Jason Gram Posts

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.

2012 St Kilda player reviews – part 1 of 4

Under Ross Lyon the Saints played so many unassuming role players that it felt like two or three whipping boys were in the side in any given week. Regulars and semi-regulars such as Raph Clarke, Robert Eddy, Andrew McQualter, Brett Peake, Clinton Jones and Jason Blake were often criticised for their rather unidimensional performances.

Scott Watters’ game style has seen versatility as the order of the day, with an equal emphasis on swift attack and fanatic full-ground defense. It didn’t always pay off – a lack in skill often brough the former undone and the latter wasn’t always present – but player-by-player it felt there was more to be optimistic about going forward.

In number order, starting from 1 to 12:

1 – Jason Gram
Halfway through the season I dare say we all would have been happy to see the last Jason Gram Special sliced from the wing, but he ended playing some very good games towards the end of the year. Still doesn’t have a huge defensive side to his game but I think Swat’s game plan suits him a little more. Given his history and the stage of his career, going into 2013 fully fit will be hugely important for him.

2 – Arryn Siposs
My Favourite Player played only 11 games in 2012 but did more than enough to have us hugely excited about his future. A great field kick and a strong mark, he did it at both ends of the ground and demonstrated he could be the club’s go-to utility over the next decade. Right now, he could be anything.

3 – Jack Steven
Pleasingly, Jack stayed busy in 2012 after his breakout season last year. He was probably more effective in games too, and was able to display more of his pace and fit into Swat’s game style. Still probably not in the top three midfielders (and that’s not a bad thing for the team) but it would be great if he took his game to another level. After the faux-high incident at the new home last year he planned on turning up to a mid-season morning recovery session drunk and got caught by the fuzz instead. He’s got to change that.

4 – Clinton Jones
The resident puppy dog still has a place in this side according to Swat, but I’m not exactly sure what it is considering he hasn’t improved his kicking since the age of nine. He’s certainly not a bad player; he knows how to find the ball and has one of the best defensive sides of anyone on the list but his kicking remains a liability. Considering what Swat said though, I’d be surprised if he’s delisted.

5 – Ben McEvoy
The 2017 premiership captain probably didn’t improve to the point we thought he might this year after his great 2011. He still struggles in the ruck at times and would be handier if he kicked more goals but he continued to drop back and help out the defence to great effect. Big men typically take longer to develop, of course, and he’s probably still a couple of years away from his best. With Rhys on the up, should the Saints get Jonathan Giles then things might really get interesting in the ruck division.

6 – Seb Ross
The only Ross at St Kilda played one game in the dead rubber period of the season but that was to be expected, particularly in a midfield that rarely saw injuries and had Jack and Armo continuing to improve. From the little we’ve seen of him he has a very no-nonsense demeanour and seems to take things very seriously which I think is a good thing. Showed some good things at Sandy and hopefully has a big future at the club.

7 – Lenny Hayes
Wowee etc.

8 – Raphael Clarke
Not sure if he’ll survive between now and list lodgements later on. A really popular guy by all reports and I don’t question his commitment on the field for a second (see several great efforts against the Crows) but just doesn’t always have the awareness required at AFL level. Injuries aside, three games in 2012 probably wasn’t enough to warrant a spot on the list next year given the dearth of tall mid-sized defenders, particularly with Jackson Ferguson coming through.

9 – Sam Crocker
One of four players the club didn’t even bother building the suspense for, delisted as soon as the Tip Rat had saluted the Carlton members. Didn’t seem to have bad skills, was just too slender which made things hard from the outset and in the short time he was at the club he disappeared from the face of the earth.

10 – Daniel Markworth
The Markworth Report was one of the many big plans Rich and I had for RWB in 2012 (on a more personal level I was simply hoping to become Demonblog), although hopes for several senior games were beyond even that. Showed some real glimpses at Sandy but still pretty raw. Should play a few games next year.

AND WHY NOT WITH GLIMPSES OF BRILLIANCE LIKE THIS?:

11 – Leigh Montagna
I don’t think anyone would have factored him into best and fairest calculations until Swat said towards the end of the season he’d be in the top two or three (I still didn’t agree with it but I dare say I’ll trust the coach of the St Kilda Football Club over myself). He didn’t have the huge possession counts that he did in some games in the past three or four years but was consistent. Talk of being used as trade bait floated around during the year but he re-signed on a two-year deal.

12 – Nick Riewoldt
A return to form after he more than anyone else (except maybe BJ) hated themselves and everything in 2011. Unlucky to injure his knee late but he had a big head-start on the pre-season so hopefully he can get the most out of the summer again and back it up in 2013, captain or not.

A brave new (rest of the) world

Half a decade ago Rod “Definitely doesn’t party much at all – just check out his demeanour and hair” Butterss floated the ridiculous and kitsch concept of strategically lighting the Telstra Dome/Corporate Stadium field during games to heighten the theatrics of the play.

If a player was lining up for goal, the rest of the stadium would be dimmed to accentuate the drama of the set shot (I hope those in charge of lighting were quick to think if Jason Gram was running past looking for a dish-off); the players’ huddles between breaks would be highlighted above the rest of the field, and so on.

This was the peak of the oughts, a time when the “millennial techno-dread” that pervaded Radiohead’s Kid A was well and truly being affronted. I associate 2007 with social media surpassing the point of dominating our interactions with others and becoming necessary to do so, and the rest of our lives following suit and definitively moving online (certainly as an 18-going-on 19 year-old). This wasn’t inherently bad or detestable, but it would have a large effect on our lives whether we chose to embrace it or not.

Butterss’ idea seemed as melodramatically gratuitous as my friends and I whingeing about interactions on our MySpace (soon to be Facebook) profiles. I felt let down that the club I supported were the ones championing an idea that was then – and is still now – ridiculous. It threatened to push the game from a sporting contest to an entertainment event more than ever before. At the time I felt sad for feeling that the idea might be inevitable, for it incorporated a trendy depersonalising use of technology, and elements of naïve hyper-futurism and short cultural expiry dates in the battle for corporate one-upmanship.

I also remember that time in early 2007 for the familiarity and nostalgia I was looking forward to with Channel 7’s return to broadcasting bastardized by its overriding commitment to advertising dollars and viewer numbers. The footy was incessantly spliced with ads and slotted around Better Homes and Gardens on a Friday night and the 6pm news on Sunday evening. All around it seemed the game was being reduced to a money-making chess piece.

It’s now five years since the St Kilda board attempted to displace the organic experience of attending a game of footy. Last week the future came calling again, but the knock at the door was heavier. Our Saints will now become the first team to host games for premiership points overseas as of next year.

We’re faced again with St Kilda shifting away from a suburban Melbourne footy club towards a business and entertainment enterprise. Again, an integral element of our experience in going to the footy to watch and be in the same space as our beloved Saints is at the mercy of our board.

Like Butterss’ ill-conceived idea, money is the driving factor (but isn’t it always?). The move to play games in New Zealand, however, might be the thing that saves this club from becoming a “Kangaroos”, or the next Tasmanian team (“Southern Saints”?) or, ironically, moving to Wellington entirely. The financial windfall hasn’t officially been publicly announced it’s believed the club is set to make up to $500,000 per game in the New Zealand capital. The Saints don’t have the kind of supporter base and financial security that Collingwood, Essendon, Carlton and West Coast do and so must to be creative to find a way into that top echelon.

It might also be the decision that ultimately delivers this club a period of sustained success and, dare I say it, that second premiership. Scott Watters said he doesn’t apologise for ambitions of this club becoming a “juggernaut” on and off the field. To build on the professionalism Ross the ex-Boss brought to St Kilda the next step must be taken to improve the club’s football department spending. Playing five games in New Zealand over three years nets the club up to $2.5 million, which it otherwise wouldn’t have had. This can be spent on the player development academy, on training trips like this year’s to the USA, and on recruiting. Wisely utilised, the extra finances could really make this club a long-term home to players starting out at the Saints, a place that senior players want to spend the peak of their careers and a place that is an attractive proposition to players from other clubs.

Sometimes change is necessary. Taking five games over three years to New Zealand sounds as futuristic now as a light show did in 2007, but Michael Nettlefold, Greg Westaway and co have found a greater balance of corporate “vision” and hard-headed pragmatism this time around. We’re faced with something that will have a large effect on us whether we choose to embrace it or not. Sometimes it’s your turn to go.

For a sunny day in the future

Round 23, 2012
Carlton 4.5, 7.7, 10.15, 12.19 (91)
St Kilda 4.1, 8.4, 10.6, 16.10 (106)
Crowd: 31,939 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, September 2nd at 1.10pm

It’s hard to separate writing about this game and reflecting upon the season as whole.

In a number of ways it really summed up the season. Lots of scoring shots from both sides, heavy youth involvement and wavering form throughout the game. This time, though, the Saints would win a close one.

It was the first time the Saints were playing in 2012 without the mathematical possibility of playing finals for a fifth straight season, and so already it was time to think where this club had gone and what it had done over the past six months.

Carlton had experienced a shocking week and the proud club didn’t hesitate in announcing the end of Ratten’s tenure after their loss to the Gold Coast counted them out for the year.

What it meant for this game was that the players would be looking to send out Ratts on a winning note. Thus, Andrew Walker ended up topless by the first bounce as a bit of push and shove that he started with the Tiprat (which prompted Rhys Stanley to awkwardly try and throw around his weight). The tussle sparked a series of spotfires throughout the game as the Blues tried to rally for their coach. No doubt they were feeling a little guilty after dropping their season spectacularly so they were keen to finish with a bang.

The Walker vs. Milne battle led to the Carlton cheersquad covering themselves in all sorts of glory, which continually wheeled out the old rape-themed favourites throughout the game in baiting Milne. Walker a great job on him, but the Tiprat would be the one to put the Saints in front late and give it right back to the crowd after the siren.

Aside from that and the other series of small spats that broke out the theme of the day was youth. The Blues went into the game with two guys playing their first game, Rhys O’Keeffe playing his third and the very impressive Tom Bell playing his seventh. Testament to the club’s development this season, the Saints had nine players who had played 20 or less games taking the field.

Passages of play are filling up with the names of lesser lights and youngsters. A Hayes one-two with Steven found Cripps, who took a strong mark. Armo, in a return to his better form of the first half of the year, started a run of play from half-back, his kick finding Saad who battled with Yarran, and finishing the passage with a great goal from the 50-metre arc.

My Favourite Player Siposs showed glimpses of being a true utility to take over from BJ, whether or not the latter leaves at the end of the season. He played from half-back for much of the game with the side taking advantage of his long, raking kicks to set up play and take the kick-outs; he also set up Wilkes for his first with a lovely kick out of the middle. After taking a couple of strong contested marks high up on the wings early he went into a contest probably for the first time in his AFL career with the intent of spoiling. He’s learning a lot very quickly and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the club he’s supported his whole life.

Up forward, it was another game with the focus on guys like Rhys, Big Beau, Saad and Milera. Rhys finally got involved when it really counted, kicking a huge set-shot goal to give the Saints some breathing space in the final minutes. He pushed hard up the ground throughout the game but his disposal at times was a little wayward, the most glaring occasion a handpass to Gram on the forward flank that put him under all sorts of pressure when there really should have been a chance to set up a scoring shot. He stretched out his groin before he kicked that goal so perhaps he was feeling a little underdone still after playing a couple of games over a few months. Freak knows what state it’s in after he actually kicked the ball 55-60 metres. Hopefully he can get that and his hamstring right over the off-season.

Beau again worked really, really hard for a return of 2.2. It could have been more had he not lost the ball in the sun twice in the first quarter but he took some really strong grabs – over White in the second quarter particuarly – and gave a contest every time he wasn’t the victim of shoddy stadium design. Fifteen goals for the season from 10 matches isn’t bad, especially when he found himself kicking multiple goals more often as the season went on. I’ve grown to like him the more he’s played and I hope he’s kept. That Swat has come out and said Kosi is a “required player” I dare say means he’s still a few good performances off finding himself any higher in the pecking order, particularly as Rhys and My Favourite Player continue their development in 2013.

Milera and Saad reprised their exciting tag team performances of the season and were part of the brilliant coast-to-coast effort that brought the first goal of the game. Terry finished it off, keeping his composure after three bounces, and ended with three first-half goal. Saad sealed the game once and for all and I felt he had a bit more of a presence in the general play throughout the game than Terry (certainly more than Milne). Both have proved to be great pick ups and if they can both start to string together consecutive good games the side will look a lot more dangerous overall.

Helping them out were Armo and Jack, who kicked two goals each. Armo also collected 25 touches whilst Jack kicked two final quarter goals. it was a fitting end to a season where despite a slight dip in form in the last month or two both took another step forward overall in their careers. With Rhys relatively quiet and no My Favourite Hair or The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind, it was imperative that the midfielders also took responsibility to contribute to the scoreboard and round out a season in which this had become a welcome addition to the team’s dynamic.

Jason Gram’s two goals, then, were highlights for the team and him personally, punctuating possibly his best game of the season. A 65-metre Jason Gram special yielded his first major soon after he started that first goal off with a massive torpedo from a kick-out, and he started the second half in a similar fashion. Many – including myself – had questioned his worth at the start of the season, as Jason Gram special after Jason Gram special had everyone ducking for cover in case a rogue Sherrin went their way, but he’s restored a lot of his respect as the season’s gone on, finding the ball more often and using it much better. It seemed on Sunday particularly he had taken the pressure off himself a little and allowed himself to play his more natural game.

How great was it to see Sean Dempster as captain? Another brilliant season for someone that has been written off a few times over the years and he could well go ahead and win the Trevor Barker Award. Some strong marks and a great kick forward to set up BJ for a goal early really topped off a day that was reward for his efforts this year, and they also reflected the fact that he’s added elements to his game in 2012.

Carlton really lost this game because of their inaccuracy of St Kilda-esque proportions and their inability to run out the game with the early losses of Judd and Yarran (that’s a fair loss of quality, too). McLean found the ball and space endlessly as he continued to be one of Carlton’s busiest midfielders in the latter part of the season, but he hit the post twice on his way to 1.3, which was matched by Garlett. Eddie Betts had chances at all stages of the game to impact the scoreboard but finished with 1.4. Thats 3.10 from three players, and a lot changes if only a couple of those go straight earlier on.

Jarrad Waite gave Jimmy Gwilt all sorts of trouble. Gwilt was great when he had the ball, with his kicking showing signs of a return to his pre-knee reconstruction form, but otherwise Waite joined Buddy, Dean Cox, Coleman Jack, Tippett and Petrie as tall forwards who have given this Saints defence a tough time in 2012. Although Murphy was held quiet by his standards by Joey and Judd was missing, players such as Robinson, McLean, Gibbs and Scotland were still busy enough to put the Saints’ defence under pressure and Waite rewarded them with accurate kicking. Surely a full-time, full-size full-back will be targeted in the trading season.

On that note, how appropriate it was that Head Simpkin managed to smack himself in the face with the ball in what has truly been the Year of the Falcon.

The Blues had 31 scoring shots to 26, but overall the game felt a rather even contest. Entertaining and free-flowing, it was spiteful but it certainly didn’t have the kind of full-ground pressure that we’ll be watching this over the next month. It’s probably what we all should have expected given what was at stake – down to Carlton being the fierier of the two.

So Milne was able to blow his friends in blue on the other side of the fence a kiss to finish things off for 2012. A beautiful spring day and the Saints finish the season as winners. However, it’s bittersweet; it’s only the start of September. The sunshine cast hope not for the coming weeks, but the years ahead.

An ode to the greatest ode in the land

This song has made my year. I don’t know where I’d be in 2012 without it.

I listen to this song on the train, on the tram, walking down the street and at home. I play it at parties (at my own house thanks, lest I get thrown out before I can sing the first line), and I think about it several times every day.

This week as a “joke” (i.e. I was entirely serious) I posted this song every day of the week on my Facebook wall/Timeline/whatever it will be next month to celebrate the fact that it exists at all – I just needed the Saints to be playing the Giants on the weekend as an “excuse” to do so (although I have posted it several times throughout the year already).

I think it is genuinely fantastic as a “traditional” sounding footy club song, in the vein of the Fable Singers’ versions still being used decades after those were recorded, but with an added Eastern European bent to give it a sharp, mean, purposeful edge. It suits a club with such industrial colours (think V-Line), or colours that we’d probably associate with the toil of working for not much in a small village on the border of Croatia and Hungary (and what we’d assume are the colours of the food there, too, in our first-world minds).

Paradoxically, it also suits a club that is the closest thing to a soulless corporation we have in the AFL. GWS reflects where we are now in the environment created by free agency and the national draft in that it will have the same principal element that makes any other club what it is: the bond between a player and his teammates well and truly trumping the bond between the player and his club, its history and its supporters. This song will be blaring out in the late afternoon on Grand Final Day some time in the future, sounding the triumph of sport as a profession and sport as a business, perhaps after GWS has defeated a luckless Victorian club – not just the Saints, but maybe the Dogs, the Demons or the Tigers – whose supporters once watched players that grew up down the road from Moorabbin or the Western Oval and supported the clubs they played for. This song sounds like this club-as-a-business means business. It’s a fashionable villain.

But back to the pure danceability and aesthetics, this song breaks a streak of ridiculous attempts at modernising something in a way that simply didn’t need to be; of unnecessarily introducing electric guitars and synths when using real big-band instruments has always been the best approach.

The obvious culprit is Fremantle, a club that was aesthetically outdated the second it entered the competition. The inflatable anchors and actors playing wharfies on the ground before the game – not to mention the fan base that thinks a contested Freo mark has cured cancer – made and still makes the club seem silly, and that’s before mentioning the fat elephants in the room: the club’s jumpers and song.

They’ve cleaned up the visual side of things and their purple chevron jumper is one of the boldest and best in the league, a welcome far cry from the mish-mash of clown colours in their home and away jumpers all the way through to 2010. However, last year they had the chance to become a normal club and not a novelty relic from 1995 that was already a relic from 1987 and get rid of their ridiculous, directionless droll club song with four options given to its members to vote on.


Wasted template.

The first upsetting thing about the song is that it’s based on the traditional Russian folk anthem Song of the Volga Boatmen, which makes for a great template for a oompah, resounding club song as did those utilised by the older clubs. Instead, Freo went for a rockin’ cheap synth version of the song and the attitude of their fans followed suit. Secondly, they didn’t even try reworking the song from the ground up for their members’ vote-off, but rather just cutting it up into the chorus/instrumental/chorus format of the traditional songs. The entirely new Eskimo Joe entry was far more in line with what the song should have been in the first freakin’ place. I don’t like either of Eskimo Joe or The Cat Empire at all, the latter whose member Harry Angus wrote the GWS song, but they both got it right when it comes to footy songs. Unfortunately, only one club realised this. The other parallel of course is the Eastern European “influence”. Again, as far as the GWS song goes we’re basing this on our stereotypes of remote Eastern European villages and the oompah music a lot of us would assume goes on in them, but only one club really ran with the theme and that’s the one that really worked.


Slightly less rubbish.

Next on the Freo Shockers list is the Port Adelaide song, which (in)famously found itself at the top of the South Australian music charts when the Power entered the league. Similarly to the Freo theme, it was outdated when it was created. An ill-conceived synth arrangement which sounds tinny, empty and, like the original Freo version, directionless. Admittedly better in its slight reworking – although even that was based on introducing loud percussion – there’s still not much that’s remarkable or emPOWERing (omg get it?) about it.

The year 1997 also bought us the trashing of what was arguably the best song in the league, as a reworked version of the Fitzroy anthem was bestowed upon the Brisbane Lions. The proudest song, one that represented a club with a long history and the most loyal of supporters became a tacky, cheap-synth cop-out and the another stage of the trashing of Fitzroy’s history (see Paddle-Pop lion jumper for the most recent instalment).

I’ve just been informed by RWB Management that apparently there’s a game being played tomorrow.

It’s “Thank You” Round, and it’s a special week for me. My brother Matt says the only reason why I like footy is because of the jumpers (which I’ve banged on about before, and almost certainly will again) and the Saints are wearing a “Thank You” sugar-daddy guernsey featuring the names of the longest-serving members who were willing to put up a bit of coin to have their name on the jumper (had I known there was this opportunity I would not have hesitated to cough up said coin).

Serious Seb Ross will be making his debut in the “Thank You” jumper tomorrow, becoming the fifth player to make their debut in a season which has all got us feeling pretty good about the future. Milera, Newnes, Saad and Dunell have all played their first career games in 2012 and have all shown real promise, to go with that seen in My Favourite Player Siposs, Stanley, Simpkin, Cripps and Ledger and the continued improvement of Steven, Armitage, Geary and McEvoy.


The “Thank You” Jumper, worn by ex-Saint-to-be or 2013 captain BJ

Siposs, Milera and Newnes all find their way back in to the side via the Saints being unable to make the finals strong performances in the VFL, and Ledger is given a chance to get some game time before season’s end in the resting absence of Armo. With The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind out with “soreness” after his handball last week the forward line will be led by The Knife and Beau Wilkes, with Siposs in two as lead up targets. I’m looking forward to seeing Milne, Saad and Milera out there together too; hopefully they can reprise their early-season co-operation.

Newnes is the closest thing to a straight swap for Gram, who, despite 31 touches last week, was the only one the club didn’t bother making up an excuse for missing this week. Cripps was named in the back half too, and even though he kicked 0.2 last week I still he’s best suited to a small forward role at this stage of his career.

With finals out of the question and the horde of youth bought in this won’t necessarily be a walk in the park for the Saints; in fact I dare say their odds will have shortened a decent amount since the side was named. Even then, we might see Cripps used down back to get him used to playing that kind of role and hopefully some maximum game time for Ledger is he can hold up for four quarters. Regardless of the opposition, I’m always looking forward to seeing Stanley play; I just hope he’s recovered well enough after looking rusty and even proppy at times last week to not do his hamstring tomorrow.

Tomorrow will have youth in every part of the ground. Considering the state of our fortunes for season 2012 from this point, that’s a highlight. In fact, it’s a highlight whichever way you look at it.

But really, the highlight of the day will be at approximately 1.35pm when the GWS Giants Corporation run out on to Corporate Stadium to the best song in the land. It’s worth getting there on time for; it’s greater than the rest.