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The RWB 2015 Season Review podcast

It’s that vague time of year again in which Rich and myself break some copyright laws in an attempt to enliven the inane chat that makes up most of our podcasts. In this case, it’s our 2015 Season Review and that rubbish chat is sadly maximised as this one is another feature-length presentation from RWB HQ (this time the Brunswick West one). Who’s in Tom’s Top 5 Hair at the club and who threw up next to Rich in the back of the taxi?

How we are

Round 1, 2015
St Kilda 3.0, 5.2, 7.5, 11.12 (78)
GWS Giants 3.5, 7.9, 9.12, 12.15 (87)
Crowd: 18,794 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, April 5th at 1.10pm

Ok so we can now officially confidently say we have another season of slop ahead of us.

If we all turn around for the next few years does any of this really happen? The better periods of yesterday aside, we’re essentially left with the club’s time-honoured formula of “1. Opening bounce 2. ????? 3. St Kilda win” for the foreseeable future.

Now, firstly, I’m feeling very coy about this review as although I watched the game in its entirety, did my usual notes, post-match, etc. I actually didn’t go to the game. Having only missed a handful of games since the beginning of 2007 (my first year out of school) I still feel like I’ve broken a window when I don’t go to a game. This was the first Round 1 game in Melbourne we’d played that I’d missed since we ran over Carlton to open 2002. The icky feeling this week was tempered only by the fact that Matt and I had recently renewed our Social Club memberships.

Easter Sunday family duties called – we’re not religious but it’s a very close family, so we’re obliged yada yada – and I was still content watching the game with Matt and dear cousins Evan and Ben on the couch with several beverages. Mum and Dad are still in the UK for the time being so correspondence and reviews shared with them may only begin once I know for sure Dad’s seen the game given the time difference, so whatever happened I would be going over the match again with him in depth. There’s a lot riding on them.

Both dedicated RWB readers would have noticed that I didn’t bother with a review for the Hawthorn NAB Challenge match. Mostly because I CBF but also because it was a final chance to take a deep breath before having to experience, read and write about the next six months of us being where everyone likes us being.

Either the AFL have a sense of humour or they were being kind, but this just might have been our best chance for a win for the season. I can’t tell you who else we’re going to beat, outside of extreme role reversals of 2013 and 2014 Freo matches proportions.

The late morning tram and train trip across town included discovering David King had said on SEN, “I find myself falling in love with Jack Newnes”. Which makes sense (alright face, in pretty good shape, good footballer, I like his name; his hair could be a little better) but is bemusing because why would anyone pay attention to a player like that at a club that’s in our position? I know there’s the drive to be professional and educated, but this was suss. And the weight of Kingy’s affection obviously got to Jack because he ended up with 14 touches on a relatively quiet day.

His prospective 2018-2028 Premiership Co-Captain Luke Dunstan didn’t fare any better. A return of 13 touches essentially made up his numbers and, first up, these guys were a quick lesson to all of us that even a player of their promise will be inconsistent for some time. For all the optimism of a new season for what the young guys may bring us, once you actually land here it’s much more of a slog.

The flipside to that was Jack Lonie, who only found the ball nine times but made good on the promise shown in the pre-season that he was indeed ready for this level. His one-on-one with Curtly Hampton and then set-up of Schneider was one of the classiest things that happened by a player in a St Kilda jumper. He pushed up the ground hard and pinpointed a couple of teammates when decent disposal was at a premium. Saints fans (myself included) like to think of him as mostly part-Schneider and little part-Milne and they’re probably right; capable of cheeky things but good footskills around the ground, smarts and able to cover more of the field.

Worth pointing out that the GW$ dominant colour of orange is also the colour of a few bays of sponsored seats on Level 2, so for all the running out later than usual for the game, dressing up the ground and post-match kick-to-kick, it ended up looking like the Giants’ ground more than St Kilda’s.

At first it looked like Tim Membrey would be the stand-out new face. We probably forgot (before we even learnt at all) that he’d only played one game and is 20 years old. Maybe it’s the tatts, or maybe it’s the PR offensive the club thrust on us when we secured him in the off-season but his strong grab and goal to open the account in the first few minutes today started things optimistically.

As Richo said in the post-match, he got to a lot of contests. He probably didn’t get the purchase on the footy he would have liked though, but as we’re going to have to remind ourselves countless times, “It’s [player’s name]’s [really low number]st/nd/rd/th game”. In this case, it’s his second. And I liked that his second goal came with a more opportunistic streak and keeping his cool reading a chaos ball of sorts.

At the risk of this reading simply like a player review piece, Membrey’s game up forward naturally leads us to Josh Bruce. I think we’re all genuinely up and about for him, and it’s not just the sensational topknot and facial hair which currently has him at second in the Club’s Best Hair rankings.

It’s because he played by far the best game of his short career, threatening to drag the Saints over the line. Is this the making of him, or is this Daniel Wulf’s four goals that threatened to propel the Saints over the line against the Cats in Round 19 of 2002?

Because to be honest I’d written him off at some point during the rapid sinking of the SS Season 2014. It’s hard to remember when – probably somewhere between him not looking like a backman and not looking like a forward, or an elite Australian Rules footballer at all, really. But I didn’t pay attention to my own bleating about how these guys are either incredibly young, incredibly inexperienced or both, and for tonight we may have to think about the loss but for the six days – until we get towelled by the $uns – we can think about what he could become from here.

I’d written him off to the the point I thought his naming at full forward was a scathing indictment on the state of Tom Lee’s career more than anything else. During the first quarter he just looked like he was vaguely there, almost literally so there was a large chunk of human flesh floating around in the forward half.

In fact it wasn’t really until the third quarter that his game really took off. He got into a good position off his opponent near the 50 metre arc, which came as a surprise I guess to most of us. Looking at my notes I took during the game, I simply have “Josh Bruce nice mark and then long goal wtf”. I should say that by this time his physicality hadn’t quite reached Hamill-esque proportions, but had at least begun to show. My Favourite Hair in the AFL, playing under immense duress, was finally being given a genuine chop-out up forward.

Despite the energetic start to the match, things plummeted over the remainder of the half, punctuated by Shenton’s wayward short kick to Armo out of the back pocket. Armo might have been slightly caught out but his effort to take the footy was barely there and the Giants mopped up. Shenton might be lucky that Roberton is looking more likely to come out of the side for next week after being subbed.

So of all people it was Josh Bruce that appeared to spearhead any fight the Saints might have had. His mark and goal, and then genuine Mark of the Year contender – which, much like Brett Burton’s mark in 2011 Fox Footy didn’t capture properly as all several cameras were zoomed in too far on Bruce, so is much better captured here by Quinn Rooney – and subsequent miss were enough to drag the margin below five goals and throw some momentum back in our favour going into the last term. His crunching tackle just inside 50 and resulting goal at the beginning of the final stanza set the tone.

They didn’t come before some sadly telling passages, however. Armo kicked a great goal from a tight angle which was a carbon copy of his goal against Melbourne in the third quarter of the opening round last year at the other end of the ground, but that was heavily shat on but Membrey messing up a great opportunity on the rebound for Lonie who was out on his opponent around the 50 metre arc with terrible kick. Bruce then forgot what

The Several Kinds of Dog Shit Platter was led by four Saints going up for a mark on a back flank, with Savage floating directly across the front of Riewoldt, and the ball spilled for the Giants to kick it straight to full forward where Jeremy Cameron took the mark as one of three Giants swamping one Saint in the goal square. As afters, Membrey, Saad and Lonie couldn’t sort out effectively a three on zero near goal, Newnes missed a shot from the pocket and the resulting set shot from My Favourite Hair in the AFL’s big mark only landed in the goal square.

In fact, aside from Josh Bruce, Shane Savage was next in line to not just keep us in it but add some real spark on a day in which basic disposal seemed a tough ask (the same applied to himself). His two long goals – namely the second from out wide, in the final quarter – were exactly what he was recruited for.

But cue Tom Bugg, who cannoned into the back of Roo the My Favourite Hair wasn’t coming back onto the field. Bugg might have been running to the contest but you don’t just miss Nick Riewoldt right in front of you and he had no qualms about cannoning straight into his back. Perversely, no free kick was paid (regardless of it being an accident or not – the umpire was right next to it as well) and the MRP took no action on the hit, but rather things ultimately emerged with Bugg taking a free kick.

Enter Josh Bruce again, who took it on himself to floor Bugg as he took the kick. It ended up as a downfield free, but what does Josh Bruce’s hit on Bugg do for everyone? It gives Bugg and the opposition a sign that what he did wasn’t ok, and importantly it shows his teammates that he’ll fly the flag for them.

You could say what Josh did was undisciplined, particularly at a crucial time in the game, but we’re caught in the middle here. Because what’s the difference if you win or lose right now? What wins from the 2000/2001/2002 era do you remember? It’s not quite about those, it’s about the attitude and culture you build. You’ll get the odd win here and there (11, and two draws in that above era) which helps, but actions like that lay the groundwork for what approach you take into every game when things are meant to count.

Of course, you could rightfully point out that the Saints were the victims of poor umpiring throughout the game and in its vital late stages which may have impacted on the result. And of course we’d feel aggrieved. The first two 50 metre penalties to money grabbers were questionable, the Roo non-free the obvious glaring miss, and the Lonie hold in front of goal overlooked before McCarthy received a gift in front of goal at the other end. But for all of those there is Geary’s out on the full set shot from not that far out in the third quarter, a Armo missing two running shots on goal in the final quarter, and Joey’s weird torp-thing which was a complete waste of a forward 50 entry. The final quarter saw us with 21 forward 50 entries to seven, for a total of 4.7 to 3.3. Add to all of that Sinclair’s shot too, sure, but those other examples are given because they’re senior players who are meant to prove the sure heads and get the job done in this situation. It’s why you have guys like Roo, Joey, Dempster, Fisher, etc. around when the list is in this state. That’s their end of the bargain. Not to win games themselves necessarily, but, like Bruce’s hit on Bugg, instil some necessary qualities in the younger guys. That was their role in those moments in that context.

So next we venture off to the Gold Coast next Saturday to take on Franchise #1 at the home ground. You expect a few changes every week when young guys are prone to such inconsistency and Sunday was no different. Billings is surely a lock for next week after looking a class above by all reports in the VFL practice match on Saturday. His skills are, as we all know, something that we don’t have much of right now, and with Eli and Saad very quiet across half forward there’s certainly a couple that could come out for him. Shiel’s delivery forward from the centre square in the final term which led to a goal, as well as his own clever snap highlighted the gulf between the quality and development of the younger players at the clubs. Ironically, he might be a sneaky chance to land at Seaford/Moorabbin/Junction Oval come year’s end.

Eli I think might be more susceptible given he was given a task of playing higher up the ground, but with Lonie very pleasing and Sinclair impressing in his short time on the field (Dribble File effort at a critical time aside), you’d think at least one of Eli and Saad will be out. Adam Kingsley certainly hinted as much on the post-game Facebook chat (which I’m sure he was thrilled to be doing) that the coaches were pleased with Sinclair and that Billings would be playing next week. Saunders and McKenzie were apparently very productive also, and might be get a look in (the former more so).

Blake Acres had 20 touches and two goals, and perhaps with Roberton subbed out for being only OK there might be a chance for him to come in (if we’re running with a very vague like-for-like), but he’d be further back than a Billings right now.

Paddy sounded like he struggled (I wouldn’t throw him into the greasy Metricon conditions first-up anyway) whilst Spencer sounded half-decent and Tom Lee didn’t even play up forward. Tom Hickey kicked three goals as well, and if both Billy and Tom play either one will need to up forward just about all of the time. With Josh Bruce incredibly playing an actually good game, Riewoldt fortunately OK for next week, Membrey’s couple of goals and good movement enough to earn his spot and Hickey into calculations for the ruck and resting up forward the only I doubt Spencer will break in just yet.

Finally, a mention to Roo. I’ve obviously named him and his actions several times through this but you have to acknowledge the purpose he played with so soon after his sister passed away. He doesn’t need someone like me to say to him “good on him” or “what a great bloke” or anything like that.

You the sense that Kevin Sheedy told the younger GWS guys they were a bit too special in their early days. It was nice to see Roo give Toby Greene a huge shove, and the Bruce hit of course. But you know what? When you’re the St Kilda Football Club, someone else will have the last laugh. Ten years after he was felled in questionable circumstances in the opening round, Roo’s found himself as the post-match headline in a tough loss for the same reasons. We would lose our captain and best player for the most important few minutes of the match with, incredibly, no consequences.

Ten years ago was a very, very different time. Now, we’re being pushed around and felled without consequence by the competition’s newest money-grabbing franchise.

This year’s slogan may be “How I Want To Be”, but that’s a long way off. For now, we’ll have to endure How We’ve Been for most of the past 142 years.

Saints wear new clash jumper (and play meaningless game)

2015 NAB Challenge, Round 1
Brisbane Lions 0.2.5, 0.4.11, 0.7.15, 0.7.16 (58)
St Kilda 0.2.1, 0.4.1, 0.6.4, 0.8.7 (55)
Crowd: Dunno, 150? at Moreton Bay Central Sports Complex, Saturday, February 28th at 3.10pm EST

Right, so Australian Rules football is officially back, notwithstanding the bizarre and unexplained match I walked past in the backstreets of Ivanhoe on a couple of Wednesday evenings ago. (And of course the NTFL, but that operates strictly within its own calendar.)

Uh, yeah. So naturally it was off to Moreton Bay on Saturday to kick things off in a competition which really has been reduced from a legitimate cause for celebration to “glorified practice matches” and I think this year might have finally hit “glorified match simulation drills” (BUT WITH 9-POINTERS *FLASHING LIGHTS*).

I’m not going to do an entire off-season/pre-season wrap right here and now but before anything else it would be remiss of me to not say anything about Madeleine Riewoldt. The occasional Twitter comments exchanged were the most interaction I had with her – like probably a few you reading this did with her, in fact –  but for the one post I feel I actually did OK with amongst the bloated slop I write for this blog she said some really nice things. The point of me bringing this up is that the post centred around family and the context of following the club and having those closest to you around you. During the day of that particular match I was at a club function and was sat next to her and Nick’s father Joe Riewoldt (Nick was there and spoke briefly as he were playing that night) and I featured it in the match review – Joe was incredibly warm and personable, and sensing I was a perhaps a little uneasy made me feel included at the table and in conversation. Madeleine took an interest in the piece when I mentioned Joe’s name in the Twitter post; she also said to me passed the piece on to him and he “loved it” – although to be honest I could never tell if he actually did read it or she was simply just saying that to be nice. Either is lovely.

Short story long, my very, very brief interaction with the Riewoldt family came at a particularly momentous point for my own family. So my reaction to hearing of her passing ranged somewhere between awful sadness for her family, as well as the hopeless dismay you feel when terrible things happen to decent people. And then you might listlessly put your hands up and say “Fuck. That.” It’s crass, but how else to frame it?

* * *

To get the 2015 pre-season underway, convention dictates that everyone has to agree on what time the game actually starts. Twitterers, Facebook users, forum posters and football clubs all struggled with the concept of daylight savings time before figuring out that the first bounce was at 4.10pm AEDT (as opposed to the temporarily redundant hunk-of-junk AEST).

For the most part it didn’t seem as if it would matter because until the day before; this was one of the few ultra-dud pre-season games which Fox Footy wouldn’t bother with. In fact if you looked at this and then our broadcast schedule for 2015 you’d think we’d gone down the Falcons’ route and slapped a giant Channel 9 logo across the tri-panel and Candy Stripe #2.

The AFL broadcast agreement apparently decided that no one was allowed to see anything if Fox Footy (or Channel 7) weren’t gonna be there, but announced the day before the game that there would indeed be streamed video with Crocmedia’s AFL Live commentary on club sites for the non-broadcast games. Look, I’m being very cynical here, but did anyone think this was a nice little PR stunt the AFL executed so as to seem another empowerment-of-the-fans move on the eve of the game – once people have actually realised they won’t be able to see the game and cracked the shits – rather than several months ago when the Corporate Challenge draw is announced and no-one’s paying attention?

Either way, we were left with a single camera on the wing – that’s fine, that’s all you need for this – but no replays, and then anywhere between one and several small children and their parents wandering loudly around crowd microphones throughout the game, and in one of the more absurd broadcast in brief history AFL live stream history, “Do You Remember” by Phil Collins cutting through loud and clear for extended periods in the second quarter (bonus: the second time it cut through it was in higher quality than the first, and I’m sure it wasn’t the broadcast audio overall).

It was out to Oakleigh for the game (pre-relative’s 21st, which incidentally required driving past what’s left of Waverley to get to) to be bunkered down at dear cousin Evan’s and strap ourselves in for all the half-hearted thrills and spills that the NAB Challenge has to offer.

Sub-standard footy with sub-standard broadcasting with sub-standard picture quality (we had the stream up on the TV via HDMI) – it had all the making of a sub-standard teaser for the real thing. And so it was. Now, the only thing that was amazing about this was the new clash jumper. In short: I love it, and it’s one of the best jumpers this club has ever had. But I will save the usual extended drivel on that and this year’s other jumpers for my usual removal of pants re: St Kilda jumpers in St Kilda Jumper Talk Vol. One Billion.

It was great to see Jason Holmes in actual St Kilda jumper, and not blue, gold and black. He didn’t have much impact as one of the subs (and also in his first vaguely AFL game obviously). His awareness in terms of actually knowing where to be to get involved in the play will required some further development. He took he a nice mark near half-back; Roberton was aware that Holmes can’t really kick an Australian Rules football and looked for the give-off but Robinson was onto it, so Holmes had to kick the thing and hit the target, I guess.

Again, Bruce has flown under the radar in his potential to importantly shore up our structure. But it might be because he’s not that good at football. I hope he does, because right now he’s sitting at number two of My Favourite Hair at the St Kilda Football Club, and I want it out there. There were a couple of soft efforts early, and the one time he looked really excited was when he got goalside of his opponent on the wing against the line and took off, hoping the boundary umpire didn’t notice the ball was 10 rows back when he gathered it.

He actually took a really nice mark on the outer wing, but dropped a relatively easy one after Saad (welcome back) gave us a rare good kick forward. Off the ball, Bruce’s tackle on Paparone late was exactly the kind of aggression you’d want to see from him in his role up forward, but Saturday’s effort or not I still feel like he’d struggle to get a spot if Roo, Paddy, Spencer and Lee are all available.

Of course, with no Roo or Spencer it was a very new forward line overall. Spencer only signed a one-year deal and I dare say his manager’s picked him out as one he can get a massive commission from. Fine by me if Spencer can’t be arsed playing here but we don’t know that yet. Strangely he didn’t get a run at all in this one and isn’t playing this week.

We did get some Big Tommy Lee and Paddy action though. Paddy moved exactly as I thought he would – direct at all the ball and he looks physically solid enough to get going from Round 1 if he stays in the action. I’m quietly really excited about him, particularly owing to the seasonal good words about his attitude coming from the club and the players. He finished with the most casual goal known to science after a 50-metre penalty and five marks which is certainly a tick at this ridiculously early stage.

Tommy Lee again showed himself to be haphazard at times and, as always, an easy dropped mark punctuated his day as much as anything else. But a couple of well thought-out centering kicks (including to Paddy on the lead for his second shot at goal) showed a little bit of maturity on his part.

On a day when slick skills were as rare as St Kilda premierships (cheers), Jack Lonie provided some much needed spark. Otherwise it was all pretty dour – two teams with only 11 wins between them out of a combined 44 games last year probably weren’t going to dish up anything more palatable at this stage of the year, and probably not at this stage of their development.

As good as it was to see Armo, Steven and Geary get involved in some really tough contest, and Jack Newnes kick a real captain’s goal – OR SHOULD I SAY 2018-2028 PREMIERSHIP CAPTAIN’S GOAL? – even though he’s not the captain yet, everyone’s dream is to see their entire team walk off the ground after a pre-season match injury-free. But lo and behold, Andrew Wallis casually revealed to us that Farren’s out for 12 weeks (hamstring), Jimmy Webster for six, Sav for a monthish (another hamstring), as well Jack Billings (yet another hamstring) taking all of 30 seconds to ruin his next four weeks. Roberton’s  done something to his hamstring as well and is going to miss too (I can hear you all shrugging). We do potentially get to see St Kilda’s Own Stephen Merchant in Tom Hickey, Luke Dunstan and Hugh Goddard play this Saturday though, and Minchington, Wright and Sinclair have all been named in the squad.

Ultimately, what do we get out of this one? In reality, just another essentially meaningless Brisbane vs St Kilda match in Queensland in the first game of the pre-season, and another narrow win by the Lions – by seven points in 2007, nine in 2009 and three in 2015. But who remembers any of that?

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 Red, White and Black 2014 Review Podcast

Rich and I recently bunkered down at our (his) RWB Richmond Headquarters with a couple of pizzas, a lot of Pepsi and some Moccona to chat about the 2014 year that was for the St Kilda Football Club.

We recorded three hours’ worth of material and there were no surprises that I was easily to cut out nearly half of our faffin’ about. What’s left is the RWB 2014 Review, in which we talk about Spencer White’s topknot, update the 2018-2028 Premiership Captain market, are momentarily joined by Jack Billings and, as always, break numerous copyright laws.