Brandon Ellis Posts

Spencer Spencer Spencer Spencer Spencer Spencer Spencer

Aaand here we go.

Spencer White will make his debut. A guy most people thought was a myth will hog most of the pre-match spotlight, rather than a legend who is playing his final game in the club’s home state.

It wasn’t the case until yesterday’s naming of the final team. Until, the week (from a St Kilda perspective, remember) had been all about Jason Holmes starring in the club’s entry into this year’s Virgin Australia Film Contest, which seems to be some vague annual competition open to about four AFL teams.

The most striking thing about this year was that it was a dramatic shift in tone to last year’s, which was so ridiculous it had claimed the St Kilda careers of Scott Watters, Jordan Staley, Jay Lever, Ahmed Saad, Ben McEvoy and Jackson Ferguson within weeks.

It was full of bad acting, but they weren’t given much choice with the script. This year, Jason Holmes somehow demonstrates that it’s possible for an AFL footballer to put in a convincing performance in the voiceover booth, as well as on camera. As melodramatic as it is, I actually like the last blurred shot of him in the background walking out onto Corporate Stadium in a St Kilda uniform – something we actually haven’t seen before.

Likewise Spencer White. For all the hype Saints fans have built up around him – and even members of the wider footy public – the only highlights and imagery we have of him so far are in the black and gold stripes and blue collar and cuffs of Sandringham (and occasionally the sky-bordering-on-highlighter blue clash, or the unnecessarily mostly-white clash).

What are we expecting from Spencer this Sunday? Last week aside, we’ve recently gone in with the attack set-up of the My Favourite-Bandwagon Alliance complimented by Josh Bruce hanging around doing stuff. Spencer in his first game probably won’t have the physical presence Bruce would and you’d expect his natural game ideally to be somewhere between Roo’s and and Rhys’s games – quicker than Roo and can play deep, press up or run back into open space. Dare I say it…like Buddy? I think the problem with that comparison is more to do with people’s reaction to it – they think he’s actually going to be as good as Buddy. Rather, it’s more his style is like Franklin’s, although at pick 25 and with some of the bits and pieces we’ve seen we realise he could be anything (for better or worse). Also, he’s 19 FFS.

The knock’s been on his defensive work so as anyone from the club who’s commented on him this week has said, Sunday will be all about providing a contest, whether it be at the ball or off the ball. Simple, I guess.

Unfortunately Shane Savage fractured his arm in TWO places at TRAINING on Friday. Fark knows how that happens, but it means Brodie Murdoch comes in. Fine by me in the sense that it’s a great chance for Brodie (who kicked his goal with a banana set-shot kick at the MCG against Richmond in a 4.40pm Sunday game last year), but geez that’s tough for Sav. Over the past eight games he’s almost been in our best in seven of those, and regardless of Friday’s mishap all of a sudden we feel like we have a long-term option off half-back.

Also into the side, perhaps bemusingly, is CJ. In a week in which Richo talked about really changing up the list after the season, surely a 30 year-old who has trouble kicking an Australian Rules football is being brought in for his last chance?

Jimmy Gwilt wasn’t so fortunate. If you’re in his position and you’re getting dropped for Round 22 when your side is on the bottom of the ladder, I think it says a lot about the club’s plans for him. I think we’ve all got a soft spot for Jimmy too – he was one of the few guys to really step up in 2010 and improve on the previous year when for so many that season seemed to be simply about doing just enough.

And uh, yeah, let’s not forget the opposition, considering that’s who we’re playing against and so on. The Tigers are roaring (and so on) and fark, they may well be in the eight by the end of the round. Dusty’s out with a hamstring though, and whilst that’s a huge blow overall I don’t think it will make or break them this Sunday night. They’re looking every bit of the team that was finished just outside the four last season, and rather strangely, if they do sneak in and lose the first week then they’ll have finished exactly where they did last year.

Look, unless the entire Richmond team broke out in awful acne and were put on Minocycline and they all came down with unpredictable but violent diarrhea (just a hypothetical scenario I thought up), no selection decisions are really going to influence this one. Barring a Bizarro game echoing the Freo day out (yes, that actually happened), you’d expect Cotchin to have another day out against the Saints and Deledio and Ellis to use a lot of footy to good effect. Look out for Jack Riewoldt trying to get St Kilda back to personal bunny status too.

Ultimately, for St Kilda fans this match will be about a chance to see one of the greatest Saints in person for the final time. The hype around Spencer from some may suggest we may also be witnessing the dawn of a juggernaut, but we won’t know that for a long time. What we do know is this is the last time we go to the ground to see Lenny play, so soak that up if nothing else.

No cigar: a work in progress

Round 10, 2012
St Kilda 3.4,  9.6,  10.14,  16.17 (113)
Richmond 3.7,  9.8,  12.11,  18.13 (121)
Crowd: 49,337 at Etihad Stadium, Friday, June 1st at 7.50pm

To cut to the chase: there were essentially two players that were the difference in Friday night’s game – Jack Riewoldt and Ivan Maric.

The cousin of Saint Nick booted eight majors in his 100th game; he should have had at least ten. Tom Simpkin, James Gwilt, Sean Dempster and Mr Fix It all did their damnedest to curtail him but it was to no avail. The Saints lack of size was glaring and with the ball streaming in rapidly and precisely at times, there was no place to hide. To be fair, two or three of Jack’s tally were tap-ins. St Kilda’s back six is clearly punching above its weight at the minute, but I’m sure Scott Watters will be addressing the lack of pressure around the ball when they look at the tape. Not even Superman himself could’ve done anything about the marks Jack took on the lead in the first term.

On the point of size: Maric was dominant in the ruck. He kick started the Tigers’ roaring start to the game; they dominated the centre clearances. The Saints ended up shading their opponents total clearance tally, but it was the manner in which the likes of Cotchin, Martin and co won theirs that was telling. Their ability to extract and spread the ball at the stoppages was something special, and was key in getting the Tigers on the front foot early on.

Maric also wandered forward to great effect, making a mockery of St Kilda’s lack of height at times.

Despite the early domination, come quarter time I was laughing off a lot of the feral, and slightly cocky Richmond standing room bravado as the Saints had weathered the storm and only trailed by 3 points, thanks largely to some brilliance from Saad and slick transitioning of the ball from defence. If it weren’t for an unbelievable miss from The Last Man To Captain the Saints To A Premiership Of Any Kind from point blank range, then the Saints would have gone to the first huddle with the scoreboard ascendency.

Although they worked themselves into the game as it wore on, Lenny Hayes, Matrix and Montagna were all well below par for the night. Another mighty performance from the growing David Armitage saved their blushes. Armo finished with two goals on top of his 27 disposals, 7 clearances and 6 marks. He has well and truly found himself as an AFL player now, and is fast proving his worth.