Fremantle Posts

“Come Armageddon, come”…Oh no wait, it’s ok, sort of.

Round 10, 2016
St Kilda 5.4, 6.8, 7.9, 15.11 (101)
Fremantle 3.0, 7.1, 10.4, 10.7 (67)
Crowd: 17,927 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, May 28 at 4.35pm

I began last week’s review talking about my dread of coming up against the Bombers, who always seem to dick us no matter our respective situations on and off the field are at the time.

Whilst the prospect of playing Fremantle immediately after the Bombers presented two pretty similar assignments – two opportunities for a young team to redeem themselves against depleted, unfancied opposition somewhat after a pasting by the Eagles – Freo presented its own psychological difficulties for Saints fans (on top of simply being ravaged by everything that goes with being a Saints fan).

My dread for playing Freo this week was simple – the Saints and Dockers are the combatants for the ridiculous and not very wonderful Bizarro Rivalry. The Dockers were incredibly on the precipice of becoming the equal-record holders for worst start to a season by a previous season’s top four finisher (certainly outright for a minor premier), but who better to save them from sharing that record than their Bizarro rivals, the historically pathetic Saints?

The clubs are into the 22nd year of weird shit happening, with a bunch historical coincidences sprinkled over the top. Fremantle played their first ever official game against the Saints in 1995 in the opening round of the pre-season, which remains their only official game in Fremantle; an ANZAC Day showdown with Freo winning by a goal in 1997; Stewart Loewe knocking himself out and Peter Everitt kicking the clumsiest goal of the year contender in 1998; umpire Peter Carey taking a mark in 1999; the Saints winning their last game under Malcolm Blight win Robert Harvey doing his knee and a young Milne kicking three goals in 2001; The Dockers coming back and snatching a late win with a long bomb in the first game St Kilda wore the hot cross bun jumper as an away jumper in the home and away season, and then winning the return bout at a home game at Princes Park in 2002; the Saints winning in Perth to go to 7-0 for the first time since 1966 and looking odds-on for a premiership, and then the Dockers wearing their white clash jumper for the first time ever  and playing for a finals spot in the last match of 2004 against the Saints; St Kilda winning by a point in Tasmania after a dubious late free kick to Aaron Hamill in Round 2 and then Troy Longmuir’s winning goal after the siren in the “Whispers in the Sky” match in 2005; Sirengate in 2006, which in isolation was the difference between Freo’s first top four finish and St Kilda’s sixth and first-week final exit; Steven Baker and Jeff Farmer’s clash and Baker’s long suspension in 2007; one of the worst games ever as Milne and Dal Santo were dropped and McEvoy, Eddy and Allen all debuted and the last quarter went for 23.56 in 2008; St Kilda holding Freo to what was at the time the equal-lowest Corporate Dome score, shared with…St Kilda…in 2009; And so on and so forth. This is without mentioning Ross Lyon, Zac Dawson, and the 2013 and 2014 pastings St Kilda gave premiership-fancies Freo, and that each club made their first Grand Final appearances 100 years apart.

***

Ok look I’ll get this out of the way. Sam Landsberger’s pathetic article about Nick Riewoldt post-match last week – and his equally pathetic responses to criticism of it online – as well as the Herald Sun’s glorifying of it, in the same week that Brad Hill was charged with assault and received fuck all coverage was really disappointing. At no point did Sam address why he included a whole section talking about St Kilda’s bid for a women’s team and the appointment of Peta Searle, instead deciding to step back from the article when it was convenient and saying “your words, not mine” when challenged on why he attempted to make it appear that either Nick or the club has an inherent problem with treating females, as well as saying “End of story” in one tweet simply to outline that the event had happened, and that therefore it deserved his story. Which it doesn’t; something simply happening doesn’t necessarily warrant a warped story and the pushing it received by the newspaper. He also took editorial duties and said “filthy remarks on innocent StK staff disgusting”, although no one else in the footy world seemed to particularly make a big deal of it. I outlined last year the clear bias against St Kilda that the Herald Sun had during the trade period and the Carlisle saga, which I think is worth mentioning given his involvement in that as well as this.

Interestingly, it seemed as though there was some contrition on the Herald Sun’s part. Their coverage of the match including an inset photo of Roo taking a selfie post-match with a fan and Gresh – with no irony or mention of the week’s “news” and by Sunday afternoon Landsberger had selectively tweeted about Armo talking on Triple M about Roo winning a seventh best and fairest this year and playing on in 2018, as well pointing out the strength of his stats this season himself.

The whole thing actually reminded me that I may or may not recall a current Herald Sun footy journo possibly calling Nick Riewoldt a “retard” repeatedly in the 2010 Preliminary Final. Anyway.

***

So a young team on their way up but with the inconsistencies that come with this awkward early development phase, coming off a relatively unconvincing 46-point win – albeit one that featured performances from three young forwards that gave cause for feverish optimism – up against a coach who for all intents and purposes should have held up our second premiership cup with our current captain, and his team trying to avoid some very unwanted history. On a cold and wet Saturday as winter storms along, hidden away in the 4.35 timeslot (Who decided on “4.35”?), in the mostly empty confines of the Concrete/Corporate Dome. It reeked of the depressing depths of a long footy reason, so Freo ftw, surely. So like last week, I used my massive $10 bonus bet on a weakened opposition to at least salvage something out of the potential wreckage, because I work hard and I play hard.

Hotline and Webster were suspect outs this week; at least that was my not-so-hot-take on it until I remembered Billings indeed ended up in the rooms at some point during the match against the Bombers before playing it out with not too much effect. Webster on the other hand already has a conveniently-timed illness because I dare say he was close to being dropped, and is hanging out with at his gf’s house on club’s orders. I’d love to be told to do that but I’m desperately, desperately alone.

Discussing the ins and outs with my dad over the phone on Friday, in my infinite wisdom I declared Brodie Murdoch would be playing probably across half-forward and pushing up the ground, completely unaware that Richo that morning had specifically said at the presser that he’d be playing across half-back. Sinclair, the other inclusion, would obviously be floating around the forward half and has been underrated a little this year I think in his value as a link player pushing up the ground as well as playing his usual small forward role.

The 55 tram ride into the ground from Brunswick West is always a little strange, having grown up with the St Kilda fervour that accompanies the train ride in along the Frankston line. In fact on the 55 there’s none at all and there are as likely to be many GWS fans on it as St Kilda fans (i.e. fan, singular; i.e. me) as there were for the Round 5 match. Given the time this weekend’s match and the weather on the day there was barely anyone on the tram at all, let alone a bunch of people on their way to see a C-grade match in the nothing hours of a grey Saturday.

Richie is away enjoying Europe for a few weeks, hence why all four of you RWB readers are stuck with me for a few weeks, and Evan was getting his second round of 21st birthday celebrations underway, so it was an opportune time for dad to rejoin the match day line-up of myself and Matt after he decided family was important enough to miss out on a terrible match of footy last Sunday. We reprised the Kangaroos pre-match build-up of burgers and drinks at the Savoy before it was time to take a deep breath and take the field as the next team with the pressure of “just don’t fuck it up” coming from the rest of the AFL world; which was still waiting to burst into laughter at the expense of whoever had to listen to an outdated pop-rock intro and then “FREO, WAY TO GO” after the final siren.

Like last week, the raging battle of nausea vs apathy threatened to consume us all at half-time as Essendon planted themselves within reaching distance at half-time. With the comfort of hindsight, as nausea vs apathy played itself out at half-time we were bracing ourselves for the possibility of nausea followed by apathy, or perhaps nausea followed by a sickly mix of more nausea with apathy. At three-quarter time the buckets were ready. No amount of Ativan would be able to cover this. As Matt and I talked about late in the game, we were both psychologically preparing ourselves for a best result of a close win, and having to simply prepare ourselves from the point of Paddy’s smart goal late in the third quarter of around 45 minutes of feeling sick and partially not enjoying living for that amount of time, with the expectation that it was happening, that St Kilda would be St Kilda and gift Fremantle their first win of the season. And out into the cold, unfriendly Saturday night we would go.

The early stages of the match felt a long way away by that time. Shane Savage ran out onto the ground with his son for his 100th game. He was one of the players that really needed to lift last week after half-time and actually did. He’s come a long way after being VFL fodder for a club hurtling towards its 27th wooden spoon two years ago. Maybe his new half-back partner Brodie in time could present us with a similar case of improvement, and the prospect of having two booming kicks off half-back – albeit belonging to two very different types of players – was an interesting prospect for the bigger forwards working up the ground, as well as providing that extra option for the long kick at goal just beyond the arc. Brodie put that on show with a brilliant sausage in the first quarter.

That’s not to say Webster doesn’t have a huge kick, but the upside of his possessions is based more on precision and it felt as though he’d been missing a little in general of late. The pressure on the players to perform from an individual aspect given Richo talked up Billings’ and Webster’s prospects of coming straight into the team would surely give guys like Brodie and Sinclair a bit of jolt, right? RIGHT?

Well it seemed to work because Brodie was heavily involved in the first half, beyond his great goal. It came after a couple of Freo goals which had followed a blistering start that had us up 4.3 to 0.0 and some guy behind us having a ball constantly yelling all things anti-Ross (Lyon) and things vaguely based on “Owen 10/0 and 10” etc. I wouldn’t have gone there myself but the start really was entertaining, highlighted by Membrey and Paddy looking to pick up from last week’s performance. Membrey smartly found space on the lead and kicked the our third, whilst Paddy followed with number four from a brilliant one-handed finish on the way down from a marking contest.

The midfield wasn’t world beating but the pressure was up early, and even though Freo scored three of the last four goals of the quarter, including Walters frustratingly kicking one in the fi nal seconds, we still looked dangerous. Despite leading the possession count 118-79, some goalscoring opportunities were hurriedly missed or poorly thought-out under pressure which meant the 5.4 return from just 11 entries could have been far more devastating. It said a lot that most of the that possession count came from guys in the back half who were weathering Freo’s entries – Gilbert started well and equalled last week’s seven-possession full-game tally by the first break; Fisher was on his way to doing a solid job on Pavlich, Roberton was roaming around doing whatever it is he does and has 12 touches; Joey had his regulation sevens and Newnes (including a goal) and Savage had six apiece.

Even as Fremantle were closing in the second quarter Matt and I agreed that it was Brodie Murdoch who we felt safest with ball in hand. He looked composed with the ball and kept things moving without trying anything beyond his capabilities. The strange thing about the term was that we were only a goal or two away for much of it from really blowing open the game and getting the lead out to around the five-goal mark, but more wasted opportunities in front of goal and Freo’s pressure in the back half meant we crawled to half-time with 6.8 as Lachie Weller and Ed Langdon kicked a combined three goals in just over four minutes to have Freo within a point at the main break.

Freo were playing old-style Ross Lyon footy and it was working; I remember thinking in Round 4 of 2012 when Freo played the Saints at the Concrete Dome for the first time post-Ross exit how it was like watching St Kilda play St Kilda in Fremantle jumpers. I felt a little similar at times on Saturday, as Freo found patience and kept control of the ball in the back-half, waiting to pick apart the Saints at the right time and make their move forward. If they didn’t score directly from the entry it was a massive battle for the Saints to get it out of there and the longer it stayed in there the more the Dockers’ confidence grew in what they were doing, as well as the risk that the Saints would concede.

Some days you just think, this is not our day, and by equal measures others things happen where you think, this is their day. Lachie Neale talking a mark above his head at the edge of the goal square is a sure sign that things are working for Freo, but when Matt Taberner is pulling the old one-two and kicking goals on the run off-balance from 45 metres out for Freo’s tenth of the last 12 goals for the game to give them a three goal lead in third-quarter then surely, surely this was their day. We could only sit and watch and take it in; this was happening. In the shadows of three-quarter time we were headed for Sam Landsberger’s favourite day of his life.

Paddy’s quick thinking on the goal line to poach back a major just before three-quarter time – keep in mind Lachie Weller missed a snap shot less than a minute later – at the very least arrested the Dockers’ control and relieved the scoreboard pressure (easier to have that idea in hindsight). Thirteen points to claw back from the final change, and by then Barlow, Pearce, Neale and Hill had been dominating the midfield battle for essentially two quarters with Mayne busy across half-forward and there was no reason to think they’d be going anywhere. Their team defence was stifling any movement from the Saints out of the back half and it felt that it was rare and difficult opportunities like that presented to Paddy late in the quarter that needed to taken.

So somehow we kicked eight goals in the last quarter with charged home for a 34-point win. Where the hell do you start with that? I guess as per Richo’s post-match you see that forwards were isolated against their opponents one-on-one more often, rather than the bomb-and-hope mentality we were forced into in quarters two and three. This was owing to a huge last-quarter performance from David Armitage, who had 13 touches and got the midfield going along with Jack Steven and Seb Ross, who wasn’t as prolific as the week before but was still just as smart with the footy. Armo probably won’t be the elite mid we’d hoped he’d be 100% of the time but elite-grade quarters like that – not to mention the 17 tackles he had throughout the game – to go with Steven’s usual busy performance and the emergence of Seb Ross all of a sudden make the midfield bat a lot deeper. There’s still Nathan Freeman to come in potentially, and as I say every week I dare say we’ll be bringing in an elite mid via trade or free agency either this year or next.

My Favourite Hair in the AFL stepped up as well, finding the ball 10 times the length and breadth of the ground in the quarter and kicking 2.1 amidst it all. In another great performance playing across the ground, he ended up with 24 touches. He looks as fit as he’s ever been and again, it’s testament to his longevity, dedication and skill that he’s put himself in this position, one that benefits the team from his own presence across the ground whilst allowing the next gen forwards in Bruce, Paddy and Membrey game time, and importantly game time with each other to fast-track their development and cohesion.

Bruce finished with two after having fark-all to do with it for three-quarters; ironically his first goal out the back of Paddy’s one-on-one was one of the very few occasions in the game where one of our forwards was at the drop of the ball near goal, let alone actually do something. His run-in goal as a result smacked of the G-Train at his cheekiest, and he was able to charge to the right spot in space late in the game following Steven’s soccer of the ground to Paddy on his own, who lowered his eyes instead of blazing away and hit Bruce on the chest close to goal.

Paddy only finished with nine touches but again, many of those touches were quality. I’ve mentioned his mark in the first quarter and his creative second goal which would prove to be the first of the last nine goals of the match we’d kick. Not only did he hold his position in the contest, but he reacted immediately for the next move. In the final term he had a contested mark on the flank bemusingly disallowed for being touched, but under pressure from two Dockers he managed to fire out a handball which ended up with a goal. His lead and mark on the opposite flank as the team was surging was met with a huge reaction from the members’ wing, but he just overcooked the centreing kick. He made up for soon after, however, with his composure on the way to setting up Bruce. It was pleasing to say he had a genuinely positive impact on the game, and up against much more fancied opposition next week will be a great test for him. Really promising signs for another week though, but on top of it all I’ll always be terrified of Petracca.

It’s harder to underrate than overrate younger and more inexperienced guys but Tim Membrey came out of the grind and the whirlwind again as the team’s leading goalkicker on the day with three. He’s kicked 14.8 in five games since coming into the team this year, and, if you’re like Richo and would like to “park the West Coast game”, he’s kicked 14.6 in four games. Over all games since he came in Bruce has kicked 13 goals, Riewoldt eight and Paddy four. One thing which wasn’t so obvious on Saturday were his efforts in contests high up the ground, particularly with ball close to to the deck, and the number of times he was able to force it to a teammates’ advantage or get it out directly to a teammate. His 15 possessions, six marks, four tackles and 3.2 reflected another very decent all-round game.

It seems as though the tall forward triumvirate is the key way to go, with the small forward stocks going through a bit of a momentary shuffle. Gresham has grown with every game, which he showed with his run, bounce, rebalance and perfectly-weighted left-hand handball over traffic on the way to Weller putting the Saints in front (Roo naturally a key part of that chain higher up the ground). “Only” 13 possessions in his seventh game, but with seven tackles and the last goal of the match – from a rare genuine crumbing effort from a small forward – were the icing. Like Billings he’s very composed with the ball and is quickly learning to press up the ground effectively, and I’d to think this week his disposal effectiveness had picked up overall as well. With Billings to come back in, assuming his ankle is ok, you would think Sinclair would be the one to come out after failing to hit the scoreboard and picking up only nine forgettable touches (including zero in the final quarter – the siren sounded with the ball in his hands). Not sure if Webster comes in for Murdoch, who did quieten down in the second half. With Sandy not playing due to the state league representative games it’s difficult to get a gauge on the what the coaches might be thinking should the injury slate be clean come Thursday. Weller had had a few lean weeks but made some important contests as a lead-up forward when we made our move early, and again when we made our move late, kicking the goal that put us in front.

So, ultimately it was an incredible relief. The nausea and apathy battle, with a lot of parallels with the week before, simply gave way to a pleasant exhaustion.

It’s important to have some sort of empathy in this situation. Not particularly for Ross Lyon, but for Freo fans. Their club is only in its 22nd season but are shaping up to be the kind of club St Kilda was in the 20th Century (and, well, to the current day too. And including from establishment in 1873 to joining the VFL for the inaugural 1897 season. So uh, be the kind of club St Kilda is).

A couple of weeks ago in concluding my review of our thrashing by the Eagles’ I said now’s not the time to take anything for granted. But really, no time is. I remember how awful the 2011 season felt, particularly after the media found us easy targets in the off-season for the “Schoolgirl” “story” now that we weren’t a premiership team (again, compare this to the Hawthorn coverage in the trade period against the St Kilda bashing, and again this week with the Herald Sun’s difference in coverage to the Riewoldt “story” and Brad Hill being charged with assault. If you’re not winners you’re dispensed as roadkill, and whilst they haven’t had quite the same off-field dramas as we had, Freo and their fans are there right now. After three seasons of being a red-hot premiership chance, and perhaps four if you include the fact that they were 10-points away from playing off in a Preliminary Final in 2012, it’s an awful, awful time when your fingers slip, you lose grasp and you’re on the way down. That was us five years ago and it still hurts to think about. As fans there’s only so much you can do about it, but it’s a brutal competition and really, you can’t take anything for granted wherever you might be.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 10
David Armitage – 2
Tim Membrey – 2
Nick Riewoldt – 2
Jack Steven – 2
Sam Fisher – 1
Paddy McCartin – 1

Totals
Nick Riewoldt – 17
Jack Steven – 16
Seb Ross – 9
Leigh Montagna – 8
David Armitage – 7
Tim Membrey – 6
Jack Newnes – 6
Sam Fisher – 5
Tom Hickey – 5
Jack Billings – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Blake Acres – 3
Josh Bruce – 3
Paddy McCartin – 2
Shane Savage – 2
Sean Dempster – 1
Jade Gresham – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1
Mav Weller – 1

Still that thing you remember

2016 NAB Challenge, Game 2

The genuine, provable exceptionalism that applies to the St Kilda Football Club is one that has been mostly of its own making, but with more than enough added fire and brimstone from the footballing gods. Some footballing atheism does need apply here to keep a Saint sane (enough).

Some easy, recent examples: a goal umpire bemusingly calling a clear Tom Hawkins poster in the 2009 Grand Final a goal; the bounce of the ball from Lenny Hayes’ desperate forward foray one year later. Where we all need to focus here ultimately, are elsewhere – if we put our destiny back within our own autonomy and take the will of the gods out of it, then we needed to kick straight in that crucial second quarter of the 2009 final stanza as we made our move (not to mention the final quarter); in 2010 no matter where Lenny’s kick bounced – whether through for a goal via luck or Stephen Milne – there’s still time on the clock for anything to happen. Again, this is not to mention the ball bouncing the other way and Milne’s opponent running off with it with Collingwood one point up – just as likely as either the ball bouncing through for a goal, or the outcome that did transpire. And again, if we’d stayed in touch in the second quarter rather than let their lead blow out, the challenge that presented itself in the second half would have been significantly reduced.

But these are moments in history reserved for a different time of year. For conversations throughout the finals series, and more pointedly, Grand Final week when we become reflective and think about where the game has led us to on the eve of the pending season’s showdown. Right now, we’re still waking up from the off-season and getting used to thinking about on-field matters – new players, player and team development, interchange rotation changes, whatever it might be, rather than the arduous grabbing at fark-knows-what for stories and content in the hotter months.

However, this is the St Kilda Football Club we’re here to whinge about, and football atheist or not let’s take this to the modern-day pre-season, in which the weather’s played some weird games with us specifically in this decade in a specifically otherwise forgettable format of the game.

The Saints and Lions have met several times in the pre-season in the past ten pre-seasons inclusive (surely there’s a weird conspiracy there but that’s one for the actual authoritarians on this level). Three out of three played up north in that time took place in novelty football Queensland locations (the Gold Coast still qualified for this in 2009) in either the wet or ridiculous heat, and so it was probably only a matter of time (maybe some football atheism required here) in which scheduling a match in a near-tropical part of a climatically unstable (and growing more unstable) planet would result in tonight’s, uh, result: nothing, because there was way too much extreme weather.

The irony here is that the only way this game could have received less attention would be if it actually went ahead – 3.40pm on a Sunday in Mackay (local time) in early March technically doesn’t even exist in the VFL/AFL world, let alone as a black hole time-and-place in the season proper. As recent history would suggest, throw St Kilda into the mix though and the weather will follow. This, more specifically, is where the football gods would come into it and you can’t do much about it.

In 2010, when the competition was in its final year as a straight-up knockout competition, it was St Kilda and stranger-than-fiction bedfellows Fremantle who almost had their semi-final cancelled because a sudden storm damaged Corporate Stadium enough to at least postpone the match after thorough ground checks and the teams ran out and began the game in an empty stadium. Two years later, the pre-constant headline Bombers had their Cessnas (I guess?) turned back because of stormy weather, and the Saints (half of them in Murray Bushrangers jumpers) ended up playing a rain-soaked intra-club match.

Two years later (sensing any patterns?), the weather came along again just before ran out to play against the Bulldogs in Geelong for some reason; on this occasion the game actually went ahead and the heavy conditions gave us two Eli Templeton specials on which he still largely pins his reputation to.

And so, two years later, here we are again – definitely not wet, because we were nowhere near it – but matchless and with an extra two or so hours in our lives all of a sudden. Football gods or whatever your divine beliefs may be, wtf. The only takeaway here is that whether it’s after five months of waiting for the season or 50 years for a premiership (or 93 for those that were there from the start), no matter what we do this is still unmistakably the St Kilda Football Club.

Josh Bruce kicks six goals wtf

Round 2, 2015
Gold Coast Suns 3.5, 4.6, 5.13, 10.16 (76)
St Kilda 4.3, 12.5, 13.8, 16.8 (104)
Crowd: 13,694 at Metricon Stadium, Saturday, April 11th at 7.20pm

Well, as they say in the classics, “What the fuck?”

A look at the fixture through my own cynical eyes before the season had me working hard to find one win. Any four points, I thought, would only come with a freak occurrence such as last year’s Fremantle stunner, with us having a ridiculously good day and the opposition not just neglecting but point-blank refusing to turn up.

Commentators like 2018-2028 Premiership Co-Captain Jack Newnes advocate David King thought similar (although perhaps a bit more inclined towards saying outright we wouldn’t win a game), and to anyone who vehemently disagreed with that I’ll tell you now that you didn’t have this one pencilled in as a win.

Without that infinitely bemusing Fremantle win we would have been 357 days without a win going into last night’s match. Fortunately it did somehow happen so we vaguely remembered what a win may or may not feel like, and who better than the AFL’s original equivalent of the Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak? Ok, it being there makes things a little interesting, but it cost unnecessary money and we could have put some other stuff there in the first place anyway (not that there was anything inherently wrong with what we had anyway).

It was an RWB Saturday Night Out, i.e. Rich and I having a few drinks and then probably just going home. Indeed, I was in bed barely after 12 midnight, but we didn’t think we’d be sneaking in a couple of Hendricks and tonics and delicious Boul…uh, Beilfel…Boulfilf…and delicious whiskey to celebrate a very unexpected and very promising St Kilda win.

We parked ourselves in South Wharf in Docklands for some reason, mostly because not too many people are usually there. Shocklingly, there were a few people around, so we had to be a bit crafty finding a spot with a decent view of a TV as we waited for the Collingwood vs Adelaide and Super 15s coverage to end. The staff were pretty tardy changing the channels over so we found ourselves plonked into the game a few minutes in, but not before we saw Jack Newnes run down Jarrod Harbrow, and Harbrow had just danced around him and run off. The resulting chain saw My Favourite Hair in the AFL pushing up the ground (and wheeling around on his left to continue last week’s theme), and Saad cleverly mopping up the spilled ball and kicking his first goal since returning.

The passage punctuated a few things set to run through the night – first, the pressure around the ground was immense, and caused turnovers higher up the ground which allowed for more space for the forwards to use as the ball came back into attack. Roo pushing higher up the ground at various points allowed him to play the role that he made a name for himself with in 2004 and 2009 particularly, but importantly was allowed to happen because of a functioning forward line (which I’ll get to). Finally, Saad played some really good footy before he was subbed out – two goals as well as a lot of presence and pressure, and he was helped out by Sinclair and Lonie as other small guys buzzing around the forward line creating problems and hitting the scoreboard. That was especially pleasing given Schneider was the late withdrawal so wasn’t out there to guide them through things.

But the pressure was the biggest thing on the night. When you’ve got Dylan Roberton dumping Jack Martin and then applying really smart, strong pressure on Gary Jr when he’s near goal then things just might be going your way. It needed to happen because by the time Dunstan (who already acts and looks like a 29 year-old who’s played 200-plus games) soccered a goal from relatively long range, the Suns had shown through Bennell and Rischitelli that they didn’t need much to bring their talent to the fore.

The second quarter essentially felt like a re-run of last year’s Freo match, and I mean that in the sense that every time anything happened – whether it be as a result genuine hard work to pressure or by chance – it seemed to go our way. More specifically, Rich and I couldn’t touch our parmas without something good happening, and it shows just how far we’ve fallen that this felt so incredible. You’d think Roberton topping off his heavy physical work with a great running goal (yes, that is a thing that happened) would be enough, but no.

So essentially for the second week in a row, let’s get to it: Josh Bruce. Never mind last week’s 2.2 and possibly Mark of the Year; his six goals on Saturday night inched into him a little different territory, past Daniel Wulf and Wayne Thornborrow’s four goal cameos in their short careers. Is this Gordon Fode’s five against Essendon at Waverley in 1994 (which earned our RWB Twitter buddy his own mention and highlight on Heaven and Hell; or perhaps his 5.9 of 25.17 in a 71-point win over Geelong in 1993)? Daniel Healy’s six against the Eagles in the memorable win at Subiaco against West Coast that punctuated the seemingly Grand Final atoning-form for much of 1998? Is he a Jason Heatley-eque proposition, or even Gary Lofts, being a key guy in attack but only for a few seasons?

I think we’re still stuck in a bit of a haze here; I certainly am. I think the best part of Saturday night was that it wasn’t simply six goals as part of a team that completely monstered the opposition (Fode’s 5.9 came against a team that also had a pretty decent guy called Gary Ablett, who kicked 5.5 of a score that would have beaten Saturday night’s Saints). Whilst the second term bordered on “procession” (I really didn’t think I’d say anything like that before the season started), Bruce’s four goals for the quarter all came from tough contested marks and genuinely good positioning and body work. His second goal came shortly after his first, from a pack-busting mark which made the sarcastic nature of comparisons to Aaron Hamill (made by the likes of myself) seem childish and ill-informed (in my defence, at the time I did think I was entirely correct and could never be wrong). They were just about all taken close to goal; three of them within a few metres resulting in two back-to-back banana goals from the pocket in the second term that took him to four for the quarter.

Watching Josh Bruce is kind of funny because despite him playing two tough and very effective games of footy to open the season he still doesn’t come across as an impactful AFL key forward. He’s more like the guy at futsal who’s pretty cute and has on-trend hair and facial hair and you think he’ll be the stereotypical handsome and athletic combo, but he wears Converse shoes when he plays and his touch is bit slow. Even when Bruce celebrates he kind of looks like a non-sporting guy getting more excited than their probably under-conditioned muscles can quite take – see his double fist-pump following his sixth goal, his quite endearingly smothering embrace of Jack Sinclair after the match sealer, and his quite bashful double-fister-with-bicep-flex on the siren.

What does it mean for the team? I’ll take the infinitely easier hindsight path first considering I’m continually botching the predictions. It means, as I’ve already said, Roo can push up the ground and use his senior influence and decent field disposal knowing that there is still a legitimate target up forward. When Bennell somehow missed the late shot at goal to bring the Suns’ run to six goals and have them just 17 points down, Roo took it on himself to work off his opponent and take the first possession from the resulting kick out. Membrey also comes into this point here for a similar reason, because it was him on the forward 50 arc that provided the target from the resulting chain, and he controlled the ball which soon ended up in Sinclair’s hands for final goal.

Like last week, Membrey didn’t have a ton of the footy but his body work was pretty vital in a couple of contests. Unfortunately, last week he actually finished with two goals which didn’t flatter his output but certainly changed his exactly what his output. This week he kicked 0.3, including a howler running into goal in the third which in hindsight probably would have taken things too far that the Suns simply would have slapped a CBF over the overdeal and not bothered mustering any sort of comeback in the last term. However, he gives Bruce a chopout which means Roo can do his thing further up the ground without having to worry if Bruce is being double or triple-teamed.

That he wasn’t, and that these guys were able to fulfil these roles to such effect, again comes back to the pressure of the other guys further up the ground and how quickly and effectively they turned that into attack. Armo had probably his best game of his career with 36 touches, doing a lot of his typical hard inside work to get things going for us as well as going inside 50 a match-high seven times; Jack Steven had “only” 22 touches but 10 tackles, Luke Dunstan 22 and eight, and he would have a big role in the chain leading to the final goal of the match, and Weller all figured prominently in the tackle count. That the next few on the list were backmen – Roberton, Shenton, Geary, and Delaney showed the same attitude across the ground.

To go with the really great game by Chips in his 200th, I think we finally got to see what a genuine, raw performance from Luke Delaney looks like. We saw what he can do not when the side is getting smashed in the midfield and the backline is getting bombarded with clean disposal from higher up; but rather what he can do when it’s all about himself and his opponent in an even contest and he came out really well, managing to thwart a number of Gold Coast entries. His excellent spoil was the beginning of the chain that led to Bruce’s sixth.

Also coming off the backline – and a part of a number of big plays off half-back – was New Zealand Jumper Model Shane Savage. A cagey start last week with his disposal eventually gave way to an effective game in which he kicked two great goals, and this week he was only behind Armitage in the team’s disposal count

To complete the circle, that pressure (officially now word of the week) also trickled down to the smaller forwards. Sinclair was running to all the right spots in attack when he wasn’t roaming around the middle of the ground and out wide, and the composure that went into his first goal showed he had learnt immediately from his Dribble File material late in the GW$ game. It was great that his second goal was the last of the match (to go with his enthusiastic celebration), putting a firm exclamation mark on St Kilda’s game, rather than the game being more defined by simply the weathering of the expected storm. The second term chain of Lonie’s over-the-shoulder handball to Roo’s volley which fell to Saad showed just how switched on we were, and Roo’s left-foot mongrel that fell in Lonie’s arms for his first goal showed just how much it was our night. Even the rubbish was going our way, although special mention must go to Billy Longer for clearly dropping the ball from a short throw to him after he got a free kick.

I liked Lonie’s obvious emotional reactions after he was pinged for in the back after working really hard to pressure his opponent, and then soon after when he wasted a really clear chance at goal. In Lonie and Sinclair there are two quick, energetic young guys who have come right into the side and looked immediately looked at home. Give the recruiting we became used to, who would have thought?

Curren came into the side and didn’t get a heap of it, but he was able to just finish off some of the cleanest footy played by the Saints in a few years, with Mav and Newnes charging out of the centre. However, he was the one that delivered the long balls to the goal square from wide on the 50 metre arc to ultimately set up Bruce and Sinclair for two of the three final term goals.

Underrated I think was Saad’s contribution. He only played a half of footy but was one of the liveliest off the ball in the forward half and in that short time finished with 2.1 and three tackles. With no sound at [Docklands Bar] the way he was gingerly walking off had me worried he’d hurt his adductor or groin or one of the other body parts and that his body had already given in under the pressure of the return to AFL footy. “Fortunately” it was concussion, and I say that now because it doesn’t seem too bad at all and it’s not going to keep him out for weeks like a muscle tear would.

After half-time things were different. Whilst we had the benefit of Nathan Wright coming on, who did it all in the middle of the ground and across half-back with some tough efforts low down and in the air – Richo was reluctant to say in the post-match presser that we’d tired. I know a lot of the talk coming from the players has been that they backed themselves to run out the game, but there was a little drop in intensity and for the all the class of Prestia, Rischitelli and Swallow there was a Lynch or a May (who had been moved forward) to contribute to the 1.7 they kicked for the quarter. Whilst it was expected the Suns would lift at some point, this seemed as though the game had shifted inherently.

We still managed to get to three-quarter time with what was still a match-winning lead, but I remember taking a second to mull things over as Rich got us another couple of pints and thinking how lucky we were that it wasn’t worse. If anything, it showed just how little you need to step back before it comes around to hurt you. So when the Suns’ five-goal sequence found Harley Bennell tripped just 20 metres out from goal with a few minutes left, the threatening 17-margin that Bennell would surely close the gap to seemed very, very manageable for the Gold Coast.

And he missed. If anyone could have messed it up, it was the St Kilda Football Club. And for all of Josh Bruce kicking six goals, Armo’s best game in his ninth season, Dunstan, Savage, Roberton, et al stepping up, it’s not until Bennell misses a sitter and Jack Sinclair kicks his second goal and uppercuts the Gold Coast humidity around him that St Kilda in April 2015 will leave the ground with a victory. It was time for a Hendrick’s and whatever that whiskey was called or two, and then for myself a long phone call one the way home with Dad in the UK, talking about the St Kilda win we had just watched from opposite sides of the world.

Fittingly, it was Bruce working hard up the ground – all the way to centre wing – to have the ball in his hands when the siren sounded. Three years ago I finished my Round 2 review – also of a (much, much bigger) St Kilda win over the Suns – with “just take the win and enjoy it”. Following on from what happened last year, we have no idea when we’re next going to enjoy a win – so I hope you’ve enjoyed this win. There are more genuinely good signs coming from the youth coming through this time around, however. Sometimes you get the sense that things are slowly falling into place.

Well, that was weird

Round 18, 2014
St Kilda 4.3, 9.6, 15.14, 17.16 (118)
Fremantle 1.1, 3.2, 5.6, 9.6 (60)
Crowd: 16,594 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, 18th July at 4.40pm

We’d reached a point last week where you we genuinely looked like we wouldn’t win another game this year. And that was after 11 consecutive losses, with the general consensus being that next year will be just as difficult. We were at the point where you’re so far into the dark times you can neither look forward and will yourself towards the light, nor look back to the light coming from the good times in your past.

I was resigned to exhausting myself again by writing another draining review, in which we get completely broken down – by at least one of the opposition or ourselves – and talk about how the future is still essentially an ominous question mark. But instead I’ve been sitting here trying to soak in as much post-match coverage, replays, interviews and ill-advised forum posts as I can. Because St Kilda tore apart premiership fancy Fremantle by 58 points, and in the process became one of only two teams to have beaten a side 16 places above them on the ladder. The last time we were on the bottom of the ladder and beat the team in 2nd spot was in 1985 against the Bulldogs, and there were only 12 teams in the competition then.

Obviously the incredible thing about this win is…well, yes, it was incredible that St Kilda won in the first place, but the way they completely blanketed the Dockers and scored heavily themselves (reaching over 100 for the first time this year) was simply unbelievable, and more to the point, bemusing. This review isn’t going to take you through the epic ebbs and flows of the drama that was St Kilda’s first win in three months (to the day). I thought that if/when it ever came, it would be against the odds and take everything to barely get over the line. But this one just took off and get going. Stuff just kept happening.

Corporate Stadium can be  a putrid game to watch the footy, and this was the least popular match in a round in which the fixturing had already pleased no one. One of only two games or not, the 4.40pm time slot is arguably more of a black hole than any other – lost between Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, when people are in transition, heading out, eating dinner, or taking a disco nap. On top of this particular Saturday being particularly bleak, having the Concrete Monolith roof closed anywhere near daylight hours – or ever, really – makes for a woefully sterile atmosphere in low drawing games. There’s no charm aesthetically to the place; there’s no history behind it. It’s just a lot of overpriced, grey seats and the Medallion Club, which thinks it’s the MCC and whose staff try to match their counterparts for tightarsery. The Perth Stadium plans this week revealed intentions for a 60,000-seater, with the potential to expand that to 80,000. That is what Etihad Stadium well and truly should have been in the first place. Too small for anyone to be enthusiastic about it for bigger or finals matches; too small to be an inclusive stadium in which it’s easy to get a decent seat for those bigger games. That’s before we get to the stadium deals forced upon the clubs. And that’s the only option the AFL gave us as a stage for this game in Melbourne away from the MCG, to be shared by 10 Victorian clubs.

Easier to say all this when just about every home game you go to now as a Saints supporter is mostly empty. When it’s going off it can be a cauldron, but this is St Kilda in a post-2009/10 Grand Finals world. Aside from myself, Freo supporters on the route 55 tram into the ground outnumbered St Kilda supporters 1-0. I’ve said before that obviously Brunswick West and Royal Park aren’t St Kilda heartland, but you realise there are problems when the Dockers more of a presence there (or anywhere here, really). There was more purple around Spencer Street and Bourke Street too in the lead up to the game, and I was starting to really get worried. Perhaps that 2001 record for our lowest home crowd there was really under threat. Having somehow cleared that against the Gold Coast, with the expected result against a state’s second side and in the dud time slot I thought the next challenge to that would be the Dockers. (Fun fact: Fremantle logos registered with IP Australia during the formation of the club include Fremantle Dolphins, Fremantle Courage (?) and Fremantle Hammer (??))

The wonderful goodwill generated by Lenny’s retirement I thought might have dragged a few more of our 30,000 members to the game, but it seems like it took dodgy ground management to save us from our own worst turnout, declaring a dubious total of 16,594. The Lenny wave instead rocketed the team itself to ridiculous heights that no one saw coming, and gave us a timely reminder of what it feels like to have anticipation and momentum throughout a game of footy.

Because unlike the last time we won, which was literally billions of years ago, this match didn’t need be rescued before we could even think about taking home the four points. In fact, when was the last time a game wasn’t in a perilous position early? How familiar the feeling of the game being over so soon has become, with for so many weeks the quarter time siren as good as the final siren.

The sign of intent that the side was switched on from the start was embodied in Dempster dropping back into the oncoming Pavlich tractor and getting knocked out. He was out before he hit the ground, and for those of us who didn’t get a clear view of the actual contact (I certainly didn’t and it happened near where I was sitting, so I assume that goes for just about everyone) it was a nervous few moments as he remained without movement. As it was mentioned post-match, his effort was spoken about in the quarter time huddle as an example of the what was expected and required of the players if they wanted to continue on with the work.

Whilst Dempster was down, the play had gone on and My Favourite Hair in the AFL had taken a mark before things were halted. It took more than five minutes for Dempster to be looked at properly and taken from the field but everyone managed to remember what had happened and Roo resumed his place and kicked the goal.

Good start, aside from the fact we’d lost one of the cornerstones of the defence (regardless of what you think of that fact). And I mean “good start” in the sense that we’d kicked the first goal. Cool. We did that against the Cats, remember.

The crowd got a sniff of the intent of side over the next few minutes, with the side in turn getting a sniff that Freo might have been a little complacent. Lenny’s tackles in defence brought the crowd into it, and then Billings hunted down Sutcliffe on half-forward in front of the members but Leigh Fisher was giving his old side donuts and didn’t pay anything. Armo earned a free kick with his own tackle soon after, and his give off saw Newnes bullet a pass to Murdoch on the 50-metre arc.

Murdoch kicked the goal with a really nice long shot. I like him playing in the front half because he’s got a solid body and a good set of hands, and he has a huge kick on him. Those qualities mean he’s more dangerous as a scoring threat across more of the attacking area, with I think three of his four shots from long range. He finished with 1.3 but together with 11 touches and six marks the numbers aren’t bad for a kid playing his 13th game. If he can hit the scoreboard that often it would go a huge way to fleshing out the versatility in his game. (I just hope this isn’t another kid who’s constantly gonna tighten up in front of goal.)

Dunstan was next, again rewarded for a good tackle and again kicking the goal from a decent range. He actually kicked both of his goals from a good distance, one set shot and one on the run at the peak of the third quarter onslaught. I don’t think we think of him of him as the guy who’s going to kick long, but rather the inside mid who might kick 40 at best on the rare occasion they’re called on to get some decent distance. Probably his only real knock at draft time was his kicking, so the way he scored the two goals were a pleasant surprise. He finished with 26 touches, too, following a period in which his output had dipped a little (he hadn’t had 20+ touches since the Port game in Round 12). It was a timely reminder of what he’s already capable of.

In fact, Richo’s on his bandwagon too (who isn’t?), having to stop himself from saying outright this morning on SEN that Luke would be captain of the club at some point in the future. Jack Newnes didn’t do any harm to his own prospects of being 2018-2022 Premiership Captain, with 25 touches off half-back and across the wing and eight tackles, but Richo obviously has his money on Dunstan being the man. I’d still be keen on the co-captaincy and for the next potentially successful era to forever come under the banner of the “Newnes-Dunstan Era”. So I think the wider consensus is we’ve got Dunstan, then Newnes, with Armitage not far behind. Geary is the smokey, unless he ends up at the Cats. I never, ever, ever thought I would say that sentence.

Speaking of bandwagons, how about the BIG RHYS BANDWAGON? A few weeks ago it had broken down and some were questioning why the trade-in to Port wasn’t taken up at the end of last year. If anything it’s broken down now because it’s under the weight of all 16,000 at the ground and anyone watching at home trying to grab a seat. I’ve unashamedly been on his bandwagon since I watched him win the 2009 Grand Final Sprint, although I can at least say that, like many Saints supporters and unlike just about everyone outside of the club, I actually followed him closely instead of just reading up on that solitary dot point on his CV.

So it was brilliant to see him kicking his goals from his shots, but more importantly knowing exactly where to work to across half-forward. It’s clearly, clearly the best way use him, allowing him to use his pace and reach to run off his opponent get a set of clear hands to the footy. As I said with Murdoch – but it’s much more important to the side in Rhys’s case – his ability to find that space and mark across half-forward and kick well over 50 metres (and accurately, as he did on Saturday) means he’s a scoreboard threat in more parts of the forward line.

And again, as it proved a fortnight ago against Carlton, when Roo was freed to move higher up the ground it meant the side had arguably their best field kicker distributing the ball and allowed Rhys to take responsibility in being the focal point, as well as other players being able to move into dangerous positions, rather than being terrified of treading into the path of My Favourite Hair. The best example of this came shortly after quarter time, when Roo led wide outside of the arc and took the mark. He waited patiently for an option to open up, and I dare say if it was someone else with the footy they would have quickly tried plonking it on top of his sensational hair with two other guys next to him. But Roo waited, and if you watch the replay you’ll see Rhys standing just off his man and subtly pointing to the small space he’s about to run to. Just as Sir Robert and Lenny had done so many times for him, Roo placed a short pass perfectly into Rhys’s path and Rhys finished it off nicely.

It was brilliant to see the Favourite Hair-Bandwagon set up finally working in a meaningful way. Oh yeah, and Roo had 30 touches and kicked four goals. Cheers.

I’m not ready to call it that Rhys has “arrived”, but 14 marks, 19 touches and three goals (all in the first half) was a great return. His third goal, from the fifty metre penalty in the shadow of half-time to put us up by 40 points was a rocket and well and truly stamped his impact on the game when it was there to be taken by the proverbial.

It was also that goal that sealed the surrealism of the situation. For the first half, anyway – by that time I was absolutely shitting myself because the crowd was so up and about and the margin big enough for people to be feeling great about things, but still not enough that Freo couldn’t reign it in in the second half. One of the tough things about the plummet to the bottom of the ladder is knowing that just about no lead is safe.

I’d been sitting in my seats in Aisle 33 on my own for the first half, sharing observations and cynical feelings about St Kilda’s prospects for the rest of the game with the woman a couple of seats down from my brother’s and mine. “They must be letting us win,” she said wryly, between our glances of “How is this happening?”. Something had to be up. We were leading by 40 points at half-time, and the idea that Ross had told them to sit back a little seemed more likely than us genuinely outplaying and out-willing a Fremantle side looking to win their ninth in a row and shore up a place in the top two.

I joined Rich for a beer at the Locker Room at half-time, which turned into out vantage point for the third quarter onslaught. And that was our onslaught, by the way – not the expected Fremantle comeback. I hadn’t been that nervous at a game as I was at half-time for a long, long while. I needed that (next) drink desperately (I’d already had one or two at my seats but, you know, I needed heaps more). Was this going to be this generation’s Round 9, 2000 loss to the Bulldogs, when the winless side gave up a 31-point lead at the final change and left Max Hudghton in tears? I remember as an almost-12-year-old watching on TV with my Dad and brother, and going to bed just before quarter time because I was too nervous, only to wake up the next day, go outside and fetch The Age, and see in disbelief (and then through my own tears) the brief on the front page bearing the crushing news. Or perhaps its Round 5, 2002 match against the Swans? I still remember Dee Dee (Dunleavy, as in Grubby & Dee Dee), who we sat behind in the members on Level 2 for several years, saying at three-quarter time to her family, “I’d hate to think what would happen if we lost”. We watched as the young side faltered and relinquished the lead late, only to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. Those games were part of a lowly era in which we couldn’t be sure that the players would see out any lead, nor keep calm when challenged and guide things home safely.

And so it was that I expected a nerve wracking second half. Even if we held on, surely it would be just that, and if not, well…

But Armo quickly snapped a goal from an angle close to where he kicked his third term goal against the Demons in the opening round. Out to 46 points. Surely not? Pav with the quick reply brought things back to earth at least a little, before Jack Billings fumbled in the pocket but his quick thinking saw the ball end up with Roo in the goal square for another.

That Pav goal was the last of us staying tethered to our status as wooden spoon heirs for the afternoon. What happened through the remainder of the term will almost certainly remain the highlight of a lean season; ideally one we can look back on, however, and say that it went a long way to making this club a power again. For now, that’s a long way off.

We saw the absolute best of this season compacted into this quarter. Throughout this game, too, but this is where it took off. Indeed, we can almost boast the embarrassing riches of being able to say “we should have won by more” with a tinge of lament in our tone; 6.8 for the quarter with many of those shots very gettable.

It was interesting that a few guys (namely Lenny, Richo and Armo on The Sunday Footy Show) mentioned that the previous week had seen a few decent signs. Look, if I’m honest, wouldn’t have thought so. You wouldn’t to with a quick look at the score – had Armo missed that shot at goal with 90 seconds we would have been at 2.16, which would have had us pacing another effort from the wooden spoon year of 1985 – 2.17 against Carlton in Round 2 in 140-point loss at Moorabbin. Not to mention North had kicked 13.14 themselves, and had the game sewn up at the first change.

The willingness to compete and hunt in numbers was what ultimately separated the teams. Ours certainly isn’t blessed to too much skill, but it went above and beyond in being first at the ball when it was in dispute and spreading hard into space when we had the ball. Without Sandi the Freo midfield were furthermore on the back foot, and even without Jack Steven ours still dominated from the centre and across the ground. Dunstan, Lenny, Joey and Armo all racked up big numbers, with Lenny and Armo finIshing with 17 tackles between them. Mav Weller had six tackles and made an impact up forward, setting up Joey for his snap goal in the third quarter with a deft handball back over his head out of traffic.

Probably a strange thing to note, but should that third quarter burst go down as the peak of this season, then Farren Ray’s two goals within 30 seconds play are the summit. The high, curling ball was followed by a quick break out of the middle, with the chain featuring Mav and Sav, and a snap from the left pocket. Faz has returned to some of his better form at times throughout this season, and he did it in just about every part of the ground on Saturday. Amazing how he seems to slip under everybody’s radar; I think he might be worth more around the club than we give him credit for.

I mentioned Sav in there; he actually finished the game with the equal most disposals, alongside My Favourite Hair. Again, a revelation that came out of the wash-up, but Richo and Armo spoke about Sav getting a dressing down from the group and how he’d taken it on himself since then to get himself right. It also helped that Richo started him further back, allowing him to be get his hands on the footy and use his run and long kicking to set things up from there, not to mention to push up and supply the forwards also (see Faz’s second goal where he’s received the ball charging off half-back just forward of centre). Things will change at the other end I’m sure, but right now – even with Acres having an injury-interrupted season – the McEvoy trade is paying off.

Which brings us to the ruck situation (at least for the purposes of the flow of this review). Longer enjoyed the closest to free reign at stoppages we’ve seen a St Kilda ruckman enjoy for several years. I’m somewhere in between with Longer and Hickey playing in the same team. They certainly couldn’t now, as neither as probably quite developed enough just yet across the ground. Interestingly, it’s the third forward that for the time being is so important. Is Bruce, for instance, effective enough that Billy can drop forward whilst Rhys gives him a chop-out, and the forward line can still function effectively? Whether or not Billy and Hickey can provide a decent target up forward, or at least have a presence around the ground, it will effect the forward set up also. We won’t know for a while though due to Hickey’s injury. Or injuries, rather. I must say I’m just starting to get a little worried about that.

I quite liked Bruce up forward. Hair-wise, it’s a great complement to Roo. As Richo said, he didn’t get huge numbers but simply his presence (particularly the third quarter) was enough to worry Fremantle, as well as allow for more space to Roo and Rhys. Hopefully he can develop his own influence on the scoreboard.

I think special mention needs to go to Sam Fisher also. He said on the club website that he would play for another two or three years if the body could hold up for him, and if he could maintain the kind of impact he had on Saturday. He’s a very necessary calm influence on a side that is still going to get a lot of pressure coming the wrong way for a while yet.

But yes, it’s easy to get carried away with a performance like that. Everyone played well, really. It was a great day at the footy for a St Kilda supporter. It was three months to the day since that Saturday night in April when the Saints stormed over the top of the Bombers in the second half to put at three wins from the first five games. At the time, facing a winless Brisbane outfit the following Friday, it felt like we might already be on our way back up. That we might have avoided the cliff that everyone told us we were heading for.

Well six days later we certainly found that cliff. Instead of 4-2, we’re now 4-13 and 18th. I really don’t know how much closer we are to being on our way back because of Saturday. We certainly shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves over this one. Freak occurrence? Sign of things to come? Lenny-inspired effort? I think it’s all of those things, but I don’t know how much of each. So for now, just enjoy Rhys running around grabbing everything and kicking goals. Enjoy Dunstan willing himself at contests. Enjoy Newnes setting things up and looking to put on another tackle. More than anything, enjoy Lenny, because he won’t be there much longer. Fuck it, just enjoy it.

St Kilda 118, Fremantle 60

I’m serious. As in…it actually happened.

Review will be up on Tuesday.