Round 2, 2013
St Kilda 3.1, 6.6, 11.7, 12.10 (82)
Richmond 4.5, 8.10, 12.12, 14.15 (99)
Crowd: 56,783 at the MCG, Friday, April 5th at 7.50pm
“Are these the nights of going over the cliff that people pre-empted over the past couple of years?”
Rich said this as he and I were sitting at Hell’s Kitchen drowning sorrows that might be a regular feature of this year.
“We probably won’t know it when it’s happening, but we’ll know in hindsight.”
Last night post-match – a quick couple of drinks and a chat about the game – certainly didn’t feel as dramatic as “going over a cliff”.
We’re not necessarily going to go to bed one night from the extreme of playing off in Grand Finals (yes, plural) to waking up one morning at the bottom of said cliff. Sure, Swat has made it clear he wants this group to remain competitive and to not bottom out at all as the club sees a changing of the guard. But what if that doesn’t quite happen, and we soon find ourselves on the rocks? All those times during 2009 and 2010 when we thought “What if this is it?” equally had the countering thought, “What if this isn’t it? What happens next?” We’re about to find out.
As Rich said, we’ll most probably know only in hindsight where we’re at right now – only a day after the Saints have lost a second close match from two, and gone to 0-2 for the first time since the Tim Watson feat. Tony Delaney disaster that was the year 2000.
I headed to the MCG with dear cousin Evan after dumplings at North-East China Family, our go-to pre-event eatery that has kicked off nights featuring many St Kilda games, Melbourne Victory games, Radiohead and Morrissey. As good as the dumplings were, they didn’t lift my own expectations that we’d be 0-2 by the end of the night. Now that it’s happened, I feel a bit more uncomfortable than I thought I would. We haven’t been in this kind of position for a long time.
Owing to my fetish for footy jumpers, I think what I was anticipating most keenly was what the teams would be wearing. Last year when the sides met it was a St Kilda home match, but the Saints wore the home jumper with white shorts whilst the Tigers wore their clash jumper with black shorts. This time around it was the straight black shorts for home, white for away arrangement. It’s good to see teams wearing their traditional jumpers against each other – we may never see a St Kilda home jumper on the same ground as a Carlton, Essendon, or Melbourne home jumper again.
As an aside, my weekly 140 Years heritage jumper in the crowd count was at seven last night (Bonus stat: Three of last year’s “Thank You” jumpers were also spotted).
Swat’s keen to tell us the Saints had a red-hot crack in front of a few Saints fans and more Tigers fans at a “home” game at the MCG. The inclusions of Fisher, Dempster, Montagna and Schneider were supposed to shore things up a little anyway, although I think most of us were expecting to Swat’s Late Withdrawal Lotto to yield at least one winner from those. Surprisingly there were no Division One claimants, and we move on to the jackpot prize next week.
Fisher and Dempster both seemed underdone, with Dempster off to a rusty start as he lost transmission with Blake early and they let Jack Riewoldt snatch a mark in the pocket. Jack didn’t quite present the problems in the air that he did last time around, but he was wreaking havoc in general play instead – his smother of Dempster’s lazy clearance attempt set himself up for goal number two within 13 minutes, and a few of his goals would come from snaps. Sean would eventually have the excuse of playing most of the game with a “broken” wrist, but that didn’t cover him for those early errors.
The Saints enjoyed a lot of the play for a period in the first quarter but it was actually senior guys in Roo, Lenny, Joey and Milne in quick succession wasted entries going forward. Lenny gave away a soft down-the-ground free on Griggs that resulted in a Tigers goal, Roo handballed it straight to the opposition on the rebound forward of the centre square and Milne let the boos get to his head when he marked on the 50-metre arc and played on a bit too quickly to prove a point.
I’d officially cracked the Ahmed Saads in the second when Jack Riewoldt kicked his third and Jake King got a rubbish free in the pocket and bananaed it home.
This report wouldn’t be complete without a paragraph on the umpiring. I really don’t like talking about umpiring, but I’ll whinge anyway: when one side has 23 frees to 13, and is able to kick 4.2 from those frees as opposed to 0.0 (please correct me if I’m wrong), then something is up. Vickery’s free against Blake for freak knows what in the third and Jack Riewoldt’s the last were incredibly soft and perfect examples of the Tigers benefitting from the umpires’ untoward involvement.
Umpires’ influence or not, a) the difference between winning and losing games like these isn’t going to cost this club a premiership in 2013 and b) the Saints freaked themselves over with shoddy disposal, such as the examples above. However, there’s certainly a number of things that we can take from last night, which is nearly a 100% increase on the week before.
Justifying my BIG RHYS BANDWAGON fever, Stanley got to play another game in his new defensive position, and although he was playing closer to goal and rotating through the ruck for the first half slotted in nicely once he made the move. I really wouldn’t have minded seeing him go straight to Jack Riewoldt from the first bounce, but perhaps that’s me getting overexcited. What I do know is that he’s looking more comfortable that he has before. Obviously that’s because he’s had more game time anyway, but he’s far more involved this way.
As for the other big guy, McEvoy enjoyed a really good game both in the ruck and around the ground. He might not have had too many hitouts to advantage, but he finished with 26 and he’s getting the first part down. Some outlets had him as best for the Saints – I’m not sure I was that excited about his game last night, but he did give us some reminders as to why we’re excited about him.
Not sure if Hickey comes back in if fit next week. Having the one genuine ruckman meant taking Rhys out of defence – one of the most valuable backmen – for occasional spells, and then when Swat realised things were too dire in the last quarter to do just that, he was forced to throw Maister into a centre bounce.
Dylan Roberton looked like he’d grown in confidence exponentially in the last several weeks. I didn’t question his willingness to get involved against the Swans in the NAB Cup but he looked a bit out of place. Last night he really tried taking the game on and it seems as though he’s really bought into the game plan; not only that but he was executing really well also. He might prove to have been a very underrated pick-up.
Saad and Milera looked busy, but are still going to be in and out of games. Saad didn’t pick up too many possessions but he worked hard to pressure around the ground, and very nearly finished with two great last-quarter goals. Milera finished with five tackles and gave off a goal to big Rhys after a nice receive from a long Jack Newnes kick.
Jack made a number of errors, but guess what? He’s played less than 10 games and that’s happen when kids start their careers. He really got involved and didn’t drop his head after making mistakes – he showed with his kick to Terry that he can already execute well, he just has to find the consistency and that will come with more game time.
Another youngster that made a number of errors was My Favourite Player Arryn Siposs, who backed up his worst career kicks last week with a couple of shockers. He ended up being subbed out for Schneider; maybe he needs a week out, or maybe he needs to have another crack in the forward line? With Gwilt and now Dempster out for a few weeks there might all of a sudden be more space for him in defence, and sqeeuzing him into the forward line might be a bit difficult. Maister was good in parts last night, he didn’t spill the early mark at the top of square and was actually looking half-decent for a time before he indeed reprised last week’s shocker and crucially in the last quarter he dropped a gimme uncontested about 40 metres out. It was made worse by the fact Dal had it covered and Beau called him out of it.
Armitage and Steven are somewhere in between the younger guys (it’s the seventh and sixth seasons respectively) and the senior guys, and there were some more good things from both of them. Armo justified his position in one of the eight leadership groups with some really hard contests low down and Jack got plenty of the ball in all sorts of the ground, and really tried using his speed to take things on.
I can’t tell if it was a good thing or bad thing that some of the truly senior guys were the best players. Lenny and Dal got plenty of the ball as always. Sam Gilbert was pretty good in his more attacking role – he can break the lines, he can move things quickly by spreading effectively or maneuvering through space. Clinton Jones played his best game for the club for at least a couple of years. Rich pointed at that they were “manic”. Players like those need to be – they need to be busy at all times; they’re certainly not going to damage you with their slick disposal from 15 touches (there were the obligatory Sam Gilbert Specials, but his delivery to Roo in the third was an example of his good side).
One guy who can do some damage from a few touches is Adam Schneider, who should play a full game next week now that he’s got some game time into him. His slick disposal was very welcome when he was subbed on; same couldn’t be said for his small forward mate the Tip Rat who played what was really a poor game. He wasn’t that involved in things, and when he was he wasn’t effective, bar a quick reply snap in the third (which was answered by the Tigers immediately).
But these guys more than likely not going to be there when this club makes its next tilt at that second flag. Joey too; he was good, but the way people were talking about him being an important inclusion would have had you confused as to who you were watching turn over the ball going forward with a couple of minutes left.
They played well but what does it really mean? Swat praised My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s leadership in what ended up being a really good captain’s game. But these are men whose premiership window has shut. We can only take so much out performances like these.
Next week we look to GWS with our gazed turned further from percentage-boosting wins and more towards making a good contest of things in the first place. Dempster is out, Siposs is down and out, but as I said there might be a more focused role for My Favourite Player in defence now. Hickey or Simpkin to come in? I’d like to see Stanley spend more time in defence than he did last night, but I don’t think the coaching staff read RWB, let alone take any notice of anything I say.
Right now there are only questions, and that list will grow throughout the season. In all sorts of schemes of things these are the dawn ages. It’s been a while since we’ve been here and we’ve got nothing to show for it.
Rich said, “Your headline could be, ‘It could be worse – we could be Melbourne supporters’.” I could have made it so, but that wouldn’t change the fact that we’re St Kilda supporters.