In This Round…Round 19 – Surging Saints end the Swans’ SCG run

By Tom Briglia

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.

Sydney Swans vs St Kilda – Round 19, 1997
Sydney Swans 7.2, 12.5, 16.10, 17.17 (119)
St Kilda 4.6, 9.8, 13.12, 18.20 (128)
Crowd: 39,287 at the SCG, Sunday, August 11, 2.45pm

A rousing victory at the SCG saw St Kilda move to second place on the ladder on a sunny Sunday afternoon late in the 1997 season.

Sydney were looking to further their incredible run of 20 wins at home, but more importantly, keep alive their serious chances of going one-better than their unsuccessful Grand Final appearance in 1996. This game pitted third at home to fourth on the ladder, with a coveted top-two spot well and truly within striking distance for both sides.

Whilst St Kilda had come off three great victories, the Swans were on a high after wins of 97 and 116 points against teams at opposite ends of the table, in the second-placed Bulldogs and wooden-spooners-to-be Melbourne respectively.

With 22 and 25 goals kicked in those games, Sydney picked up where they had left off with a seven-goal first term. There were probably not too many surprised that their lead had blown out 38 points during the second quarter, as a Lockett-less Sydney had Darryn Cresswell and youngsters Michael O’Loughlin and Leo Barry doing more than their share of providing targets up forward. It wasn’t helping the Saints’ cause that Sydney maestro Paul Kelly was busy through the midfield, and continuing to display the kind of form that won him the Brownlow Medal two years before.

Fortunately for the visitors, however, an over-reliance on stalwarts Robert Harvey and Stewart Loewe was turned around once the Swans hit their peak. Goals were scored by Nicky Winmar (with a trademark running goal from the middle), Matthew Lappin (after a neat contested mark close to goal), and Lazar Vidovic (who very nearly took out the sun with his skyscaper from the 50-metre arc); Lappin and midfielder Jayson Daniels became lively across half-forward, and Darryl Wakelin and Jason Heatley began to throw their solid frames around inside 50.

By half-time, the Saints were back to within 15 points, but again had to fight and do that much extra across the ground to stay in touch by the final change.

Daniels linked up with Harvey at half-forward, who played on and made his way past Shannon Grant with a mercurial swivel of the hips to set up the towering Peter Everitt with a pinpoint pass; it was the kind of move that only Harvey could have pulled off (“He’s like a pound of margarine”, exclaimed Channel 7 commentator Sandy Roberts).

Later in the term, as the shadows began to lengthen over the harbourside headquarters, Jason Heatley continued to make his presence felt a bit further out from goal than where he was usually found; attacking the ball up near the wing in front of opponent Brad Seymour, he managed to get it to the busy Nathan Burke, who handpassed the ball to the measured Winmar and Winmar’s nice pass wide found Darryl Wakelin within scoring distance; Wakelin didn’t let him nor the rest of the side down.

The last quarter was a stirring one for any Saints fan. A special belief amongst the playing group had seen this side move from a bottom-two position to the top two in just over three months, and this quarter can be viewed as a microcosm of the best of a magical – but ultimately bittersweet – season.

And so from sixteen points down at orange time, the Saints took their game to a new level in front of the imposing 39,00-plus Sydney crowd.

The talls across half-forward had a big say in a number of pivotal plays. Heatley brought the margin back to just three points with a brilliant right-foot curling kick from 35 metres, accepting a quick handpass from the workman-like Wakelin.

What would have been quite distant from the front of anyone’s mind during the second quarter, and indeed for most of the match, became a reality soon after. Heatley again worked his way up the ground the accept a rebounding pass from Justin Peckett, and thumped the ball long into the forward line. The marking contest featuring Wakelin saw the ball spill to ground, with Tony Brown pouncing to give the ball off to Daniel Healy. Quiet for most of the day, Healy dribbled the ball end-over-end towards goal, with Aussie Jones – his head heavily bandaged after coming off second best with a rogue boot earlier – and Seymour giving chase. The ball sat up on the line has Jones, in one deft movement, leapt up and popped the ball onto his boot.

St Kilda were in front.

The momentum St Kilda enjoyed carried it through for the remainder of the game, with the Saints buoyant and on the charge. Full-back Jamie Shanahan intercepted a pass headed for Leo Barry on the defensive 50-metre arc and gave off to Lappin; Lappin’s long kick towards the talls in St Kilda’s forward line putting the Swans defence again under immense pressure. Stewart Loewe stood his ground amongst the flurry of activity to take a strong overhead mark before going back to put the margin out further.

It was the wiry forward Lappin who kicked the sealer. Steven Sziller tumbled a mongrel punt into the forward pocket after a heavy contest featuring Loewe again; again, Wakelin created the contest up forward, and the ball spilled to Lappin who snapped a thrilling goal from deep in the pocket on his left boot to complete a wonderful victory.

It seemed the Saints could do no wrong. With a 12th win for the season, their charge towards September had now been made official, and the team from Moorabbin, down for so long, had excited the football world with their entertaining – and now, dangerous – football, engineered by a potent mix of the seasoned and youthful.

They found themselves on top of the ladder two weeks later, and finished there at the end of the home-and-away season for just the second time in the competition’s 101-year history. But like the men of 1965 that they emulated with this feat, it would mean nothing – they would lose out to the team who finished fourth on the ladder on the most important day.

Other installments of “In This Round”:
Round 18 – Sydney Swans vs St Kilda, SCG, 2009
Round 17 – St Kilda vs Brisbane Lions, Waverley, 1997/St Kilda vs Geelong, Colonial Stadium, 2000/St Kilda vs Collingwood, Telstra Dome, 2005
Round 16 – St Kilda vs Kangaroos, Telstra Dome, 2003
Round 15 – St Kilda vs Adelaide Crows, Colonial Stadium, 2001
Round 14 – St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs, Waverley, 1998
Round 13 – St Kilda vs Fremantle, Telstra Dome, 2008
Round 12 – St Kilda vs Collingwood, MCG, 1992
Round 11 – St Kilda vs Richmond, Waverley, 1998
Round 10 – Carlton vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2004
Round 9 – Western Bulldogs vs St Kilda, Colonial Stadium, 2000
Round 8 – Essendon vs St Kilda, MCG, 1997
Round 7 – Sydney Swans vs St Kilda, SCG, 1994
Round 6 – West Coast vs St Kilda, Subiaco, 1998
Round 5 – St Kilda vs North Melbourne, Junction Oval, 1933
Round 4 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Victoria Park, 1993
Round 3 – St Kilda vs Collingwood, Waverley, 1997
Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Moorabbin, 1989
Round 1 – St Kilda vs Geelong, Telstra Dome, 2004
NAB Cup Grand Final – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1996
NAB Cup Semi-Final – Essendon vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2008
NAB Cup Round 2 – St Kilda vs Carlton, Waverley, 1995
NAB Cup Round 1 – Collingwood vs St Kilda, Telstra Dome, 2006