Scott Watters Posts

Don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again

“Arise, Rhys Stanley, and lead us to salvation.”

So I facetiously wrote three years ago after another blonde forward and messiah-to-be, Tommy Walsh, was traded out to Sydney in the final stages of the post-2011 season trade week. Barker, Lockett, Harvey, Riewoldt, Blight, Goddard, Ross the ex-Boss – was Big Rhys next in line after Tommy’s exit? When a club has such lean team success, it’s easy to put anyone on a pedestal too quickly.

Perhaps looking for a quick fix after the GT/Ross decade had drawn to a close, Tommy Walsh presented us with a potential get-out-of-jail-free card: some tantalising performances at VFL level – VFL, yes, but he couldn’t have done more without being picked at senior level – but coming from the strongest Gaelic background in his early career, and in a season in which we physically and psychologically looked ruined and couldn’t be farked, simply bombing it uselessly to My Favourite Hair when going forward. Needless to say, Roo was typically outnumbered and even though we won nine of our last 11, I think some sort of weight was lifted from our shoulders when the final siren sounded to end the Elimination Final. But St Kilda’s Messiah Complex was never more excruciatingly present.

It wasn’t quite Scott Watters who could fulfill the desires; however it’s hard to believe that should a few minor things have gone the other way in four of the five games St Kilda lost by 13 points or less in 2012, we’d have finished in the top four (reverse all five and it’s top three). Instead we endure seasons such as 2013 and 2014, where the worst fears of the 2010 Grand Final Replay post-mortem were realised.

This was the year we officially returned to our natural habitat, anchored at the bottom of the ladder. Nature’s order has been restored. As we watch Hawthorn and Geelong continue their long-term challenges – and with the luxury of recent premierships already banked and to still enjoy – we now have to work our way from the bottom up again as we did 14 years ago.

In fact, this year marked 10 years since the juggernaut-to-be awoke after multiple seasons of assembly. In those surreal days of early 2004, footy seemed timeless. Milne, Ball, Hayes, Maguire, Koschitzke, under the guidance of Riewoldt – they were kids and they were going to guide us to all kinds of glory for an indefinite period of time. St Kilda, at last, was going to be a genuine force.

That we are now back in this position and without a premiership to show for everything put in place for a long-term challenge is a classically St Kilda outcome. We were given the chance on a platter for the second premiership, as well as any and all of the establishment of long-term on-field success, membership and the improvement of facilities. And the club dropped the lot in the most heartbreaking and emphatic ways possible.

When all of a sudden you’re scrapping to win a quarter rather than a premiership as we did in 2014, it takes some time to getting used to the thought that what you’re witnessing doesn’t mean something potentially historic. That the players you’re watching might not go down in St Kilda history as remarkable cogs of the elusive second premiership, or at the least of the path towards it.

Which brings me back to Rhys. His fits and spurts of brilliant form in 2014 had us thinking that he might just be the next big thing for us; the one with the biggest presence on the ground; St Kilda fans anticipating his involvement from a kick ahead as we do with Roo. Rhys suffered a little from David Armitage Syndrome – poised for a breakout season every year, but he only made frustratingly incremental progress with a relatively anticlimactic ceiling becoming fast apparent.

But as the trade period is wont to do in the ultra-modern era, the Big Rhys Bandwagon had taken off down the Highway for the Cattery. Those glimpses mean nothing now (for us, anyway). The Herculean efforts in the wins against Essendon and Fremantle are purely to service what may or may not happen for him in blue and white hoops.

There’s a couple of points in all of this. The first is that others will also fall by the wayside as we endeavour to make it out of the homeland and find better territory, and this is what periods that 2014 represent are equally notable for. Shenton, Curren, Minchington; will they turn out to be the Begley, Beetham and Davis of this generation? How much of this year will we actually remember in a decade from now?

The other is itself two-fold. A key (and necessary) part of this period is the club selling that we will actually reach those better times. The best way to do that right now is to put on show and talk up the young guys and their potential, and that goes into turbo mode when you have the number one pick at the National Draft. Once that was clear, the St Kilda Messiah Complex was back in fashion in a big way.

By proxy, another crossroad in our meagre history was reached, with apparently a one-sided, two-horse race finishing against the majority’s . Once Sam McClure turned everyone’s opinions and predictions on their head on the Monday of trade week saying Patrick McCartin would be taken by us at pick one, it was easy to raise Ball-Judd comparisons from the 2001 Draft.

I get the feeling that people are pre-emptively disappointed in McCartin because he’s a number one draft pick and a key forward, but not one quite of Nick Riewoldt’s presence nor overall talent. They’re actually both 193cm, but Paddy won’t be affecting games in as many parts of the ground and as often as Roo. He also doesn’t have the blonde hair.

Hugh Goddard does have the blonde hair, but it’s his name alone gets people more excited. We’ve seen positive glimpses already from Billings, Dustan and Eli from the 2013 draft alone. Add to that Newnes, who is looking all of captaincy material without dominating games in the way a Selwood or a Hodge do. This feels like a much more evenly-spread rebuild – Spencer hype notwithstanding (watch blow right out if he brings back the topknot) – and speaks to the “champion team vs. team of champions” debate fought out with Geelong through the aughts, which the Cats comprehensively won over several years.

Late in the final public training session before the 2010 Grand Final, Ross Lyon was coming off the ground. Someone near the old Moorabbin wire race called out to enthusiastic cheers and applause, “Bring ’em home, Ross”, which he gave a typically understated nod and wave to in response. Needless to say it was a poignant moment. But it also raised something that rarely as St Kilda supporters do we face. I’ve described finishing on the bottom of the ladder as being in our “natural habitat”, and as part of “nature’s order”. Of course it’s awful for us to have the entire club in this dire position after what we experienced over the past decade, and it’s something that’s very familiar to us. We understand it and can get by with it somehow. But it’s not home, and in this year more than any did we realise that. Home is somewhere we don’t know nearly well enough.

Once again, we are faced with the opportunity on and off the field to shake the St Kilda Messiah Complex once and for all, although we are a very, very long way from anywhere ideal. For now, nature’s order has us down and way out, where it’s merely about the hope that rather than just one hero lifting us off the canvas or kicking that one extra goal, that every representative of a strong St Kilda Football Club will take us home to the promised land.

The Road to 2018

Just last night I heard via Fox Sports News Leigh Montagna flag that he wanted the team being back in the finals within 3 years.

I guess he didn’t get the memo. According to the Club’s marketing division St Kilda has its eyes on 2018.

The Road to 2018 is the catch-cry being slapped across the Saints latest “five year plan”, which is certainly at odds with Joey’s wishes.

If I’m honest, I’m bemused as to why The Club would outwardly push a banner like The Road To 2018. What kind of message does it send to all the St Kilda fans that are on the fence about signing on for this year? Ditto for the corporates and the elder statesmen of the current playing group.

Sure, personal pride will largely help the senior core of the group (the Riewoldts, Montagnas etc) maintain a high level, but I don’t see the 2018 approach help driving the Club out of a woeful off-field state. And that’s an issue that the club cannot afford to go backwards on before it goes forwards.

Don’t get me wrong, honesty and clarity is a good thing. It’s true that the Saints aren’t going to be legitimately making the eight in the next two or three years, but I would’ve thought from a marketing standpoint that it would make more sense to be focusing on the new faces, regeneration and a new era being created from the ground up.

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RWB’s 2013 End of Year podcast

A belated Merry Christmas to all our followers – our present to you is Rich and I chatting inanely about all things Alan Richardson, Scott Watters and trade and draft periods, and forgetting temporarily that Billy Longer exists, all edited laboriously to form RWB’s 2013 End of Year podcast – again, featuring some of our (my) favourite podcast-appropriate tunes from the year and for some reason T.O.P.M.A.N. by Blur.

Scott Watters – memories via YouTube

The appointment

 

The Mick Malthouse is a mentor coffee thing

 

The ‘this is how it’s done’ video

 

The Stevooooo interview

 

Scott likes to surf

 

The final verdict

 

 

That all too familar place called square one

Why was I surprised? Why?

They got me again. Hook, line and sinker; I thought this time the Club could play it cool. Nuh-uh. Nope.

Come Friday lunchtime the ill-fated Messages notification swooshed onto my desktop with a message from fellow RWB columnist Tom Briglia.

“Sacked”

That is all that was needed to be said. We’ve endured this process before. Next stop: square one.

And what was my initial reaction: shock. But again: why?

It is almost beside the point at this stage whether the sacking of Scott Watters was the right one. From a fan’s perspective though the Groundhog Day feeling is downright depressing and absurd.

We are only a couple of weeks on from the conclusion of Andrew Thompson’s review of the St Kilda football department which deemed that all the right people (including Watters) were in the right roles, yet that review has already been dubbed somewhat obsolete by president Peter Summers and furthermore, Scott Watters has been moved on.

At the conclusion of Thompson’s review all of the messages out of Seaford (including one vocalized by Peter Summers himself) were that personnel-wise everything was honky dory. Stability; Brian Cook was consulted regarding the new CEO appointment. Finally, it seemed, some calm and considered thinking was going on.

For once, the club seemed not set on jumping for the eject button.

Was the SEN interview that Watters gave on Friday morning without the knowledge of the Club the tipping point? I hardly think so; to me, it seems like this announcement has been on the back burner for a while.

Outgoing CEO Michael Nettlefold claimed in the official press conference that the Club had a history of long coaching tenures, citing Grant Thomas and Ross Lyon. Those two may have had extended stays, but it’s a stretch to say we’ve had a good batting average on appointing and keeping senior coaches (think Watson, Blight, the entire decade of the 80s).

St Kilda has a history of having itchy trigger fingers when it comes to coaches. Stan Alves and Grant Thomas were both given their marching orders swiftly on the back of underwhelming Finals campaigns. The exiting of Ross the ex-Boss was somewhat unique altogether. It was calamitous, yet it weirdly felt like an outcome the powers that be dared to happen.

Certainly, from the bits and pieces reported by the main press outlets, it seemed like on this occasion the Saints may have been left with no other choice in the end. From the scattered facts that have been aired it seems safe to say that Watters had failed to fall into line with the chain of command at the club; board members, staff and senior players had lost faith in him and he had a deluded perception of his role and job security. On that evidence, it would have been extremely difficult for Scott to have succeeded as a coach at the club next year (and beyond).

As an aside, I suppose I am relieved that the club has avoided a media circus of a year in which there is a weekly taking of the temperature on whether Watters’ contract would be extended at the season’ conclusion.

Right now though, correct decision of not, it’s very hard to ignore the bare facts: the club has no anointed CEO, no senior coach, 3 football department staff have left, and a very grim bottom line.

Oh, and we’re only weeks away from the most important National Draft the club has entered in a decade.

Yes, we know you have a vision statement Mr Summers, but Westaway had one too.