Tim Watson Posts

St Kilda – Heaven & Hell – The Saints from 1897-2003 DVD

This is probably the most engaging documentation of the St Kilda Football Club’s history. However, the fact it was initially produced in 1996 – just before the dramas of 1997 and 1998 – and then updated in the arbitrary year of 2003, right before arguably the most tumultuous and remarkable extended period in the club’s history, is quite a quirk of fate.

IMG_7711I’m sure it was never on the cards given Sports Delivered’s dwindling number of and interest (presumably) in archival productions since 2009, but I dare say this might be the only in-depth production to chart the club’s story we’ll get. To track in-depth the club’s fortunes in the second century of the competition, i.e. 1997 onwards is something we might have to settle on last year’s Open Mike: 50 Years On special for for the time being. It certainly might be premature to do so now, but should this group salute then a thorough look at what the club the endured in that time up until a premiership would be a hell of a ride to relive (let alone actually experiencing it in real time).

There’s certainly a lot of glossing over in the newly added section, presumably because it was more freshly etched in people’s minds when it was made. The 1997 campaign you’d think was a just a minor blip in the club’s history. Hardly touched when compared to 1965 or 1971, and even the heights of the early 1990s, only Aussie Jones’ goal is shown from the Grand Final itself. In comparison, all seven of Gary Loft’s goals in Round 19 of 1978 are shown (you’d actually think 1978 was a premiership season on a per-minute basis); one of Gordon Fode’s five goals in Round 3 of 1994; Daniel Wulf hitting the post from point-blank to tie the scores in “the worst game ever” of Round 5, 2002 as well as Nick Dal Santo’s kick after the siren with the scores tied; Brendon Goddard’s huge mark in his second game against the Bulldogs is shown twice across two different angles. That’s not to say none of those are worth mentioning, it’s the relative airtime they all receive that’s a little odd. The remarkable capitulations of both 1998 and 1999 aren’t given much attention either; in retrospect they were huge factors in the club finding itself in the position that gave them access to Riewoldt, Koschitzke, Ball, Goddard et al. via the drafts and quite simply were quite dramatic at the time anyway.

heavenhellgold

Gold Edition: Does anyone know the difference?

One little trick thrown in is in the ending of the new version as opposed to the original version. The original closed with Talking Footy‘s summary of St Kilda’s 1996 season in the show’s Grand Final week episode, which ended with a very disappointed Robert Harvey and Matthew Young post-siren after a late-season loss to struggling Footscray that scuppered the Saints’ top eight chances, with the end-0f-match scoreline on-screen. The shot fades to black, and into an almost sombre piece to camera by then-President Andrew Plympton. It works incredibly consistently with the club’s history that you’ve just spent your last two hours being depressed by, before going into a grimly nostalgic highlights package under “Mr. Magic”, and the club song.

The newer version ends with the conveniently forward-looking 2003 season, as the side featuring Riewoldt, Gehrig, Harvey, Dal Santo, Hayes and co. began to gel together. This time, its closes with the team singing the song after the Round 5 victory over – yep, the Bulldogs – with the final scoreline this time showing a St Kilda victory, and narrator the late Stephen Phillips (who returned for the extended chapter) saying “big wins, big performances, and high hopes for the future”; cue the “Mr. Magic” rendition with a bit more buoyancy on the viewer’s part. It seems all well and good then, but knowing what happened to that team – not just in the immediate years following, but ultimately the entire era they were a part of – like anything to do with the Saints, you’re left with a feeling of emptiness.

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.

In This Round…Round 17

On the Thursday of each week of St Kilda’s season, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the corresponding round.

In the lead-up to this week’s huge match against Hawthorn, we look at three memorable Round 17 games featuring the Saints.

St Kilda 12.20 (92) def. Brisbane Lions 5.14 (44), Round 17, 1997
Waverley Park

A typically cold and blustery day at Waverley was given a silver lining on two fronts – that of St Kilda’s continued good form and their rise up the ladder, and club favourite Nicky Winmar making history by becoming the first indigenous player to play 200 games at the highest level.

It was fitting that Winmar should be the first, as it was just a bit more than four years earlier that he became the subject of one of the great Australian sporting photos by lifting up his jumper, pointing to his bare chest and proclaiming proudness in his colour and heritage in response to constant racial abuse from Collingwood fans at Victoria Park.

Back to 1997, the Saints did Winmar proud on his big day with a commanding performance, keeping the Lions to just five goals. Winmar himself kicked three goals, as did full-forward Jason Heatley, and fellow stalwart Stewart Loewe helped himself to 14 marks and three Brownlow votes.

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In This Round…Round 9

On the Thursday of each week of St Kilda’s season, we take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at memorable clash in St Kilda history from the upcoming round.

Western Bulldogs vs St Kilda, Round 9, 2000
Western Bulldogs 3.5, 9.5, 10.7, 16.9 (105)
St Kilda 4.1, 7.5, 15.8, 16.8 (104)
Crowd: 35,505 at Colonial Stadium, Friday, May 5, 7.40pm

When St Kilda stormed over the top of Geelong to take out a soul-stirring win in Round 10 of 1999, they moved to third on the ladder with their seventh victory of the year, and near premiership favouritism.

Not a year later, the Saints, under now second-year coach Tim Watson, would be winless in Season 2000 by the time they met Bulldogs on a Friday night at Colonial Stadium in Round 9; going into that game they would have won just three of their last 20 matches.

This would be the game that gave St Kilda fans the unforgettable image of Max Hudghton walking off the ground in tears, after the Saints led by 31 points at three-quarter time, only to capitulate in the final term and lose by one point.

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ROUND 6 – Saints from the clouds

Round 6 – Western Bulldogs vs St Kilda
Western Bulldogs 2.2, 3.7, 6.8, 6.10 (46)
St Kilda 1.2, 2.3, 4.3, 7.7 (49)
Crowd: 43,072 at Etihad Stadium, 7.40pm Friday, April 30

Somehow, St Kilda won.

And what else to say about this game? It frustrated, berated and baited both players and fans all night; it seemed for so long as though all were simply waiting for the Bulldogs to land a killer blow, St Kilda players included.

The Saints had managed just 4.7 by the time Stephen Milne kicked a goal with less than five minutes remaining, which sparked – in the context of this low-scoring arm-wrestle – a big comeback, which left the Bulldogs and their supporters in disbelief when the siren sounded.

Though the same could be said about the Saints.

For most of the night, the Bulldogs were sharper, more direct and more purposeful. But St Kilda had done enough to stifle their impact on the scoreboard, sticking to defensive structures and placing enough pressure on the Dogs in and around their forward to ensure scoring opportunities were rare.

Bulldogs spearhead Barry Hall was kept to only one goal by opponents Sam Fisher and Zac Dawson, with help from Jason Blake, Sam Gilbert and James Gwilt.

Of course, the Saints had to score goals themselves, and had an incredible amount of trouble doing as much until the last few minutes of the match, in which their pressure created turnovers and space enough to be direct and dangerous going forward.

Until then, Justin Koschitzke had only little influence on the contest as St Kilda’s leading forward target, after a strong first term in which he scored 1.1 and provided great physical presence in the forward line.

But his move into the ruck during the final term brought him back into the game, and may provide a massive clue as to how to best harness his massive potential from here.

Two goals each from Stephen Milne and David Armitage, and singles from “Kosi”, youngster Jack Steven and Sam Fisher – his snap would prove to be the match-winner – were incredibly enough to get the Saints over the line, after looking toothless for nearly the entire night.

Four consecutive behinds from gettable opportunities (Montagna twice, Dal Santo and Milne the culprits) in the final term should have sounded the death of the Saints’ chances before the onslaught. But the Dogs missed huge chances to ice the game themselves; it was a lucky night for the boys from Moorabbin.

Indeed, acting captain Lenny Hayes said to Tim Watson post-match on Channel 7 that the team still hadn’t quite clicked with the forced changes to the forward structure. There is still some experimentation and learning to be done.

Hayes was St Kilda’s best last night, with 35 touches and seven tackles. His willingness to run, follow up his own ball and harass the Dogs was a big reason the Saints were able to stay in touch throughout the night.

Media

“Ugly Saints snatch it”
Michael Gleeson, The Age

“Saints win thriller in dog fight”
Sam Edmund, Herald Sun

“Gutsy Saints down Bulldogs in a thriller”
Murray Belkin, AFL.com.au

“Rucking role the only way forward for Kosi”
Dan Silkstone, The Age

Multimedia

Watch Ross Lyon’s post-match press conference

Highlights and Match Summary at AFL.com.au

Watch the Full Match Replay at AFL.com.au

Listen to discussion of last night’s match and an interview with Nick Dal Santo from today’s The Rub on Triple M.