Steven Baker Posts

St Kilda 2004 Season Highlights DVD

The distance in time between the 1997 Grand Final and 2004 is the same as the time lapsed between 2010 and this year, so I guess there’s some synergy in putting this up now.

*Disclaimer – you can read me whinge about Sports Delivered and talk about these productions in more bleating depth here.

img_7299This production for this was spearheaded by Channel 9, who was one of the broadcasters at the time, complete with match-day intro sequence and Brownlow Medal round highlights graphics. Like anything Channel 9 does in a promotional vein, it glosses over a lot of the negatives of the 2004 season – some losses simply aren’t mentioned at all, and the bloketastic element is filled by the hosting of Michael Roberts, who is obviously a mate of the much-featured Grant Thomas – a huge bonus for GT fans, although he probably doesn’t steal the show in the same Ken Sheldon does in the 1991 and 1992 Season Highlights productions. He certainly does say some interesting things – his admission that he hadn’t prepared the team well enough for the Qualifying Final against Brisbane, and more bemusingly, that the team has structured itself differently in the Round 21 and Qualifying Final games at the same ground against the same opposition in case they met the Lions in the Grand Final.

Whilst a lot of the focus of what’s in there is the Wizard Cup final and then the 10-game winning streak to open the season, at a running time of more than 116 minutes this is about 75 minutes longer and 61 minutes longer than the 2009 and 2010 Season Highlights DVDs respectively, and around more than 116 minutes longer than the 2005 Season Highlights DVD, which would have been a genuine ride (again, for more of my dismay at the producers of Sports Delivered and the Visual Entertainment Group, see above).

It’s easy to forget just how good the G-Train was outside of simply kicking for goal, how impressively athletic Roo was, and just what we missed out on due to Aaron Hamill’s injuries not just in key parts of 2004 but in 2005, 2006, 2007 and perhaps beyond, not to mention Heath Black after his departure (see his stirring goal in the final seconds of the third quarter of the Preliminary Final), further injuries to Luke Penny and the inconsistency of Brent Guerra.

The 2004 season was truly a unique experience for St Kilda fans. Never before had the club looked to potent, and the youth brigade had us feeling that anything could happen, with no end in site. I remember thinking at the time as a 16 year old that I couldn’t imagine a point beyond this team – we were getting attached to the players that themselves were coming through together as a close-knit group. It’s incredible to think the journey we still find ourselves on could well and truly have been completed in this season. Either way, surely it was to be the beginning of an era that would change the club forever. It was, but not in the way we hoped.

How we didn’t necessarily want to be

Recently turning 25 came with it an expected yet still slightly painful quarter-life crisis.

From 24 to 25 feels like you’ve aged at least nine to 10 times that overnight and it requires an honest look at yourself in a glass coated with metal amalgam, or as many people refer to it; a mirror. You assess your finances, relationship status, career progression and then naturally of course you weigh up whether or not you will ever witness a St Kilda premiership. Now no longer at the tender age of 24, this plight had been turned up a proverbial notch almost instantaneously. Amongst brushing up my resume, Google searching “community work” and signing up to eHarmony, came the thought of what the last 25 years has been and meant on this earth, and a large a part of that has revolved around being a St Kilda supporter.

When you’re a kid and you attend Auskick – or, as my junior football club’s program was very controversially named, “Midgets” – you’re happy just running around in a team’s colours courtesy of Dad; for me a traditional long sleeve Saints guernsey with Aussie Jones’ number 5 on the back. You’d hear a result and maybe care about it for all of 15 seconds before you’re chasing a footy around again worrying about your own very important career. This was more often than not made up of deliberately tightening angles for goals to have a shot at momentary glory. When Tom and I were little, we couldn’t wait to play for St Kilda when we were older, it was going to be fantastic. It turned out for us that the selection process was sufficiently more stringent than we could have ever possibly anticipated; our playing careers teetered out (not without serious injuries) and our success as footballers would now have to be fulfilled vicariously through the St Kilda Football Club, the passion no longer exerted on the field would have to be inflicted from the stands. That transition from being a child and being given a St Kilda jumper, to it being 100% apart of me: well, this was now complete.

Too young to appreciate, but I still observed the trail of destruction left by 1997; I sat there and watched but couldn’t really understand Stewart Loewe’s goal kicking yips, Joel Smith’s broken leg, Peter Everitt’s collarbone. I then saw Tim Watson and Malcolm Blight come and go; I saw Max Hudghton cry, Caydn Beetham lose the passion, I witnessed Daniel Wulf run in and hit the post, I watched Steven Baker suffer “amnesia”, Justin Peckett getting run down from behind with Troy Longmuir the beneficiary, Justin Koschitzke get blindsided by Daniel Giansiracusa, a nastily snapped Matt Maguire leg; I listened to the media circles of Grant Thomas being too friendly with the players, I’d seen Ross Lyon stop the other teams from scoring, I’d seen Luke Ball walk; I’d seen a toe-poke and I’d seen the unexpected bounce of obscurely shaped ball on the biggest stage.

On the contrary I’d watched Jason Heatley kick a few bags, Aussie Jones tear down the wing, and Troy Schwarze bang home a winner against Brisbane. I’d watched Robert Harvey, Nathan Burke and Lenny Hayes; Barry Hall’s winner after the siren against Hawthorn, Fraser Gehrig’s 100th goal in a season, Clint Jones run down Buddy Franklin; I’d seen Michael Gardiner come from nowhere, Nick Riewoldt’s soccer goal in the 2009 preliminary final; I’d seen a 55-point comeback, a last-minute Montagna goal, and the highlight: sharing a few lanes of bowling with Andrew Thompson, Justin Koschitzke and Justin Peckett in Moorabbin (watching elite athletes plough through my bucket of hot chips was slightly disheartening on the eve of the season but it was still a highlight).

I had ridden the St. Kilda wave since 1997 and upon reflection in the metal amalgam-coated glass, I was spat out the back witnessing 0 premierships. Regardless, on the eve of entering my 18th season as a member, despite the amount of times we have uttered profanities under our breathe to ourselves and sometimes regrettably out loud in front of families and children, there is never any doubt we’ll be walking through the gates again, daring to dream of the very best outcomes; even possibly putting our heads on our pillows at night and hoping we are the Leicester City of the AFL. We’ve witnessed the “How I Want to Be” slogans, and whilst we didn’t necessarily choose our own destiny, the first quarter has been one hell of an opening.

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

140 Years jumper talk

So I finally got my hands on my 140 Years jumper after it spent a few weeks at my parents’ house southside. And I love it.

Firstly, the design itself I think is brilliant. It’s bold, the colours look great and it would make a mean looking jumper should it ever be adopted full-time (which it obviously won’t). From a historical viewpoint it would actually be more accurate with black cuffs and white collar, but then you could take that to the next level and say they’d need to be wearing white handkerchiefs around their neck come the game in which they wear this.

Rarely are there St Kilda jumpers so dominated by red and black equally – in fact, this might be the only example of a St Kilda jumper featuring such a scheme alongside the slightly altered design that immediately followed this one in 1877 and to a lesser extent the hot-cross bun design.

It would look even better without the softening effect of the text throughout, but the text is there for a good reason. I’m not particularly keen on the whole jumpers-with-names on them thing in general because they’re often celebrating corporate contributors (Sydney’s QBE 125 Years anniversary jumper nearly spoiled by that factor), however this one has the noble intention of honouring all of those who played a senior game for the Saints. The designers also learnt from the Members’ Thank You jumper worn against GWS in Round 22 last year, which looked more like newspaper as a result of the names being printed in colour on white, as opposed to a white on solid colour.

Not sure how they arrived at where exactly which names would go where on the jumper. Some names are repeated (although not necessarily with the same names around them), and some higher-profiler players are often lumped together. For instance, on the top line of the black hoop immediately under the club logo reads the top 10 players for games played: Robert Harvey, Nathan Burke, Stewart Loewe, Barry Breen, Gary Colling, Lenny Hayes, Stephen Milne, Kevin Neale, Justin Peckett and Danny Frawley; second line in that hoop reads Nick Dal Santo, Ross Smith, Max Hudghton, Trevor Barker, Nicky Winmar, Jeff Sarau, Austinn Jones, Geoff Cunningham, Andrew Thompson, Harry Lever and Jason Blake; and the third reads Brian Mynott, Brendon Goddard, Carl Ditterich, Steven Baker, Wells Eicke, Bill Mohr, Justin Koschitzke, David Grant, Leigh Montagna, Tony Lockett and Sam Fisher. It’s amazing to think of these names on the same jumper as Trojan Darveniza, Emery Staines and Justin Sweeney.

Wayne Thornborrow – the four-goal hero in the six-goal loss to the Hawks at Waverley in Round 4 of 1995 – shares the honour with Jody Arnol of having his name immediately above the St Kilda emblem.

Widely recognisable names on the jumper include Mick Malthouse, Keith Miller, Simon O’Donnell, Ross Oakley, Lindsay Fox and, of course, Roy Cazaly.

Fortunately the ISC template changes don’t compromise the design too much, with the new stitching on the shoulder panels and the collar barely noticeable. Overall, I’d take this as a permanent jumper in a heartbeat, although as I said that won’t happen. Definitely one of my all-time favourite St Kilda jumpers.

RWB 2011 player reviews – Part 3 of 4

In the third part of our 2011 player reviews, we look at St Kilda’s list from stricken spiritual leader Lenny Hayes to fellow elite midfielder Leigh Montagna.

Stats courtesy of Pro-Stats.

Part One features players from Warrick Andreoli to Nick Dal Santo, whilst Part Two features players from Zac Dawson to James Gwilt.

Lenny HAYES
2 games
Season 2011 mirrored 2006 in several key ways, inlcuding spiritual leader Lenny Hayes going down early with a season-ending ACL injury.

It’s impossible to measure just what difference Lenny would have made to the team’s overall result in 2011, but the club had to play from Round 2 onwards without its reigning Best & Fairest winner and arguably its most valuable player.

For all of his off-field appearances on varios media and Lunch with Lenny, as well as #lennyvent, Lenny’s presence on the field just could not be made up for; however, it gave Jack Steven a genuine chance to step up and make a name for himself in the St Kilda side. We simply can’t wait to see Lenny out there again, but at 32 and after effectively a year out of the game we’re not sure just how close to his best he’ll be.

Nick HEYNE
0 games
After playing two games in 2010, the draftee drifted out of favour of the Sandringham selectors in 2011, let alone find himself with that of the Saints.

Drafted as a medium half-forward/midfielder with a view to making the most of his strong hands, Heyne’s scrappy style simply hasn’t been as effective as hoped. His left foot is often untidy and by all reports, just wasn’t able to get himself consistently involved in the play through games at VFL level. Unfortunately, he’ll most probably be delisted.

Will JOHNSON
1 game
Recruited at the end of 2009 as a 19 year-old tall defender from Sandringham, Big Will (sort of) was turned into a forward in 2011, with some bold performances and small bags of goals earning him a debut in Round 6.

Unfortunately, his first appearance in St Kilda colours was short-lived as he was concussed in the first half, and perhaps oddly wasn’t given another chance. Given St Kilda’s forward structure woes, Johnson made a likely candidate to be given a chance on several occasions ahead of Ryan Gamble and perhaps even Tom Lynch (although easy to say in hindsight); his great attack at the ball and the contest showed he was willing to work hard with or without the footy.

Unlucky to have not played more than one game, it’s hard to say whether or not he’ll be on St Kilda’s list next year. Over to you, Pelchen.

Clinton JONES
23 games, Club 1st for tackles with 152 at 6.6 per game, Club 2nd for handballs with 241, Club 5th for disposals with 450, Club 4th for contested possessions with 210, Club 3rd for clearances with 85, Club 2nd for 1%ers with 134, Club 2nd for skill errors with 126
With the rejuvenation of Sean Dempster and the inclusion of Dean Polo into the side, CJ was allowed to run a little freer in 2011 and be more attacking. Arguably the game’s elite tagger (at least until “Dempster” also gained usage as a verb), the close-in workload was shared this year and without Lenny, CJ was given scope to include more creativity in his game.

For all of his bemusing aesthetics, CJ handballs a lot for a reason – his kicking was still poor. With rumours on Saintsational forums everywhere that he is following Ross back to his home state for a spot at the Dockers, St Kilda could be in danger of losing one of its hardest working players, and a key cog in its defensive midfield set-up.

Justin KOSCHITZKE
13 games, Club 2nd for hitouts with 90, Club 2nd for average contested marks with 1.6 per game
The Last Man to Have Captained the Saints to a Premiership of Any Kind finally found consistent good form towards the end of the year, perhaps making it clear his ankle issues were most at fault for his recent indifferent form (and perhaps sleepless nights with his newborn).

The charges towards and crashes into packs were more purposeful, and his Captain Calamity cape mostly stayed in the wardrobe for 2011 (as far as his teammates were concerned). He looked increasingly comfortable in his ruck/forward role as the season progressed and he regained uninhibited match fitness, and the Saints had their forward structures right he provided an admirable foil for Riewoldt and his presence alone made the side less predictable.

For the quiet humming of using Kosi as potential trade-bait, he’s a hugely-respected player around the club and provides a versatile ruck option to go with Big Ben, and will be required in the potential shortage of capable rucks in 2012.

Tom LEDGER
2 games
Ledger only played two games but immediately impressed. Ten possessions – seven of them contested – in little over a quarter of footy on his debut against the raging Magpies earned praise from Ross the Ex-Boss, and he provided the sealing goal against the Bulldogs on the following Friday night.

Like so many of his first-year colleagues at the Saints in 2011, he struggled with injury after debuting and was booked in for hamstring surgery to ensure he would be 100% right for the start of the 2012 pre-season.

His attack at the ball was exciting to say the least, and he didn’t shirk a contest in his short time in the side in 2011. Consistently talked up by players and coaches at the club alongside Cripps and Siposs as players to watch for the future, we should all be upbeat about what Ledger could bring to the club over the coming year.

Tom LYNCH
5 games, 4 goals
St Kilda fans are still waiting for the 2008 first-round draft pick to announce himself on the big stage. That said, his stellar VFL form came from roles across half-back, as opposed to the mostly forward-oriented role he found himself in when playing for the Saints. His best game of the year, against North Melbourne in Round 15, saw Lynch gather nine first-quarter possessions across half-back before making an impact in stints up forward.

Perhaps he is best used as a swingman, at least as he finds his feet at the elite level, with the defensive role giving him a chance to get his hands on the ball and get into the rhythm of the match. People forget he’s only ever played six games.

Ben McEVOY
22 games, Club 1st for hitouts with 497 at 22.6 per game, Club 4th for marks with 118, Club 1st for contested marks with 42, Club 4th for marks inside 50 with 15, Club 4th for handballs with 199, Club 1st for 1%ers with 150, Career-high for most games in a season

Big Ben had his breakout year in 2011. For the first time in his handful of years at the Saints, he was first in line for the ruck spot with the retirement of Steven King at the end of 2010 and Gardi spending most of the season injured.

After being dropped for the Round 11 match against Collingwood, Ben found himself a late inclusion and proceeded to have one of his best games to date, collecting (at the time) career-high numbers in possessions (23), hitouts (38) and marks (10). From then on he didn’t look back, and became one of the club’s most effective players.

His work around the ground became his number-one asset, pulling in the third-most contested marks in the competition. Whilst his ruckwork still needs improvement, his timely presence across all parts of the field became a regular sight. I harbour a fantasy that he will be the 2017 premiership captain; either way he presents himself very well off the field and is set to become a club leader in some capacity throughout the decade.

Andrew McQUALTER
5 games
Unfortunately, Mini’s 2009 renaissance was ultimately confined to that season alone. Whilst he found himself in the Grand Final teams of 2010, he couldn’t quite recapture the same form of the previous season and 2011 saw him delisted after brilliant VFL form and a season-ending shoulder surgery. Even more unfortunately, he will probably be remembered for his woeful missed shot at goal from close range in the 2009 Grand Final.

Perhaps the game had passed him by; he was more versatile than players I’ve said the same thing about in these reviews in Baker and Eddy, but he wasn’t quite agile or attacking enough to be a real threat with or without the ball in 2011. For all of his great footy played with Sandringham, like Eddy again he couldn’t translate that into something similar at AFL level.

Stephen MILNE
23 games, Club 1st for goals with 56 at 2.4 per game, Club 1st for behinds with 33, Club 2nd for goal assists with 20, Club 6th for inside 50s with 65, Club 2nd for marks inside 50 with 48, Club 2nd for inside 50 target with 109, Club 2nd for tackles inside 50 with 19, Club 2nd for frees against with 37
The Tiprat had one of his best seasons in 2011, leading the club for goals in a season that regularly required someone to make something out of not much. For all of the poor delivery inside 50 from further up the ground and messy forward structures, Milne was always a nuisance and did well so often to make and find space in attack for himself and teammates.

Though still with his critics (including here on Red, White and Black), it seemed that this year Yapper really consolidated respect and praise from the wider football world. For the first time in a number of seasons, he found himself as the best forward at the club with a near-full season from Roo. It also proved he wasn’t simply riding on the spilled balls of Roo and Kosi, and earlier in his career Fraser Gehrig, but rather was creating opportunities for the team himself.

At 31 it would seem by now his best would be behind him, but he worked very hard throughout the season and arguably had personally one of his best years. Not only did he kick the most goals for the club, but he was sixth in the side for deliveries inside 50, showing how hard he did work to push up the ground. It would be brilliant if he could maintain anything like this form in the future.

Leigh MONTAGNA
21 games, Club 2nd for average disposals with 24.2 per game, Club 3rd for disposals with 509, Club 3rd for contested possessions with 215, Club equal-3rd for uncontested possessions with 350, Club 2nd for kicks with 337, Club 1st for long kicks with 115, Club 4th for average tackles with 5.0 per game, Club 2nd for clearances with 93, Club 1st for centre bounce clearances with 34 at 1.6, Club 1st for inside 50s with 98 at 4.7, Club 3rd for goal assists with 19, 13 goals
Joey had another great year in 2011, although it was a step below his brilliant 2009 and 2010 seasons. Always busy and one of the more attacking midfielders, he consolidated his place as a leader and wise head at the club with the captaincy for the Round 19 Gold Coast match in the absence of captain and vice-captain Roo and Lenny respectively.

The first several games aside, Joey found himself consistently in the goals kicked list to go with his club-high total of inside 50s. His speed and running remained a huge asset to the side in a year that saw the midfield struggle often in the absence of Lenny. However, if the Saints are any chance at a respectable return in 2012, Joey will have to step back up to his form of the last few seasons and continue kicking goals; fortunately, there’s every possibility of that happening.