Patersons Stadium Posts

Back on the level

Round 8, 2012
West Coast Eagles 6.2,  13.6,  15.7,  18.13 (121)
St Kilda 1.4,  5.5,  11.10,  13.13 (91)
Crowd: 38,174 at Patersons Stadium, Sunday, May 20th at 2.40pm WST

After a heady week we all came back to earth on Sunday evening.

Our plummet back to the level was a free-fall throughout the first half, but the parachute opened up in the second half and the landing was softened a little. But we fell either way.

It was a long way to fall quickly, too. The general public’s perception of the club and its prospects were turned on its head last Monday when the trio of small forwards in Milne, Milera and Saad lit up the Concrete Dome. A poll on The Age online had St Kilda as the public’s choice of premier at one stage with 22% of the vote. Polls like that, let alone on the The Age‘s online version, only mean so much (i.e. nothing) but it did say something of the changed sentiment towards the club and its style of play – albeit for two hours this season – and the jaded, tarnished side that was taking the field in 2011.

West Coast in Perth after a six day break was going to be a tougher assignment than Carlton, even though both opponents would be playing for top spot in the respective games. The reason why the Saints lost, however, ultimately had more to do with a lack of energy and wasted opportunities in the first half rather than fixturing.

Birthday celebrations meant a late start to the day and getting to the parents’ house in Ormond right for the bounce of the ball. On the train there I’d learnt Priddis would be a late withdrawal, but by the time I was on the train back to Brunswick Scott Selwood, Waters, Rosa, Gaff, Shuey and Masten would have created more than enough headaches in his place.


Avoid disappointment – get ready to laugh now

Under Ross the ex-Boss we grew accustomed to winning interstate; obviously for much of 2009 and 2010 the Saints were winning anywhere anyway.

So it meant a period of time (albeit brief, in the scheme of things) where we lived the dream of strong, cohesive performances interstate. The comedy hour displays that were a firm fixture in their own right- up until the players got out of the clown car to take on the struggling West Coast late in 2008 with a finals spot on the line – were shoved into Room 101. The hope was they’d stay there, with a premiership tempering any pain we would feel after slapstick efforts for another decade at least, in Victoria or interstate.

Those interstate performances gave us some memorable moments of skill, luck and controversy (most of those involving Fremantle), just to remind us all that at least if the Saints aren’t winning premierships, they’ll be providing genuine flashes of skill in vain, or be in the news for just about everything else.

But we enter a new era on Sunday, and for however many new eras this club should have had since 1991 where the laughing stock shackles were to be broken off once and for all (or at least for another few decades), there’ll be almost certainly teething problems as the players adapt to a new coach and game plan and the club adapts to new personnel. Comedy hour might well be making a triumphant return.

Playing Port Adelaide in front of a few fans and more tarpaulin could be just as much of a psychological challenge as playing in front of a packed house wearing purple at Subiaco/Corporate Name Stadium. The locals are just as unwelcoming, the tarpaulin indifferent to any of your heroic feats at the home of the enemy. Also, you’re St Kilda, and when things aren’t expected to go well in general they’re expected to go much worse interstate.

All of that said, St Kilda should win. Port had a pretty decent pre-season and the Saints didn’t as far as on-field performances went, but we all saw what happened at the MCG between Carlton and Richmond; if the Saints are good enough, they’ll switch on when the real stuff begins.

Their best is certainly better than this bottomed-out Port side, but with new personnel and a new game plan it might not click straight away. There’s a number of inexperienced or new faces in the line-up, with Ledger and Stanley certain starters and Siposs, Cripps and new boys Milera and Wilkes named on the extended bench. It probably won’t end up that way, but that’s potentially six players with 43 games’ experience between them.

Already injuries have come calling (losing Misson might be proving costly already), with Schneider and Gram to miss. Schneider’s absence opens the door for Milera to roam around half-forward – although I’d assume he’d be used as the sub if selected – or perhaps even Siposs after playing higher up the ground through the pre-season (although apparently his dad has said he’ll be playing for Sandy. Via Facebook of course, or so the story goes).

With development the order of the year, I suspect Cripps is only a slim chance to reprise his 2011 role of pinch-hitting forward (which he did with great effect) should he be selected, in favour of his more natural role of running through the middle from half-back.

A sunny day of 24 degrees with only light winds is forecast for Adelaide on Sunday, and it’s perfect conditions to be able to judge Stanley’s performance accurately. He needs to hold on to those 50/50 marks that he spills too often and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he and Kosi goes. The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind moved incredibly well by his standards through the pre-season, and aside from the newer players selected we’ll have our eyes firmly on how he and fellow veteran Lenny perform.

Wilkes’ potential inclusion would probably see him played as a backman, although I’d probably prefer Blake if that was the case – the alternative is a far too tall forward line, regardless of how much more suited he is down there (although some would probably prefer him up forward to Rhys). The Port forward line could be rather tall at times (Butcher, Schultz and Westhoff) so another big body will be probably be needed, particularly with no Simpkin – the closest thing to a natural full-back.

With the defence looking shaky anyway, the midfield will need to reverse their leaky form of 2011. I’d personally take Hayes, Dal, BJ, Joey, Steven, CJ and Ledger over Cassisi, Ebert, McCarthy, Boak, Pearce and Rodan (a monty to give us grief if selected) but McEvoy, Kosi and Stanley will have to do the right thing by them too, not to mention that Lenny hasn’t played for 51 weeks. This is where the class of the Saints’ top players will need to really come through – as unhealthy the reliance is on the top several, that’s where this game will probably be won. Port will be introducing several new players themselves so that could be two teams out there on Sunday trying to find their way around things and putting on a good stage show.

As much as I like to laugh, I’m hoping the Saints keep as filled with resolve and hopes for the future rather than fodder for Monday’s weekend wrap-up. Either way, CJ will be playing, so there’ll be some character-based comedy on show at the very least.

Saints stuck in a hellish purgatory

Round 11, 2011
Collingwood 2.4,  6.5,  11.9,  16.12 (108)
St Kilda 2.1,  5.3,  6.7,  7.9 (51)
Crowd: 62,991 at the MCG, Saturday, June 4th, 7.10pm

…and the only way is up, or down.

That doesn’t make sense grammatically, but likewise there are conflicting feelings about last night’s game (that doesn’t quite make sense metaphorically either).

The result was arguably as the football world’s masses predicted – the Saints would start competitively, with the Magpie machine overwhelming and then obliterating another sorry challenger.

All the Grand Final Replay replay hype (what hype?) aside, enough had already happened this season for Collingwood fans to come to the game expecting to enjoy a comfortable ride akin to last year’s decider – in fact they were a St Kilda point short of the same scoreline come game’s end.

Some gross fans in the MCC gave it to Jones as he harassed and frustrated Thomas early on, and for the first half the Saints were worrying Collingwood. The obsessive haranguing of Nick Riewoldt subsided through the second quarter as St Kilda worked their way to the lead.

(Maybe it’s his 2008 Semi- and 2009 Qualifying Finals respectively, but I’ve never witnessed one team’s supporters so obsessed with an individual from another team. It was really an uncomfortable feeling to hear that, and I don’t mean that in the, “Look out, it’s the Magpie Juggernaut” sense that the majority of BigFooty would like to think. I mean that in the, it was really weird and a little disgusting sense.)

The effort and pressure seen a week earlier at Subiaco/Corporate Name Stadium was present. The Magpies found it difficult to move the ball cleanly through the field; Roo was playing higher up the ground, able to affect contests and find space for himself, and thus the Saints had an even reliance on players to to kick goals.

But as Collingwood took the ascendency in the second half, so did Thomas – who by the second half was running free anyway, being his usually dangerous self – and the Magpie fans felt safe enough again to give it to Roo, who as always when the Saints fall away had become the focal point up forward, at every opportunity. Order was restored.

That’s the obvious stuff out of the way.

Interestingly, a 57-point loss garnered far less criticism of the Saints than other losses this year. This would be due to a mix of the opposition, that we were all expecting a hefty Magpie victory considering St Kilda’s form anyway, and that the Saints were rather good for the first half whilst playing another two debutants, bringing the 2011 total to eight – the highest in the competition behind the Gold Coast.

Tom Simpkin had the daunting task of quelling the Magpies’ tall timber in Cloke and Dawes. He and Zac had their work cut out when the ball did go forward, particularly once the Pies broke the game open in the third term, though his second and third efforts on the half-forward displayed the attack he has shown in spades at Sandringham. Mercifully, he was subbed off for fellow debutant (and Tom) Ledger, but for Zac there was no respite.

Ledger, meanwhile, impressed in his quarter-and-a-bit of footy, and made sure he stayed in the good books of Ross the Boss (see The Challenge). He battled hard in a trying situation for seven contested possessions, for a total of ten; It’s hard not to be excited about his potential. Surely he has earned his spot for Friday night.

Jack Steven continued his impressive form working through the midfield and up forward, and Ben McEvoy worked hard for career-high numbers of possessions, marks, hitouts and tackles. He has plenty of development required in his ruckwork, but his endeavour around the ground can not be questioned.

So whilst Armitage and nearly-cult-hero Siposs were quiet by their respective standards, the youth in the side still have cause for optimism. Sam Fisher, James Gwilt (who found himself in the ruck at one stage) and Nick Dal Santo are surely in the top several players in the club Best and Fairest so far in 2011, and all played accordingly.

Otherwise it was a dirty night for the Saints; it’s been a dirty year so far, though slowly an upside is showing. But it’s not sure whether up or down is the next destination, and either way, it’s all difficult to take.