Subiaco Posts

That felt both a lot better and a whole lot worse

Round 2, 2017
West Coast Eagles 4.0, 8.3, 13.5, 18.8 (116)
St Kilda
6.7, 8.12, 12.17, 13.19 (97)
Crowd: 37,749 at Domain Stadium, Saturday, April 1st at 4.40pm WST

St Kilda have remained unmistakably St Kilda over 144 years. The highs are high, without quite hit the heights we’ve been searching for, and the lows are very low.

After the deflation and disappointment of last week, the team put in one of its more commendable efforts of the Richardson era, only to prove their own worst enemy. Whilst I was expecting West Coast to mop the floor with us, and this performance had me feeling a whole lot better than last week, it also felt a lot worse given the opportunities – and opportunity – wasted.

The fact that Richo, the coaching staff, and the players themselves were able to turn themselves around so much so quickly is a very good sign, regardless of the 0-2 start. Richo was facing some serious scrutiny probably for the first time in his coaching career as the typical rush to grand conclusions after Round 1 played itself out, and we’ve learnt a little bit more about where this team and the players were at.

Quick ball movement has been the order of the year but right now it looks like we’re just aimlessly banging it long and going too fast for ourselves, and it was our undoing when we weren’t queueing up to shank shots at goal . A frustrating 6.7 at quarter-time when we could easily have kicked 10 given our number of shots and domination of play, and an absurd 13.19 at the final siren.

Those long kicks forward were our favourite method of butchering the ball. Paddy, Bruce and Membrey were often asked to do too much from guys rushing to get the ball on their boot and not lowering their eyes. The balance was the smaller guys either not pushing hard enough to provide other options, which would mostly have been ignored anyway; or they weren’t given enough time to get forward, meaning there was little support at ground level if the ball hit the deck or if Yeo hadn’t plucked it out of the air himself.

There were a couple of times when Bruce and Paddy particularly looked to have had decent positioning but didn’t work themselves toward the ball; Paddy is best when he’s on the move and I’m not sure anymore if there’s any rhyme or reason to Josh Bruce’s game. As good as he was around the ground in Roo’s absence, Bruce was complicit in burning a great opportunity with Gresham one-out in the goal square; the ball went up the other end before some brief respite, only for Bruce, who had worked his way up to wing, to drop an easy mark on his own and the Eagles kicked a goal directly from the spill. It’s not fair to single that moment out – both of his goals were really nice – but it proved no one was immune.

To be fair, the three talls all worked pretty hard to present higher up and seemed to have a very good understanding of where each other was. They rarely got in each other’s way (Bruce did mess around with Hickey on the wing in the last though in one contest), and there was almost always at least one available for the next kick towards goal, although the way we used the ball in the front half that ultimately counted for not much.

Membrey and Paddy were particularly strong in the first half. Membrey took a couple of strong marks right up to the wing, and ended up with nine in total and a last quarter goal that we might have expected him to miss given recent efforts in key stages of games (see vs. Geelong, 2016). Bruce and Paddy’s returns of four and five marks respectively belied some their presence across the ground.

The proverbial large mammal in the room is the umpiring, yet again because of the the Perth hometown whistle classic. Today, The Age and Herald Sun were both running prominent (and easy) articles about Saints fans talking about the lopsided free kick count on social media. Free kick differentials shouldn’t matter if that’s where the genuine free kicks are. Last night I think it would be fair to say the Eagles got a lot more than they should have, and we didn’t get several; Josh Bruce’s tackle for holding the ball that was called in the back in the last quarter is a glaring example.

But last night, what were you expecting to happen if that free kick was paid to us? So Paddy can get the ball in heaps of space with the scores level, and then wheel around and tighten up and miss the crucial shot? So he can just blaze away and kick long to Paddy or Membrey in a two on one, ignoring the smaller guys who were presenting other options, if they had actually made it to that part of the ground by then?

Paddy did look incredibly disappointed after he missed that last shot, and it wasn’t just because he’d never kicked three goals in a match before. It would prove to be our final score as the opportunities dried up in the last quarter and our efficiency remained at around Rubbish%. He’d looked a lot more confident and comfortable out on the ground in general, doing a lot of talking with teammates and establishing himself as the go-to guy for the post-goal around-the-shoulder leadership move. Dad and I joked (well, you know) that once he’d kicked his second that was it for him – he’d never kicked three so with an entire half to go the only option was for him to receive a head knock. The inevitable seemed to have happened in the last quarter when his melon hit the turf but he came back on. His hair has also improved this year. and this game at the very least presented an opportunity for the three to play together without My Favourite Hair.

A scoreline of 13.18.96 to 15.6.96 late in the last quarter said more than any other facet of the game, encapsulated further when that scoreline changed to 13.19.97 to 15.6.96 as Paddy took his personal tally to 2.3. You can then say yes, the umpiring does matter, and can matter in a big way – what about Hawkins hitting the post and getting a goal in the 2009 Grand Final? I’ll redirect you to Schneider, Milne, McQualter, et al.’s efforts in front of goal that day, and even then if we were a better team we could have just won by whole lot anyway. Have a look at the several out-on-the-full kicks yesterday, or Jarryn Geary (C) becoming the first St Kilda player to score a try. A couple of the deliberate out of bounds calls were shonky when compared to the kick for touch in the third by the Eagles (was it Yeo?), but ironically the most deliberate out of bounds was Paddy’s kick over the top of Bruce at a crucial juncture in the last quarter to ensure the ball went out just inside the 50-metre arc. He understood that he couldn’t just blaze away in the way his teammates had throughout the game and gave them all a chance to get forward and set up – but we lost the clearance and totally shat on the idea. Unfortunately Paddy went a step further and missed the shot around the corner.

If you’re good enough then that’s not something you need to be relying on over the long-term to be a successful team and a successful club. The 2009 team could so easily have changed the course of St Kilda history on that day themselves with accurate goal kicking, more than the umpires could have with their decisions.

Haphazardly going back to large humans playing for the St Kilda, Tom Hickey’s personal performance was probably the best of the difference between the team’s effort and output and that of last night’s. With ruckmen now going truly head-to-head, it will give the genuinely gifted big guys a chance to ply their craft without My Favourite Hair in the AFL or Seb Ross getting involved. We saw Stephen Merchant get trounced by Big Max last week in what was probably the most pronounced defeat he’d suffered one-on-one. Whilst Nathan Vardy and Jonathan Giles don’t present the same sort of challenge that Max does, the fact that there were two of them saw Hickey drained by game’s end (Richo mentioned this in the post-match), and having to sit out several minutes late in the last quarter on the bench so he could be vaguely refreshed for final stages of the game and Josh Bruce be put forward of the ball. Until then, he’d played one of his better games overall, effectively playing as a (very) large midfielder in open play. His presence in traffic and his ability to get low to the ball were telling a number of times, and he was able to create a goal in open play in the third quarter by chopping off a West Coast kick across the ground. Not sure how vital it is that he drops forward given we have Paddy/Membrey/Bruce and Roo once he comes back, and either way it looks as though they want him used in open play in the middle section of the ground. Vardy managed to outrun him going forward and take a mark close to goal and convert so yes, he’ll need to make sure he holds up that end of his game from time to time but unlike other ruckmen it seems as though forward duties aren’t at the top of his list right now.

A quick shout-out to the magnificent new clash jumper, which looked even better when paired with West Coast’s navy wings design, and making its debut 20 years and two days after the original crusader jumper made its premiership season debut as our home design. You’ll be able to read my inconsequential thoughts on this year’s jumpers in the upcoming, entirely unanticipated annual St Kilda Jumper State of the Union.

Add Jack Steven to the injury list of Roo and Armo, and Koby Stevens in the, uh, significant diarrhoea list [citation needed]. Steven was ok, but his growing mullet had more of a presence. Not sure what the hell Ross did for 29 touches and Dunstan started really well but faded in and out. Steele and Steven were the ones to make more of an impression through the midfield as the game went out; Montagna was flying past from a centre bounce clearance and had a stretch of space ahead of him to run into but he just didn’t take the ball with him; Armo might not be back next week and Blake Acres didn’t look interested in driving up his trade value in front of his home town just yet. Whilst the team defence was great for three-and-a-bit quarters, once the Eagles’ mids got on top in the last the game changed heavily in their favour and we didn’t look like getting near it for the last 10 or 15 minutes. This is where star power can come into it – see Mitchell, Priddis, Kennedy – and it’s time for the weekly reminder [*SEGMENT!*] that we quite easily could have taken Bontempelli and Petracca in successive drafts. Paddy I’ve covered; Billings was again getting his touches from half back onwards and even for a player picked for their X-factor it was a rather indifferent impact made from 19 touches, one mark, three tackles and 0.1. Obviously this is just another small step in a hopefully a long career for both of them, but it’s going to be an agonising wait until we feel justified in picking them ahead of You-Know-Who and You-Know-Who.

Gresham was one of the few guys to demonstrate composure with the ball in the front half, but strangely ended up with 1.3. Lonie played himself ahead of Wright with one of his best games; his pressure was great but sometimes he just needs to fucking relax a little and have a think when he gets the footy. Two goals and some nice field kicking, as well as visibly annoying some of the Eagles players, had his better qualities on show. Mav kicked a couple of goals too but his start to the season has otherwise felt lukewarm, whereas I think we were expecting him to really take his game to a new level from the start.

Steven’s injury means someone will definitely need to come in. If it’s not Armo or Riewoldt Sandy had the week off and have a practice game at the same time as the game against the Brisbane Lions next week, so basically we’re down to Sinclair and Wright to come in if we’re going to go on a combination of form and/or having actually played recently.

It would have been incredibly frustrating for Nathan Brown to see all his good work on Kennedy go to dust in the last few minutes. Both had two possessions to half-time but importantly Kennedy had had little impact. It wasn’t until Savage gave up a sloppy ball close to goal that Kennedy was gifted a shot from close range, giving him a small confidence booster for when the Eagles perked up in the last. Until that very late point it was a rare time over the past few years in which we were able to judge a St Kilda defender more fairly on their one-on-one work, rather than having to guess what they might be capable of in a more even match situation as their opponent received ample and competent supply of Sherrins. Carlisle and Brown for the most part did a good combined job to quell Kennedy and Darling in their second game together. Roberton continued his climb, I’m not sure what Gilbert does and Webster contributed a bunch of clangers for someone who is meant to be one of the guys for us who can kick a bullet, namely his hack out of mid-air in the back pocket that went back over his head for a goal to go with an unforced kick out on the full and another kick off half-back in a similar spot that returned as a West Coast goal seconds later.

That inability to play out the game and play out quarters – Hill and Shuey both kicked goals in the last 30 seconds of the second and third terms – would really hurt. Again, if we’d kicked straight that would have taken that out of the equation. It was a lot of planning and a whole lot of hard work physically and psychologically to turn last week around and get everything up again after last year’s results interstate. I think any Saints fan would have felt some sort of quiet relief by the effort. Officially, by design, premierships for this club probably aren’t going to be won in 2017 (they aren’t most years anyway), and they’re definitely not won in April. But it was really disappointing to lose this one.

“What the hell was that?”

Round 8, 2016
West Coast Eagles 9.3, 12.5, 15.8, 20.12 (132)
St Kilda 1.3, 1.9, 2.10, 3.11 (29)
Crowd: 36,140 at Domain Stadium, Sunday, May 15 at 4.40pm WST

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After the great showing against Melbourne and then the incredible exhaustion that was last week’s loss to North, it was probably welcome by Saints fans that we got to take a breather out of sight and out of mind in the Sunday Twilight Zone timeslot, and with the width of Australia between most of the supporter base and the team itself on game day.

We could all gather on a Sunday evening and relax, game situation permitting, in our families’ Ormond homes and eat nachos and Mum’s goulash. Just a typical footy viewing experience in the 21st Century.

For the first time this year, as we get into the routine of the day-to-day and week-to-week of the footy season, I wanted to avoid anything and everything to do with the footy media covering the ins and outs of what was a rather painful finish last week. I didn’t want to watch the Goldstein/Hickey ruck contest, I didn’t want to watch Mason Wood holding on to the footy in the final seconds, I didn’t want to post futile Twitter comments about specific poor umpiring decisions that didn’t go our way during the game but did go theirs and how it wasn’t just the Goldstein free that had an impact on the result. But there was some comfort to be found Luke Dunstan’s reaction after the siren – the players found the experience upsetting too, and here we had rare proof.

So on Sunday I stayed on the 55 tram beyond Bourke St and stayed on until Flinders Street, got a motivational coffee from whichever shitbox franchise was closest to my body and got on the train and then bus to Mum, Dad and Matt’s in Ormond. Matt sent a joke text about Lewis Pierce being a late inclusion which I took seriously. Not funny, Matt; you know I’ve been pining to see his leadership skills that the club flaunted upon his drafting for years now.

The nagging question in my mind during the week was along of lines “Would there be a let-down in effort following two very strong showings?”. I couldn’t figure out whether if we’d won it have would have been more likely to lead to a “week off” for a young group prone to inconsistency, hidden a continent away, but given the effort I think that was probably a moot point – it would have been about whether there was reward for effort last week or not, and we leave it there in the closing hours of last weekend.

Given the stage of development of the group perhaps this was good timing for a little slump given the winnable (believe it or not, we’re able to say that now with some confidence) games against Essendon and Fremantle in the following weeks. Another big showing against the Eagles and surely the young guys would be cooked for a bit.

Well, they were definitely cooked and a week off it was in-farking-deed. No-one bar Seb Ross, Jack Steven, Joey and my Favourite Hair in the AFL and maybe Jade Gresham apparently made the flight over (I never thought I’d include Seb in that type of bracket) as the Eagles essentially went out straight of the middle at each opportunity for six goals within seven minutes and 25 seconds of play (literally).

We only made two changes to the line-up for this one, with all the emergencies getting a cheeky look in by being flown over with the team and avoiding being blown away by Casey and the bay breeze at Trevor Barker on the Saturday arvo. The changes were at first refreshing, however; Sinclair was genuinely missed against North as Lonie and Minchington failed to have much impact in a game in which we really needed more fire in the front half, and the stoic but ageing Fisher was replaced by Roberton – obviously popular with the coaches given no VFL time required to come back from his injury.

On the surface, the problem was that this was one game you’d need a Fisher, particularly with no Delaney or Goddard in, or even throw one of those guys in just the sake of having a relatively larger human body in the vicinity of the defence, given Kennedy, Darling and to a lesser extent Nic Nat would effectively be left to Dempster and uh, maybe Gilbert and Roberton. That’s a concession of a lot of height and expertise in playing the defensive roles required to quell giants like those.

It turned out to be a moot point, and we’d paid a heavy price quickly anyway. Richo quite reasonably pointed out post-match that given West Coast’s dominance out of the middle he wasn’t sure how much difference Fisher or a bigger body would have actually made given a lot of the goals were from hit-ups – good kicks into space that the Eagles’s forwards worked smartly to create, and our guys simply weren’t aware or switched on enough to negate.

Much has been made of the Eagles’ rather curious drop in form outside of their own Corporate Name Stadium but I thought the size of the ground might actually give the Saints something to work with, much like the MCG did in Round 3. That admittedly rather had to do with the width of the ground, allowing the Saints to use freer options wider as Richo talked about on SEN last week, and Domain Stadium, whilst the longest ground in the competition at 175 metres, is actually on of the narrowest at 122 metres (the MCG field is around 141 metres wide). Would we struggle to make room for ourselves if we were coming forward anywhere from the back half? I thought it would mean having to be bolder in numbers running with the ball from the back of the centre circle to cut through, and Riewoldt here would be key to prove either stability in the back half or an option for a get-out-of-traffic kick. This was where Sinclair has been good for us as well, pushing hard up to provide an option by foot wide and his field kicking has been great, but he’s been able to run forward with the play and have a presence there too. Again, it was something we really missed against North and where Lonie and Minchington’s quiet showings hurt us. But for all that pre-match wondering and postulating – we could all have spent hours together in the Fox Footy Lab comparing graphs and heat maps and overlaid graphics – it counted for fark all. The Eagles were relentless and played their home ground as the scene for a non-stop onslaught. Possessions and merely attempts to provide a presence around the contested ball by guys like Acres, Billings, Roberton and Savage were fraught with anxiety as the referred pressure took its toll, and on many an occasion led to turnovers and West Coast goals – Sav’s gift to Kennedy in the first quarter the best example.

Work at stoppages was talked about in that same SEN interview with Richo, and North’s ability to break away from those for most of three-and-a-half quarter last week ultimately got them over the line. Until that’s remedied we’re best when the ball is in motion, and we’re able to apply pressure and turnover the footy whilst keeping the game moving. No prizes for guessing that we’re gonna need to be talking about work at stoppages a whole lot more this week. Hickey was off (Richo said it was worst game – certainly for the year) and from the lopsided opening bounce (not that it mattered as the subsequent centre bounces proved) Nic Nat had a day out and there was an unadulterated supply for the West Coast forwards, with Kennedy taking a mark a few meters out from goal seconds into the match an ominous welcome to Perth.

Richo rightfully cracked the shits at the players in the quarter-time huddle – he’d obviously blown his stack mere minutes into the game so had time to prepare some verbals of good quality and quantity – and Fox Footy showed him specifically taking Blake Acres aside and giving him a cleaner, 2010’s version of a Ken Sheldon to Craig Devonport. Blake responded with fark all and, given how quickly the coaches have been willing to drop him back to Sandy, surely sealed his spot in the Zebras’ line-up next week.

He certainly wasn’t the only one that was disappointing to the point of being dropped. Lonie is the obvious next in line, and given Gresham genuinely gave good effort in the second half by trying to meet the Eagles’ physicality and get his own ball and get things moving – albeit with some wayward kicking – and that Richo went out of his way to talk up his efforts post-match, I’m sure it’s going to be the Seaford local also in yellow, black and blue next week with Blacres. Sinclair should be held onto given he was coming back from injury and his role would have suffered given how effective the Eagles’ pressing and pressure was across the ground. Lonie had six tackles, which are the kind of numbers that kept Minchington in the side for an extra week or two, but I can only remember one of those and he’s otherwise been barely sighted in two games now. Eli didn’t get a chance to back up his 36-possession game in the VFL the previous week as he was flown over the Perth but might be one to come in.

I’m certainly not writing Lonie off altogether here; we know that he’s capable of making an impact on games of footy. Obviously he’s just not in the right headspace – him and probably 17 others yesterday – but he seems to be having a case of the second-year blues. It happens. He’s a kid. Blacres likewise, and even Billings, whilst his numbers are up this year on a consistent basis, still goes missing for large parts of games. Yesterday he seemed quite overwhelmed by the tenacity the Eagles brought to their game. He wasn’t the only one, but it sticks out a bit with the younger guys and when they might have looked a little off the boil at times already this year. It’s part of it.

Less excuse can be made for Gilbert’s six touches, as good as he’s been at times this year, and another lacklustre performance from Mav. Mav’s obviously a football generation behind Gilbert but Joey is a football generation ahead of Gilbert and was again in our best, and having him and Jack Steven being left one-out in the goal square against Kennedy and Darling at different times in the game is a good look for nobody. It was guys like Dempster, Roberton and Gilbert that should have been making sure that didn’t happen, not getting wandering around getting six touches as a senior player.

Membrey had five touches after kicking eight goals in two games. Aside from a strong mark wide on the wing in the first quarter his contribution was mostly two squandered goal opportunities in the second and fourth quarters from about 25 metres out in front. I’m not sure if it’s enough to take him straight out for Paddy after two really good performances coming straight back into side; Paddy certainly didn’t do enough to smash the recall door down on the Saturday in admittedly very tough conditions but who knows, Membrey might be in the same basket as Blacres when it comes to the coaches deciding what is it that they do that constitutes them being selected week in, week out.

Of course, it was a lean day for all the forwards; the ball was rarely in attack and often they were caught too high up when there was a turnover and weren’t even in the forward line, or the disposal going forward – particularly from just ahead of centre – was simply atrocious. Riewoldt managed to get his 22 touches and 10 marks and again had a presence across the entire field, but only managed 0.2. Bruce presented all day for little return; he finished with 1.1 from three gettable shots at goal. Indeed, there was a theme; 1.9 at half-time and 3.11 come the final siren reflected a few things – not just the Eagles’ pressure on shots at goal but how difficult they made the positioning of set shots and the inability of our guys to convert when they actually got a decent chance.

Our lowest score since Round 6, 2002, the week after the infamous “worst game ever” draw against the Swans when GT decided to throw the numbers back behind the ball as if we’d put ourselves in front in the final minute before the opening bounce. Both that game and last ended with a St Kilda player in tears after the siren (Begley in 2002), and both times we were blown away the following week. For differing reasons; GT thought he’d try the same trick on eventual premier Collingwood and we ended up kicking 3.10; we were simply too early in our development to put it down to inconsistency also, we were just rubbish (we’d lost by 122 points at the Cattery the week before). This time around we’d taken it to the reigning three-peater and the lossless ladder leader, not to mention pulled off a couple of decent wins so this was more to do with fickle nature of being at this early (but slightly more advanced) stage of development.

This game strayed into comedic realms at times, rather than staying simply in the old-style depressing-trips-interstate by-St Kilda-feelings-of-sinking sphere. The rain made a lot of players look silly a lot of times, with the moulded soles of their boots obviously not able to handle the moisture and adding random slippages to the game at least made things a little interesting. Newnes’ unforced slip over nothing in the final term on the outer wing was genuinely funny. Even Mav’s goal was kind of comical – but mostly on a different plane; this was more in the Caydn Beetham vein of “and they decide to that now” grim-faced smile of a St Kilda supporter when the game’s well and truly over.

Strangely, it was the kind of day in which the still poorly-haired Seb Ross announced himself further as a genuinely good midfielder, if only because he was able to continually get the ball – 31 possessions in all – and use it half-decently when the team was getting an absolute smacking, and not just racking up numbers when the going’s goos. Richo referred to him as a “shining light”, which, again, I have to admit I never, ever thought I’d hear be said about Sebastian Ross. But here we are. It’s a strange time to be alive.

Still, Jack Steven’s decent performance notwithstanding, it was another game that shows we really are short at least one A-grade midfielder in this team that we’re building, and that free agency and the trade periods over the next year or two really are going to be nailed. And, uh, Freeman stays healthy whilst simultaneously collecting more than 10 disposals in VFL Development League appearances. Priddis alone proved that in the opening term; with five minutes left before the first break he’d had 10 contested possessions and had the game set up for them. Yes, we still have the development of Acres and Gresham and Dunstan and Billings et al to look forward to as well as guys that will be going through the midfield (some more than others), but I feel like this group needs someone just slightly more senior to be the focal point of the planned rise up the ladder. Armo’s close but too inconsistent and probably too immature as a footballer relative to guys like Selwood, Mitchell, and so on (let alone not being in their league as a player, period). Jack Steven is great but shouldn’t be the spearhead really.

A lonely train and tram ride home back to Brunswick West on a Sunday night after a close loss or an absolute shellacking – or wherever it may be that you’re going – can be an isolating experience. These are the resulting weeks of performances like that where you question the positivity you had about the club’s direction mere days ago. But that’s the nature of this stage of development. Late last Sunday afternoon it seemed as though – indeed, we were – overrunning the competition’s only undefeated team late in the match; that same time one week later our follow-up challenge had been shot to piece in less than 10 minutes of play. In the next two weeks we play the two bottom teams on the ladder. Now’s not the time to take anything for granted.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 8
Seb Ross – 3
Jack Steven – 2
Leigh Montagna – 2
Nick Riewoldt – 2
Jade Gresham – 1

Totals
Nick Riewoldt – 15
Jack Steven – 11
Leigh Montagna – 8
Jack Newnes – 6
David Armitage – 5
Tom Hickey – 5
Jack Billings – 4
Sam Fisher – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Blake Acres – 3
Seb Ross – 6
Tim Membrey – 2
Shane Savage – 2
Josh Bruce – 1
Sean Dempster – 1
Jade Gresham – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1
Mav Weller – 1

And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad

Round 3, 2014
West Coast Eagles 3.2, 5.4, 8.8, 12.11 (83)
St Kilda 1.5, 6.6, 7.8, 8.10 (58)
Crowd: 36,448 at Patersons Stadium, Saturday, April 5th at 4.40pm WST

Basically I feel like the mood is as if we’ve all taken some Lovan.

Actually, in my case I’ve taken some Oxynorm due to some follow-up surgery stitches, but I think I’d be feeling the same anyway after Saturday night’s positivity-laden loss.

Indeed it had plenty – Luke Dunstan was there doing Luke Dunstan stuff, Eli too, Jack Newnes – and it’s left us with an optimistic spin on things, but it’s also just brought us back to earth gently. The dizzying heights of two wins to open the season have given way to humbler ambitions for now, but as supporters they’re ambitions we feel we can take on with optimism.

In all honesty I went into the weekend expecting to have the floor mopped with us. Yes, we’d won two games from two, but they were against the two teams that finished below us on the ladder last year. West Coast had won two, yes, and against two sides that not many people rated, But they’d smacked them both, including Melbourne, who they beat by 76 points more than we’d beaten them one week previous.

The “House of Pain” is also a thing again, and the punters wielded their ridiculously bloated influence on how people perceive upcoming sports events and had the Saints beyond $13 for the win.

They were right in the end, but as Rich said shortly after the game, this was arguably St Kilda’s best performance of the year. For most of the game they were able to harass, break down and take on an opponent all of a sudden rated in the top handful of the competition.

It started slowly. In fact, I barely got to Rich’s Richmond RWB Headquarters for the bounce, fresh from the night before’s surgery and undersetimating the length from Bridge Road to his apartment. But that was ok, he and Tamar were to welcome me and pizza was there shortly after. It was the kind of game I thought I’d need several-plus beers for, but I had to settle for Coke.

Shuey quickly had two shots at goal against Tom Curren though, and the Coke was seeming a little weak. But slowly they turned the screws around the ground even on the vast expanses of Subiaco/Corporate Name Stadium space was becoming a premium. Geary’s chase on Le Cras was a feature, reprising the pressure he put on Coniglio late in the previous week’s match near goal.

It was apparent pretty quickly that the execution of the footy wasn’t up to scratch, and it was a theme that would run throughout the match and prove costly later on. CJ battled wilfully yet again, but twice going forward in the first quarter butchered good chances.

Two early subs threatened to throw things around for both sides – the luckless pair in Glibert and Le Cras – but as expected the Eagles’ big mean were the most threatening. The Saints couldn’t close the deal going forward and in very St Kilda-playing-interstate fashion the Eagles managed to work their way to Kennedy up the other end. Soon after some more hard work to get things forward came undone, and Darling was allowed to get around two Saints, hoisting it high for Savage to harmlessly float past the contest with his arms vaguely in the air and Sinclair taking the mark in front of goal.

I didn’t even see Gilbert before the shot of him injured on the bench came up. The club’s come out and said it’s severe bruising and soreness, so crucially nothing structural, but then crucially he’s out for 4-6 weeks anyway.

I have reservations about Saints.com.au using words like “phenomenal” to describe Dunstan’s game. Of course he played a great game, and in context you could deservedly throw in a whole bunch of stronger adjectives – after all this is this the best start to a young Saint’s career since…Dean Greig? Brett Knowles? Although those were probably limited to debut games. But “phenomenal” is when a Jimmy Bartel or Steve Johnson kicks three or four goals to with 20-plus possessions in a game in a premiership year. The good news is, Dunstan can’t have done too much more at this point in his career to demonstrate he’ll be as valuable to us as guys like that in the future.

The thing I took most out of the quarter time break, aside from more pizza, was that John Worsfold’s daughter has one of the fantastic modern “yellow peril” replicas. Surely West Coast have the biggest waste of potential when it comes to footy jumper designs. They’ve had great designs in the past which they’ve improved on now, such as the “traditional” away jumper, (notwithstanding the sidepanel details), but their home jumper is absolute custard. One half of the jumper is navy (dark), the other half is yellow/white (light). The useless panels on the back, the inexplicable presence of the white panel on the front…awful. Their training jumpers have long been much worthier of being the clash jumper as opposed to the token white effort.

So it’s hard to outright classify the game as “frustrating” given the context, but there were a number of frustrating moments even through the second quarter, which is where the Saints took some control of the game. BIG RHYS BANDWAGON actually wasn’t too bad, but he undid a lot of good work to slow the Eagles right down and have them static behind the centre circle. A wayward kick went straight to him but he dropped the simple mark, and the Eagles were lucky enough to take it away and end up with a shot at goal.

It took a really good Jimmy Webster effort to foil Kennedy but then once the Saints actually got things forward themselves Curren missed Eli, and whilst Rhys put in two good efforts to lead and mark Maister couldn’t get into the right position closer to goal and there was no one down to help out. Soon after Geary took the intercept mark that Rhys should have taken several minutes before and set up Roo, but Roo’s walk-in was poor and he shanked it. Maister followed it up by again not being able to get into position close to goal to be on the end of a good Savage entry. But things changed soon after that.

Regardless, I think Maister’s had enough chances at AFL level this season in which no one would entirely begrudge the coaching staff for dropping him for at least a week. He’s only kicked one goal from three games, although his primary role is to mostly lead further up from goal, and create either a link or goal kicking option that way. I think the conundrum here (already well acknowledged) is that he works admirably hard to provide that option and get to contests, but he simply won’t mark what he needs to. If anything it feels like the percentage quota he comes into the games with has decreased since last year. Given I don’t think there’s too much improvement left in him, ultimately the selectors will have to say to themselves – ok, do we want someone who we know will get to these contests and provide these options, but won’t take many marks is running at one goal every three games; or, after the weekend, do we give BIG TOMMY LEE a crack? (And the have to say “Big Tommy Lee” in capitals.)

Tom Lee has been given the excuse by the coaches for his quiet VFL form  in the past few weeks that he was behind in the pre-season, and he delivered on the promise that better was coming. Four goals in the VFL isn’t anything to sneeze at, despite some people talking it down in some unnamed forums. I’m not sure what else you want him to do? Ok, you know what? We’re taking the four goals off him. They’re gone. Now what do you want?

It was overshadowed only by Jack Billings’ last quarter theatrics and Jason Holmes’ comical attempt at a kick. I think for the first time since he joined the club CJ isn’t the most unreliable disposer of the ball. There’s a big chance Big Tommy isn’t even physically ready yet, but if he is then it’s worth finding out right now just how much he has in his tank (which has its own questions), how many marks he can hold, and how damaging he can be in front of goal.

There may or may not be an extra dimension to this. It’s BIG RHYS BANDWAGON, and in the last couple of weeks he’s started taking a few more stronger marks around the flanks and providing a valuable link. Without trying to complicate things even more for a hypothetical, even his role is linked somewhat to the ruck stocks of the day, but if he’s able to provide that link more often and more reliably – particularly if you can back in more contested situations – on top of Hickey more effectively floating floating, then Tommy Lee’s underdone tank for now might not be such an issue. He might also be able to impact on the scoreboard a little more.

Naturally, it was My Favourite Hair in the AFL that really sparked St Kilda’s move. Two goals in succession from a really strong mark and then to finish a nice passage featuring Rhys presenting high, and some great delivery from Eli. We’re all getting our rocks off with Eli’s actions in and around goal but his delivery to Roo several times this season has been great, and certain improvement on what he’s been used to for probably most of two of the past three seasons.

Eli was involved in the handball string with CJ that saw Dunstan creeping out the back, which was pleasing because in just his third game he knew exactly where to run probably when Eli got the ball, because by the time CJ found him he was well and truly on his way to goal.

Roo then began a counterattack that finished with Rhys making us all work harder as supporters than necessary and giving to Joey, who finished calmly from the pocket. My Favourite Hair had pushed well up the ground and drifted into the wide shot as the Eagles tried being patient, but he was in the right spot in the right time when they turned it over and he got things moving the other way.

The Eagles replied with Darling taking a huge mark at the top of the square. It became more noticeable as the second half wore on, but the Eagles’ talls allowed them to kick long and high into space or even to a contest in a dangerous spot and there would be Kennedy on the lead or Darling taking a grab. The Saints had to be incredibly precise if there were numbers back, and with Mackenzie wearing Roo like a glove guys like Joey and Dunstan were required to step up and take responsibility for hitting the scoreboard also. The great thing was that they did – Joey’s goal late in the second ensured we would go into the main break in front and that West Coast would lose their first quarter for the season – but more guys were needed to do the same and we only ended up with eight goals by the final siren.

Cruelly, it was Eli who gave us all the biggest hope of all of winning the game, before stalling the momentum by missing an easy goal just 15 metres out to widen the gap to three goals. His goal, however, was a set shot in the pocket and was quality.

Strangely, the goals effectively dried up from that point, just a few minutes into the second half. Dunstan (probably going early but I’m already tempted to add a, “Who else?”) was able to settle and kick an important set shot in the final quarter, but Eli’s miss was followed immediately by an arsey Priddis snap and it was the beginning of the end. I’m certainly not blaming Eli for throwing away potentially match-winning momentum, but if anything I’m highlighting because there simply weren’t enough petrol tickets to begin with. The GWS game a week earlier was a pretty tough affair, and the trip to Perth with a lot of inexperienced guys was going to be a heavy load to carry. And so it was.

The last quarter was rather joyless. The pressure was still there but had dropped, Jamie Cripps was kicking goals FFS, and things almost seemed to reach a point of damage control after having gone into the quarter only a goal down. It wasn’t a true highlight but the fact that the tired Saints kept the Eagles to “only” four goals in the quarter was encouraging in itself.

There are a few things to take out of this game. The loss itself wasn’t overly surprising given the context of where the teams were at heading into the weekend, but certainly for me the positives were much more pronounced than I thought they’d be.

Losing by 25 points was a head start; as I mentioned I gave us no chance whatsoever in the lead up. I’m certainly a cynic, but I’ve enjoyed getting on board the Richo/Eli/Dunstan bandwagon like nothing else in the past few weeks. And what the hell, throw Jack Newnes into there as well for some reason.

But it was the way they went about things, and it went right across the team. As Richo and anyone given media duties has said over the summer and the past couple of months, the focus was to be a competitive team that was tough to play against. And that’s exactly what they’ve done in the past few weeks. Obviously the skill set isn’t there yet and simply won’t be for another year or two at least, but we’ve now seen them bring a really strong style of play and mindset to a game against a more widely fancies side and it’s held up much better nearly everyone thought it would. Watters spoke a lot of big, positive words and I really liked that. I really do think that’s what he wanted this club to become (I’m referring to his “juggernaut” comment) and he wanted to do all the right things to make it happen. But come 2013 there was a disconnect between his words and what the team did on the field and what the team were gearing up to do that season. Yes, he came at an awkward time in terms of scheduling a plan for the short-to-medium term, but Richo is completely on message and has the players doing likewise both on and off the field.

The personnel having an effect is the obvious next point to mention. My Favourite Hair in the AFL is doing all sorts of great things, Armo looks like he’s taken at least half a step up so far this year, Joey’s been really solid, Farren’s close to his great 2009 form. and CJ, for all his faults, is one of the best examples in application on the field and on the training track. Dunstan, Saunders, Newnes, Hickey, Eli, Wright and others are all having varied effects on the game itself but it feels now that there presence has been positive for the team and themselves.

A quick mention to old mate Jamie Cripps: it increasingly looks like he won’t develop into too much more than a quick crumbing forward. Pick 24 in the draft – seriously, what the fark were they thinking? Throw Sam Crocker (such a failed project he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page) and Tom Ledger on top of that from the 2010 draft. It really is amazing how bad the Ross Lyon-era draft recruiting was – as a supporter it genuinely upsets me how pathetic indeed the recruiters were in that time. As for Cripps, I’m not sure if the Eagles thought they’d get the speedy running back-flanker that we thought, but they certainly didn’t give up pick 24 for him, and that’s after he’d had two years of development. It does say a lot about what a traditionally strong team thought about our first round pick in a Grand Final year – a bit-player worth effectively a third-rounder.

As mentioned before, the weekend’s result was buoyed by the VFL performances of Billings and Lee, with a number of other guys across the ground putting in strong performances. Bruce, Simpkin, Ross, Milera (yes, he still exists); hell, even Jason Holmes looked good in the ruck and finished with 32 hit-outs. All of a sudden, there’s a little more structure to the place.

St Kilda won’t go in as favourites on Sunday, even though after two wins and a promising, honourable loss (there, I said it), they face an Adelaide Crows outfit that hasn’t won a game from three starts. I don’t think it’s just yet time to start declaring us certainties and looking down on the Crows as easybeats/also-rans/etc. Once everyone’s form settles we’re more than likely still going to be at the wrong end of the ladder (that’s ok, drafts are exciting in these eras). But this week I’m trying to make the most of being having reason look forward with some enthusiasm.

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

Back on the level

Round 8, 2012
West Coast Eagles 6.2,  13.6,  15.7,  18.13 (121)
St Kilda 1.4,  5.5,  11.10,  13.13 (91)
Crowd: 38,174 at Patersons Stadium, Sunday, May 20th at 2.40pm WST

After a heady week we all came back to earth on Sunday evening.

Our plummet back to the level was a free-fall throughout the first half, but the parachute opened up in the second half and the landing was softened a little. But we fell either way.

It was a long way to fall quickly, too. The general public’s perception of the club and its prospects were turned on its head last Monday when the trio of small forwards in Milne, Milera and Saad lit up the Concrete Dome. A poll on The Age online had St Kilda as the public’s choice of premier at one stage with 22% of the vote. Polls like that, let alone on the The Age‘s online version, only mean so much (i.e. nothing) but it did say something of the changed sentiment towards the club and its style of play – albeit for two hours this season – and the jaded, tarnished side that was taking the field in 2011.

West Coast in Perth after a six day break was going to be a tougher assignment than Carlton, even though both opponents would be playing for top spot in the respective games. The reason why the Saints lost, however, ultimately had more to do with a lack of energy and wasted opportunities in the first half rather than fixturing.

Birthday celebrations meant a late start to the day and getting to the parents’ house in Ormond right for the bounce of the ball. On the train there I’d learnt Priddis would be a late withdrawal, but by the time I was on the train back to Brunswick Scott Selwood, Waters, Rosa, Gaff, Shuey and Masten would have created more than enough headaches in his place.

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