Jackson Ferguson Posts

Same old jokes since 1873

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow, maybe necessary faffin’

Round 10, 2013
North Melbourne 9.7, 13.10, 17.14, 19.19 (133)
St Kilda 1.0, 4.3, 9.3, 10.5 (65)
Crowd: 25,658 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, June 2nd at 4.40pm

I’ve said several times on this thing that as excited as we get about watching the kids play, there will be good weeks and bad weeks – that’s just the territory that comes with inexperience. This is a bad week.

Three weeks ago we were all riding high on the back of a great win and what is possibly my favourite St Kilda jumper of all time. The kids had all shown something; three weeks later we’re all worried about the club and its direction.

I’m not going to panic just yet – what are you expecting? A lot of those kids have played barely 20 or 30 games each (several a whole lot less) and whether you like it or not, the senior guys largely aren’t what they used to be. This happens sometimes – not all the time; look at Geelong – but we’re going to have to take this hit.

Either way, it doesn’t make days like yesterday any less deflating. Fortunately my hangover was gone by the time I rocked up at Corporate Stadium yesterday, because it was only further downhill from there.

Bookies had suspended betting on Swat’s Late Withdrawal Lotto after whispers were floating around that My Favourite Hair in the AFL wouldn’t quite get up after getting smacked in the head late last week.

The last time Roo got knocked out against the Dogs, the next week we played in a Grand Final in front of over 100,000 at the MCG. This time, we played in front of 18 people on a Sunday at 4.40pm at Corporate Stadium. It wasn’t quite the same.

By the time my train had arrived at Southern Cross (has it become the accepted common name for that station yet? I still feel like I’m giving into Commonwealth Games feel-good hype when I call it “Southern Cross”) the Hawks were cruising against the Dees, up 52 to 3. I wasn’t happy to see that scoreline for Melbourne’s sake, but it did cross my mind that unless something really weird happened – like a first quarter blowout featuring 16 scoring shots to one – then St Kilda should avoid the worst of media attention for the week.

I’m not sure how much that kind of thing would do for the side against the Eagles next Sunday, but we’re sitting here now on the receiving end of two losses to teams who endured a week of media scrutiny respectively in the lead up to playing the Saints. As it turned out, there was indeed a first quarter blowout featuring 16 scoring shots to two, but the Dees will probably be the centre of attention anyway. Iif Neeld sticks around for another huge loss then it might all be on them yet again in the lead up to Round 13 against you know who (but that’s if Neeld hasn’t been sacked by the time you read this post).

A call from Lewis (of the magnificently-named band Footy) sitting up on Level 3 changed my plans for a solitary outing in the standing room behind the cheer squad, but I feel like I’d barely said “Hey, how’s it going?” once I’d got up there that North had the blown the game open.

Typically, it was the big guys in Black and Petrie that were giving our defenders grief. Four goals in eight minutes – one for every St Kilda supporter at the ground – had effectively ended the game.

I was anticipating that if it was a blowout, and If it wasn’t Boomer’s and Wells’ milestone games then the first quarter would really have turned the atmosphere vacuum to “high”. But that’s probably a little unfair on North, though – their intent from the start absolutely monstered St Kilda and North fans were right to be up and about. They moved and ran and made space for each other, they dominated the clearances, they chased and harassed.

Jack Steven had his handball smothered, Gwilt chimed in with a few rubbish kicks (not sure if it was perceived pressure or evident rubbish), Dempster did some weird fumble and turnover thing on the goal line and from the resulting kickout, and then there was the Ferg Burger who had a nightmare debut. Fortunately, the sub rule exists now, and he was able to have had it all over and done with by half-time.

He equalled the highest official player number worn by a Saints in the past 20 years, sharing the title with Luke Miles of 45. Dale Kickett wore 52 in 1992, just two years after Dermot McNicholl equalled the club record of 60. Nicky Winmar leads the Open Competition, however, both in the All-Time and Post-Sheldon categories, wearing 60 after his jumper was ripped in the 1991 Elimination Final and wearing 50 in Round 16, 1997 after getting blood on his number 7.

To start things off on what what should have been his special, record-equalling day, he was positioned in a backline that was getting bombarded, and his opponent Black was playing the near-weekly role of tall, very effective opposition forward target. The Ferg Burger finished the game with exactly zero kicks and three handballs and a chart-topping four free-kicks against. I must say, in the second quarter he handsomely spun out of a tackle and then calmly waited for the handball option, but his highlights reel began and ended there. Does he get another game next week? The Eagles have Darling, Kennedy, Big Cox and Nic Nat going through their forward line. This might prove to be a baptism of Zac Dawson proportions (but Zac did turn out alright).

The only time the Saints showed some sort of intent in the first quarter was when Lindsay Thomas took a customary dive in the goal square and there was a following bit of push and shove. That’s fine, but Lindsay could have enjoyed as many dives as wanted, because the ball sailed over his head off Black’s boot to put the Roos up 55 to 6.

Things just got worse as the quarter went. Swallow somehow found himself all on his own on the wing, the Ferg Burger gave away a free kick 50 metres ahead of play in North’s forward line, and the kicks count read 92 to 38. If North had kicked straight – they were 9.7 at quarter-time, and finished with 19.19 – the margin could easily have blown past Melbourne’s across town.

The Saints really did feel like fodder for North’s big day. The Roos had boldly decked out the players’ race in blue and white stripes, which again got me thinking about how the co-tenants in Essendon and the Bulldogs really do something with the ground that makes it feel like their home game, and have been doing so for a few years now. In this instance, the Saints really felt like visitors at their own home, and the club certainly doesn’t do anything to make it feel like “ours” on game day.

One thing I noticed in the first break was that Corporate Stadium has finally replaced the rather superfluous TVs hanging from the roof and looking over the third level. I can remember the last time I was up there they were still whatever would have been the latest in pre-Millennial technology – a large box with a rounded a screen – but now they have the thin flat-screen TVs for everyone to take no notice of. If anything, I can imagine them getting in the way of some people trying to see the big screens – you know, the ones you can actually see stuff on.

The remaining three quarters drawled somewhere between North taking their foot off a little and the Saints improving marginally. A little disconcertingly, in Swat’s press conference he said he’d told them to get back to basics and start to focus on simply beating their opponent, which were the same kinds of terms Channel 7 were talking about Melbourne in before their game yesterday. We’re not nearly in their stage yet, but right now we’re sitting in the bottom bracket of the ladder with them.

Indeed, it looked like things were really going to get worse early in the second – a great snap goal by Mullett opened things after the ball dribbled through Dal’s legs, and Hickey took his eyes off the ball in the forward pocket and opted to take on the defender with his face instead, and gave away a free kick.

But there were a couple of signs that things had straightened up a bit. Whereas the movement was lacklustre both with and without the ball in the first quarter, guys like Steven, Geary, Ross and Roberton really tried to get things moving. It didn’t always pay off, and sometimes they didn’t even go about it the right way – Armo blazed away to a two-on-three off half-back, and we could hear in Aisle 34 on Level 3 a couple of his teammates deriding him for not dishing off a quick handball to them in close.

Still, Boomer kicked a trademark long-run-and-goal and it was always going to be North’s day. Unfortunately he kicked four goals, which meant we all had be subjected to the ridiculous “Here Comes the Boom” clip on the screens and over the speakers. Fortunately he kicked four behinds, each of which could have been another episode of “Here Comes the Boom”.

I went downstairs to get a coffee at half-time, and as I made my way down and stood in the queue I felt some sort of surprise every time I saw a St Kilda fan. What were they still doing there? I could barely pick two or three at the beginning of the game, let alone by the end of the first quarter when it was 9.7 to 1.1.

To win from there would have made it the second-largest comeback in history, ironically sandwiched between Essendon knocking off North from 69 points down in 2001 and the Saints getting overrun by the Hawks in 1999 after leading by 63. I looked around the coffee stand queue at the North fans. Surely there would be some rubbish jokes when the Saints squeaked a goal in the second-half about a comeback being on. I thought about how I’d feel if it actually eventuated. I feel like I’m an empathetic person, but I have a tendency to judge my sympathy for anyone by how many premierships they’d seen in their lifetime. They’d be fine, I thought: most of them could just go home and throw on the 1996 and 1999 Grand Finals and Season Highlights DVDs if anything strange happened.

But what about if something perfectly normal happened, and the Saints descended further into rebuilding mode? What do other supporters think about St Kilda supporters? They probably don’t care, and most of them would probably enjoy it, and make a rapist joke about the Tip Rat.

So even my daydreams were getting me down, but it’s hard to sincerely be looking forward to anything right now when real improvement and the next genuine flag tilt are some vague amount of years away in the future.

The second half did throw in a couple of positives, but obviously happened only when the game was well and truly in junk time, i.e. any point from eight minutes into the first quarter.

Jimmy Webster kicked his first ever goal, and it was a really lovely, long left-foot set shot kick from outside 50. Like his debut, The Neck came on as the sub and racked up a reasonable amount of disposals considering the time he spent on the ground.

Joey ept fighting through in his 200th and Roo put in another leading performance on a day in which he didn’t too much of a crack at things.

Then there was BIG RHYS BANDWAGON traveling up the ground for a stint in attack, and he kicked two nice long goals from marks. He missed a shot or two as well, but he looked far more purposeful with the ball and when the play was elsewhere. It’s only a half of football, but tonight might have been the first step towards him becoming 2013’s “Barry Hall Project”,

There just might be space for the Bandwagon to find camp up forward again. My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs was really quiet and might be dropped, Maister only holds a certain percentage of marks no matter what difficulty they are, and Tom Lee has only just come back from injury. Lee was named in the best on Saturday, but that was in a Sandy loss in which the score was very similar to last night’s so read into that what you will. Maybe the Ferg Burger has another go to shore up the backline numbers, which means Rhys is free to a good forward home (much like his friends at Pugs SOS).

Did anyone else realise Ahmed Saad was playing? Like the Ferg Burger, he finished with donut kicks and three handballs, but Saad played a full match and he wasn’t making his debut. He and Milera haven’t quite been there this year after promising debut seasons, and TDL has kicked 18 goals in five games for Sandy now after kicking four out of the Zebs’ eight yesterday. TDL wasn’t entirely convincing himself when called up for the senior side, and I’m sure playing for Sandy beats having to play in front of an amateur cameraman and whoever’s doing the scoreboard in the NEAFL against Mt Gravatt, but I think it’s time he got another chance at senior level. Hopefully he gets more than one week at finding a place in the side, unlike Terry who was out of the side as soon as he was back in.

The Tip Rat was pretty quiet up forward too. His first kick was rubbish and he followed that up immediately with soft effort of hacking the ball out of the air instead of getting low and getting it out, but he eventually fed it to Jack Steven who kicked quite a nice solo effort goal. Milne pushed up the ground a little and finished with 10 kicks in a side that didn’t get too many, but only kicked the one goal and laid one tackle.

Lewis and I were talking about the older guys at one point, Milne and Dal in particular. I think it’s easy to underestimate Dal’s work rate because of the way he physically moves – it’s pretty cruisey and it doesn’t look like he’s working too hard. He actually finished with 25 touches and I must say I was guilty of thinking he’d done a lot less, but as for Milne I’m not sure how much longer simply being a “senior guy” with a good record alone can keep him out on the park. When we – but more importantly, the coaches – talk about the need for senior guys out there to teach the kids, that’s a loaded term to use. It implies that these guys are going to really lead by example, by actions that back up the words of the club’s on- and off-field leaders. That hasn’t happened consistently with the Tip Rat this year. Everyone has always talked him up as a great clubman, but people talk in similar terms of Kosi and he doesn’t need to be out there to be passing something on to the younger guys.

The bottom line is this is probably the new normal. Guys like Ross, Newnes, Wright, Webster, Hickey, Siposs, Big Rhys and so on are going to keep getting games. That’s fine by me, because for as bad as yesterday was it’s another game of experience for them. Some of them showed genuinely good signs as well through the muck – Newnes put on a really nice tackle early and then gave Scott Thompson more than he deserved when Thompson went fishing for a 50 metre penalty. It was late in the game but Jack still gave it to him – those and Roo’s hard work and tackle in the second quarter were the only really memorable demonstrations of intent all night. It also did Jack’s chances of being 2017 (or ‘18/’19) Premiership Captain no harm.

The ruck was an issue again last night. Goldstein finished with just under 50 hitouts, a week after Minson pantsed Big Ben and Big Tom Hickey with 57. Big Tom also didn’t look too solid when he went up forward, dropping one or two he really should have taken, but he’s still very, very raw. The fact that we used a compensation pick 13 for Brendon Goddard on him is always going to be in the back of our minds no matter what he does, but I think he’s one we’re going to have to be patient with. As for Big Ben, just like the team he’s gone missing since the Carlton win, and he himself was a number 9 pick so you’d hope he starts stringing those good games together soon.

I hung around for Boomer and Wells to be carried off the ground, and then managed to snag a Sunbury train home as soon as I got to the station. Having grown up on the Frankston line I still find it strange catching public transport on non pro-St Kilda routes. On the way back to my temporary RWB Headquarters in Seddon I inexplicably missed Middle Footscray station and had to get off at West Footscray; fortunately they’re needlessly close to each other and it was only a short walk. I could think about some boring parallel between that and St Kilda missing the station/missing the bus/whatever, but this was just one of those nights in which there aren’t too many things to get excited about, and chances are there are plenty more of those to come. You get that.

Reaching new heights, in the novelty sense only

I think what we’re all looking forward to more than anything else this Sunday is Jackson Ferguson joining Luke Miles as the player to have worn the highest official number for St Kilda in over two decades.

That number is 45, which Miles wore for a couple of games at the end of the 2010 home-and-away season. Being a mature-age recruit and after a pretty good season at Sandy, some of might have thought he might have been getting ready for a finals tilt. Alas, he was demoted to Grand Final Sprint Club Representative, and just like the Saints went back-to-back(-to-back; even the Ferg Burger and Miles have a draw in this one) in unsuccessful Grand Final attempts, he took them to back-to-back victories in the little novelty event at half-time that barely anyone remembers. That’s not true, actually: everyone remembers BIG RHYS BANDWAGON winning the 2009 Grand Final sprint, because that’s what was responsible for so much of his hype in the following years. I think we’ve cooled our jets since we realised he’s going to need to time to develop like every other younger guy; for now he needs to get more attention more having a pug and his work with Pugs SOS.

The highest number that my Twitter pals (you know who you are) and I could find worn by a St Kilda player officially in a senior match was 60, worn by Robert Mace in 1982 for 13 games, for three games by Dermot McNicholl in 1990 and, in the Open competition, by Nicky Winmar as a replacement for his usual 7 in the 1991 Elimination Final against the Cats.

EDIT: My RWB co-guy Richie Lee has just brought to my attention Dale Kickett wore 52 as his full-time number in 21 games with the Saints in 1992, somewhere in between playing for 12 other clubs. It makes him the last St Kilda player (unless someone can correct me here) to have worn a 50+ number as their official number.

Winmar leads the Open competition in the post-Sheldon era (the past 20 years) too, wearing 50 in Round 16, 1997 against the Hawks after getting blood on his jumper. Of no-one’s interest, that day the Saints kicked their equal-highest score for a year in which they finished on top of the ladder and made the Grand Final. However, they took the long way around, kicking 20.21 (141) to match Round 9’s 22.9 (141), with Jason Heatley kicking 4.8 on an incredibly windy day, even by Waverley’s standards.

Special mention must go to Lazar Vidovic, who wore 58 in 1989 for one match and 50 in 1990, but I think the real winner here is Robert Mace. Not only did he win lead the Official competition – that is, like McNicholl 60 was his actual number – but he wore it for more games than anyone else and he wore it in this font (only Port Adelaide in 1997 have come close to have something so stylised, and so quickly outdated).

The Ferg Burger comes in fresh from promotion to the senior list. He’s been really impressive off half-back for Sandy for a couple of years now, having joined the Saints as a NSW Scholarship holder. The questionable thing, however, is that we already have a lot of medium-tall running defenders, or at least the idea of promoting the ever-busy Tom Curren would make more sense to let him have a crack at winning the contested ball. Armo’s back in and Lenny’s back out, but Wright back in with CJ out seems reasonable enough, with Big Beau the other out.

It also reunites the Hardarse Triumvirate of Wright, Newnes and The Only Ross at St Kilda, with the latter two some rare shining lights over a couple of dud weeks. Ridiculous fade-outs or not, I’m not going to the game as one of those overly optimistic fans who think we’re going to knock off the Roos. That doesn’t make me stupid or a bad supporter, by the way, regardless of the result – basic numbers and form (yes, taking those fade-outs into account) say North should be too strong in this one.

What I am looking forward to seeing is Wright, Newnes and Ross attempting back up their good form that they’ve carried through their last few respective games, and Wright’s attack on the footy in particular. I’m hoping Jimmy Webster can get a full game, and of course that the The Ferg Burger shows something.

Bemusingly, North dropped Hype Machine of 2013 Majak Daw. I say “bemusingly” because the Saints have had a rubbish record against tall, athletic forwards through Swat’s reign, and, as I brushed on before, even having BIG RHYS BANDWAGON in defence hasn’t been able to entirely remedy that. Throw Petrie in the mix too and it should be a recipe for disaster, but they’ve got Aaron Black in anyway so if the midfield is custard again look out for him to really announce himself.

Big Ben and Big Tom Hickey will really want to step up this week after getting pantsed by Big Will Minson last week, but they’ll have Big Todd Goldstein as Opponent #1 and if they’re only as good as their last couple that will be enough for Swallow, Bastinac, Boomer and co. to run riot and deliver that bag Aaron Black.

It’s also Joey’s 200th. Before I end things upsettingly, did anyone else realise that the picture of him on the right in the background of St Kilda website has been photoshopped to have the Centrebet logo in it?  The picture is from 2010 – you can tell by the rounded collar on that clash jumper (it was an old-style V-neck in 2009) and Jeld-Wen was our major sponsor that year.

Right, so, it’s a shame that unlike the Tip Rat and BJ last year, he probably won’t get the deserved victory in a milestone game. The number of kids playing shows just who the focus will really be on for the foreseeable future, i.e. everyone aged David Armitage-and-under. Any celebration for Joey is about looking back on a closed era.

Too hot for any kind of faffin’

NAB Cup – Round 1, Pool 3
At AAMI Stadium, Sunday, 17th February at 4.40pm

Game 1
Adelaide Crows 0.0.4, 0.3.6 (24)
St Kilda 0.4.1, 0.8.2 (50)

Game 2
Port Adelaide 0.5.2, 1.9.2 (65)
St Kilda 0.1.2, 0.2.3(15)

The extreme heat was an added reminder to everyone that Sunday wasn’t real footy. I remember a 30-degree day for St Kilda vs. North Melbourne in Round 3 of 2005, but otherwise Novelty Rules Football is deservedly played in novelty weather.

Footy Park began its final tour – and unless there are design and construction calamities that rival that of Docklands, there’ll be no John Farnham-esque reprisal – in heat that nudged 39 degrees, as the Saints played third-wheel to a faux-Showdown.

Apologies for going straight for Dwayne Russell ahead of anything else but before Port and the Crows rounded out the incredibly sweaty ménage à trois he declared that every showdown was “100%” and that this encounter would be no different. Before making any statements like that he’d only need to look at the 47 people that turned up, let alone ask them their thoughts, to see that this was for all intents and purposes a televised practice match. In another blow to competition’s integrity – just joking, it doesn’t have any, etc. – Swat came right out before the weekend and said the club has “no interest” in winning the thing.

It was hot enough in Melbourne as well and I’d spent most of the day southside at my Grandma’s for her birthday drinking white wine. That’s typically a recipe for me to seriously want to nod off by 6pm, but I just guess the excitement of watching the Saints play in front of a few people who had nothing better to do with their Sunday afternoon in novelty games that no-one will remember took place in a few weeks’ time won out, and I was firmly awake to see the Saints put in a decent showing before capitulating in the heat.

And yes, some more faffin’ about before I get to the faffin’, i.e. obligatory observations on the new clash jumpers. I was a fan of last year’s clash as it was an obvious improvement on the awful “vague cross” 2011 design, but its fatal flaw was the horizontal stripe of the cross being wider than the vertical. This has been rectified in this year’s version; it’s probably the closest we’ll get to the tri-panel design being used as a clash, it looks good and relevant anyway and it’s effective. Arguably our best clash since the candy stripe.

The opening minutes of the season showed us that some things never change as we were treated to the typically shonky disposal from Sam Gilbert and Clint Jones, and Jimmy Gwilt took a few attempts to dust off the cobwebs. The ‘Fro came good, intercepting the footy to ultimately set up Terry’s opening goal and finding plenty of the footy across the back half. I was a little relieved because I had nagging thoughts in my head that he might just never be the same post-knee reco, this being a useless pre-season game or not.

Terry added another one to his opener as all the small forwards got themselves involved. TDL kicked a couple as well in his first showing as a Saint, and Saad and Milne chipped in with some classy goals of their own. Milne’s in particular was vintage Tip Rat, a one-motion snap in traffic after some nice service from Big Ben.

Perhaps the Adelaide players didn’t know which small forward they were on. There were four of them buzzing around, but Fox Footy pushed the boundaries of casual racism by focusing on Terry Milera for an extended period of time after TDL had goaled, with TDL’s stats hovering alongside him as the commentators spoke about TDL. Order was restored when Terry himself kicked a major soon after, and the Fox Footy production team managed to track down the right guy. Let’s put it down to a one-off for the moment.

It would be rude to say Big Beau Maister was playing the lone key forward role, but that’s  genuinely what I’d typed before I remembered Tom Lee was there too. The man whom the Saints gave up pick 12 for (as well as swapping pick 20 for 24, but it’s easier to leave that out and keep the sentence shorter) was dropping them everywhere against the Crows. One of the more comical pieces (until the Port game, which eventually had us all questioning why we’d been excited about footy season returning) saw him drop one of the lead before the ball went straight up the other end for Roberton to drop an easier chance in the back pocket and Johncock to kick his second. Tommy was a bit luckier soon after; Milne cleaned up one that bounced off his chest (which, in the first place, had come from a questionable sliding free kick against the Crows), crumbed expertly and handed it off quickly to TDL who goaled.

Speaking of ineffective St Kilda forwards named “Tom L.”, ex-Saint fan and player Tom Lynch found himself in all sorts, getting caught holding the ball, kicking into the man on the mark, turning the ball over and bouncing off Gwilt onto his arse after the ‘Fro had calmly rushed a behind.

Back to Big Beau, he took some nice grabs and was in the rights spots at the right times. A couple of goals was a nice return, but he would really add to his game if he could take more contested marks further up the ground. Last year there were occasions where he and Roo got in each other’s ways acros half-forward and the wing so we’ll have to see how those two and Kosi (not to mention Big Ben and Big Tom Hickey) operate on the same field.

One of Beau’s grabs was taken right out of Milera’s hands after a sensational kick forward from My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs. He played from half-back as he did towards the end of last year and last week’s intra-club, and he’s very much in the mould of BJ. Calm with the ball, great disposal, a good set of hands and has shown great signs both ends: I really am excited about him and would like to shamelessly/shamefully declare that I was on the Lamb bandwagon from the star; I must point out (no, I don’t) that I know his girlfriend through my brother and when I saw her last she offered to ask him to sign things for me. I couldn’t go through with it. It didn’t feel right.

Farren justified the club’s public backing of his spot on the list in the trade period last year by finding plenty of the ball off half-back with the ‘Fro, which, along with Gwilt and Lamb meant a whole lot of sweeping. Gilbert and Roberton were there too, but…you know.

A comfortable win was nice but clearly took its toll on the players. The older guys particularly needed to be managed through it. Kosi sat out the first game and Milne the second, whilst Lenny, Roo, Sam Fisher, Schneider, Dempster and others were out anyway. Dal was one of the best in the first game but looked wiped in the second (see his dropped mark from a lovely Armo kick in the forward line), and Joey spent both being a little rusty, but forgivably so considering that no-one cares.

The second game saw an injection of inexperienced guys with “The Neck” Webster, Ferguson and Saunders coming in, as well as Ledger to go with Nathan Wright, Hickey and Lee. I saw Big Jay Lever warming up in the rooms with the players before game two, but I don’t actually remember seeing him at all from that point so I’m not sure if he did any things from that point.

St Kilda was a collective write-off after an hour in the heat. It meant most of the guys were farked and the inclusions were kids who’d barely played, let alone enough to be cohesive with said farked guys. Jimmy Webster somehow warranted a mention in the few “ins” that Dwayne highlighted pre-match, before being beaten to the first ball forward by the livewire Jake Neade and promptly giving away 50 metres. He backed that up by kicking it straight out of bounds and pick 7 in last year’s draft Oliver Wines goaled for the Power after the Novelty Rules free kick.

Port were all over it, with newer guys like Wines, Wingard and Neade giving plenty of February hope to the Power fans. That might have been dulled a little by their fading-out in game three (albeit not as bad as the Saints’) but with a new coach who has come in with confidence and these younger guys showing something then the fans have every right to optimism after what the club’s given them since 119.

The bad kind of special mention must go to the Port fans behind the goals chanting after every goal. We’ve all heard the “Seven National Army” chorus at various Association Football competitions but it just really doesn’t work at a game of footy. The game itself is more than absorbing enough. The last time anyone tried anything of the sort at a St Kilda and Port game was the “Spider Dance” at Waverley in 1998, and look how long that lasted.

Wright played both games and didn’t do anything overly special but the fact he’s already getting game time is good. Jackson Ferguson looked pretty comfortable, and fellow rookie Tom Curren was busy around the packs. Curren is in the Emerging Leaders Group, which isn’t bad for a player on the rookie list, but it seems like there are more people in a leadership group down at Seaford than not.

The commentators seemed to be impressed with Tom Hickey. I certainly thought he was alright, and he took a couple of nice marks. We gave up the BJ compensation pick for a chance at having our very own Stephen Merchant, but he’s had some great wraps on him from across the competition. But it’s tough to gauge anything when it’s the first game of the year and it’s over by the time you’ve figured out who the hell it is that’s supposedly playing for your club.

I was really keen on seeing Seb Ross play but he was only out there for the second game. He got beaten to a ball by fellow 2011 draftee Chad Wingard, which stuck out for me and he backed it up with a fumble but I hope The Only Ross at St Kilda was just blowing out a few cobwebs of his own. nother 2011 draftee Ahmed Saad “only” kicked one for the afternoon but he laid a couple of huge tackles which was great. If he can couple that up with speed that’s a great weapon to have.

Sticking with the 2011 draft theme I think a lot of people really are on the Jack Newnes bandwagon. He seems to have a hardarse edge to go along with Nathan Wright and Seb Ross (yesterday’s efforts not withstanding for Seb) and he already looks more comfortable out there with the bigger bodies. A long way to go but getting to smokey status for 2017 premiership captain. Might have to wait until the Twenties though.

In Tom Lee’s defence, he did improve in the second outing. He snapped a goal after a Power kick-in ricocheted into the air off the man on the mark, and the ball eventually was scrambled into his hands. I was surprised he held onto that one, but he composed himself enough to finish the job. He took a great mark near the wing later in the first half, and probably looked more comfortable on the move and higher up the ground – he seemed to put himself in a good position often but his hands would let him down. He composed himself nicely to set up Kosi for the other goal, and later on he found himself on a lead and taking a mark in the forward pocket but he sadly sprayed the kick; he didn’t even strike the ball well enough to kick it out on the full. Nonetheless, pick 12 hasn’t been thrown away just yet. For now.

The game itself was running out the clock in the last few minutes. Neade squeaked out a bemusing kick in the midfield that was turned over, before some serious ping pong in the Saints’ front half ended, eventually, in a behind. No one wanted to be out there; Fox Footy cut to a young kid smacking himself over the head repeatedly with an inflatable clapper after a Power goal (he was a Port supporter).

Ideally, the game is rarely going to be played in this kind of heat, so there’s not too, too much to learn out of the drop off between games by the Saints. Yes, there was a 50-point loss in a half of footy, but we don’t care anywhere near half of what we would if this was a game for points. I learnt during the broadcast that Gerard Healy was a St Kilda supporter, via the ad in which he’s wearing a scarf and talking about the 1971 Grand Final. I think I genuinely found that more absorbing than the actual Novelty Rules Football

When three teams are playing off against each other on the same afternoon and by the end of it “everyone is a winner”, you know it must be February. If not, then our future selves will know that Demetriou went totally bananas.

A Hickey for a BJ might not be so bad

What an immature and unoriginal title. Don’t encourage that.

Before we could all say “How about those Swans?” BJ had officially POQ to the Bombers, but I dare say most of us had been expecting that for a long time.

I think the thing that sticks about this one regardless is that he’s gone to a cross-town rival. Often when a player of high stature changes club it’s due to bigger factors, such as wanting to go home (Judd) or a unique, new challenge in a totally new environment (Ablett; and I don’t mean to grade BJ up there with either of those two). Fans of those players’ first clubs won’t have to deal too much with the presence of those players throughout the season, considering the press in their respective states typically won’t go bananas about the Blues and the Suns. With BJ, however, it’s similar to the Luke Ball situation that’s still fresh in our minds: he’s left because he’d rather be at another club and he’s still right here in the heartland of the game. We’ll be seeing plenty of him in red and black, on game day and through every week of the season.

His heart obviously wasn’t in it at the Saints, and if it’s only going to take lax trade conditions to be the catalyst for you to leave then you really can POQ IMO FWIW. His loss isn’t going to cost us a premiership – that time has been and gone. (Although I do think had he stayed he’d probably be the only current senior player that was a realistic chance of being there the next time the Saints got close to the summit.)

Of course, that was easy to say going into the trade period. These were the heady days when we had pick 12 and were simply waiting to get 13 too as compensation. Idealistically, from a pool of talent that’s supposed to comprise a “super draft” the compensation pick alone could easily have given us another star for a decade – effectively meaning the number one pick in the 2002 draft was worth two very high picks spanning 20 years.

However, the recruiters went looking to balance the side’s age profile before anything else, trying to make amends for the several wasted drafts in the back end of the aughts (Sweeney, Howard, Heyne, Smith, etc.). Watters, via Pelchen and Bains, definitely stuck to the ethos of remaining competitive whilst rejuvenating the list.

Firstly, 21 year-old Tom Lee became the co-messiah alongside Rhys Stanley, by virtue of being a tall forward who is appropriately fair-haired. Of course, as per everything in the Watters era, he’s Western Australian. With Cripps leaving Swat needed to restore the balance and picked up Rich’s namesake after the appointment of Tony Micale in the coaching ranks. Then he grabbed his old Subiaco mate Trent Dennis-Lane just to be sure.

Tommy Lee came at the expense of pick 12, or, as it’s now described the Saints “flipped” pick 12 for picks 24 and 43 and got a young, mature-bodied forward who has seriously impressed in a premiership winning side in a quality state league. It also meant we’d taken a star forward from Claremont for the second season in a row, who by now must be pretty annoyed given the Saints took their 2011 premiership coach, too.

Which left us with pick 13 once the AFL got around to officially announcing it, after a week in which trading basically stopped as everyone was waiting for, you know, things to do stuff with. There’s not much point having that surplus week floating in there when clubs don’t even know for sure what players or picks they’re dealing with. A lot of people think that compensation picks shouldn’t even be there, and I assume we’ll be talking about altering the trade period as we do about the interchange structure for the next few years so get up and about for that debate.

We didn’t land the main target of a key backman after the Eagles played hard/annoying ball, but I feel there’s been a little undue criticism of Pelchen and co. from some supporters. And by “from some supporters”, I mean “on Saintsational”. There was effectively one key backman that was anywhere near the trade table, and the Eagles refused to put him on it. It’s not as if key backmen were lumbering around the Concrete Dome trying to the get the attention of the recruiting parties, and the club was well and truly offering overs for Brown too as part of the proposed Cale Hooker deal – the Bomber might have actually helped the Saints out on that one by backing out.

Missing out on Caddy hurt a little too, but again there was only one player of his potential like him floating around and the Cats had the Gaz compensation pick, which the Suns could hold off using until 2014. Again, there weren’t a whole lot of them on offer, and Ben Jacobs by all reports is a [deleted by legal department].

On top of Tom Lee, what the Saints did get was a very exciting ruck prospect, and another Tom to go with the new (co-)messiah, Simpkin, Ledger and Curren. Tom Hickey really could give Big Ben a run for his money for the number one ruck spot over the next few years and the wider footy community (i.e. BigFooty) didn’t seem to mind the Saints giving up a first round pick for him.

The acquisitions mean there’s now all of My Favourite Hair in the AFL, The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind, Big Rhys, Big Beau, Big Ben, Big Tom Hickey and Big Tom Lee legitimately pushing more selection in the side. (We’ll be waiting a bit longer for Big Jay Lever; hopefully he’s not another Big Blake McGrath or Big Barry Brooks.)

But they’re not really meant to be in the same side in 2013. These picks had a view to the next five-to-ten years, to fill that gap between the very senior players and the 19-20 year-olds who are still getting used to the bigger bodies and pace of the AFL. That doesn’t necessarily mean the new or younger guys are the ones being squeezed out – they’re also there to put pressure on spots in the side, an element the club was really lacking in until this past season.

Roo, Big Ben and Stanley – given, as Swat has said, the latter is arguably the structurally most important player in the side – would be the closest to locks for Round 1, 2013 at this early point in time.

Fitting Hickey into the same side as those three would be a tall order (OMG get it?), although increasingly I think Stanley is best suited to roaming the front half of the ground as a forward and only occasionally hanging out in the ruck.

This leaves out Kosi, but now that there’s an abundance of talls filling the ruck and forward spots if he can’t improve on his 2012 form, sadly, it’s hard to justify his place in the side given his age.

And back to Roo, he isn’t going to be around forever. If his knees keep giving him grief we might even be seeing him in the backline at times in the twilight of his career. Which brings us to using a first round selection on Lee.

If all goes to plan, Kosi and Wilkes will be depth players in 2013 and Lee will continue where he left off in the WAFL. He’s the one with more upside either way; if he finds himself in the team it would be great for his development, and if not then we simply have to remember he’s only 21 and by all accounts a different player to the one that got drafted by Adelaide four years ago, and use the magic words “young” and “potential”,

Questions of the dynamic of the forward line were brought up again with the late recruitment of TDL, which seemed to bemuse some given that there’s already Milne, Schneider, Terry and Ahmed buzzing around.

The forward line is very much split between the talls and smalls, with My Favourite Player Siposs the only senior-listed player who plays as a medium-sized forward. There’s every chance he’ll be playing as a utility through his career given his size, great hands and excellent disposal which leaves the rookie-listed Dunell (who certainly showed good signs when he was called up to the top level) as the only other likely medium-sized forward. However, with Gram’s dismissal yesterday, there’s immediately more scope for Siposs to play off half-back, and opens up a spot on the senior list the club might consider using to upgrade Dunell or the Jackson Ferguson, who has already spent a couple of years impressing at Sandy.

You could mention Wilkes too, who doesn’t play as a traditional tall at all times and could theoretically be used down back to free up a rebounding defender. But we’ve all seen that his form down back has been entirely ineffectual and he’s there to do the heavyweight stuff up forward.

So four smalls would seem like more than enough, but again, there’s a plan for a smooth succession in place. Milne and Schneider might only have one or two years left each, but TDL and Terry are both 24 and have experience at the top level and, if they continue to develop will be ready to take over. Likewise Ahmed, but like Lee amongst the talls has the upside of (more) youth.

Losing Cripps was something the club had no control over. It’s disappointing to lose a first round pick in those circumstances, but like BJ he obviously didn’t want to be there. His insistence that he only be traded to the Eagles, despite saying that he was leaving to go back home to WA, was very frustrating and prompted my brother to call him a little [deleted by legal department].

We got picks 41 and 44 for him, so considering the Eagles weren’t going to let Brown go unless they really got something out of it (which they didn’t consider Cripps to be) I was glad we managed to get two picks in the early 40s from them for an uncontracted player that had already moved back to Perth before a deal had been done.

St Kilda goes into the draft with picks 25, 26, 41, 44, and 77. There’s also the delisted players’ free agency period upon us, and the we might yet make a play for Tom Gillies from the Cats to fill that spot in defence. The failure to get Brown wasn’tgoing to make or break the fortunes of a 2013 premiership tilt – we should acknowledge that was unlikely either way. For now, we look to the strategic selections of Lee and Hickey, and further to the national draft, for the faces that we hope will take over the reigns of a competitive St Kilda side in the coming years.