New Zealand Posts

Ditched, Vol. 3

Round 4, 2015
St Kilda 5.3, 8.6, 10.8, 12.9 (81)
Carlton 1.2, 6.4, 12.9, 18.13 (121)
Crowd: 12,125 at Westpac Stadium, Saturday, April 25th at 1.10pm NZST

When you’re back at bottom of the shit heap you’re reminded about it in myriad ways.

In our case, we can even go to another country in which no one should know of our woeful, woeful history but we’ll still get found out.

Last year the New Zealand experiment featured a crowd of 13,409, down exactly 9,137 from the previous year.

That match saw us put in what would classically be described as a piss-weak performance, against a team that was 0-5 and in a game which presented a huge opportunity to go 4-2 (not that it really would have done that much for the rest of the season, let’s be honest), and after all the pre-match hype both here and locally, by the end of the night the venture was looking like this.

This year we apparently got to 12,125, and that might have been affected by two slop teams playing on a weekend which wasn’t padded out by a public holiday either side, but for the second year running the takeaway is we haven’t won a game in our apparently second home – now from three attempts – and we’ve again lost to a winless team.

You can have the annual Shane Savage Week, you can have a TV spot brazenly plugging the Saints in front of the opposing captain – or puff pieces with high-profile players of an opposing code, and you can personally give the locals a skills session, whatever. The $500,000 that Wellington tip in to the club for the game each probably doesn’t need that many people there for the broader local economy to get more back, but for the foreseeable future this game isn’t getting any bigger.

Look, you could look at the fixturing for this one and say, well, the AFL has given us a team that is probably a good chance to be the home of Darcy Parish come November, and given us a good chance to give the travelling fans, and any locals who got tickets thrust into their faces whilst they were minding their business during the week, a win in New Zealand on Anzac Day.

I don’t know, but in the long run sending two dodgy sides in a row to contend with our total dog’s balls-ness isn’t going to help in a “market” (welcome to Gold Coast & GWS-era basic, undisputed terminology) in which it’s not just about bringing a good “product” (fuck you Demetriou et al), but an actual “showcase” of said “product”. For as long as we’re going to be rebuilding/incompetent/whatever, we’re going to be letting that down by totally not holding up our own end.

Something decent at least after last week would be a start from every point of view, but fuck a duck I don’t know how much longer the NZ novelty factor will last for the crowds until we’re decent. There’s been some vague talk that this will be a permanent fixture (until the contract runs out, of course), so at best it will be treading water for the rest of it given where we are.

By then, I’m not sure how unique the game will actually be. Everyone’s probably been a little scared off by the crunch scheduling for this year given it’s on a Saturday, but it’s something that happens every few years so everyone calm the fuck down about it. The thing here is that Melbourne and Richmond are eyeing off the Anzac Day Eve timeslot, and over 58,000 there last night bodes well, considering Melbourne’s only going to get better and [insert Melbourne supporters turning up joke here]. Phil Davis also (probably under Head of Communications’ orders) just eased the prospect GWS-Gold Coast game also becoming an annual fixture into the media frame, and I’m sure the AFL would love that.

The New Zealand fixture for myself has always presented a few difficulties in terms of actually seeing the game. in 2013 I was in Cambodia with Mum and Dad, and whilst the Australia Channel had the Collingwood-Essendon game as part of its four weekly broadcast games, there was not a backpackers’ pub in site, even in the whitest of of touristy districts, that was showing the St Kilda-Sydney game. I ended up listening to the first half with the parents out of my iPhone at a bar over some rude cocktails, and then back at the hotel Dad and I watched the second half on a low-quality, totally not absolutely not very not legal stream of the game. Last year, my brother and I couldn’t find something similar but of decent quality enough and it was the iPhone again – this time via the hastily-subscribed AFL Live app – that gave me the early non-action, and we went up the street from his house past Sportscover to the Elsternwick where we watched arguably the most disappointing performance of the year.

This time, we decided to vaguely pre-plan things via a series of text messages close to 11pm, after I’d been in bed and slept for nearly two hours. We quickly found out the Anzac Day public holiday trading laws weren’t very conducive to the morning start so we ended up in Oakleigh at dear cousin Evan’s for some morning coffees and lagers and Red Rock Deli chips. Really not sure about the AFL’s approach to this game considering those trading laws and the fact this game remains stuck on Fox Footy – which a huge majority of people don’t have – and, uh, in a different country.

So fortunately Matt and I could rely on Evan and the family’s hospitality, and most importantly, Fox Footy connection. The brilliance of Melbourne’s public transport system meant we got there right on the start for Jarryn Geary’s debut as captain. With no My Favourite Hair in the AFL and Joey playing, the structure and inside work would be tested again after the dismal failure of last week.

Of course, we weren’t confronted with the scenario that Roo’s genuine late withdrawal gave us last week, which was essentially throw out our structural planning for the week less than an hour before the game. That Paddy came in was great, although depending on which forum called Saintsational you might read Josh Bruce wasn’t feeling too flash, to go with the fact that neither play the kind of footy that could cover Roo’s now roaming role.

However I think, perhaps ironically, that for Paddy’s statistical return of five touches he actually looked far more comfortable there yesterday, and gave showed us what he’d been sold on in the lead-up to the draft: he covered more ground more thoughtfully, was more physical when it came to marking contests, moved through traffic better and was cleaner down low than in his rushed debut. I don’t know about drawing the link between him being subbed off and our structure overall going to absolute arse, but in his second game as a big guy with a lot of responsibility for how the team set-up I’m not going to fault him too much.

The warning signs of the other side of the structural deficiencies were there from early on. This one’s more about application but once the Blues were over the first wave of pressure across our half-forward line is was down to them to screw things up for themselves. It was a similar pattern the previous week; after the decent start things opened up and in the end the 40-point margin reflected just how much the Blues sliced us open after we were out to a 26-point lead in the second quarter. The possession count reflected that too – 375 to a paltry 308.

The thing was, we were switched on in the first quarter and a half that the high pressure ploy really worked. It made Jack Steven’s good running and pocket banana opener and Sinclair’s really composed finish on the angle look extra sharp. Bruce’s dinky kick on the line was a replica of his sixth on the Gold Coast a fortnight earlier so the good vibes were there, but the second quarter difficulties seen in the two losses were still something to overcome.

It was perhaps incumbent on Membrey to play a more prominent role across half-forward, but eight touches – albeit with some pretty decent fend-offs and good urgency thrown in – and no scoreboard presence really doesn’t do his place in the side any favours. Fortunately for him Roo is no certainty at all to play next week, Paddy would probably be the first one to come out and Spencer is doing fark all for Sandy right now (and anything Tom Lee is doing is at the other end of the ground). I’m absolutely not writing him off, and like Paddy he might look a lot better with Roo straightening things up as well (we know he’s made impact with that set-up already). Yesterday was only his fifth game and he would have been better off spending the last two years playing in the EFL if he wanted to be primed for senior footy.

So, as it should have been expected, the first 100 seconds of play in the second quarter saw Carlton take the ball out of the centre twice for two goals. Soon after Jack Steven totally butchered a forward 50 entry on the rebound the Blues went straight back for Henderson to already have three on the board.

The deft move by Bruce to meet the ball at the top of the fifty, hold off the close handball and wait the extra second to give to Billings runnings past for the lovely running goal was probably the classiest we looked all day. Billings is still getting there obviously, but this moment was a timely reminder of why he was a pick 3.

Bruce didn’t dominate again but he kicked two goals, which means his return so far has been a healthy 2, 6, 2 and 2. Again, like Membrey and pre-emptively McCartin (for the short-term), he would be the beneficiary of Roo running around nearby or higher up; he certainly affected general play more with him in the side, apparent illness notwithstanding; and last week was probably not a good time to be wearing the white shorts and mostly-white clash jumper.

I’ll faff around with the subject more in my entirely unanticipated next volume of St Kilda Jumper Talk over the next week, but I thought this year’s New Zealand jumpers looked pretty good, if a bit busy. Not sure if they’re trying to build a theme with the red being essentially the bottom third of the jumper on the front and back over this year and last, with black panels either side of the middle white panel on the upper part. I think it’s a really mean look, and is basically a hybrid of the home jumper tri-panel and the hot-cross bun jumper.

It was the kind of day in which Billy Longer was having an impact around the ground. And by that I mean it was a weird day. He ended up with 20 possessions but already the game had turned enough to the point we were sitting there thinking if him being in our better players was a good thing or not. Billy got in on the pressure act and took some nice intercept marks across half-forward, and would venture back a couple of times to have a presence there also. A few hurried kicks when he found the footy in general play I think had to do more with him totally not being used to being near the ball at a stoppage. Either way, 20 touches might reflect one of the first real steps we see him take.

The umpires were letting just about everything go for some reason, but they did it so consistently it was genuinely enjoyable to see a bit of physicality in the game not taking away from its ebbs and flows. Perhaps the umpires were told to keep things flowing on the smaller field, and it worked whatever the motivation. But when Carlton busted down to their forward line for Liam Jones to have an easy shot at goal and then miss, I knew I couldn’t trust anyone out on that field to not pull out something dog’s balls through the second half or at a vital point late in the game – whether it be the umpires letting their guard down, Liam Jones or Billy Longer.

By half-time we could barely get past halfway with a decent possession, and the second half really is just a blur of party pies, Oscar sitting next to my head on the couch, beer and novelty soft drink (Schweppes’ “Fruit Tingler”, obviously named to evade copyright infringement, was actually OK). That Jack Lonie was the classiest thing that happened for us in that second half speaks volumes of Jack’s own talent and our own inconsistency.

I like the style of footy Richo is trying to get us to play, and we’ve seen it work at times very well this year. But whilst this team is young and we’re still sorting out the proverbial from the proverbial, when it drops off it’ll get ugly. Lonie’s pressure turned over the ball twice in the same short passage early in the third, ultimately ending up with a great kick from Billings to Bruce for an early goal, and when he bobbed up out of nowhere to win the ball and then found himself down the chain snapping a goal around the corner through traffic – with kind assistance from the bounce – all of a sudden we were lucky to be 14 points out. But then he kicked across goal and Andrejs Everitt duly accepted the gift and the Blues were up and about. They made sure Lonie knew about it and they didn’t look back.

Sure, there was Newnes giving Murphy a nice lovetap (more out of frustration I think in the relatively foreign and ineffective role), and Geary just pressing his head into the turf as well, but they came after Geary put in a soft effort going for a mark and Murphy was the one who really showed a captain’s qualities. Sure it was nice for Geary to be captain for the week, but there a few clangers in his game and based on admittedly a very small sample size I don’t think he’s quite the next in line.

It’s easy to criticise the backline but when our midfield is getting smashed or the forward press is breaking down far too easy then they’re going to have an unlimited supply to defend. The glaring part here is that guys like Dempster, Fisher, Gilbert and Ray probably can’t take up that many spots in the backline for much longer. Yes, we need to have the stability down there for a bit, but it’s one area that really is up in the air as far as the transition to youth goes. Goddard, Acres, Lee maybe, and Webster really need to start playing more often, and it’s fair to say Acres and Webster have certainly done enough to demand a senior spot very soon. They’ve shown natural smarts and pinpoint disposal, which is the kind of thing we’ll need with this style of footy. Roberton has improved on last year but I still think Shenton is ultimately a depth player at best.

So after a couple of quick Double-Coated Tim Tams and some Miced Volvos, it was back out into the cold and slight rain, to trek back across the city with most of the bleak afternoon left and already a St Kilda loss to show for our Saturday. Fortunately, there was some remarkable Australian Rules football to be broadcast still to come.

When St Kilda returns to its natural state, by definition it means clubs are inherently raised that little bit more, as well as getting the opportunity to showcase that domination no matter where they sit in their own journey. Take the winless Blues as the perfect example – holders of the greatest ever all-time wins-to-losses gap over an opponent (us of course), and with a list that’s possibly the worst of any – their sixth-gamer Patrick Cripps gathered 33 disposals and laid 11 tackles; Tom Bell barged his way to four goals after 22 across four seasons, and Lachie Henderson decides to kick five in one his occasional good performances, typically reserved for who else?

How do you keep selling this to a city in a foreign country? How many times can you try? “We’ve been successful here only once from 142 attempts; zero out of three isn’t so bad”? The idea is OK, but whether or not it’s successful really depends on what the AFL want and what the club want; we might be happy to just keep pocketing the money. The fact is until Corporate Stadium is in the AFL’s ownership and we’re not the League’s stress ball, we’ll need those dollars.

Dour days

Round 15, 2014
St Kilda 1.2, 5.4, 9.7, 11.7 (73)
Richmond 6.2, 10.4, 13.7, 18.9 (117)
Crowd: 28,487 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, 28th June at 2.10pm

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“You’ve got to win a game.”
– Mark Robinson to St Kilda Football Club CEO Matt Finnis, late on Saturday morning

Not so fast, Robbo.

Robbo was part of the SEN 1116 team interviewing our CEO before the game on Saturday, and had built up some of his customary rambling momentum to the point where it’s often difficult to tell if he’s just thinking aloud or actually is communicating his most considered thoughts.

On the surface, his statement is so obvious it wouldn’t be out of place in the first few dot points in the “Rules of the Game” documents, just to get the housekeeping out of the way “Shall be played on a field”, etc.).

If you think I’m heading towards encouraging tanking territory, well, I would be. But the problem is I can’t anyway, and nor can you, because this team simply doesn’t look like winning a game anyway.

Look, to be completely honest I actually quite like Robbo. I enjoy how passionate he is about the game as a whole, and how emotionally invested he gets in all of its issues and stories, whether they be good or bad or somewhere in between – this is more entertaining on AFL360 because you can actually see it on his face and in his mannerism and gesticulations. I say all this with an asterisk denoting his Essendon bias and conspiracy theorising in the ASADA case, and this article.

Anyway, his advice certainly wasn’t lost on Finnis, but he and the club knows it. Finnis, in between Robbo sharing his ideas during his one-person brainstorm session, spoke about the club needing to hit free agency very hard in the next couple of seasons, again reinforcing the club’s plan to get the absolute best possible out of the next couple of drafts first.

We can already bank some high draft picks this year and most probably next year, too. I want that Number 1 draft pick, I want Patrick McCartin, and we’re now a game clear at the bottom after the Lions beat the schizophrenic North. It’s falling into place for that prized, occasionally abused first pick, or least until GWS want to flog off Jeremy Cameron or Jonathon Patton because they’re homesick. I’ll take either of those guys too.

Richo was looking the other way in his weekly Selection Insider appearance, calling the ground by its 2003-2008 name “Telstra Dome”, and then talking up Jack Billings after his “Norwich Rising Star” nomination during the week. I was expecting him to reveal Jason Heatley’s return to the side but we had to settle for Big Rhys up forward.

Ah, 2-for-1 day. We finished with a crowd number of 28,487, which means we didn’t break even with Etihad Stadium, and that’s on top of possibly losing a whole bunch of cash on people who turned up for the freebies. I’m not sure what the specifics would have been between the club, the AFL and the stadium, but given we didn’t crack the 30,000 break-even mark we can put this one down as a loss off the field to go with the smacking we all watched on it.

Sadly the New Zealand jumper alone wasn’t able to bring more people through the turnstiles on what was also “NZ Theme” day, which basically equated to the team wearing the NZ jumper, a whole bunch of merchandise being further discounted in the truck and the conveniently-timed announcement of NZ-based Liz Dawson as a club director. If anything, Finnis dampened the theme a little when he categorically stated on SEN that St Kilda wouldn’t be moving to NZ. Tasmania it is then.

I think the NZ jumper is incredibly close to being really good. Things head south, literally, on the bottom half though. Have the middle white strip the same as the home jumper and take away the fine pattern over the red, and all of a sudden you essentially have a bold redesign of the home jumper. Just look at Rhys’s post-match interview with Melbourne fan Tom Morris (I only found that out this week) – you’re only able to see the top half of his jumper, and with the black panels on both sides of the white stripe with the logo visible too, it’s an awesome start. Clean up the back too to reflect the front half more closely and you’re getting closer still to a winner.

Otherwise, Saturday was sadly one of the inevitable games you get in these eras in which you just can’t take away too much from. You can excuse the younger guys for a quieter week, that’s fine, but for the guys who simply aren’t relevant to the club’s list the next time we’re genuinely pushing for a flag these games just feel like wasted energy. I’m talking both guys who will simply have retired by then due to age, or younger guys who either don’t look likely or will need to be replaced/upgraded on by presumably higher draft picks, free agents and traded guys over the next couple of years.

Strange that both Richo on SEN on Friday and then Finnis pre-match highlighted how Shenton was to them a really good example of player development in the face of adversity hitting the older guys. In fact I think Finnis coined the term which will no doubt be on the lips of list managers nationwide soon: “Discovering a Shenton”. True, he’s really shown form and rightfully earned respect within and outside of the club for the way he’s worked himself off the rookie list. I feel a little silly for writing this paragraph because yesterday was his eighth game (Jack Billings has played more games FFS). But Shenton is the kind of player in which I’m not sure how much more improvement there will be in what he does, but rather that improvement will come more in how much of it he does within a game. He’s certainly not poster boy quality yet.

You look to your Billings and Dunstans (*muffled* and McCartins) to be the poster guys for the club because they have innate qualities and a professionalism to their games despite their age. Mr. 100% had a bit of a come down after his big week, last only a couple of touches before breaking his perfect streak with a wayward pass to Terry in the forward pocket. He had a couple of good follow up efforts in traffic early, but once the ball the spilled out the Tigers were off and away. Jack Riewoldt look like he was going to double his best tally against us, taking four inside 50 marks in space as the Tigers players ran in numbers through the middle once the ball became free and left Delaney in all sorts. He only finished with two for some reason, but it didn’t matter.

The fourth one came after My Favourite Hair in the AFL had missed a shot at our end. Still yet to find a major, and Richmond went straight up the other end. It became a running theme, the ease with each several Tigers cruised through no one in particular in numbers to get the ball to Jack and, thanks to a tweak in his game and lack of quality one on our part, Trent Cotchin. The man with the annoyingly not-quite-good hair – in fact, it’s shithouse, the whole thing is at least 1cm too big both on top and the sides – played as good a game as a Tigers fan would have wanted him to play on Saturday. Five goals and 31 touches. He actually kicked his third from the bounce straight after Jack’s aforementioned goal, earning Rich’s newly-coined title of “Billings of the Round”.

It got turned up in the second quarter, which to begin with we were 30 points in arrears. Shane Savage, who actually played a pretty good game (and all of a sudden looks a likely find), sent into a attack an absolute floater with the Tigers pounced on. They went straight up the ground with minimal resistanct and  Cotchin snapped his fourth goal. Billings, who we genuinely look to for some class in delivery, was right on 50 near the boundary in space and went to no man’s land. Straight back up for a goal.

Sav continued to work hard but put in another questionable forward 50 entry (again from about 25m from the arc – I think both times he tried kicked the cover off the footy), and shortly following that Jack Steven, our reigning Best and Fairest winner and widely regarded as untouchable come trade time, kicked another forward 50 entry out on the full.

And straight back up for a Tigers goal.

Shenton soon after didn’t have any awareness on the run towards goal and got worried out of the shot.

Straight back up again.

Then the momentum swung and the pressure lifted. For the first time we were able to hold it in the front half for an extended period, with two particularly good chances for a meaningful entry. Jack scrubbed another one.

And straight back up again, for Newman to mark in the pocket and kick the goal after the siren. All the pressure was effectively wasted, and Richmond went into half time

At some stage through the second term – probably just before we grabbed the momentum back a little – it felt as if the game should have well and truly been put to bed. Somehow we were still in it, although at best we’d only hover on or just above the three-goal mark for much of the third quarter, without getting nearer to put some serious doubt into the Tigers’ minds. Newnes had a shot after the siren to not just make up for Newman’s at half-time but give us a real sniff but missed.

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For a home crowd of 28,487, the members’ section – particularly the cheer squad – looked remarkably thin. Another home game that doesn’t particularly feel like a home game at all. Richmond’s cheer squad and supporters packed the opposing end, which  The closest we got to any sort of “atmosphere” being created by us Saints fans was basically Minchington excellent running goal on a tight angle in the third quarter. He’d been on the ground for all of 15 seconds too, and it was a good sign (at the time anyway) that it had come from Terry backing himself to go for a four-bounce run with Big Rhys the link between him and Darren.

Minchington was a rare highlight to take out of the game. That goal itself certainly was from a team perspective, because instead of that really lifting the side Cotchin kicked his fifth goal immediately after, followed by Roo and Newnes missing from set shots. But as far development goes he showed that he wanted to compete and get involved, and there was also the quality bullet pass to Roo (the aforementioned miss). Two goals and six touches is pretty good for someone playing the small forward role in their fourth game and being given just 40 minutes to show something.

BIG RHYS BANDWAGON isn’t quite rolling yet but I thought he was OK. There was a period in the third quarter particularly when he found himself in the 50 metre arc and struggling to find the right positioning to mark the footy, almost as if he was caught between using his height and reaching over his opponent or trying to get away from them. Which was kind of annoying given his physique. He find himself one-out with Cotchin and enjoying a 15cm height advantage (and probably the same in arm length), but looked anything like winning the duel, and this was after Mav Weller had earlier outbodied Ivan Maric (despite conceding 18cm) and taken a grab in their one-on-one marking contest.

Rhys actually took a couple of decent marks – and ended with eight – and two goals. I don’t know if we’re any more or less convinced he’s a long-term solution though, but at worst I reckon he’s a very, very handy player to have on the list and I do think he can still improve. A lot will hinge on the next two drafts and trade periods where he actually fits into the side’s structure but I think he’s roughly in the right spot.

The other potential piece of the forward puzzle in Head Simpkin had a very similar game to the previous. One goal, although this one was pretty decent from around 50, and a huge tackle but that was pretty much it. I’m just not sure where he’s at right now. I’m not sure where any of it’s at right now; Roo can’t even get off the ground.

The experiment might have a new addition sooner rather than later. Richo’s comments about looking to play Spencer White before the end of the season were immediately followed by an indication that they wanted him to really hit the pre-season to come out firing next year. And maybe that spurred him on, or at least just made him more comfortable, because he came out and kicked three in the first half on Sunday IN THE SENIORS for Sandy. He could have kicked a few more if not for inaccuracy, too. He’s essentially been forgotten this season in calculations for the future forward set up of this club, with Rhys, My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs and Big Tommy Lee all tried whilst he’s sat out injured or doing freak knows what in the Development League.

Tommy Lee, on that note, kicked four in the same game. I don’t know if that’s enough for him to come straight back in but I’d be betting that unfortunately Head’s gonna be omitted this week. Spencer wouldn’t come in just yet either and, also unfortunately, Lamb might be injured. I think it would be very interesting to see Roo, Rhys and Tommy Lee in the same forward line, with Rhys staying higher up and Lee and Roo leading out from closer to goal (or perhaps Lee coming up higher also). We saw Roo, Rhys and Head trialled together on Sunday so I don’t think it would be farfetched if the selectors this week thought Tommy Lee would be able to make a bigger contribution than his last couple of outings.

As the smaller guys, I think Minch earned another game and it would be good to see him start. Terry might be in danger of losing his spot to Schneids, now that he’s put in a couple of very busy performances at Sandy, or to maybe Josh Saunders who’s likewise had good back-to-back games. Terry kept his tackle count high at five and was part of the set-up of the Minch goal but he just went missing otherwise.

Interestingly, Big Billy Longer had his best game for the Saints – and it was still just his 18th overall – but still might be supplanted by St Kilda’s Own Stephen Merchant in Tom Hickey. Big Tom was again in the best for Sandy and the side is really missing his presence around the ground and his ability to drift forward to half-decent affect. Billy actually made a far bigger contribution around the ground that his previous appearances however, using his frame at stoppages to help out teammates (he finished with an impressive seven tackles) and also kicked a goal. But he’s still not quite hitting packs in the forward line as hard or as effectively as he should. He’s there – he’s got that much covered – now he’s just got to do stuff.

Now, a change in course: Jimmy Webster. Shame he’ll be out for a week but showed again not just his good disposal but some real grunt in his game which is looking like playing more prominent role in his game going forward than we thought. My favourite part was his hit on Dusty, who’d picked off Mav as the man on the mark on the wing. The kick went to centre half-forward and Webster went after Dusty and put him on the deck. That’s the kind of thing you want to see the young guys starting to do – flying the flag for your teammates.

Maybe it’s time for Clint Jones to come out of the team. Maybe it’s not. Maybe Terry and CJ out for Schneider and Saunders? Otherwise I couldn’t fault anyone else I haven’t already mentioned, it’s just that they all had “ok” days. Armo did some physical stuff but went missing at times, and according to Crackers Keenan in Inside Footy the Lions might be after him which, if true, gives us a chance to get some decent picks in the trade period (he also said Freo is keen on Tommy Lee). Seb R0ss was alright again but continues to look more comfortable with the ball and taking enough time to properly weigh up his options, whilst Mav Weller was Billingsed by Cotchin in the first quarter but won some of his own footy from there. Throw Shenton and Billings into the “‘Yeah, I guess?’ – With Upside” pile.

I’ve probably undersold Sav a little too. He’s looking more and more like the player we wanted to have at the club when we traded Big Ben.

Genuine hope and momentum generated by a bunch of high draft picks and free agency recruits is the road we’re going down if we’re to avoid dour days at the footy. Low crowds, low quality Australian Rules football. We can only hope the guys in charge do it right, because that’s the only way the club will get the supporters and untapped  famous populace from “Port Melbourne to Portsea” to turn up and sign up for a membership. I hope this is the only 2-for-1 day the club needs to have.

When Finnis was talking about bringing talent to the club in the next couple of years he stated, “We won’t die wondering”. Like the recruiting of Gehrig and Hamill fast-tracked development of the side that had just recruited Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Dal Santo, Montagna and Goddard, the young group that will be representing this 141 year-old club over the next couple of years will need to boosted, and if not piloted, by some real and a little more mature quality. That comes later, though. If you can stomach it, the next year or two will be all about getting the best younger guys to the club. That’s how raw the project is.

With the club’s finances in a pit and the forecast for growth from memberships and stadium deals minimal over the teething stage for this team, I think we’re right to feel a little apprehensive about all of a sudden having a New Zealand-based director and Tasmania looking to refresh its deals with Victorian clubs. We may not die wondering, but sometimes in eras like these you feel like just surviving is the priority.

St Kilda 79, Brisbane Lions 82

Losing to the winless, bottom team. Cool. This is how the Wellington experiment is going:

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Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media

Review (by me) should be up over the next day or so.

St Kilda Jumper Talk: 2014 Edition

Like the pre-season itself, it’s become harder over time to take the jumpers made for the NAB [Whatever it is now] seriously.

The mid-90s saw several designs that would be regularly worn throughout following premiership seasons. North Melbourne’s 1995 blue yolk with stripes and Kangaroo was one of the first an instant favourite, and was the club’s away jumper for several seasons.

St Kilda took things a step further, adopting the hot-cross bun design worn for the 1996 Ansett Cup premiership as the home jumper a season later – and very nearly it became a premiership jumper (and thus, perhaps, the club’s home design in perpetuity).

The design completed the treble in 2002 when it was demoted to away jumper status (in the days when “away” jumpers weren’t necessarily “clash” jumpers), and was the basis for 2001’s infamous Pura Lightstart one-off and the resulting, improved clash jumper with red trim worn for 2002 and 2003. Incidentally, the first appearance of the “Yellow Peril” was against Carlton in Round 20, 2001, and its last appearance was against Carlton in Round 20, 2003.

Other examples of those times when 60,000-plus would attend a pre-season final include Melbourne’s first stylised M design, which inspired a couple of away/clash jumpers over the next decade, and Adelaide’s 1996 design – which was pitted against St Kilda’s new hot cross bun design in the quarter finals – which would inspire the Crows’ clash jumper all of 12 years later. Also, there’s Fitzroy’s pre-season jumper worn in 1995 and 1996, which featured half-chevrons that were echoed in what for all intents and purposes should have been St Kilda’s clash jumper in place of the dreaded “apron” design, but for a potentially rigged vote.

Fast forward nearly two decades and St Kilda this year ran around in two of its three NAB Challenge games in the popular (several people I follow on Twitter can’t be wrong) “Stickman” jumper.

The jumper was a competition winner’s design, hence a couple of elements markedly differing to what you’d see from the typical manufacturer-designed…designs.

Firstly, there’s the all-red back, which has never occurred in St Kilda’s history. Designers have typically steered well clear of using anything other than white to dominate a clash or alternative jumper, even with teams that don’t have white in their colours. St Kilda’s been no exception since the AFL really started standardising (well, to a point) their guidelines for clash jumpers, and that came around the time they told the club to find a design to supersede the very popular candy stripe jumper (which ended with the apron jumper disaster).

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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.