Ross Lyon Posts

St Kilda 2008 Season Highlights DVD

Unsure as to the copyright restrictions on this but I’ve always felt St Kilda is under-represented when it comes to fans actively archiving the club’s history, aside from a few – namely the wonderful Riewoldt12 on YouTube. So before I get to the DVD itself I want to go over some ground I’ve covered a little already on this about Sports Delivered and these kinds of productions.

I try and include as many nods to the past as I can, where appropriate, where relevant, where whatever, when I write for this blog. History is what football clubs are built, it’s a key reason why this competition and this game have an exceptionalism to them, and it’s an inherent aspect of why we follow clubs in the manner that we do.

Sports Delivered had done a brilliant job of archiving teams’ better seasons through the 1980s, up until late last decade, through season highlights DVDs for clubs. Each season is its own story within a club’s ongoing epic saga. A season highlights DVD tracks an entire story, and the matches, players, coaches and everything that go into a season – successful or not – are unique. You relate different seasons and your club’s fortunes to where you life was that at the point. I remember how much my Dad enjoyed watching the St Kilda 1991 Season Highlights VHS when I managed to get my hands on a copy via eBay 21 years on.img_7305

In 2009 it made the commercially-driven and incredibly disappointing decision to not produce season highlights for anyone outside of the Grand Finalists, and so multiple stories of hope and heartbreak that were endured by other clubs in a season – the losing Grand Finalists, those that came within a kick, a few minutes, a quarter, a match of a Grand Final – were condemned to be splintered into short moments viewed on individual YouTube videos with no context and no reverence to the journey it was a part of.

Sports Delivered’s decision meant that St Kilda’s 2009 and 2010 seasons only received “members only” DVDs; shortened versions of the more involving DVDs produced up until that point. For whatever reason, the company had made what was at the time a one-off decision to do the same in 2005, meaning tangible preservation of arguably the three most turbulent and remarkable seasons in the club’s history were mostly eliminated for a large number of people.

For that reason I’ve decided to upload what St Kilda productions Sports Delivered did create, starting with the 2008 Season Highlights DVD, particularly as they continually slim down their offering and take older productions out of their line. Because we all want to revisit these and be heartbroken all over again.

This DVD covers what has become an increasingly overlooked season, given what happened over the next two years. Had the players been able to take on Ross Lyon’s ethos a little earlier they might been able to give at least a Grand Final appearance a more decent shake. Either way, the turnaround from Round 13 onwards triggered a remarkable finish to the year – Robert Harvey announcing his retirement and everything that went with it, the 108-point win against the Bombers in the last match of the home-and-away season to steal a top-four spot, and for the third time in five seasons coming within a game of a Grand Final appearance.

At 86 minutes it’s a thorough recollection of the year, mostly taken directly from Foxtel’s The Winners program (hence the random music before the DVD’s own soundtrack comes in over the scores and match details). It also has key parts of Ross the ex-Boss’s post-match press conference after each game, and the occasional inclusion of opposition goals actually gives a decent context as the respective matches (except for a random Melbourne goal in a 79-point win). The late Stephen Phillips is the narrator; as well as his more well-known work as part of the VFL/AFL and wider sporting media, he was a regular fixture in these productions, including the St Kilda history production Heaven & Hell and the club’s 2010 Season Highlights DVD.

“Come Armageddon, come”…Oh no wait, it’s ok, sort of.

Round 10, 2016
St Kilda 5.4, 6.8, 7.9, 15.11 (101)
Fremantle 3.0, 7.1, 10.4, 10.7 (67)
Crowd: 17,927 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, May 28 at 4.35pm

I began last week’s review talking about my dread of coming up against the Bombers, who always seem to dick us no matter our respective situations on and off the field are at the time.

Whilst the prospect of playing Fremantle immediately after the Bombers presented two pretty similar assignments – two opportunities for a young team to redeem themselves against depleted, unfancied opposition somewhat after a pasting by the Eagles – Freo presented its own psychological difficulties for Saints fans (on top of simply being ravaged by everything that goes with being a Saints fan).

My dread for playing Freo this week was simple – the Saints and Dockers are the combatants for the ridiculous and not very wonderful Bizarro Rivalry. The Dockers were incredibly on the precipice of becoming the equal-record holders for worst start to a season by a previous season’s top four finisher (certainly outright for a minor premier), but who better to save them from sharing that record than their Bizarro rivals, the historically pathetic Saints?

The clubs are into the 22nd year of weird shit happening, with a bunch historical coincidences sprinkled over the top. Fremantle played their first ever official game against the Saints in 1995 in the opening round of the pre-season, which remains their only official game in Fremantle; an ANZAC Day showdown with Freo winning by a goal in 1997; Stewart Loewe knocking himself out and Peter Everitt kicking the clumsiest goal of the year contender in 1998; umpire Peter Carey taking a mark in 1999; the Saints winning their last game under Malcolm Blight win Robert Harvey doing his knee and a young Milne kicking three goals in 2001; The Dockers coming back and snatching a late win with a long bomb in the first game St Kilda wore the hot cross bun jumper as an away jumper in the home and away season, and then winning the return bout at a home game at Princes Park in 2002; the Saints winning in Perth to go to 7-0 for the first time since 1966 and looking odds-on for a premiership, and then the Dockers wearing their white clash jumper for the first time ever  and playing for a finals spot in the last match of 2004 against the Saints; St Kilda winning by a point in Tasmania after a dubious late free kick to Aaron Hamill in Round 2 and then Troy Longmuir’s winning goal after the siren in the “Whispers in the Sky” match in 2005; Sirengate in 2006, which in isolation was the difference between Freo’s first top four finish and St Kilda’s sixth and first-week final exit; Steven Baker and Jeff Farmer’s clash and Baker’s long suspension in 2007; one of the worst games ever as Milne and Dal Santo were dropped and McEvoy, Eddy and Allen all debuted and the last quarter went for 23.56 in 2008; St Kilda holding Freo to what was at the time the equal-lowest Corporate Dome score, shared with…St Kilda…in 2009; And so on and so forth. This is without mentioning Ross Lyon, Zac Dawson, and the 2013 and 2014 pastings St Kilda gave premiership-fancies Freo, and that each club made their first Grand Final appearances 100 years apart.

***

Ok look I’ll get this out of the way. Sam Landsberger’s pathetic article about Nick Riewoldt post-match last week – and his equally pathetic responses to criticism of it online – as well as the Herald Sun’s glorifying of it, in the same week that Brad Hill was charged with assault and received fuck all coverage was really disappointing. At no point did Sam address why he included a whole section talking about St Kilda’s bid for a women’s team and the appointment of Peta Searle, instead deciding to step back from the article when it was convenient and saying “your words, not mine” when challenged on why he attempted to make it appear that either Nick or the club has an inherent problem with treating females, as well as saying “End of story” in one tweet simply to outline that the event had happened, and that therefore it deserved his story. Which it doesn’t; something simply happening doesn’t necessarily warrant a warped story and the pushing it received by the newspaper. He also took editorial duties and said “filthy remarks on innocent StK staff disgusting”, although no one else in the footy world seemed to particularly make a big deal of it. I outlined last year the clear bias against St Kilda that the Herald Sun had during the trade period and the Carlisle saga, which I think is worth mentioning given his involvement in that as well as this.

Interestingly, it seemed as though there was some contrition on the Herald Sun’s part. Their coverage of the match including an inset photo of Roo taking a selfie post-match with a fan and Gresh – with no irony or mention of the week’s “news” and by Sunday afternoon Landsberger had selectively tweeted about Armo talking on Triple M about Roo winning a seventh best and fairest this year and playing on in 2018, as well pointing out the strength of his stats this season himself.

The whole thing actually reminded me that I may or may not recall a current Herald Sun footy journo possibly calling Nick Riewoldt a “retard” repeatedly in the 2010 Preliminary Final. Anyway.

***

So a young team on their way up but with the inconsistencies that come with this awkward early development phase, coming off a relatively unconvincing 46-point win – albeit one that featured performances from three young forwards that gave cause for feverish optimism – up against a coach who for all intents and purposes should have held up our second premiership cup with our current captain, and his team trying to avoid some very unwanted history. On a cold and wet Saturday as winter storms along, hidden away in the 4.35 timeslot (Who decided on “4.35”?), in the mostly empty confines of the Concrete/Corporate Dome. It reeked of the depressing depths of a long footy reason, so Freo ftw, surely. So like last week, I used my massive $10 bonus bet on a weakened opposition to at least salvage something out of the potential wreckage, because I work hard and I play hard.

Hotline and Webster were suspect outs this week; at least that was my not-so-hot-take on it until I remembered Billings indeed ended up in the rooms at some point during the match against the Bombers before playing it out with not too much effect. Webster on the other hand already has a conveniently-timed illness because I dare say he was close to being dropped, and is hanging out with at his gf’s house on club’s orders. I’d love to be told to do that but I’m desperately, desperately alone.

Discussing the ins and outs with my dad over the phone on Friday, in my infinite wisdom I declared Brodie Murdoch would be playing probably across half-forward and pushing up the ground, completely unaware that Richo that morning had specifically said at the presser that he’d be playing across half-back. Sinclair, the other inclusion, would obviously be floating around the forward half and has been underrated a little this year I think in his value as a link player pushing up the ground as well as playing his usual small forward role.

The 55 tram ride into the ground from Brunswick West is always a little strange, having grown up with the St Kilda fervour that accompanies the train ride in along the Frankston line. In fact on the 55 there’s none at all and there are as likely to be many GWS fans on it as St Kilda fans (i.e. fan, singular; i.e. me) as there were for the Round 5 match. Given the time this weekend’s match and the weather on the day there was barely anyone on the tram at all, let alone a bunch of people on their way to see a C-grade match in the nothing hours of a grey Saturday.

Richie is away enjoying Europe for a few weeks, hence why all four of you RWB readers are stuck with me for a few weeks, and Evan was getting his second round of 21st birthday celebrations underway, so it was an opportune time for dad to rejoin the match day line-up of myself and Matt after he decided family was important enough to miss out on a terrible match of footy last Sunday. We reprised the Kangaroos pre-match build-up of burgers and drinks at the Savoy before it was time to take a deep breath and take the field as the next team with the pressure of “just don’t fuck it up” coming from the rest of the AFL world; which was still waiting to burst into laughter at the expense of whoever had to listen to an outdated pop-rock intro and then “FREO, WAY TO GO” after the final siren.

Like last week, the raging battle of nausea vs apathy threatened to consume us all at half-time as Essendon planted themselves within reaching distance at half-time. With the comfort of hindsight, as nausea vs apathy played itself out at half-time we were bracing ourselves for the possibility of nausea followed by apathy, or perhaps nausea followed by a sickly mix of more nausea with apathy. At three-quarter time the buckets were ready. No amount of Ativan would be able to cover this. As Matt and I talked about late in the game, we were both psychologically preparing ourselves for a best result of a close win, and having to simply prepare ourselves from the point of Paddy’s smart goal late in the third quarter of around 45 minutes of feeling sick and partially not enjoying living for that amount of time, with the expectation that it was happening, that St Kilda would be St Kilda and gift Fremantle their first win of the season. And out into the cold, unfriendly Saturday night we would go.

The early stages of the match felt a long way away by that time. Shane Savage ran out onto the ground with his son for his 100th game. He was one of the players that really needed to lift last week after half-time and actually did. He’s come a long way after being VFL fodder for a club hurtling towards its 27th wooden spoon two years ago. Maybe his new half-back partner Brodie in time could present us with a similar case of improvement, and the prospect of having two booming kicks off half-back – albeit belonging to two very different types of players – was an interesting prospect for the bigger forwards working up the ground, as well as providing that extra option for the long kick at goal just beyond the arc. Brodie put that on show with a brilliant sausage in the first quarter.

That’s not to say Webster doesn’t have a huge kick, but the upside of his possessions is based more on precision and it felt as though he’d been missing a little in general of late. The pressure on the players to perform from an individual aspect given Richo talked up Billings’ and Webster’s prospects of coming straight into the team would surely give guys like Brodie and Sinclair a bit of jolt, right? RIGHT?

Well it seemed to work because Brodie was heavily involved in the first half, beyond his great goal. It came after a couple of Freo goals which had followed a blistering start that had us up 4.3 to 0.0 and some guy behind us having a ball constantly yelling all things anti-Ross (Lyon) and things vaguely based on “Owen 10/0 and 10” etc. I wouldn’t have gone there myself but the start really was entertaining, highlighted by Membrey and Paddy looking to pick up from last week’s performance. Membrey smartly found space on the lead and kicked the our third, whilst Paddy followed with number four from a brilliant one-handed finish on the way down from a marking contest.

The midfield wasn’t world beating but the pressure was up early, and even though Freo scored three of the last four goals of the quarter, including Walters frustratingly kicking one in the fi nal seconds, we still looked dangerous. Despite leading the possession count 118-79, some goalscoring opportunities were hurriedly missed or poorly thought-out under pressure which meant the 5.4 return from just 11 entries could have been far more devastating. It said a lot that most of the that possession count came from guys in the back half who were weathering Freo’s entries – Gilbert started well and equalled last week’s seven-possession full-game tally by the first break; Fisher was on his way to doing a solid job on Pavlich, Roberton was roaming around doing whatever it is he does and has 12 touches; Joey had his regulation sevens and Newnes (including a goal) and Savage had six apiece.

Even as Fremantle were closing in the second quarter Matt and I agreed that it was Brodie Murdoch who we felt safest with ball in hand. He looked composed with the ball and kept things moving without trying anything beyond his capabilities. The strange thing about the term was that we were only a goal or two away for much of it from really blowing open the game and getting the lead out to around the five-goal mark, but more wasted opportunities in front of goal and Freo’s pressure in the back half meant we crawled to half-time with 6.8 as Lachie Weller and Ed Langdon kicked a combined three goals in just over four minutes to have Freo within a point at the main break.

Freo were playing old-style Ross Lyon footy and it was working; I remember thinking in Round 4 of 2012 when Freo played the Saints at the Concrete Dome for the first time post-Ross exit how it was like watching St Kilda play St Kilda in Fremantle jumpers. I felt a little similar at times on Saturday, as Freo found patience and kept control of the ball in the back-half, waiting to pick apart the Saints at the right time and make their move forward. If they didn’t score directly from the entry it was a massive battle for the Saints to get it out of there and the longer it stayed in there the more the Dockers’ confidence grew in what they were doing, as well as the risk that the Saints would concede.

Some days you just think, this is not our day, and by equal measures others things happen where you think, this is their day. Lachie Neale talking a mark above his head at the edge of the goal square is a sure sign that things are working for Freo, but when Matt Taberner is pulling the old one-two and kicking goals on the run off-balance from 45 metres out for Freo’s tenth of the last 12 goals for the game to give them a three goal lead in third-quarter then surely, surely this was their day. We could only sit and watch and take it in; this was happening. In the shadows of three-quarter time we were headed for Sam Landsberger’s favourite day of his life.

Paddy’s quick thinking on the goal line to poach back a major just before three-quarter time – keep in mind Lachie Weller missed a snap shot less than a minute later – at the very least arrested the Dockers’ control and relieved the scoreboard pressure (easier to have that idea in hindsight). Thirteen points to claw back from the final change, and by then Barlow, Pearce, Neale and Hill had been dominating the midfield battle for essentially two quarters with Mayne busy across half-forward and there was no reason to think they’d be going anywhere. Their team defence was stifling any movement from the Saints out of the back half and it felt that it was rare and difficult opportunities like that presented to Paddy late in the quarter that needed to taken.

So somehow we kicked eight goals in the last quarter with charged home for a 34-point win. Where the hell do you start with that? I guess as per Richo’s post-match you see that forwards were isolated against their opponents one-on-one more often, rather than the bomb-and-hope mentality we were forced into in quarters two and three. This was owing to a huge last-quarter performance from David Armitage, who had 13 touches and got the midfield going along with Jack Steven and Seb Ross, who wasn’t as prolific as the week before but was still just as smart with the footy. Armo probably won’t be the elite mid we’d hoped he’d be 100% of the time but elite-grade quarters like that – not to mention the 17 tackles he had throughout the game – to go with Steven’s usual busy performance and the emergence of Seb Ross all of a sudden make the midfield bat a lot deeper. There’s still Nathan Freeman to come in potentially, and as I say every week I dare say we’ll be bringing in an elite mid via trade or free agency either this year or next.

My Favourite Hair in the AFL stepped up as well, finding the ball 10 times the length and breadth of the ground in the quarter and kicking 2.1 amidst it all. In another great performance playing across the ground, he ended up with 24 touches. He looks as fit as he’s ever been and again, it’s testament to his longevity, dedication and skill that he’s put himself in this position, one that benefits the team from his own presence across the ground whilst allowing the next gen forwards in Bruce, Paddy and Membrey game time, and importantly game time with each other to fast-track their development and cohesion.

Bruce finished with two after having fark-all to do with it for three-quarters; ironically his first goal out the back of Paddy’s one-on-one was one of the very few occasions in the game where one of our forwards was at the drop of the ball near goal, let alone actually do something. His run-in goal as a result smacked of the G-Train at his cheekiest, and he was able to charge to the right spot in space late in the game following Steven’s soccer of the ground to Paddy on his own, who lowered his eyes instead of blazing away and hit Bruce on the chest close to goal.

Paddy only finished with nine touches but again, many of those touches were quality. I’ve mentioned his mark in the first quarter and his creative second goal which would prove to be the first of the last nine goals of the match we’d kick. Not only did he hold his position in the contest, but he reacted immediately for the next move. In the final term he had a contested mark on the flank bemusingly disallowed for being touched, but under pressure from two Dockers he managed to fire out a handball which ended up with a goal. His lead and mark on the opposite flank as the team was surging was met with a huge reaction from the members’ wing, but he just overcooked the centreing kick. He made up for soon after, however, with his composure on the way to setting up Bruce. It was pleasing to say he had a genuinely positive impact on the game, and up against much more fancied opposition next week will be a great test for him. Really promising signs for another week though, but on top of it all I’ll always be terrified of Petracca.

It’s harder to underrate than overrate younger and more inexperienced guys but Tim Membrey came out of the grind and the whirlwind again as the team’s leading goalkicker on the day with three. He’s kicked 14.8 in five games since coming into the team this year, and, if you’re like Richo and would like to “park the West Coast game”, he’s kicked 14.6 in four games. Over all games since he came in Bruce has kicked 13 goals, Riewoldt eight and Paddy four. One thing which wasn’t so obvious on Saturday were his efforts in contests high up the ground, particularly with ball close to to the deck, and the number of times he was able to force it to a teammates’ advantage or get it out directly to a teammate. His 15 possessions, six marks, four tackles and 3.2 reflected another very decent all-round game.

It seems as though the tall forward triumvirate is the key way to go, with the small forward stocks going through a bit of a momentary shuffle. Gresham has grown with every game, which he showed with his run, bounce, rebalance and perfectly-weighted left-hand handball over traffic on the way to Weller putting the Saints in front (Roo naturally a key part of that chain higher up the ground). “Only” 13 possessions in his seventh game, but with seven tackles and the last goal of the match – from a rare genuine crumbing effort from a small forward – were the icing. Like Billings he’s very composed with the ball and is quickly learning to press up the ground effectively, and I’d to think this week his disposal effectiveness had picked up overall as well. With Billings to come back in, assuming his ankle is ok, you would think Sinclair would be the one to come out after failing to hit the scoreboard and picking up only nine forgettable touches (including zero in the final quarter – the siren sounded with the ball in his hands). Not sure if Webster comes in for Murdoch, who did quieten down in the second half. With Sandy not playing due to the state league representative games it’s difficult to get a gauge on the what the coaches might be thinking should the injury slate be clean come Thursday. Weller had had a few lean weeks but made some important contests as a lead-up forward when we made our move early, and again when we made our move late, kicking the goal that put us in front.

So, ultimately it was an incredible relief. The nausea and apathy battle, with a lot of parallels with the week before, simply gave way to a pleasant exhaustion.

It’s important to have some sort of empathy in this situation. Not particularly for Ross Lyon, but for Freo fans. Their club is only in its 22nd season but are shaping up to be the kind of club St Kilda was in the 20th Century (and, well, to the current day too. And including from establishment in 1873 to joining the VFL for the inaugural 1897 season. So uh, be the kind of club St Kilda is).

A couple of weeks ago in concluding my review of our thrashing by the Eagles’ I said now’s not the time to take anything for granted. But really, no time is. I remember how awful the 2011 season felt, particularly after the media found us easy targets in the off-season for the “Schoolgirl” “story” now that we weren’t a premiership team (again, compare this to the Hawthorn coverage in the trade period against the St Kilda bashing, and again this week with the Herald Sun’s difference in coverage to the Riewoldt “story” and Brad Hill being charged with assault. If you’re not winners you’re dispensed as roadkill, and whilst they haven’t had quite the same off-field dramas as we had, Freo and their fans are there right now. After three seasons of being a red-hot premiership chance, and perhaps four if you include the fact that they were 10-points away from playing off in a Preliminary Final in 2012, it’s an awful, awful time when your fingers slip, you lose grasp and you’re on the way down. That was us five years ago and it still hurts to think about. As fans there’s only so much you can do about it, but it’s a brutal competition and really, you can’t take anything for granted wherever you might be.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 10
David Armitage – 2
Tim Membrey – 2
Nick Riewoldt – 2
Jack Steven – 2
Sam Fisher – 1
Paddy McCartin – 1

Totals
Nick Riewoldt – 17
Jack Steven – 16
Seb Ross – 9
Leigh Montagna – 8
David Armitage – 7
Tim Membrey – 6
Jack Newnes – 6
Sam Fisher – 5
Tom Hickey – 5
Jack Billings – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Blake Acres – 3
Josh Bruce – 3
Paddy McCartin – 2
Shane Savage – 2
Sean Dempster – 1
Jade Gresham – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1
Mav Weller – 1

Well, that was weird

Round 18, 2014
St Kilda 4.3, 9.6, 15.14, 17.16 (118)
Fremantle 1.1, 3.2, 5.6, 9.6 (60)
Crowd: 16,594 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, 18th July at 4.40pm

We’d reached a point last week where you we genuinely looked like we wouldn’t win another game this year. And that was after 11 consecutive losses, with the general consensus being that next year will be just as difficult. We were at the point where you’re so far into the dark times you can neither look forward and will yourself towards the light, nor look back to the light coming from the good times in your past.

I was resigned to exhausting myself again by writing another draining review, in which we get completely broken down – by at least one of the opposition or ourselves – and talk about how the future is still essentially an ominous question mark. But instead I’ve been sitting here trying to soak in as much post-match coverage, replays, interviews and ill-advised forum posts as I can. Because St Kilda tore apart premiership fancy Fremantle by 58 points, and in the process became one of only two teams to have beaten a side 16 places above them on the ladder. The last time we were on the bottom of the ladder and beat the team in 2nd spot was in 1985 against the Bulldogs, and there were only 12 teams in the competition then.

Obviously the incredible thing about this win is…well, yes, it was incredible that St Kilda won in the first place, but the way they completely blanketed the Dockers and scored heavily themselves (reaching over 100 for the first time this year) was simply unbelievable, and more to the point, bemusing. This review isn’t going to take you through the epic ebbs and flows of the drama that was St Kilda’s first win in three months (to the day). I thought that if/when it ever came, it would be against the odds and take everything to barely get over the line. But this one just took off and get going. Stuff just kept happening.

Corporate Stadium can be  a putrid game to watch the footy, and this was the least popular match in a round in which the fixturing had already pleased no one. One of only two games or not, the 4.40pm time slot is arguably more of a black hole than any other – lost between Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, when people are in transition, heading out, eating dinner, or taking a disco nap. On top of this particular Saturday being particularly bleak, having the Concrete Monolith roof closed anywhere near daylight hours – or ever, really – makes for a woefully sterile atmosphere in low drawing games. There’s no charm aesthetically to the place; there’s no history behind it. It’s just a lot of overpriced, grey seats and the Medallion Club, which thinks it’s the MCC and whose staff try to match their counterparts for tightarsery. The Perth Stadium plans this week revealed intentions for a 60,000-seater, with the potential to expand that to 80,000. That is what Etihad Stadium well and truly should have been in the first place. Too small for anyone to be enthusiastic about it for bigger or finals matches; too small to be an inclusive stadium in which it’s easy to get a decent seat for those bigger games. That’s before we get to the stadium deals forced upon the clubs. And that’s the only option the AFL gave us as a stage for this game in Melbourne away from the MCG, to be shared by 10 Victorian clubs.

Easier to say all this when just about every home game you go to now as a Saints supporter is mostly empty. When it’s going off it can be a cauldron, but this is St Kilda in a post-2009/10 Grand Finals world. Aside from myself, Freo supporters on the route 55 tram into the ground outnumbered St Kilda supporters 1-0. I’ve said before that obviously Brunswick West and Royal Park aren’t St Kilda heartland, but you realise there are problems when the Dockers more of a presence there (or anywhere here, really). There was more purple around Spencer Street and Bourke Street too in the lead up to the game, and I was starting to really get worried. Perhaps that 2001 record for our lowest home crowd there was really under threat. Having somehow cleared that against the Gold Coast, with the expected result against a state’s second side and in the dud time slot I thought the next challenge to that would be the Dockers. (Fun fact: Fremantle logos registered with IP Australia during the formation of the club include Fremantle Dolphins, Fremantle Courage (?) and Fremantle Hammer (??))

The wonderful goodwill generated by Lenny’s retirement I thought might have dragged a few more of our 30,000 members to the game, but it seems like it took dodgy ground management to save us from our own worst turnout, declaring a dubious total of 16,594. The Lenny wave instead rocketed the team itself to ridiculous heights that no one saw coming, and gave us a timely reminder of what it feels like to have anticipation and momentum throughout a game of footy.

Because unlike the last time we won, which was literally billions of years ago, this match didn’t need be rescued before we could even think about taking home the four points. In fact, when was the last time a game wasn’t in a perilous position early? How familiar the feeling of the game being over so soon has become, with for so many weeks the quarter time siren as good as the final siren.

The sign of intent that the side was switched on from the start was embodied in Dempster dropping back into the oncoming Pavlich tractor and getting knocked out. He was out before he hit the ground, and for those of us who didn’t get a clear view of the actual contact (I certainly didn’t and it happened near where I was sitting, so I assume that goes for just about everyone) it was a nervous few moments as he remained without movement. As it was mentioned post-match, his effort was spoken about in the quarter time huddle as an example of the what was expected and required of the players if they wanted to continue on with the work.

Whilst Dempster was down, the play had gone on and My Favourite Hair in the AFL had taken a mark before things were halted. It took more than five minutes for Dempster to be looked at properly and taken from the field but everyone managed to remember what had happened and Roo resumed his place and kicked the goal.

Good start, aside from the fact we’d lost one of the cornerstones of the defence (regardless of what you think of that fact). And I mean “good start” in the sense that we’d kicked the first goal. Cool. We did that against the Cats, remember.

The crowd got a sniff of the intent of side over the next few minutes, with the side in turn getting a sniff that Freo might have been a little complacent. Lenny’s tackles in defence brought the crowd into it, and then Billings hunted down Sutcliffe on half-forward in front of the members but Leigh Fisher was giving his old side donuts and didn’t pay anything. Armo earned a free kick with his own tackle soon after, and his give off saw Newnes bullet a pass to Murdoch on the 50-metre arc.

Murdoch kicked the goal with a really nice long shot. I like him playing in the front half because he’s got a solid body and a good set of hands, and he has a huge kick on him. Those qualities mean he’s more dangerous as a scoring threat across more of the attacking area, with I think three of his four shots from long range. He finished with 1.3 but together with 11 touches and six marks the numbers aren’t bad for a kid playing his 13th game. If he can hit the scoreboard that often it would go a huge way to fleshing out the versatility in his game. (I just hope this isn’t another kid who’s constantly gonna tighten up in front of goal.)

Dunstan was next, again rewarded for a good tackle and again kicking the goal from a decent range. He actually kicked both of his goals from a good distance, one set shot and one on the run at the peak of the third quarter onslaught. I don’t think we think of him of him as the guy who’s going to kick long, but rather the inside mid who might kick 40 at best on the rare occasion they’re called on to get some decent distance. Probably his only real knock at draft time was his kicking, so the way he scored the two goals were a pleasant surprise. He finished with 26 touches, too, following a period in which his output had dipped a little (he hadn’t had 20+ touches since the Port game in Round 12). It was a timely reminder of what he’s already capable of.

In fact, Richo’s on his bandwagon too (who isn’t?), having to stop himself from saying outright this morning on SEN that Luke would be captain of the club at some point in the future. Jack Newnes didn’t do any harm to his own prospects of being 2018-2022 Premiership Captain, with 25 touches off half-back and across the wing and eight tackles, but Richo obviously has his money on Dunstan being the man. I’d still be keen on the co-captaincy and for the next potentially successful era to forever come under the banner of the “Newnes-Dunstan Era”. So I think the wider consensus is we’ve got Dunstan, then Newnes, with Armitage not far behind. Geary is the smokey, unless he ends up at the Cats. I never, ever, ever thought I would say that sentence.

Speaking of bandwagons, how about the BIG RHYS BANDWAGON? A few weeks ago it had broken down and some were questioning why the trade-in to Port wasn’t taken up at the end of last year. If anything it’s broken down now because it’s under the weight of all 16,000 at the ground and anyone watching at home trying to grab a seat. I’ve unashamedly been on his bandwagon since I watched him win the 2009 Grand Final Sprint, although I can at least say that, like many Saints supporters and unlike just about everyone outside of the club, I actually followed him closely instead of just reading up on that solitary dot point on his CV.

So it was brilliant to see him kicking his goals from his shots, but more importantly knowing exactly where to work to across half-forward. It’s clearly, clearly the best way use him, allowing him to use his pace and reach to run off his opponent get a set of clear hands to the footy. As I said with Murdoch – but it’s much more important to the side in Rhys’s case – his ability to find that space and mark across half-forward and kick well over 50 metres (and accurately, as he did on Saturday) means he’s a scoreboard threat in more parts of the forward line.

And again, as it proved a fortnight ago against Carlton, when Roo was freed to move higher up the ground it meant the side had arguably their best field kicker distributing the ball and allowed Rhys to take responsibility in being the focal point, as well as other players being able to move into dangerous positions, rather than being terrified of treading into the path of My Favourite Hair. The best example of this came shortly after quarter time, when Roo led wide outside of the arc and took the mark. He waited patiently for an option to open up, and I dare say if it was someone else with the footy they would have quickly tried plonking it on top of his sensational hair with two other guys next to him. But Roo waited, and if you watch the replay you’ll see Rhys standing just off his man and subtly pointing to the small space he’s about to run to. Just as Sir Robert and Lenny had done so many times for him, Roo placed a short pass perfectly into Rhys’s path and Rhys finished it off nicely.

It was brilliant to see the Favourite Hair-Bandwagon set up finally working in a meaningful way. Oh yeah, and Roo had 30 touches and kicked four goals. Cheers.

I’m not ready to call it that Rhys has “arrived”, but 14 marks, 19 touches and three goals (all in the first half) was a great return. His third goal, from the fifty metre penalty in the shadow of half-time to put us up by 40 points was a rocket and well and truly stamped his impact on the game when it was there to be taken by the proverbial.

It was also that goal that sealed the surrealism of the situation. For the first half, anyway – by that time I was absolutely shitting myself because the crowd was so up and about and the margin big enough for people to be feeling great about things, but still not enough that Freo couldn’t reign it in in the second half. One of the tough things about the plummet to the bottom of the ladder is knowing that just about no lead is safe.

I’d been sitting in my seats in Aisle 33 on my own for the first half, sharing observations and cynical feelings about St Kilda’s prospects for the rest of the game with the woman a couple of seats down from my brother’s and mine. “They must be letting us win,” she said wryly, between our glances of “How is this happening?”. Something had to be up. We were leading by 40 points at half-time, and the idea that Ross had told them to sit back a little seemed more likely than us genuinely outplaying and out-willing a Fremantle side looking to win their ninth in a row and shore up a place in the top two.

I joined Rich for a beer at the Locker Room at half-time, which turned into out vantage point for the third quarter onslaught. And that was our onslaught, by the way – not the expected Fremantle comeback. I hadn’t been that nervous at a game as I was at half-time for a long, long while. I needed that (next) drink desperately (I’d already had one or two at my seats but, you know, I needed heaps more). Was this going to be this generation’s Round 9, 2000 loss to the Bulldogs, when the winless side gave up a 31-point lead at the final change and left Max Hudghton in tears? I remember as an almost-12-year-old watching on TV with my Dad and brother, and going to bed just before quarter time because I was too nervous, only to wake up the next day, go outside and fetch The Age, and see in disbelief (and then through my own tears) the brief on the front page bearing the crushing news. Or perhaps its Round 5, 2002 match against the Swans? I still remember Dee Dee (Dunleavy, as in Grubby & Dee Dee), who we sat behind in the members on Level 2 for several years, saying at three-quarter time to her family, “I’d hate to think what would happen if we lost”. We watched as the young side faltered and relinquished the lead late, only to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. Those games were part of a lowly era in which we couldn’t be sure that the players would see out any lead, nor keep calm when challenged and guide things home safely.

And so it was that I expected a nerve wracking second half. Even if we held on, surely it would be just that, and if not, well…

But Armo quickly snapped a goal from an angle close to where he kicked his third term goal against the Demons in the opening round. Out to 46 points. Surely not? Pav with the quick reply brought things back to earth at least a little, before Jack Billings fumbled in the pocket but his quick thinking saw the ball end up with Roo in the goal square for another.

That Pav goal was the last of us staying tethered to our status as wooden spoon heirs for the afternoon. What happened through the remainder of the term will almost certainly remain the highlight of a lean season; ideally one we can look back on, however, and say that it went a long way to making this club a power again. For now, that’s a long way off.

We saw the absolute best of this season compacted into this quarter. Throughout this game, too, but this is where it took off. Indeed, we can almost boast the embarrassing riches of being able to say “we should have won by more” with a tinge of lament in our tone; 6.8 for the quarter with many of those shots very gettable.

It was interesting that a few guys (namely Lenny, Richo and Armo on The Sunday Footy Show) mentioned that the previous week had seen a few decent signs. Look, if I’m honest, wouldn’t have thought so. You wouldn’t to with a quick look at the score – had Armo missed that shot at goal with 90 seconds we would have been at 2.16, which would have had us pacing another effort from the wooden spoon year of 1985 – 2.17 against Carlton in Round 2 in 140-point loss at Moorabbin. Not to mention North had kicked 13.14 themselves, and had the game sewn up at the first change.

The willingness to compete and hunt in numbers was what ultimately separated the teams. Ours certainly isn’t blessed to too much skill, but it went above and beyond in being first at the ball when it was in dispute and spreading hard into space when we had the ball. Without Sandi the Freo midfield were furthermore on the back foot, and even without Jack Steven ours still dominated from the centre and across the ground. Dunstan, Lenny, Joey and Armo all racked up big numbers, with Lenny and Armo finIshing with 17 tackles between them. Mav Weller had six tackles and made an impact up forward, setting up Joey for his snap goal in the third quarter with a deft handball back over his head out of traffic.

Probably a strange thing to note, but should that third quarter burst go down as the peak of this season, then Farren Ray’s two goals within 30 seconds play are the summit. The high, curling ball was followed by a quick break out of the middle, with the chain featuring Mav and Sav, and a snap from the left pocket. Faz has returned to some of his better form at times throughout this season, and he did it in just about every part of the ground on Saturday. Amazing how he seems to slip under everybody’s radar; I think he might be worth more around the club than we give him credit for.

I mentioned Sav in there; he actually finished the game with the equal most disposals, alongside My Favourite Hair. Again, a revelation that came out of the wash-up, but Richo and Armo spoke about Sav getting a dressing down from the group and how he’d taken it on himself since then to get himself right. It also helped that Richo started him further back, allowing him to be get his hands on the footy and use his run and long kicking to set things up from there, not to mention to push up and supply the forwards also (see Faz’s second goal where he’s received the ball charging off half-back just forward of centre). Things will change at the other end I’m sure, but right now – even with Acres having an injury-interrupted season – the McEvoy trade is paying off.

Which brings us to the ruck situation (at least for the purposes of the flow of this review). Longer enjoyed the closest to free reign at stoppages we’ve seen a St Kilda ruckman enjoy for several years. I’m somewhere in between with Longer and Hickey playing in the same team. They certainly couldn’t now, as neither as probably quite developed enough just yet across the ground. Interestingly, it’s the third forward that for the time being is so important. Is Bruce, for instance, effective enough that Billy can drop forward whilst Rhys gives him a chop-out, and the forward line can still function effectively? Whether or not Billy and Hickey can provide a decent target up forward, or at least have a presence around the ground, it will effect the forward set up also. We won’t know for a while though due to Hickey’s injury. Or injuries, rather. I must say I’m just starting to get a little worried about that.

I quite liked Bruce up forward. Hair-wise, it’s a great complement to Roo. As Richo said, he didn’t get huge numbers but simply his presence (particularly the third quarter) was enough to worry Fremantle, as well as allow for more space to Roo and Rhys. Hopefully he can develop his own influence on the scoreboard.

I think special mention needs to go to Sam Fisher also. He said on the club website that he would play for another two or three years if the body could hold up for him, and if he could maintain the kind of impact he had on Saturday. He’s a very necessary calm influence on a side that is still going to get a lot of pressure coming the wrong way for a while yet.

But yes, it’s easy to get carried away with a performance like that. Everyone played well, really. It was a great day at the footy for a St Kilda supporter. It was three months to the day since that Saturday night in April when the Saints stormed over the top of the Bombers in the second half to put at three wins from the first five games. At the time, facing a winless Brisbane outfit the following Friday, it felt like we might already be on our way back up. That we might have avoided the cliff that everyone told us we were heading for.

Well six days later we certainly found that cliff. Instead of 4-2, we’re now 4-13 and 18th. I really don’t know how much closer we are to being on our way back because of Saturday. We certainly shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves over this one. Freak occurrence? Sign of things to come? Lenny-inspired effort? I think it’s all of those things, but I don’t know how much of each. So for now, just enjoy Rhys running around grabbing everything and kicking goals. Enjoy Dunstan willing himself at contests. Enjoy Newnes setting things up and looking to put on another tackle. More than anything, enjoy Lenny, because he won’t be there much longer. Fuck it, just enjoy it.

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

Sometimes, OK things might happen

Round 15, 2013
Fremantle 3.1, 6.2, 11.6, 15.10 (100)
St Kilda 2.2, 7.3, 9.3, 11.4 (70)
Crowd: 34,064 at Patersons Stadium, Sunday, 7th July at 1.20pm

After last week’s swamping, it’s fair to say most of us are pleasantly surprised with the team’s showing on Sunday.

You couldn’t be blamed for feeling like we did to a point, but whether the younger guys put in a good week or a bad week, we have to acknowledge (for the time being) that there will be mood swings for the foreseeable future. This week, whilst we didn’t get the win, we’ll be feeling a whole lot better about things at Moorabbin/Frankston (Seaford).

For we were up against the King of Swamping, and so very nearly the King of Football, Ross the ex-Boss, with anything more than five goals to our name seeming like a relatively good day out.

Instead, the Saints were in it until well into the final quarter on the back of possibly the best intensity on and off the ball we’ve seen this year. But that wasn’t even the crux of it.

The most pleasing aspect was the genuinely positive showings by a raft of younger guys we’d been feeling rubbish about all week. Not necessarily those guys individually, but more the fact that what we had coming through might not be much chop. I’d taken it a step further, ignored my own advice, and spent most of the week dreading a longer and more difficult rebuild than I thought we’d have to endure.

I took the cross-city trek to Ormond to watch it at Mum and Dad’s.They’re moving to the UK indefinitely in the coming weeks, and this will be one of the last chances I’d get to watch the Saints with for a while. (For anyone else that catches the Frankston line, is it just me or does the voice recording on the train when you’re pulling in to Ormond say “Ormon”, i.e. really obviously drops off the ‘d’?)

To make it a real family affair, I used Mum’s car to pick up dear cousin Evan and bring him back to watch the game. I think we, including my brother, were more keen on the social aspect of the afternoon, rather than watching two juggernauts of the competition go head-to-head. I’d been to Geelong and Hawthorn the night before, and really I was just looking forward to a decent home-cooked meal (also one of the last chances I’ll get for that for a while).

Fremantle: Novelty colours, novelty song. Novelty players, novelty goal celebrations, and novelty fans. Everyone wearing purple on and off the field acts like cancer’s been cured when Freo kicks a goal (see Mayne’s overreaction to his own goal early). Terrifyingly, they’re a real shot at a premiership this year, and in the coming couple of years. It would hurt incredibly to see Ross the ex-Boss win a premiership somewhere else, but to do it with Freo would be incredible considering the shared history of these two respectively ridiculous clubs.

(more…)