Season 2008 Posts

(Sort of) Looking forward to looking back

So my “2009 Games of the Year” DVD arrived. I don’t know why I bought it, in the sense that I’m not going to watch it any time soon. I think I bought to make up for the lack of a feature-length 2o09 Season Highlights DVD. The DVD we received as members was 45 minutes, and 2010’s was closer to an hour – long enough for many I’m sure, but not long enough to really go into the details of the season.

The 2009 and 2010 DVDs were outliers. Sports Delivered has been producing these videos/DVDs for a couple of decades, often making upwards of four or five feature-length productions for general release for clubs that enjoyed memorable or successful seasons (2002 saw six of these made!)

The 2008 DVD made for general release – for a year that the club somehow made a Preliminary Final – hit 86 minutes, but Sports Delivered decided  to only make general release, feature-length DVDs for premiers from 2009 onwards, echoing the one-off year in 2005 in which they only made a DVD for premiers Sydney. This meant Saints supporters were dicked that year also, with an amazing rollercoaster ride of a season featuring some of the most entertaining football and best wins the club has seen lost to the whim of incomplete YouTube clips in poor quality. Strangely, Sports Delivered are credited with producing the 2009 and 2010 DVDs, so I’m not sure why they just didn’t get off their arse and go a bit more in-depth with those. I should put in a disclaimer – I couldn’t finish either. The hurt is still there, and is too much, but in time nostalgia will win over and I will want to remember these times. As these years get further away, it’s dawning on me just what I will and won’t have when that moment comes.

These DVDs and videos are the record of those seasons we have for the next few decades, for us to relive a time that might take our club another near-140 years to replicate. I know how much I enjoyed sitting down with my parents in the last couple of years and watching the 1991 Season Highlights video, which I tracked down on Ebay (I’m still after the 1992 video). I turned only three years old in 1991, but I know my Dad particularly got a lot out of reliving a year in-depth that would have been incredible for Saints fans after the dark ages that were the 1980s. Players like Lockett, Loewe, Frawley, Harvey, Winmar and Burke all operating sensationally together after so many years as a laughing stock both on and off the field – they were good times, and it’s wonderful we live in a time and place where Sports Delivered could create these productions to look back on them.

I’m not planning on having kids any time soon (I’m not yet 25), but if I did then I might like to show them what things were like when I was a young St Kilda supporter. I have the 1997 (The Mission) and the 2004 Season Highlights productions, which are great – but they’re no longer available from Sports Delivered. They’re great to have them. I love following a club that plays in a sport which has not only a rich history, but a history that means so much to the clubs, players and supporters. The 2009 and 2010 seasons were the ones that will stand out, and to a lesser extent 2005. Who knows what will happen over the coming years, but either way I would like to sit down some time in the future and watch Lenny, Roo, Nicky Dal, Joey, Kosi et al. playing good footy together – perhaps the best this club has seen. As those years get further away it’s starting to dawn on me just what I will and won’t have from those times. I do have something for 2009 and 2010 which is nice, but it would have been so much better to have something that genuinely reflected just how important that time was for the club and its supporters.

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.

Did the St Kilda board rig a clash jumper poll in the 2007 pre-season?

Many of us cringe when we think of the “apron” design clash jumper worn by the club in 2007 and 2008.

Photo by Lachlan Cunningham, © The Slattery Media Group

It wasn’t simply the design that was bad – there was nothing bold about the basketball-singlet-style lines and the bemusing worn effect given to the club logo – but it was also that it had replaced the widely popular candy-stripe jumper, which had been forced out simply because it looked a bit like Collingwood’s jumper.

The design was widely panned by supporters, and the promise of change at the end of the 2008 season given by Nathan Burke at that year’s AGM was met with great enthusiasm.

Of course, the odd thing was that the apron design had won a head-to-head poll against this design:

In my opinion, this design is far superior – it’s far bolder. The black cuffs and solid logo look great, and the red, white and black stripes are at the very least echoed in the chevrons. It looks far more like a St Kilda jumper than the apron ever will.

But it seems that the poll results might have said something similar.

The designer of the the chevron jumper is “Mero”, who runs the fantastic footyjumpers.com. His knowledge of the history of all VFL/AFL (and beyond) clubs’ jumper designs is incredible and reflected in his website. (St Kilda’s own progression of jumper designs is on of the busier histories, so the site is well worth a look for that alone: for all jumpers, see here, and for full home uniforms, see here. There were definitely some interesting designs through the years.)

Mero posts regularly on the BigFooty.com forum, and in a thread titled “Jumpers that never were”, he posted something yesterday rather remarkable about the design (there’s some more information about his assisting the club with the design, the St Kilda Heritage Museum, and with the 2005 Heritage Round jumper design later in the thread). Taken directly from his post:

“The jumper I designed, with the chevrons down the sides was leading the poll with one day to go.

And when they announced the decision it was the other jumper by something like 60% to 40%.

My thoughts were they had decided on the one they wanted, and ran the other one to make it look like the fans had a say.

Not bitter, wasn’t getting anything out of it, so it doesn’t matter, and I don’t barrack for StKilda, but I was taking an interest because of the design, and they definitely pulled a swifty.”

It’s worth noting that Nathan Burke, made the promise of change as part of the new board that had just taken over from Rod Butterss’ regime, which had overseen the clash jumper design issue about a year earlier.

So perhaps the Butterss board actually did rig the poll. There’s never been anything to suggest the apron design was close to popular with fans, for reasons that simply wouldn’t apply to the alternative design. To be honest, assuming Mero’s story is true, I hope whoever gave him the information before the poll closed was wrong for whatever reason, and that the board didn’t in fact disregard the wishes of its fans after explicitly giving them the impression they’d been granted a say in the operations of the club.

To some this would be a non-issue, but to many the jumper is the representation of the club. It’s how you know the individual players and the team as a whole you are looking at represent the St Kilda Football Club.

Saturday night fever (the bad kind)

Another week, another must-win game for the Saints.

It’s a familiar scenario, as seasons 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and, at stages, 2010 saw the Saints battling in the latter part of the year after slow starts or troubled early periods.

Those seasons obviously offered a wide variety of results, and sadly 2011 is set to be one of the leaner ones. With the competition’s in-form team/locomotive in West Coast coming over this week, there are echoes of the failed Docklands battles in Round 18, 2006 and Round 21, 2007 which played huge parts in snuffing out the Saints’ wilder hopes.

This week is a good chance to follow suit.

Of course, there’s St Kilda’s incredible record at Docklands on Saturday nights to humour ourselves with – undefeated at the place and time since Round 9 of 2003.

That night, Collingwood was playing with its ailing legend, former player and coach Bob Rose in mind. This week, the Saints will wear black armbands for the departed Allan Jeans, and they’ll need to channel Yabby’s wisdom and fire to get over the line.

West Coast’s rise has been driven by a healthy mix of experienced heroes from the mid-aughts, and younger players coming into their prime. Cox, Embley and a rejuvenated Kerr – who is doubtful for this clash – have been joined by Priddis, Shuey, Rosa and Hurn on the Eagles’ frontline, and that’s before mentioning hype-machine Nic Nat.

Talls Kennedy and Lynch have been dangerous up forward, and they have LeCras and Nicoski buzzing around them. The former pair have formed a dangerous rotating attack of bigger bodies with Cox and Nic Nat, and the Saints will be stretched – nearly literally – to combat them.

Winning form is good form, and the Saints will be tempted to keep their line-up settled after last week’s big win (margin-wise, and that’s about it) against Port.

Lynch will probably come out for Kosi, who will return from suspension, otherwise Clarke may be the only other in danger of being dropped. Assuming height is the name of the game, Blake had a strong defensive performance in Sandringham’s woeful and unfortunately televised loss on Saturday, and would probably get the nod ahead of Walsh and Simpkin if there’s another change to be made.

Anything else would just be tinkering, and there won’t be much time for the Saints to do that once the ball is bounced on Saturday night. It won’t matter where they’re playing.

Pleasing and Disappointing – the mid(ish)-season report

As we launch into the second half of Season 2011, we take a look back at the “Disappointing” and “Pleasing” aspects of the first half (and a bit) of St Kilda’s season to date.

Disappointing (x1,000): The season so far

Silly losses/getting over unsuccessful Grand Finals/lapses in effort and concentration have probably cost the Saints a top eight spot in 2011, let alone any chance at redemption.

With all 21 and the sub (outside of the club) citing the psychologically damaging and emotionally draining unsuccessful tilts at flags in 2009 and 2010, it seems the era that promised so much nearly a decade ago will pass with nothing to show for it but a heartbreaking, self-inflicted and lackluster banishment.

Pleasing: Jack Steven

Has proved to be a revelation after being moved into the midfield late in the Hawthorn game. Genuinely one of the Saints’ best this year, he has been allowed to utilise his speed and attacking style of play to great effect, winning clearances, being creative and kicking goals. He has made himself one of the keys to the club’s rebuild.

Disappointing: Raphael Clarke

Firstly, he shouldn’t have been used as a sub in the Carlton game, let alone again against Geelong – he’s not an impact player. Traditionally a whipping boy, his good form in late 2008, late 2009, pre-injury in 2010 and B.O.G. performances for Sandy this year have proven to be only a tease. At his best in the aforementioned periods he was creative and slick off half-back, but these moments are too few and far between right now.

Pleasing: Debutants and youngsters

A much-needed injection of youth into the side has seen eight players make their debut this year so far, and several youngsters given a chance to make a name for themselves. It has yielded positive results in Jack Steven, Ben McEvoy and David Armitage, with hope for the future on show in Cripps, Siposs, Ledger and others at different times.

The only downside to this would be the arguably little chance each thus year’s debutants have been given to string several games together and gain some valuable experience.

Disappointing: Nick Riewoldt

This isn’t entirely his fault – delivery to him hasn’t been good. But even then, no-one can slot him into the right position for him to have an impact. I think he’s best used between half-forward and the wing, allowed to make the most of his huge tank to burn off his opponent. When isolated up forward in 2011, he has been outnumbered and the Saints look woefully toothless. This side is best when there is more even reliance on a number of players to kick goals; see the Riewoldt-less Saints of Rounds 9 to 14 last year, and the performance against Fremantle this year.

Only seven disposals against the Cats has brought his relatively poor form into the limelight over the break and was a talking point at this week’s press conference.

Pleasing: Ben McEvoy

Struggled to win a hit-out as the lone ruckman before being dropped for the Collingwood game in Round 11. He was a late inclusion to the side and achieved career-highs for hit-outs, disposals, marks and tackles. Has been impressive since, taking timely marks around the ground as he continues in 2011 to improve his work away from ruck contests.

Disappointing: Justin Koschitzke

Can’t seem to pull a trick. Some glimpses of good form in the past several matches culminated in a two-week suspension for his tackle on Mitch Duncan against the Cats. His future is uncertain, but his poorer form in recent times may legitimately be attributed to his troublesome ankle, and it’s reasonable to think his better patches of late show he is getting over those troubles. All Saints fans seem to have a soft spot for him and still wish to see him in Kosi soon in full flight, right into the middle of a pack.

Pleasing: Brett Peake

Disappointing showings in last year’s Grand Finals, backed up with similar performances earlier in the year, left everyone assuming we had seen the mediocre best of the ex-Docker. However, since being dropped and returning to the side for the Melbourne match in Round 9 he has seemed a different player. He is running harder, making the most of his pace to open up space, including when up forward. On top of his work through the middle, he has become a sorely-needed reliable goalkicking midfielder.