Collingwood Posts

Not-so-memorable moments

Round 4, 2017
Collingwood 2.6, 3.7, 5.8, 7.13 (55)
St Kilda 1.3, 4.7, 8.12, 9.15 (69) 
Crowd: 36,650 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, April 16th at 3.20pm

docklandsstreisand

“You don’t introduce new products in August.”

Whilst the fate of 7.49 billion people was in the hands of a few narcissistic psychopaths and sociopaths, we had a questionable game of footy to go to.

Drawing Collingwood at 3.20pm under the Corporate Stadium roof on Easter Sunday surely had to be another trademark move from the AFL as part of its long-term plan to eliminate daytime football and crowds in general.

On the surface it might have looked like the AFL was giving Collingwood a quick breather from four out of five prime time slots – Friday night, Thursday night, Friday night and ANZAC Day, but all of a sudden they’ll be having a farkload of eyeballs on them on TV. The move of a Collingwood home game to Etihad clearly wasn’t to let a huge crowd in.

Only 36,650 showed up in the end, despite the regular announcements at stadium in the lead-up to the game for people to make sure there weren’t any spare single seats dotted throughout “so we can fit a huge crowd in”. I don’t know what management was planning for but, no, that’s ok, I’ll take the space thanks.

Looking around the ground at about 3pm It did appear that a decent crowd might eventuate – until you hit the prime four bays on the broadcast wing on level three that at its maximum were half-full. Collingwood’s wealth of membership numbers meant those bays are allocated as reserved seats for their home games, but that certainly didn’t get in the way of anyone turning up Medallion Club-style. Realistically this was never going to be about a huge crowd watching from the stands/concrete slopes, despite the stadium announcements and Jon Ralph proclaiming there would be 52,000 there.

Collingwood still managed to make it feel like a Collingwood home game more so than St Kilda ever does, but perhaps it was just as much about the presence and profile of the Magpies entity – the club, the team, its fans. The old MCG crowd-made fence signs in digital form – “Collingwood domination envy of the nation” looked great in front of the cheersquad and was ultimately just a reminder – if only for a brief period – of how tight the ground controls are to make sure nothing interferes with the visibility of the fence advertising (which fucking moves around during the game for fuck’s sake), and how much it has stripped away a really interesting and engaging aspect of the atmosphere at footy grounds. They really can’t save a few panels to keep something like that up for the game in front of the cheer squads? Or on part of the members’ wing? Really?

The Pies stayed true to stereotypes by going the American sports lowest-common denominator route at half-time with Kiss Cam, and then a thunder-clapper-fucking annoying blow-up stick “make the loudest noise” contest between Saints fans and Collingwood fans courtesy of precious lifeblood rebottlers Pump. Despite those, their ground announcer human did something I haven’t seen any other club do before (and if other clubs do it I’m assuming it’s rare) – a Welcome to Country and Acknowledge of Traditional Owners to the Wurundjeri Tribe.

St Kilda obviously got permission from the AFL to run out onto the ground after the home team in a break of typical proceedings before a match, in which the away team runs out first. Fortunately we made it out on time, taking us to three from four this year. Usually that kind of thing is a given, but when you’re talking about a club that’s won one premiership in its 144 years you’re operating to a different set of benchmarks.

The week had seen Ameet Bains go from likely next Hawthorn CEO to withdrawing from the process; probably a reasonable thing if only to save himself from the extra frost from new colleagues seeing he took their first-round draft pick this year and gave it to us. Officially he’s staying mostly so he could oversee things until the transition to Moorabbin was complete, and during the week I quietly threw in a “but also to secure further incredible trade deals and allow us waste more key picks come the National Draft”.

Paddy had been dropped from the team and if it wasn’t him we would have expected Billings to be next in line. Watching Bontempelli move sveltely through traffic on Friday and kicking a goal on the run from just inside 50 was one thing; watching Petracca bulldoze through traffic for his first goal and then take it on himself to find space and kick a goal from outside 50 late in a close game had me wanting to go the big vom: chocolate bunny edition. Another Billings seagull performance would surely complete the process. Somehow Mr February had stayed in the side after an indifferent start to the season; Paddy hadn’t after one quiet game in which the delivery forward remained garbage, and I thought Billings had to have been next in line.

Speaking to Dad on the phone during the week I suggested Billings might be best to play forward of the ball, if only to freshen him up or give him a more focused task. I also asked Dad whether anyone outside of a football club, in conversation with family, friends and/or acquaintances had ever suggested anything genuinely useful about their team that the coach and the assistants would actually say yes to. Billings ended up playing mostly in the front half, but I’d loathe to call it because a) I think anyone would have suggested this was a possible option and b) who gives a shit what I said on a phone call during the week.

Whichever way, it really got a result out of him albeit not until the second half. Three missed shots from gettable positions in the first half had me thinking it might have backfired and shot his already limp and pale confidence. Rich astutely noted Mav was getting political now that he’s in the leadership group and already moving to edge Billings back into trade talk calculations in the latest edition of “Mav’s World”. Turns out Mav is the one that right now is closer to the outer and maybe he knew it was looming, setting Billings up with the classic ambush question of “Easter eggs or hot cross buns?” . He knew it would be all too much for a shy Billings in front of camera. Billings could only squeak out a meek “…both?” and Mav dialled up his malcontent for a biting “Just choose one”. Billings chose chocolate hot cross buns.

But his pack mark and goal in the third tweaked something in his mind and he finished with 28 touches around the ground and 1.4 to be amongst our best. It’s not quite on the scale of the Easter resurrection, but fuck a duck it’s a nice surprise and a relief, and particularly encouraging that he was able to turn things in his favour during the match.

The composure aspect remains a problem but hopefully that will come back with time – he’s demonstrated it before. He often found himself not quite getting the balance right between hanging onto the ball and taking the player on; and disposing of the ball quickly and neatly. He was drafted at pick 3 to do both with class, but he had at least three kicks the were blasted into the player coming across him for the smother and your X-factor types are meant to navigate those situations kick goals from the quick snaps the set shots from the arc. Ideally it’s in the near future he’ll be kicking 4.1 from the kinds of shots he had. Nice of him to trade missed set shots with Dunstan following last week’s pass-off though.

Billings ended up floating up the ground a fair bit and collected disposals at will. The pressure was well up and we had a monopoly on territory and possession for nearly the entirety of the second half, and Billings ended up doing his bit sending the ball forward as well as being on the end of the work up the ground. His score return reflected the team’s inability to finish off a team, echoing what had happened in Perth a fortnight earlier and what they eventually had to work hard to rectify last week against the Lions.

As for his high draft pick stablemate, Paddy he took 10 marks and kicked two goals for Sandy but Richo didn’t seem very sure in his press conference that he’d be coming back in as soon as next week. Their time is slowly nearing but Billings and Paddy weren’t recruited to be key parts of our team in 2017. But as any St Kilda supporter would feel, FFS humour me.

It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that it felt as though we’d settled into what we needed to be doing and wrestled the game into our hands. Although the team looked solid once they could pressure Collingwood’s disposal coming off half-back, it was still only a 4.7 to 3.7 half-time lead.

At that point our half-back line had kept us right in it – for all the chances we’d created and wasted Collingwood had done similar. Roberton had chalked up 20 touches and seven marks at that point, and Geary seven marks likewise. Roberton’s reading of the play was one of the things players and Richo highlighted when talking about his (at the time bemusing) inclusion into the leadership group over summer, but his footy smarts are more evident, with his intercepting and rebounding taking his game to a new level. On top of that he’s consistently finding more of the ball, too – 32 possessions and 12 marks was his return by game’s end. He continued to stand out as the rest of the team lifted their own input, and in a wider context it’s important for the club for players like this to improve in this way.

Whilst we were waiting for some guys to click into gear Carlisle was providing a huge presence in the back half to allow Roberton to play his rebounding game to better effect, as well as Gilbert, Geary and Newnes. Carlisle took eight marks, including a couple of handy contested grabs, but his body work when the ball was in dispute, even low down, allowed time for support to arrive or simply for a clean win. Whilst the Collingwood forward line isn’t functioning all too well at the moment – I felt for Darcy Moore getting the Bronx cheers in the same way I felt for Paddy last week when he copped the same, because it wasn’t entirely either’s fault at all. Nathan Brown still had an important role to play and executed some very good one-on-one efforts. All of a sudden the growing synergy down back is the buzz around Seaford/St Kilda/Moorabbin.

Geary (C) looked a bit overwhelmed in the first couple of weeks by the situation he’d found himself in, but yesterday all of a sudden he became the Geary we thought he’d be this year. A couple of vital contested marks, even when outsized, and some daring decisions to leave his man to create a contest in the air against a bigger opponent had him looking more maniacal than ever. He and Roberton were complemented handsomely by stand-in club song leader Jimmy Webster. One of the more symbolic moments of the day came in the second quarter as we’d begun to take control – a Taylor Adams kick tumbling towards the top of the arc had Geary just subtly edge Travis Varcoe off balance, and allowed Webster to break through and pass the ball to Ben Long in the middle. Despite having watched his teammates blaze away into the 50 at every opportunity for Bruce, Membrey and Riewoldt to be outnumbered or not presenting a lead, or for the kick to simply be rubbish, he decided to lower his eyes in the short moment he had and found Mav. A quick give off to Blacres had him going long, but that extra second created by Long had allowed a deeper entry from Acres and time for Gresham to get to the fall of the ball and kick a textbook roving goal. It was the last time for the day we’d trail.

A lot to unpack out of that one. But I think that was the beauty for St Kilda fans to take of the ugly win – the team worked so well together to break Collingwood down and have the game played on our terms. It was the forwards that on paper were lacking at half-time: Gresham, Long, Lonie and Membrey had all had four touches. Each had made some contribution although there was obviously scope for a much bigger input from each (Or output? They kind of mean the same thing here). Membrey would end up responsible for probably the only two direct, low bullet passes into the forward line to hit up leads on the day, and I’m hard pressed to think of any others this year. He ended with two goals from 12 touches and eight marks, including standing up in the final minutes to take a contested grab in front of goal as Collingwood made a late charge and converting from a spot he’d made a habit of missing from lately.

I’m not sure if Ben Long will stay in due to the sustained excellent form of Minchington and Sinclair in the VFL, but Lonie is the one who’s had multiple chances to impress outside of pressure acts – whatever they are he and Long returned numbers second only to Jack Steele on Sunday. Lonie can’t be faulted for the pressure he puts on and he’s always busy in trying to create something from nothing, but he has to actually start getting more of the ball and not going the Suckling shanks, let alone hitting the scoreboard, otherwise we’ve just got a really fast McQualter or Robert Eddy. Just 11 touches and 0.1 has him on the outer, and he’s only kicked 3.5 from four games this year.

Long played an uncompromising pressure game in the forward half and higher up. Like Lonie, his numbers probably didn’t reflect the kind of presence he has around the ball and the opposition. Collingwood’s success in taking the ball from half-back to scoring opportunities gave a good reason to bring him in and lump the pressure on the Magpies’ disposal out of defence. He was part of the chain for first goal, working hard through traffic back of centre to force the ball forward. It took the 30-somethings Roo and Joey to team-up and finish the chain for our first goal with only a couple of minutes left in the opening quarter and we might have been thinking we’re treading water with the development side. That didn’t eventuate, but there’s always plenty of time to be disappointed with this club.

My Favourite Hair in the AFL had just six touches and no score at the main break, but like most others stepped up in the second half. He remains, uh, how to say this…incredibly good. Another 22 touches, 12 marks and a goal after being nearly unsighted for a half. It’s ok if he’s in your top couple of most important players a) because he’s a once in a generation player and not everyone we recruit will be Nick Riewoldt, even when he’s 34, b) if they’re really, really good then yes of course it’s good to have them, and c) if everyone else is on board. Mav had collected seven at half-time, but even his slim numbers probably oversold his contribution. At that point he’d had a shot at goal from close range smothered, completely missed a teammate with a handball, dropped an easy mark at half-forward and after waiting for options inside 50 casually kicking to a player all on their own. Unfortunately it was a Collingwood player. He looked to have almost traded spots a little with Billings by half-time, working to half-back more often as Billings became more prone to drifting deeper forward. His defensive side was a little more solid and he cracked in a little harder at contests in the second half, with his seven tackles alongside Dunstan second to Steele.

Steele “only” had 20 touches – 15 of them handballs – and nine tackles but he’s providing an incredibly important link between the inside and the outside. It’s only an alternative to the pace of Jack Steven and [insert  but it’s just as important when things get tight and it stood out. Seb Ross likewise – most people thought he opened with a stinker or two but he finished with 36 touches.

Conversely, I don’t know if Dunstan stays in right now when he’s only picked up 11 touches – albeit with seven tackles – when you’ve got Koby Stevens bashing down the door alongside Minchington and Sinclair, not to mention Jack Steven coming back next week. Richo gave Dunstan a brief mention in the post-match though so I’m not sure what’s going on there. The lack of pace in the midfield has been obvious over the past two weeks. Armitage was able to get the ball out of traffic but he’s not the one to look to for speed and going by how sore he was by game’s end according to Richo he might need another week or two off. All’s well that ends well if you can grind a team down with those kinds of players but you’re not going to be able to get away with it all the time and you’re going to need to be a bit more dynamic. Acres is more of a Goddard #1 type (“Utility”) and Newnes is more of a wing – they were both pretty impressive and Newnes might yet be our next premiership captain if everything goes right but we’re not looking to them to fill the gaps in our midfield.

What remains ridiculous and with no apparent change to method is the idea of players bombing the ball long going forward. What are they expecting to happen? Nice to be direct and put the opposition under pressure but if you’re putting players under the ball or the forwards aren’t leading then it’s a lot easier to defend. Bruce and Membrey combined for four out of nine goals but that kind of sentence won’t matter too much most weeks, and certainly not next week against the Cats. It’s great if Gresham can charge in for the drive-by goal but that doesn’t seem to be the most common occurrence either. Who’s at fault? Right now it’s a little bit of everyone, but I thought we looked best when Membrey punched those two kicks forward to Riewoldt and Bruce, and when Ben Long took in everything that was ahead of him and pulled the kick to Mav. It looked creative, flexible and smart. It ended well, too, despite Acres looking like he wanted to hit the roof and putting the Sherrin on top of Roo’s head rather than out in front of him. Again, who’s fault is that? A look at the vision would show no one between 15 metres out and the 50-metre arc – i.e. lots of space for everyone to lead into – so I don’t know what’s going on there. I would refer myself back to my conversation with Dad. Has anything I’ve said actually said been of any genuine worth to the coaches or players? Has anything you, or anyone else said been of any genuine worth to the coaches or players? Surely it’s not as easy as “they just need to lead into that space I saw on the replay”. Or “just kick straight when you’re having a shot at goal”. Or “just look for the lead instead of blazing away”. We’ve kicked 36.57 in the last three weeks. Never mind missing the finals by percentage last year, we threw away a Grand Final in 2009 with this kind of plan.

Perhaps because of Collingwood’s fast finish there was a lot of jubilation from the fans, on the siren, although the players looked pretty happy themselves. It was our lowest score of the year but it was probably the best team performance and what might prove to be a template of sorts for this group – it was evident that at least a large part of the plan had been executed well.

Only the people that were there would remember this one. So many of these games are played every week that are buried on the GWS/Gold Coast Saturday twilight specialty time slot, or that only deserve a progress score check from the bored neutral, and are never thought of again. Keep this one in the back of your mind if you’re a Saints supporter though. It might prove to be one of the more important development markers.

On Carlisle

“I’d like to thank Hawthorn for their professionalism” – Adrian Dodoro

What should have been a simple, uninsightful trade period wrap is now a simple, uninsightful look at the worst of footy journalism and journalism when it comes to treating footballers, with attitudes towards rape thrown in for good measure. And then, of course, the operations of the AFLPA, and the power now wielded by players and their agents.

But let’s start vaguely from the start.

Also does anyone genuinely not think the timing of this video being released was suspect at best? A Current Affair would have been holding onto this for at least a number of days. And also if you’re going to take potshots at St Kilda for their culture and this being “another fuck-up” (which I wouldn’t agree with going by my stance of players and illicit drugs alone, but we’ll get to that) then surely you have a crack at Essendon for being responsible for providing the environment led him to that kind of thing? And this is before talking about Essendon running a pharmacologically experimental environment on its players, regardless of WADA finding the individual players guilty or not.

“Could this be one of the biggest footy scandals of the year?” Someone had to physically go into a recording booth at Channel 9 and actually say those words in a specific tone knowing it would be used for the ACA story that night. Let me guess – it was about the rape allegations against the Hawks players, yeah?

No of course it wasn’t, silly me. Hawthorn is a big team with a winning culture. That’s enough to sway what’s in the public interest when it comes to rape allegations against taking an illicit substance.

For good measure, Collingwood’s own version of this was swept under the rug ASAP in the aftermath of the 2010 premiership. Collingwood fans took on Mick Malthouse’s quarter time tirade directed at Milne in Round 3, 2010 for the remainder of his career but I’m pretty sure I never heard them booing Dane Swan for being convicted for bashing a cleaner with two other top blokes. But he won a Brownlow and plated in a premiership team so I guess he made amends.

Again, if you’re big enough and successful enough. If Jake had gone to Collingwood do you think ACA would have touched the story? Tracy Grimshaw might be a Saints supporter but that would mean fark all in this. Going back a day or so, if Jake and McConville had spoken to the AFLPA about this and he was going to Collingwood do you think they would have told them to keep it quiet and just wait until after the trade to spring the surprise? A perverse outcome is that whilst Carlisle is having his contract rewritten by the club (and will cede a strike next to his name under the new drug policy), McConville actually can’t be sanctioned by the AFLPA because he was acting on their advice. This actually does matter if reports are correct that we wouldn’t have completed the deal had the contents of the video been known to the club earlier. Incredibly perhaps, Eddie McGuire cracked the Ahmed Saads (it was brief, but thanks Ahmed) but still managed to speak sense on the issue and noted the power imbalance of the AFLPA and the individual players as opposed to the clubs. I don’t know if the AFLPA understands that supporters pay their memberships and go to games over decades to support a club, not chiefly the individuals running around.

Either way, for now Essendon has managed to get us again. Not just the Lovett deal, even when we’ve been good and they’ve been bad they’ve given us trouble on the field (see 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010), and otherwise we were scoreboard fodder for them for a century.

The older and more experienced I’ve become as a Saints fan alerts you to more and more bias throughout the media and footballing public against St Kilda as a whole. How would any club smaller than Essendon or Collingwood have fared in the media and in the public’s eye throughout the last couple of years?

Nowhere near well enough when you don’t have an entire newspaper going into bat for you. Sam Landsberger and Jay Clark at the Herald Sun in this case couldn’t wait for the Saints to mess something up. The spectre of Hawthorn loomed large and often led the online edition of the paper – for their faux-presence in the Carlisle trade, in case you were wondering – not for the rape allegations. That was somewhere further down the page.

Dodoro demanding Essendon wanted Billings before negotiations were done? Because he couldn’t gun hard enough for it himself, Jay Clark gets a “respected list chief” as well as Essendon mouthpiece Tim Watson on board to talk up how much sense it makes if St Kilda is “unprepared” to give up pick 5, as if the Saints were likely to turn up to negotiations have not given this whole thing much thought.

Landsberger really got in on the act when Essendon rejected St Kilda’s offer including Essendon’s picks 23 and 25:
“Frustrated Essendon ­officials spent the first week of trade talks waiting for an offer from St Kilda — and rejected it immediately…Despite the mooted deal ­delivering Essendon pick five which it desperately wants, the Dons were insulted and did not consider accepting it…A rival list manager told the Herald Sun the Saints should just get the deal done…’Good clubs find a way,’ he said.”

His excited tweet when the Essendon leaked the rejection to the Herald Sun (amongst literally everything else) simply, er…didn’t stack up given what the situation at the time (and ultimately) was seemed to imply there were literally no further negotiations possible, ever, in getting this specific trade and done and St Kilda had blown because good clubs find a way and I’ll see ya later.

I’m sure Sam would have loved throwing in that last particular quote. “Good clubs find a way”. Never mind that the Bombers requesting Billings from the outset is pathetic overs to begin with. Rather, Clark wrote about it as it as a bold and genius move on Dodoro’s part. St Kilda’s offer might have been overs in our favour but I’m pretty sure it was diluted in its sense of entitlement compared to Dodoro’s initial request. But no, Essendon are made to look reasonable, intelligent and strong-willed.

Do we remember how the Herald Sun reacted to the St Kilda schoolgirl story? I seem to remember the club logo stamped across the front page in the summer following the 2010 Grand Final Replay as the football world rejoiced that St Kilda were still St Kilda – a basketcase of a culture and the founding club with still only one premiership. Good luck telling anyone the actual facts of that saga without having to look anything up (and then trusting what you see enough to be your source). But what do you hear most amongst the standing room wisecracks? “Schoolgirls” and “rapists”.

It’s a slippery slope and the justice system here isn’t perfect (no shit). There’s a few a key issues here.

One is the attitudes and overriding naivety when it comes to footballers taking drugs – of the non performance-enhancing kind, which is a distinction we now have to make because of the Bombers. What is it about illicit drugs that garners such distaste from so many people? Increasingly a higher proportion of people throughout our society have taken these substances. Some a more dangerous than others, some are more addictive than others and this invites the relevant comparisons betweens what illicit drug use accounts for when it comes to public and private disruption as opposed to alcohol and cigarettes. But why are people so against players doing this as opposed to the occasional line done by many people you might know, or perhaps yourself. Yes, there is addiction but that’s on a different plane altogether, in the way alcoholism is to the many of us who drink without it taking over our lives. I’d certainly say the most questionable thing Jake did was film himself doing it and then sending it out to a whole bunch of people. Either way, there’s probably a disconnect between the public and what these illicit substances actually do, and there’s definitely a disconnect between the public and the way they measure footballers.

The uncomfortable thing for Saints fans is something that shouldn’t be uncomfortable to say just because they’re St Kilda supporters. I noted a few others (and myself) pointed out that ACA‘s promo ignored the Hawthorn rape allegations despite its shouting. These were exactly what Stephen Milne was under the most part of a decade but as mentioned it was only when Mick Malthouse – coach of the league’s biggest club and the one that would take out St Kilda on Grand Final (Replay) day – had a crack at him for it that people really decided to take notice and being having their shot at him on game day in a bigger way than the traditional distaste of an opposition small forward. It wasn’t the reporting of allegations that the case had been deliberately botched by police soon after an incident occurred. I dare say very few Saints supporters would have noted that Milne was cited on that night and against Collingwood again two seasons later for using homophobic slurs. Perhaps fewer might have loudly made observations that more recently he pled guilty to a lesser charge of indecent assault in that rape trial, and avoided conviction and was fined $15,000. Again, I didn’t hear Collingwood fans – or perhaps anyone – booing Dane Swan. The fact that one human plays for the club you support does not make them infallible, and nor should it make them or the club as a whole any more or less fallible for that person alone.

There’s one key kind of redemption when it comes to the wider footy world – that of winning. For the most part members and fans don’t genuinely know if a player is a top bloke or not; they’re measured by if they’re a premiership player or if they’re any good, and if they’re a GOP then if get talked up by teammates about what great people they are around the club.

Can this new St Kilda that Finnis, Summers, Bains and Richardson are building make itself great enough to be the Geelong that turned a drink driving Stevie J into a multi-premiership winning great of the club and game? Or the Collingwood that turned a cleaner-bashing (three on one) Dane Swan into a premiership hero and Brownlow medalist? Hawthorn’s won three flags in a row now so two players being investigated for rape, it seems, is no huge deal. No one will do a Craig Hutchison and be over-zealous in their reporting and name the wrong player as involved in the Milne incident. No one will name anyone for as long as possible.

For all of Finnis and co’s good work, for a long time we’ll still be hearing about how we are the old rabble of St Kilda that can never move beyond that one premiership, which we “celebrate” the 50th anniversary of next year. What does it take to move beyond that image? In a game filled with boorish and narrow attitudes, Carlisle playing in a St Kilda premiership seems to be the only thing that will make people reconsider in the foreseeable future.

The reigning premiers played against the reigning wooden spooners. What happened next was pedestrian and expected.

Round 10, 2015
St Kilda 2.3, 3.5, 7.8, 10.9 (69)
Hawthorn 4.5, 8.10, 14.11, 20.12 (132)
Crowd: 33,886 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, June 7th at 4.40pm

alanrichardson_2015r10

I’m not sure what kind of state Sports Delivered is in right now. I’ve whinged about them before, still scarred by the fact they inexplicably didn’t make a 2005 Season Highlights DVD for the preliminary finalists as a once off, and then in 2009 conveniently decided to end them altogether outside of the premiers, leaving only Saints members with shorter than usual DVDs for the years in which saw sadly perhaps the defining seasons for some Saints fans and formative seasons for a whole new generation.

Sports Delivered have mostly traded on the Name-A-Game offering, a necessity of a bygone era in which individual games were purchased on VHS and then DVD at bemusingly inflated prices (and with a considerable lack of pre- and post- match coverage). All games should certainly be kept on record – that’s no secret – but I’m not sure about flogging some of the more pedestrian encounters. I always favoured the Seasons Highlights DVDs though; every season is a story and these documented from beginning to end the best and worst of a journey which meant a whole lot to supporters, whatever the outcome may have been. Sports Delivered decided that offering every single individual game was somehow more worthy. 

Sunday barely came close to passing the Name-A-Game test, and sub-editors in charge of shamelessly clickbaiting headlines on anything from Buzzfeed to The Age would face a near impossible task teasing you with this one. The Name-A-Game test is applicable here in the sense that they are supposedly there for posterity; when reflecting what we possibly might have learnt or the magnitude of what we witnessed. What is the historical value of this game? What did we see in terms of development? Certainly no real stellar moments, Acres’ mark and decision to run off his man late in the game aside. You can watch some passages or performances that place them on a few guys’ development curves (Billings, Ross, Webster), otherwise it’s a lot of them playing in far too much awe of the Hawks and being worried out of moving it forward too quickly. Or if we did manage to get it forward, a bunch of Sherrins bombed on top of or not near enough My 1st and 2nd Favourite Hair in the AFL respectively. And as far as the first 90% of the first half went, that was just the Saints.

Shane Crawford apparently writes an opinion piece in the Herald Sun, which I genuinely didn’t know until his article yesterday bobbed up on my Twitter feed, with “Why Saints can win flag in 3 years” as headline and a 2010 shot of Riewoldt in the white collar and cuffs far more reasonably holding that year’s yet-to-be awarded premiership cup. It wouldn’t quite have the same effect if he was holding this year’s, or even 2018’s because it hasn’t been made yet. In fact, there’s only one ever made in which it would really make total sense for any St Kilda person to be holding. For now we have to run with photos that are a half-decade old and simply sad to look at. 

Though it was a home game yesterday Matt and I found yet another way this year of sitting somewhere other than our members seats. We ended up on the top deck with Rich, dear cousin Evan, another good friend of mine/Hawthorn supporter (also Tom), Matt’s friend Angie and very special guest James, Evan’s younger brother. I’m making note of this because St Kilda-Hawthorn games happen to mark particular occasions in our wider family – Dad took me to my first game in round 1, 1994, and it was a Friday night game in round 21 two years ago that was the last we went to together before he and mum left for the UK. Evan’s first game was Round 9, 2003 (a rare home game at the MCG and Allan Murray kicked four in his first game for us). All were St Kilda-Hawthorn games. I took James to his first game before he’d turned eight in Round 3, 2009 in which we belted the Eagles, and he’d been to Round 16 of 2010 against Collingwood and that year’s Preliminary Final against the Bulldogs. Nothing in the five years since though despite our best efforts, but sitting next to him before the game started he said, “I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been here. It’s so good to be here.” He was already talking up next Sunday immediately after the game despite the handsome belting, so it looks like a St Kilda-Hawthorn game has again provided the landmark occasion for another poor young soul being roped into a lifetime of disappointment and heartbreak.

Hawthorn had managed to go W-L this entire season, and who better to give you the opportunity to right your season than ours truly? A rare appearance from 2011 1st Preliminary Final anti-hero Luke Schoenmakers made things all the more ominous following his four goals on return last year against us (and just further demonstrate how comprehensive that loss was, take those away and we still lose by 121 points). After playing Round 23, 2013 anti-hero Ryan Lester into his best form last week, Schoey was the prime candidate for this week’s armchair treatment for a middling player from the St Kilda Football Club.

Obviously they’re coming from a different outcome over the past few/54 years, but it really feels like the Hawks are doing their version of what we experienced in 2010 – just keep teams at arm’s length throughout the season, because it’s all about getting to the last Saturday. Given the close losses to the Bombers and GWS in there, you’d think Clarko might have watched Bomber’s Open Mike interview and paid particular attention to what he said about the 2008 season, namely that they were that good they didn’t know what to do when Hawthorn challenged them on Grand Final Day, and should have engineered some closer results to test themselves against throughout the year. Watching their opening half – or at least until they broke the game open with three quick goals late – you would have thought that was the case. How many times as Roughy miskicked so wildly? Their kicking for goal had them at 5.10 at one stage, before they decided we weren’t coming along for their ride and represented the same opportunity for a percentage boost rather than competitive hit-out that Melbourne did a few weeks ago.

The early piece of play that saw some precise kicks hit up Bruce for a strong mark and the opening goal was probably the cleanest we’d look all day. Soon after Schneider backed up his kick into the man on the mark out of defence with a handball along the ground to Riewoldt on the rebound, there was Armo’s clown miss from 15 metres out from goal on his own, and Hickey fluffed a couple on the lead. For all of the always-reliable Roughy, Mitchell, Burgoyne and Smith all getting themselves in on the faux-Hawthorn faffin’, the charade was punctuated by moments of real class that really demonstrated the gulf that still clearly exists between the two sides, Crawf talking up a St Kilda premiership in the coming years or not. These were four quality goals by four different players; Jack Gunston showing his versatility and running onto a loose ball for the Hawk’s first first, Billy Hartung – who for what it’s worth many had going to us with either of the picks we used on Dunstan and Acres – wheeling around from nearly 40 out on an angle, Cyril in the second quarter taking the ball and running across goal before the snap as the Hawks looked to create a gap and then Taylor Duryea well and truly made it real from outside 50 late in the term.

Things reached the bottom of the crater made by the AFL’s meteor of novelty when Ahmed Saad got falconed mid-big screen interview at half-time by one of the inflatable beach balls that the crowd was smacking around, at the same time All-American superstar Jason Holmes was handing out Susan Day cakes. The new sponsor probably couldn’t believe their luck that someone in the PR department decided that Rita (Happy 100th Birthday Rita!) was keener on attending the match than training on the day of Richo and Jack Steven’s presser, and their “100th” cake found its way in front of the media with Josh Bruce and Dylan Roberton shyly presenting it.

Having to explain the nondescript versions of the Saints song by Ben Salter (played accidentally before the game after already being used several weeks ago?) and Dan Sultan (shown at half-time because they showed Ben Salter before the match?) was in itself exhausting. Almost as much as the ground presenter interviewing Richo before the game talked up some guy called “Josh Smith”. Marchetti was there with his beanie on and he seems to pretty popular at the moment. He’s done the post-match interviews on occasion (Holmesby, Luke was back behind the mic on Sunday), although after a loss it’s hard to take him seriously because of how affable and energetic he is, and he’s still wearing the beanie.

More symbolic shenanigans included Geary being interviewed by Marchetti as the players walked off at half-time and then Armo after the game by Cam Mooney for Fox Footy. What I liked about AFL was that, as opposed to Super 15s and the A-League, et al the losers weren’t interviewed after the game (or during it). I thought it was an element that represented something stoic that we believed about this game; that they cared enough about what they were doing and the club that they played for that they wouldn’t want to do a shitty media interview afterwards. They’re not just guys that go from city to city playing for a new club and perhaps in a new league every couple of years. Maybe not.

The result had been well and truly taken care of by the time Roo took on three guys in the square, almost completed the mark and then reacted quickest to get to the ball of the contest and snap a goal over his own shoulder from his left boot. Joey’s goal was both quality and laughable, but the AFL’s Facebook account was interestingly a lot more pointed in telling everyone their thoughts on it as opposed to, say, the rule enforcement merits involved in either of (this part’s important) Collingwood’s Jamie Elliott’s mark or goal earlier in the year.

One of the more frustrating elements on Sunday was seeing Josh Bruce work hard for nearly fark all return from teammates further up the ground that were apparently kicking it to him. That he finished with 15 touches, eight marks and 2.2 said far more about how hard he works than good movement of the footy. Yes, we were much slower than we have been for most of this year but there were a number of times when Bruce was one-out or in some space as we went forward and kick simply didn’t favour him, usually ending up coming straight down onto his opponent or what needlessly was a body-on-body one-on-one contest. And when the latter happened guys like Lonie and Schneider just weren’t around enough. Sinclair again showed how well he’s settled into the AFL standard, kicking two goals but having more of a presence away from goal also.

Lonie showed glimpses with slick disposal here and there, but I thought his kick which ended up as Joey’s “goal” summed up his and the team’s night. Had a crack sort of, didn’t come off definitely. From being 5.10 in the second term, Hawthorn kicked a ridiculously efficient 15.2 and that 5.10 could easily have been 10.5 given the ease of scoring shots by their standards. For all of the relatively positive air around us even after this one, it probably should have been a lot, lot worse.

One interesting little tidbit to come out of the game was Savage being played as a forward once he came on as the sub. He finished his previous game in a similar spot and in the limited time finished with two goals and 11 touched, although most of those were handballs and his kicking is the key aspect of his game. I don’t think it’s something that should be stuck to, because he can kick those longer goals when he’s in decent form anyway. On a day when Newnes is again a little quieter than you’d expect him to be, it would helped to have his drive off half-back.

Speaking of which, there seems to be a bit of a selection showdown looming around there. Sav as the sub won’t happen next week, and with Weller and Dunstan sure to come straight back in do you keep all of Ray, Shenton, Acres and Ross? Ray would be very unlucky to go out after 24 touches but is he quick enough and creative enough? A lot of people (myself included) had used him as the best St Kilda reference point for D-Mac’s type of game after last year’s draft, and with guys like him and Acres proving they can show something at AFL so early in their careers – not to mention Gilbert coming back at some point – then another selection bottleneck with senior guys pitted against youth featuring is looming. Shenton out is obvious one and Schneider’s clangers only dented the fans’ goodwill for him that will be called upon when he is taken back to the rookie list over the next week or so.

Acres again just hummed away doing his thing on Sunday, and he continues to remind me of a Goddard (B.) type, and not just in playing style. BJ was our whipping boy in 04/05, the number one draft pick who, unlike Roo, Ball, Dal etc. just didn’t seem to have the same immediate impact and with a premiership within touching distance the expectation was high. But Blacres has a good size, good kick and some speed about him and he’s already showing that he knows how to use them all together.

Speaking of humming away, Billings collected another 21 touches and Webster perhaps the lowest fanfare 27 touches I’ve ever seen a young player get. The clincher of this is that both are in our best handful of kicks – Webster’s howler of a kick-out notwithstanding – and both play in different parts of the field, which is a key element you want to build an entire team around.

As for Seb Ross, you probably didn’t notice him (again). I certainly didn’t. I still don’t know what a good game from him really would look like, but he’s quickly making a name for himself as the guy who’ll get the nuts and bolts of the inside stuff done and given it was his first game back I thought he did quite well. Armo was actually down on his output this year, but I never thought I’d say that after he’d picked up 24 touches. Ross would have been in there anyway, but having him in the middle after such a long lay off as well as Lonie and Sinclair certainly gave things a fresh edge. Longer wasn’t exactly the ruck beast he’s apparently become, but with Hickey being subbed out and against Hale and Ceglar he was up against it whichever way you look at it. I still think he’s a better player than Longer, but a statement like that is mostly null and void whilst he’d playing almost exclusively as a forward.

For all of that though, it was ultimately another forgettable game. We’re not going to remember Webster’s numbers or Acres’ dash or Josh Bruce’s leading. No-one will be ordering this on DVD and sitting down to watch it from the opening bounce to the final siren. Both teams had this in mind as a simple step in their separate missions. For the Hawks it was just about getting the job done to make sure they’re there when it counts. It was for us too, really, but from a much earlier time.

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.

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…)