MCG Posts

The morning after

St Kilda and Fremantle: The Bizarro Rivalry (update)

The Ross Lyon defection brokered a new sensational chapter in the ridiculous rivalry between St Kilda and Fremantle, which I’d written on in 2010.

Whilst Ross took things to a new level, this past weekend threw up a couple more very interesting links:
– St Kilda’s first Grand Final appearance was in 1913, against Fitzroy. Freo will make their first Grand Final appearance 100 years later.
– Freo’s strange decision to wear their clash jumper on Saturday makes them just the second club to do so in a Grand Final. The first team to wear a clash jumper in Grand Final was St Kilda – also under Ross – in 2010.

Here’s the original post, “St Kilda and Fremantle: The Bizarre Rivalry” (I’m not sure why I didn’t take the golden opportunity to throw in the Seinfeld reference then and there) from 2010:

St Kilda and Fremantle share one of the most bizarre “rivalries” in the AFL.

As the two least successful clubs in VFL/AFL history to date, it’s not all-important clashes between competition juggernauts that this rivalry has been based on.

Rather, it has been a mixture of the unique, incredible and questionable, with occasional flashes of both genuinely brilliant and sadly woeful football being played.

It began immediately – although inconspicuously – in 1995, when Fremantle played their debut AFL match in the Ansett Australia Cup against the Saints at East Fremantle Oval. Whilst the match itself was normal enough (St Kilda would win by 35 points), this would be the only time (to date) the Dockers would actually play in Fremantle in a competitive AFL match.

In Round 14 of the following season, St Kilda would break through for its first win at Subiaco, and in Western Australia – of course, against Fremantle – in a game which produced great goals from both sides.

The next clash between the two came on ANZAC Day of 1997, with Fremantle – in 10th place and the Saints in 16th – weathering a late St Kilda challenge to win by a straight kick. The return bout was played on a ridiculously blustery day at Waverley in Round 20 of that year, with Fremantle in 10th place (again) going into the match whilst St Kilda was second on percentage, on its way to a second minor premiership. The Saints that time won a scrappy game by 13 points after the Dockers got within a point in the final term.

St Kilda co-captain Stewart Loewe would be stretchered off in Round 9 of 1998 at the WACA after an awkward fall in which his head ended up making contact with his knee. Despite a thrilling running goal from ruckman Peter Everitt, the 4th-placed Saints were overrun by the 13th-placed Dockers in the final term.

After several years of minor quirks, things were about to get really weird.

Continue readingRound 15 of 1999 will be remembered for the mark that was taken by umpire Peter Carey. Early in the match, Docker (and former Saint) Adrian Fletcher centred a short pass to Brad Wira on the wing, only for the experienced Carey, who was in the path of the ball’s trajectory, to take the mark and call for a ball-up. Needless to say, the incident was a massive talking point in football circles, though ultimately it would take its place in VFL/AFL history as a wonderfully unique and humourous moment in a game that has a habit of throwing those up from time to time. The Dockers would go on to win the game by 23 points, and send St Kilda’s season into a further downward spiral.

By the time the two teams met in Round 12 of 2001, both teams had new coaches and were sharing 14th (St Kilda) and 16th (Fremantle) places on the ladder; by season’s end they would be 15th and 16th respectively. On this Saturday night at Subiaco, the Saints won their third game of the year after a young Stephen Milne sprang to life in the final term, on his way to kicking three goals and giving the Saints a 10-point win. However, captain Robert Harvey would seriously injure his knee in a gang tackle that continued well past its use-by date; with the ball locked up amongst the scrum, the umpire inexplicably chose to let play continue, long enough for the Dockers players to force Harvey to the turf as his knee buckled under him.

It would also be Malcolm Blight’s last victory as coach for the Saints, with his brief tenure at Moorabbin ending just three weeks later.

The next season threw up a couple more notable matches – in Round 2, the fast-finishing Dockers would roll the Saints by three points at home after trailing for much of the day, and in Round 17 St Kilda played a rare home match at Princes Park and defeat the Dockers in a dead-rubber in front of just 8,078 fans.

A skip to 2004 would find Brent Guerra breaking Docker Byran Schammer’s arm in a devastating bump as a barnstorming St Kilda extended their winning streak to seven to begin the season, as well as Fremantle wearing their predominantly white away/clash jumper for the first time in the return match in Round 22 at Docklands.

A trio of thrilling matches followed. Strange, thrilling matches.

In round 2 of 2005, St Kilda won their first match of the season by a solitary point at York Park in Tasmania. The Saints would overhaul the Dockers in trying conditions, with Aaron Hamill earning a free kick for holding the ball and scoring the winning point – but not before a final Fremantle charge into their forward line, with defender Luke Penny expertly safely punching the ball out of bounds in the final seconds from a marking contest.

The infamous “Whispers in the Sky” clash was a dire battle in Round 21 at Subiaco. St Kilda were pushing to solidify a top four spot after being outside of the 8 after Round 13, though tipped by many to win the premiership on the eve of the season. Skipper Nick Riewoldt has broken his collarbone in Round 14, and stand-in captain Justin Koschitzke had powered his way to stunning form and lead the Saints’ fight for redemption. He earned 11 Brownlow votes in just five matches, and with Riewoldt back, he was seen as a key component to St Kilda’s premiership hopes as September neared. Fremantle, meanwhile were hoping to return to finals action after St Kilda had knocked them out on the eve of the 2004 finals series.

What happened on that Friday night is now a part of St Kilda-Fremantle rivalry folklore. Awful and questionable umpiring decisions went Fremantle’s way all night, gifting the Dockers several goals and depriving the Saints of several chances of their own. Koschitzke would injure a quad muscle in the third quarter, and he would not be fit enough to return to the side, which bowed out in the preliminary final several weeks later (had St Kilda defeated Sydney in that match, he would have been a huge chance to return for the Grand Final).

The final term was an old-fashioned thriller. In the final minute, with the Saints up by a point, Justin Peckett was run down by Luke McPharlin just outside Fremantle’s 50-metre arc; the resulting kick forward saw Justin Longmuir take a spectacular mark over the top of the pack just 25 metres out from goal. His kick was straight, and the Dockers had won by five points, and were to face reigning premier Port Adelaide the following week in the final round for a spot in the finals.

Channel Nine reporter Tony Jones – travelling back to Melbourne from the game after Nine’s coverage – claimed that he heard umpire Matthew Head, who had made a number of the decisions that went Fremantle’s way remark, “Now I know what it feels like to have a victory”. Several other passengers made the same claim as Jones, but the AFL cleared Head of any wrongdoing after an investigation into the matter that week.

Though they would start strongly, Fremantle lost to Port Adelaide the following week and finish 10th as the Power clinched eighth spot. St Kilda would go on to record two amazing victories over the following two weeks – their biggest win in the club’s 132-year history over the Brisbane Lions, by 139 points, and a brave eight-point win over minor premiers Adelaide in the First Qualifying Final at AAMI Stadium, to secure a home Preliminary Final and a week’s rest.

But the centrepiece of this rivalry – so far, at least – came in Round 5, 2006; the final installment of this trilogy taking place where it started – at York Park (now Aurora Stadium) in Tasmania, referred to as “Sirengate”.

The Dockers were truly dangerous in 2006, and were only knocked out a week short of the Grand Final. Though notorious for poor interstate form, on this day they were all over an inept St Kilda, who were making another slow start to a season. Though the Saints would be in with a chance all day, that chance seemed to have disappeared as the clock counted down to zero as a desperate Dockers defence forced a stopped in the Saints forward line, with their team up by a point. The siren sounded, and Fremantle players around the ball began celebrating a hard-fought victory.

But the siren was quite faint, and umpire didn’t hear it – and play continued from the stoppage well after full-time. The Saints forced the ball to Steven Baker, whose flying shot at goal – a number of seconds after the siren – missed to the left, tying the scores. The umpire then awarded Baker a free kick for a hit he got as he kicked it, and so he was to take the kick again, with the first behind taken back, and the Saints again down by a point. As this was occurring, Fremantle officials had stormed on to the ground to remonstrate with the umpires, with coach Chris Connolly finding himself arguing with St Kilda player Lenny Hayes. Verbal stoushes were springing up between officials, umpires and players left, right and centre, and amongst it all, Baker missed again. The game was a draw.

St Kilda coach Grant Thomas declared the game “one for the blooper reel” in the post-match wash-up, whilst Connolly was understandably furious. Fremantle immediately took the issue to the AFL. Sensationally, the AFL overturned the result during the week, with final score officially at 13.15 (93) to 14.10 (94), the Dockers victorious by a point.

The sides would meet again at Subiaco in Round 20. To date, this match is the most important game the clubs have been involved in against each other, with a top four spot up for grabs. Fremantle trounced the Saints, with the only highlight for St Kilda being a goal kicked by Brendon Goddard from an enormous kick late in the match; from just inside the centre square, Goddard’s kick would go through the goals at post-height.

The Dockers would finish third on the ladder, with fellow Subiaco tenants West Coast in first place. Though they would lose the Second Qualifying Final to Adelaide away, they won their first final of any sort at home against Melbourne a week later. Sydney knocked them out a week later, otherwise the MCG would have been set for an all-Western Australian Grand Final.

Several things of note come out of this. Firstly, St Kilda would have finished third on superior percentage if the “Sirengate” result had stood, forcing eventual Grand Finalists Sydney out of the top four, and forcing a Western Derby as a First Qualifying Final. Instead, the Saints finished sixth and limped out of the finals series in the first week, losing to Melbourne in the Second Elimination Final. Of course, if the Saints had won that game – which was a good chance of happening through the final term – they would have faced Fremantle in a semi-final, bringing the two teams face-to-face in massive game; as it happened, Grant Thomas would be sacked just days after the loss to the Demons. The other point worth considering – albeit a hypothetical one – is if the AFL would have overturned the result the way it did had Baker actually kicked a goal from either of his shots, “winning” the game for St Kilda. It’s one thing to overturn a draw, but to  completely reverse the outcome of a match would have made this issue far, far greater, and a much more daunting prospect for the AFL.

The following season was a disappointment for both teams. When they squared off in Round 20, with the Saints hoping to snatch a finals spot under new coach Ross Lyon, a collision between Steven Baker and Jeff Farmer would be the talking point of the competition for the following week.

Farmer left the ground concussed, with blood pouring from his face, after evidently running into the back of Baker. No umpires nor cameras saw or captured the incident, but a Fremantle trainer said that Baker had been malicious in the collision, and this was influential in the seven-match suspension Baker received. The Saints appealed, but this fell on deaf ears from the AFL. The decision would prove costly for the Saints, who were now without their star tagger as they were coming up against West Coast the following week, a must-win game for the Saints. The Eagles’ midfield of Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr were able to run far more freely and eventually the Eagles would win by eight points; though St Kilda defeated Richmond in Round 22, they would finish the season in ninth position after Adelaide also won their final round match to knock St Kilda out of September calculations.

Round 13 of 2008 saw a spluttering Saints wielding the axe on senior players Nick Dal Santo and Stephen Milne after just three wins from the previous ten games of football. Ben McEvoy, Robert Eddy and Jarryd Allen would all debut for the Saints on a dogged Friday night, with the Saints prevailing by eight points. It would be the beginning of a remarkable turnaround for Ross Lyon and his men, who would win eight of their final ten matches in the home-and-away season to finish fourth, including the return game at Subiaco in Round 20 which Stephen Milne played out with a grotesquely swollen cheek. The Saints would fall one week short of the Grand Final.

The Saints would go one better in 2009, as Fremantle were again finding themselves at the wrong end of the ladder. In Round 4, the Saints crushed the Dockers by 88 points, and keeping the visitors to a scoreline of 4.4 (28), the joint-lowest score at Docklands. Of course, that record is shared with St Kilda, who could only manage 3.10 (28) against Collingwood in Round 6 of 2002.

Most recently, their 2010 NAB Cup semi-final match was nearly called off, after storms ravaged the Melbourne CBD, leaving Etihad Stadium with internal roofing damage. The players ran out for a later start to no crowd in attendance, and the 5,000+ fans were eventually let in over the first quarter, but only allowed to be seated on the bottom level. St Kilda would win a position in the Final easily, but would lose that to the Western Bulldogs, who were making their first Final appearance of any kind in 40 years.

And now on Sunday evening, the two teams will be squaring off, and coming into this round are occupying the top two positions on the ladder. It’s definitely the first time this has happened with these two clubs; Fremantle will be looking to be on top of the AFL ladder at the completion of any round for the first time in their history, whilst the Saints are going to be entering a lengthy period of time with injured captain Nick Riewoldt. The football world will be watching this intriguing clash, which will hopefully be remembered for some good football, promising individual performances and solid teamwork. As long as no umpires take marks or feel like “having a victory”, or the siren fails, or there are unseen and inconclusive clashes which result in massive suspensions, or storms unleash fury over Melbourne, then there’s a good chance that just might happen.

But who knows?

Links

Umpire Peter Carey takes a mark in Round 15, 1999

Justin Longmuir kicks a goal after the siren to win the game for the Dockers in the “Whispers in the Sky” match, in Round 20, 2005

“Sirengate” finish Part 1, Round 5, 2006

“Sirengate” finish Part 2

Brendon Goddard’s monster goal, Round 20, 2006

Becoming history

Round 14, 2013
Richmond 4.4, 10.9, 15.13, 17.17 (119)
St Kilda 3.2, 4.4, 7.5, 8.7 (55)
Crowd: 52,184 at the MCG, Sunday, June 30th at 4.40pm

It’s been a while since we’ve seen that kind of puke offered from the St Kilda Football Club.

The last time we all genuinely hated what we saw was probably Round 9, 2008 against Brisbane at the Gabba, eight-goal quarter then notwithstanding. We weren’t sold on Ross the then-ex Boss at the time, and it looked like the club was simply going nowhere fast under him. Obviously that changed, and so in hindsight that period gets lost.

This time we didn’t get any junk time comfort. We didn’t even feel the coming relief of an impending siren, because junk time effectively started a few minutes into the second quarter. And the crux of this is, we don’t know yet if this kind of thing – which there will probably be more of – will be worth it.

I’d spent nearly all of Saturday going the big vom after a big Friday night. I was better on Sunday, although not quite 100%, but so droll was this pasting that the remaining nausea barely spiked during the game. It was such a gradual, consistent swamping that there was no turbulence to bring things back up again.

It didn’t necessarily come as a surprise. As I said in the preview, this was a rather new scenario. Not since I was a kid – and you don’t quite look at things in such a historical context then – had I gone to a game resigned to the likelihood that the Saints would merely be fodder for a Richmond side looking towards bigger and better things.

For a mixture of reasons my game-day ritual also felt like it was settling into a new pattern. Always a constant throughout my life of supporting the Saints has been my dad, but he’s accepted a job in the UK, so he and mum are off to live in London indefinitely and they’re currently there on a pre-season trip looking for houses and getting a feel for the place. My brother Matt wisely chose to watch it in the comfortable confines of home, as opposed to in the cold on a Sunday evening, and dear cousin Evan had a friend’s spare ticket in the plush level 3 seats of the Southern Stand with a friend, so it was a solo trek to a game I’d be watching with Lewis (as I’ve mentioned before of the wonderfully-named band Footy) and a couple of his friends.

(more…)

A win’s a win, cue credits, now leave

Round 13, 2013
St Kilda 7.2, 10.3, 15.6, 16.8 (104)
Melbourne 3.0, 5.4, 7.5, 10.9 (69)
Crowd: 28,751 at the MCG, Saturday, June 22nd at 4.40pm

If it wasn’t a milestone game for three of the club’s top players then last night would be condemned to being  looked up occasionally on AFL Tables or Final Siren to confirm novelty stats, such as Mitch Clisby becoming the second Demon in three seasons to debut against the Saints wearing number 50.

Otherwise, at best in a few years we’re looking back at games like this because guys like Murdoch, Newnes and Ross are a part of a premiership tilt and we see the vision to think, “wow, look how far they’ve come”. We’ll probably also think a lot of peoples’ hair looks silly and the jumpers look “very early ‘10s”, although I’m not sure how much tighter-fitting they can get than the current ISC template.

Sort of, but not really, on that subject, on the way to the ground, a guy got onto the train at Seddon with me wearing the early 1990s jumper with Philip Morris as the sponsor, and the old-style large, simplified logo. I was thinking how great it would be if the logo returned to that style and and size, particularly with the black cuffs now it would make the jumper seem ever darker. Someone mentioned something similar at the 2011 AGM and in between saying “right” a whole lot times Greg Westaway noted that the AFL has regulations for the size and placement of club logos (likewise advertising logos), so I’m not sure if they could. The thing is, the logo they currently use on the jumper is an exact replica of the club logo, so if they used the old simplified version would it be subject to the same kinds of rules? Incredibly appropriately, once within Yarra Park I walked past a guy who was wearing the fantastic 2006 Heritage Round jumper – which wasn’t quite the true reflection of the 1980s jumpers it was meant to be – but features a very prominent logo. It also looks like a cross between the home jumper and the 2009-2010 clash jumper.

Seeing the jumper temporarily distracted me from my stupor of walking to the MCG to see two founding teams of the competition play in beautiful sunshine on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, wait a minute – it was actually four o’clock and the start of the match was another 40 minutes away because the AFL wanted to please its TV buddies.

Distracting me was the fact that there were several girls collecting money for Rowing Australia. I think they said something about getting them to the World Championships. That’s fine, good luck, you’re working hard, but from a purely “ME” perspective the thing with that is, a footy club means so much to people. It represents a lifestyle, it represents years of memories and stories and traditions. Sports like rowing are all about the participants. They don’t represent me. They have nothing to do with me. They’re just some guy I’ve never heard of (that’s not true, a distant relative of mine rowed in the Olympics last year). What am I giving these people money for? If we’re playing stereotypes, maybe it was a Melbourne Football Club thing?

In fact, the trip on the way to the ground was riddled with novelty bits and pieces. At Footscray station an old person got on the train with a battered old office chair. Foolishly, I offered them my seat. They were obviously set, and there was a lot less rolling around on the flimsy chair than I thought there would be.

It was a lot more eventful than I thought the game would be, despite the turbulent week both clubs had had. I wrote my thoughts on Milne late in the week. It doesn’t need to be gone over too much again other than to say I still think it would have logistically impossible for him to play. He’s been treated haphazardly enough in regards to the issue over the past nine years, and I don’t think it would get better if he played this week. Any and all treatment of him by players and fans alike would be scrutinised incredibly heavily – as it should be, but my point is we’d realise just how complex and messy this situation is and that it needs at least a couple of weeks to air. The problem with the club’s loose plan of having him within a few weeks is that the first hearing of the case is on July 5th, and we don’t know what will come to light on that day.

Also in the red, white and black corner was the fact that it was My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s and Dal’s 250th games and Dempster’s 150th (but you wouldn’t know that last part). It was one reason for the players to get up and about for Saturday if the Milne issue hadn’t totally drained them.

The red and blue corner was home to its own bombshell during the week, but one that was confined to the football world, and I think that we were all expecting to happen at some point. I was expecting Neil Craig to at least rejuvenate a side that hasn’t looked like they wanted to be there for a while. I honestly do feel for Mark Neeld. You could argue that he wasn’t up to taking on the job at the time, but I don’t think the club – from board level to the players – was going to do a lot of coaches too many favours. Craig’s did some good things at Adelaide I but I think his legacy there would be one of missed opportunities in the mid-00s, and I think the “coach sacked during the week” factor alone would have freshened up the Dees more so than Craig. The team has been that bad for most of the season where it would probably only translate to so much anyway, but the way the Saints had been travelling this season meant all sorts of things could have happened.

As it turns out, what happened was really just a rubbish game of footy between two struggling sides, and fortunately for humanity there was a minimal number present. Only 28,751 were there to see possibly the club’s greatest all-time player and one of his best teammates in their 250th, but you could also say they were there to see history’s worst club and the modern era’s worst club squaring off. See, St Kilda could have made that tag irrelevant had it won a premiership in the last decade, but it didn’t, and so now it’s just back to being shitty old St Kilda again. However, like at start of this century, there might be a plan for it. But we’ll have to wait.

The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind had come into the side for his mate’s big day, and also because a whole lot of other guys were injured. That’s a lie – one was injured, one was scaring us that we’d wasted pick 13, and one is apparently next Buddy but in several years’ time. It also brings him to 198 games, and I genuinely would love to see him play 200. Within a minute or two of the first bounce he found himself already five metres behind the play, but finished the quarter with two goals. On paper it seemed like he belonged, but one of those goals he was lucky that he (arguably) got taken high after inexplicably trying to dish off to a marked Roo at the top of the goal square. He didn’t have much to do with things from then on.

There were a couple of moments like that. Roo got a lucky hold free directly in front, and CJ did his best impression of Roo on 2009 1st Preliminary Final night which saw the captain gifted a goal from the square.

CJ has scored a goal from one of his puppy dog kicks after some quick hands from TDL and Newnes. As rubbish as Melbourne were – sloppy and stagnant – it was nice to see six different goalkickers for seven by quarter time. TDL and Ross were amongst them on top of their good efforts around the ground, and that list had grown to 12 by the end of the game.

Jack Steven started really well, winning a few clearances but even under limited pressure he wasn’t quite getting them to the right spot. They seemed to just tumble into the air a little haphazardly and a bit too wide, but the more he does it the better he’ll get at it, and I’m not going to get whingey about 30 possessions. But we’re not going to be playing Melbourne every week.

Dempster had a ripper start to his 150th, kicking it straight into Kent at full-back when he had more than enough numbers around him, who kicked their first. Even that early on, I don’t think anyone got too upset by it. The game was littered with moments like that – not necessarily as costly, but equally as clumsy.

The highlights were more about players working continually hard – Swat highlighted Dal’s 13 contested possessions in the post-match – than flashes of brilliance (ha) but there were some bits and pieces by younger guys early when the game was alive that were worth noting. Head put in a great contest down – certainly better than his effort on Dawes off the play – Dunell outmarked Byrnes and delivered a precision pass to TDL, who played on goaled, and Milera put on a big tackle in the forward line and followed it up in the pocket to set up Roberton for a shot at goal (albeit one that hit the post).

Late Withdrawal Lotto had Sam Fisher winning the jackpot, which wasn’t just the week out but the entire season as revealed the following day. That’s a big blow to an already undermanned defence that is struggling with just about anyone over 6’5”, but on the flipside it opens the door for Head Simpkin or the Ferg Burger that much more. That said, one concerning thing in the first quarter was that the Dees seemed to get goals too easily on the rare occasions they went forward. There was the Kent goal, which also came about because of his effort to pressure Dempster, then Blease’s nice snap goal straight from a Nathan Jones centre bounce clearance, and Jack Watts presented well, got a free and kicked straight.

As mentioned, Head got the nod (omg get it?) this week, having been on the Missing Persons list effectively all season. He’ll be back on it for two weeks after smacking Dawes (assuming they don’t challenge), however, and all of a sudden the backline is looking even thinner. Mark down 10 goals for Jack Riewoldt next weekend (a large majority of me isn’t joking). If they bring Ferguson back in I doubt we’d ever see him again in post-final siren.

My brother and I decided to watch the second quarter in the Social Club. Things were a bit more happening in there, probably because there was a roof. Also Gilbert McAdam was in there, which made it a more relevant space than the ground itself. The Social Club did go off with the Roo to Milera to running BIG RHYS BANDWAGON goal, however, and considering the members turnout overall it was very busy in there at half-time. I think we were all keen for a drink though.

Melbourne were all over it for periods in the second quarter, but they opened the term with four straight behinds and the Saints still managed to win the quarter. That had well and truly vacuumed out any atmosphere there wasn’t at the ground. When Milera attempted a little kick off the ground early in the third I observed it in my thought process as “almost exciting”.

The second half descended into farce to no-one’s surprise. As one of the few people in our N3 section behind us exclaimed, in the third term, “It’s lucky they’re so shit”, because the Saints weren’t necessarily so far ahead because they’re a competition juggernaut. Roo provided a genuine highlight by kicking to Terry from the wing, and then accepting Terry’s ball forward only a few seconds later for a shot at goal. Head put in a great hit on Spencer, and Armo moved nicely on the wing (albeit through not much resistance) and TDL and Terry worked nicely together to snap a goal.

Jack Steven’s early dominance settled a little but he was busy throughout for 30 touches. Armo was pretty good too, although it’s games like this I’d like to see him really take the opportunity to stamp himself, as he did against GWS. Not to make him some kind of flat-track bully, but he’s got to start somewhere? A few games like that a season is what we’re after.

The old firm in Joey and Dal were all over it and so the game was well in control. I spend the least time on this blog talking about guys like them because they mostly do a good job week in, week out – certainly Joey this year – this will be another of those weeks, other than to say they were both great and the club needs to have these guys around whilst the younger guys are coming through.

I wondered if Melbourne actually cared enough to go through all the effort it would take to improve during the game and back from the situation they found themselves in through the third quarter. I don’t think they did.

Really, on the way to a 49-point lead at the final change a more typical passage of play was Farren Ray kicking on his left (probably just for the practice) to the bemusing forward target of Clint Jones, who was appropriately outmarked by Nathan Jones.

If the game probably had jumped the shark by then, the rest was was The Simpsons from season 9 onwards. TDL kicked out of mid-air on the wing (although it did somehow turn into a goal), Dunell put in a really good effort to take a mark in the forward pocket on a tough angle but missed, only to get a chance 30 seconds later from a fluffed kick-in, and miss by even more.

Not sure what to say about the final quarter other than it was rubbish, and it didn’t really remind us why winning is so enjoyable. Wins are only coming around once a month, if that, at the moment, and this felt like a waste of that experience. A big final quarter would have been nice for the fans to be in a bit more of an upbeat mood by the time Roo, Dal and Sean were carried from the field.

Swat pointed out that with guys like Newnes, Ross, Murdoch, etc. in the side they would tire towards the end, as has happened a few times this season. There’s a few inexperienced players in there that aren’t strictly “youngsters” so that might come into it too, and it was great to Ross and Newnes taking another little step forward and being busier for longer. But considering the opposition, the tapering performance and the occasion itself it was a flat day at the footy. The days of big wins in real style are gone for now.

Swat also said a win’s a win, and I guess we had to run with that. I had a family friend’s 21st southside near my parents so I enjoyed a pizza from Remezzo and a few drinks with my brother before heading there and telling other people about the faffin’ that went on at the MCG.

As I said, Fisher is out for good and Simpkin will miss, so perhaps against the Tigers Rhys has to go back to defence and be second/third ruck to Big Ben (assuming he’s alright to go) along with Kosi, who surely remains in the side on his ROAD TO 200. Saunders literally got dropped after playing one quarter of footy, but for the same reason I didn’t like that (it wasn’t a bad quarter, too) I don’t want to see Murdoch miss after coming in. Terry surely stays this time after one of his better games – 21 touches to three quarter time – and TDL was lively too. Sandy’s game yesterday was pretty sad state of affairs for the Zebras but maybe – Ledger, Curren if they upgrade him or or Saunders, apart from My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs, perhaps – will be banging down the door. Nathan Wright didn’t have a huge game but he’s shown he can slot in pretty easily to the seniors and I have no hesitation in having the Hard-arse Triumvirate being reunited.

Webster put in some really hard efforts – particularly on in the third where we worked hard to get low to a contest in defence – and had nine touches coming on as the sub so I hope he’s kept in too (I’m sure he will be). Dunell was busy across the flanks and so apart from a possible forced change with Head and perhaps CJ there’ll be minimal moves made at the selection table otherwise.

Back to yet another 4.40pm game on the weekend, this time in the even blacker twilight hole that is Sunday evening. Being a reciprocal home game it means maybe seven or eight more Saints fans will turn up at the MCG than if it was just a regular away game, or hell, if it was just a regular home game. It doesn’t really make a difference if there’s no roof, I assume it’s the same small amount that turn up anyway. The Tigers are genuinely a good team now. I could play the “they haven’t beaten enough good teams yet” card, but that doesn’t concern us so I’d expect them to do things pretty comfortably over us. We’re 18 months into this new era, but are still some things that will take getting used to.

Home is where the footy is, sort of

Being in Vietnam for Round 4, I missed the first Saints’ home game at Etihad. So Monday night – in Round 7 – was my first home game at our “home” ground this year.

We’ve made the move from Aisle 29 on Level 2 around to Aisle 31, but being at the ground still felt like a welcome return to “home”.

The problem is, our Saints play just four home games at Docklands in the first 16 matches of the season. Whilst there are three other home games in that time elsewhere, it doesn’t quite feel right. Even after 13 years, it doesn’t feel like “ours”.

The club stated publicly at end of 2011 they wanted to play more home games at the MCG, and they get two this year, both within those first 16 rounds. I’m all for moving to the MCG on a full-time basis (in a perfect world we’d be wearing the 140 Years jumper on a full-time basis). I think it would probably take a permanent move for Saints fans to actually start turning up at the ‘G, because for as long as we’re only playing the odd game there the fans simply won’t turn up in the same numbers, whether the game be home or away. There’s just not a roof, you see.

The Wellington deal certainly provides some financial benefit to the club. The gate revenue issue with Etihad might be heading towards some sort of agreeable outcome (or at least plan for that outcome) sooner than 2025, so that issue might be alleviated to an extent also.

But that Wellington deal takes away two games from here; add to that the club’s push for more MCG home games is neither here nor there and that leaves us with probably only seven home games at Docklands a year over the next couple of years.

Add to that the unnecessary calamity that has been the move to Seaford and it feels like the club is a little scattered at the moment. I can see the theory behind Nathan Burke’s framing of the situation a few years ago – the Saints becoming the Bayside club with home games at Docklands, a presence at Sandringham with the VFL alliance and then further down the bay to the headquarters at Seaford. But I’m not sure if those are in either the players’ or fans’ interests.

Personally, I’m not a fan of Etihad in that it’s a rather corporatised and sterile place, certainly compared to the MCG. Whilst the MCG lost some of its magic with the visually monotonous redevelopment, it still really does feel like the home of footy. The club also hasn’t made the effort that the Bombers were making several years ago on match day to make the place feel like their home ground; even the Bulldogs have been throwing up a few banners for a few years now too.

The Sandringham alliance may not be best for the players, with compromised selection and motivations for the players on game day, and home games are on the too-small (but soon to be altered) Trevor Barker Oval. Even that relationship remains up in the air for the moment.

As for Seaford, I don’t think anyone is really a fan. To make the decision to move from Moorabbin was irrational at best, and truly awful at worst. The players felt at home at Moorabbin, and the fans felt at home there. It was a central site. A suitable redevelopment – and I’m sure if Archie Fraser and co. tried hard enough they could have come up with an agreement with Kingston City Council – would really have made it a great capital of St Kilda’s heartland. The fact that the club still has a lease there for a number of years yet, that the club shop is still there and that the club is still entertaining the idea of using it on a part-time basis seems a cop-out and shows little regard to the club’s heritage. The lonely G.G. Huggins Stand seems to embody the situation.

The club is entering somewhat of a development phase at the moment. Monday night had us feeling great about the young guys and the direction of the club in general, but that’s not going to be the case every week just yet. We won’t have the iconic players in My Favourite Hair in the AFL, Lenny, and the Tip Rat to build the club around for a while, and there might not be on-field success to ride on the back of, too.

I pay a premium for my Social Club membership. I’m lucky to have such great seats at every game, but I envy those that experienced Moorabbin – not for the win/loss record – rather, for the fact that it was another home to them, both to watch a game of footy and socially, too. It’s probably an antiquated idea now (both socially and logistically, – i.e. not all footy is played on a Saturday afternoon now), but I don’t quite think there is a modern-day equivalent.

I couldn’t help but feel jealous of Gold Coast and their fans when at Carrara for the Round 1 game – particularly knowing the stadium would be further expanded for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. This isn’t necessarily about money, but creating the idea of a space for this club we can really feel at home at. Something that both fans and players can revel in.

For now, things feel a little fractured and the club will need to make some firm decisions in the short-term future, rather than making half-commitments. In the words of Louis CK, “Pick a thing”.