up my resume, Google searching “community work” and signing up to eHarmony, came the thought of what the last 25 years has been and meant on this earth, and a large a part of that has revolved around being a St Kilda supporter.

When you’re a kid and you attend Auskick – or, as my junior football club’s program was very controversially named, “Midgets” – you’re happy just running around in a team’s colours courtesy of Dad; for me a traditional long sleeve Saints guernsey with Aussie Jones’ number 5 on the back. You’d hear a result and maybe care about it for all of 15 seconds before you’re chasing a footy around again worrying about your own very important career. This was more often than not made up of deliberately tightening angles for goals to have a shot at momentary glory. When Tom and I were little, we couldn’t wait to play for St Kilda when we were older, it was going to be fantastic. It turned out for us that the selection process was sufficiently more stringent than we could have ever possibly anticipated; our playing careers teetered out (not without serious injuries) and our success as footballers would now have to be fulfilled vicariously through the St Kilda Football Club, the passion no longer exerted on the field would have to be inflicted from the stands. That transition from being a child and being given a St Kilda jumper, to it being 100% apart of me: well, this was now complete.

Too young to appreciate, but I still observed the trail of destruction left by 1997; I sat there and watched but couldn’t really understand Stewart Loewe’s goal kicking yips, Joel Smith’s broken leg, Peter Everitt’s collarbone. I then saw Tim Watson and Malcolm Blight come and go; I saw Max Hudghton cry, Caydn Beetham lose the passion, I witnessed Daniel Wulf run in and hit the post, I watched Steven Baker suffer “amnesia”, Justin Peckett getting run down from behind with Troy Longmuir the beneficiary, Justin Koschitzke get blindsided by Daniel Giansiracusa, a nastily snapped Matt Maguire leg; I listened to the media circles of Grant Thomas being too friendly with the players, I’d seen Ross Lyon stop the other teams from scoring, I’d seen Luke Ball walk; I’d seen a toe-poke and I’d seen the unexpected bounce of obscurely shaped ball on the biggest stage.

On the contrary I’d watched Jason Heatley kick a few bags, Aussie Jones tear down the wing, and Troy Schwarze bang home a winner against Brisbane. I’d watched Robert Harvey, Nathan Burke and Lenny Hayes; Barry Hall’s winner after the siren against Hawthorn, Fraser Gehrig’s 100th goal in a season, Clint Jones run down Buddy Franklin; I’d seen Michael Gardiner come from nowhere, Nick Riewoldt’s soccer goal in the 2009 preliminary final; I’d seen a 55-point comeback, a last-minute Montagna goal, and the highlight: sharing a few lanes of bowling with Andrew Thompson, Justin Koschitzke and Justin Peckett in Moorabbin (watching elite athletes plough through my bucket of hot chips was slightly disheartening on the eve of the season but it was still a highlight).

I had ridden the St. Kilda wave since 1997 and upon reflection in the metal amalgam-coated glass, I was spat out the back witnessing 0 premierships. Regardless, on the eve of entering my 18th season as a member, despite the amount of times we have uttered profanities under our breathe to ourselves and sometimes regrettably out loud in front of families and children, there is never any doubt we’ll be walking through the gates again, daring to dream of the very best outcomes; even possibly putting our heads on our pillows at night and hoping we are the Leicester City of the AFL. We’ve witnessed the “How I Want to Be” slogans, and whilst we didn’t necessarily choose our own destiny, the first quarter has been one hell of an opening.

One night in purgatory

Round 5, 2012
Melbourne 4.1, 8.3, 10.6, 10.6 (66)
St Kilda 5.4, 8.5, 10.9, 12.12 (84)
Crowd: 24,798 at the MCG, Saturday, 28th April at 7.40pm

A cold, wet Saturday night at the MCG was never really going to offer us much more than the not-quite-hell the Saints and the Demons put us through.

The home side was a winless outfit that has been playing with all the interest of a VAFA Club XVIII side without the urge to start a fight; the visitors were used to the comforts of the sanitised concrete dome that would more than likely struggle at the first sign of dew on the grass. On top of that, they didn’t seem to be that good this year.

For St Kilda, finishing ahead at game’s end certainly didn’t offer much redemption for the multitude of missed chances that very nearly blew the game for the side. It wasn’t a win eeked out on obviously superior skill, nor paradoxically superior intent; the Demons actually looked like they wanted to be out there. They just happened to do enough and shut the Demons out of the game when it counted.

It was two weeks in a row then that opportunities to create genuine scoreboard pressure went begging for the Saints. The shots missed by Milne, Riewoldt and Nicky Dal in the first half were ghastly, with Big Beau Wilkes and Big Rhys Stanley having to mop up the mess. If it was any half-decent side as the opposition then the Saints would have put been really made to pay. They were eight days previous.

My Dad and I plonked ourselves on the wing in the MCC Members’ section with the other 30 people that decided to turn up. Regardless of the poor weather, it was probably what should have been expected. Melbourne’s fans have every excuse to not bother for a while (would they anyway?) and St Kilda’s won’t turn up if there isn’t a roof. True to form, we watched the second quarter in the Bullring once the rain really started. Either way, this game was going to take at least a drink or two to get through.

Having spent a couple of weeks in Cambodia and Thailand my Dad had finally made it to his first live match for the season. He’s seen enough in his time that the excitement of “the first game of the season” has surely worn off; the hopes of new seasons, let alone the hopes of new eras, have only held so much for this club. This was a microcosm of years of false dawns and empty promises.

Saturday night really echoed the Port Adelaide farce in Round One, when true to tradition the Saints allowed a mediocre team to look serviceable and “earn” the adulation of the home fans. Melbourne’s were brought into the game like they hadn’t this season, and only St Kilda could allow goals like those kicked by Jones, Davey and Bartram to happen, and for Morton to play his best game in relevant memory.


Neon bible

St Kilda fans have long had a Messiah complex.

We’re a long-depressed, long-oppressed legion that has been waiting for too long to be taken to the promised land. The legend of 1966 grows with every failed attempt and every wasted opportunity at seeing the Saints march back to heaven.

Yesterday, we were left without our next Messiah as his defection proved him to be merely a false idol.

Like the worshipped Barker and Riewoldt before him (the latter’s time may have yet passed), Tommy Walsh was (is) blonde, and it seems by all our accounts had a special presence about him. Like them he could take a mark, could kick goals and if needed could play a hand at the other end of the ground; as of two days ago, his leadership qualities were also paramount.

Fittingly, the club’s best and fairest award is named after one of them, whilst the other has won it more than any other Saint in the club’s 138-year existence.

However, the next chosen one won’t even play a single game in the red, white and black, despite having demanded a debut through 2011. It’s fair to say the team’s situation demanded it, too.

Instead, a conservative selection policy seemed to have left Tommy disillusioned through the season. Ross the ex-Boss hinted as much in a press conference when Walsh was yet again talked up by everyone except the coach.

Whilst Ross left Tommy waiting in the VFL, it seems Leigh Tudor had seen enough in 2010 alone to urge the Swans to offer him a lucrative contract. The hunt for Tommy may well have been as much as a couple of months old by the time yesterday’s trade was made. This is conjecture, of course, but Tommy looked to have his mind made up from the beginning of trade week.

Even though the Saints said publicly Tommy wouldn’t be up for trade, it appears he would have left anyway for the money. Had they not traded, St Kilda would yet again have lost a player for nothing; the Luke Ball non-deal will leave a sour taste in the mouth for a long time, whichever way we look at it.

For all of Pelchen’s and Swat’s talking up of Tommy as a player and clubman, as well personal pleas from the new coach to stay, it seems St Kilda wasn’t willing to match the Swans’ offer. The general consensus is that salary cap issues are dire currently and this probably got in the way, but either he was worth walking the walk after talking the talk or not (and what talk it was). Several players would have need to have been delisted or have taken pay cuts – offloading them in trade week didn’t happen – but if the club was really serious, then the potential and two years of development put into the club would surely have been worth the offloading of others with leaner prospects.

Instead, Saints fans are again left searching for a new Messiah, their faith shattered. Meanwhile, Walsh joins fellow power forwards Plugger and Big Bad Bustling Barry Hall in making the move from Moorabbin/Seaford/Frankston to Sydney.

Like 2009 and 2010, like the though of drafting Judd instead of Ball, we’re again left wondering what might have been – for now, anyway. Picks 35 and 68 might prove to yield members of the next premiership or not, Walsh might prove to be a huge coup for the Swans or not. For now also, it looks like we’re back to worshipping the other young tall blonde forward.

Arise, Rhys Stanley, and lead us to salvation.

In This Round…Grand Final

On the Thursday of each week of St Kilda’s season, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the corresponding round.

In this week’s In This Round, we’ll take a look at all six Grand Finals that the St Kilda Football Club has made since the first VFL season in 1897 – keep in mind before this, the Saints weren’t ever close to being crowned champions since their establishment in 1873; this year’s Grand Final marks just the seventh time St Kilda has made in a Grand Final since establishment 137 years ago.

1913 – Fitzroy vs St Kilda
Fitzroy 3.6, 4.8, 5.11, 7.14 (56)
St Kilda 0.1, 0.5, 1.10, 5.13 (43)
Crowd: 59,479, Saturday, September 27, 2.50pm

St Kilda had defeated Fitzroy in the Final a week earlier, but as minor premiers the Lions had the right to challenge. The Saints had brilliantly led by Roy Cazaly and George Morrissey up forward in the Final, with both kicking three goals. At three quarter-time of the Grand Final, however, the Saints had a paltry 1.10 on the board, and were down by a seemingly terminal 25 points. Unexpectedly, the final term yielded a thrilling finish, as a then-record crowd watched Morrissey’s two goals bring the Saints to within a single point. Silly mistakes cost them, however, and a free kick deep in attack resulted in a goal to Fitzroy at the other end. Another Lions goal on the siren saw the margin out to 13 points, and St Kilda were left to rue a horrid start and missed opportunities late in the game for another 53 years.

1965 – St Kilda vs Essendon
St Kilda 1.6, 4.8, 5.11, 9.16 (70)
Essendon 2.7, 5.10, 10.18, 14.21 (105)
Crowd: 104,846 at the MCG, Saturday, September 25, 2.50pm

Essendon would take out its second premiership in four years, coming from fourth spot to topple the favourites St Kilda. The Saints had finished on top of the ladder for the first time in their 98-year history, and progressed to the big one via the direct route after defeating Collingwood by one point in the Second Semi-Final. Essendon, under the legendary John Coleman, comprehensively defeated all comers in September, with St Kilda’s players and coaching staff heavily distracted by the pre-game build up giving the successful Essendon club an advantage in the Grand Final. So many at Moorabbin – with no previous experience of the week – had their focus shifted from what they had to do on the Saturday by organising flights, tickets and accommodation from friends and family. Trailing throughout, and with ruckman Alan Morrow suffering an early knee injury, the Saints had their hopes dashed in the third term as the Bombers kicked 5.8 to 1.3 to take a 37-point lead into the final change.

1966 – Collingwood vs St Kilda
Collingwood 2.1, 5.7, 7.11, 10.13 (73)
St Kilda 2.5, 5.6, 8.9, 10.14 (74)
Crowd: 101,655 at the MCG, Saturday, September 24, 2.50pm

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In This Round…Qualifying Final – Loewe, Keogh and Harvey guide the Saints to victory

On the Thursday of each week of St Kilda’s season, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the corresponding round.

For this week’s “In This Round”, we go back to a time where a “Qualifying Final” was for every top-eight team, as part of a finals system that threw up some rather curious match-ups in its short employment.

1997 First Qualifying Final – St Kilda vs Brisbane Lions
St Kilda 4.5, 5.10, 13.12, 20.15 (135)
Brisbane Lions 3.1, 6.9, 9.9, 13.11 (89)
Crowd: 50,035 at Waverley, Sunday, September 7, 2.30pm

Under the McIntyre Final Eight system, minor premiers St Kilda – just the second time they could be described as such – would meet eighth-placed Brisbane Lions at Waverley, just six weeks after the Saints had smashed the same opponents at the same ground.

This far more important match would have a much different script, though a predictably similar ending. The Lions had been held to just 5.14 in the Round 17 clash, but had bettered that at half-time of this game with 6.9, and led the Saints by five points at the main change.

St Kilda, playing their first final in five years, had started strongly with brilliant ruckman Peter Everitt dominating early. He’d kicked two of the Saints’ first four goals, one from a curling snap from 30 metres out, the second from a high mark over three Lions on the goal line from long-range shot from Nicky Winmar.

But disaster would strike soon after when Everitt’s collarbone would fracture after a collision with Lion Darryl White near the middle of the ground. The mercurial Robert Harvey had already hurt his back, and was playing on with constant attention from trainers. Meanwhile, spearhead Jason Heatley, perhaps the best recruit of the 1997 season, had limped off the ground with an ankle injury.

Added to this, young pair Jason Akermanis and Steven Lawrence were creating headaches for St Kilda’s defence. Moves had to be made for the Saints, and coach Stan Alves made several that paid off incredibly handsomely in the second half.

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